Saturday, 25 February 2012

Spare a thought for all those sad spambots drifting aimlessly around myspace...

Spare a thought for all those sad spambots drifting aimlessly around myspace, never finding a human to annoy or rip off, endlessly moving, unable to understand they are inside an empty house.
Spare a thought for all those sad spambots drifting aimlessly around myspace, never finding a human to annoy or rip off, endlessly moving, unable to understand they are inside an empty house.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Crowd Sourced

So last night I was talking to my lovely American friend Liz about my crowdfunding campaign.

I'm running an IndieGoGo campaign to raise enough money to pay the performers doing tragedy at Stand Up Tragedy And also, if the target is reached, to fund some Getting Better Acquainted road trips.

The target is $3,500 dollars. This is a pretty small target compared to most of the campaigns you'll find on IndieGoG. I've reached $540 of the target do far. There are 12 days left till the deadline.

I'm doubtful I will hit it. It is still possible though. And whether the target is hit or not the money is very appreciated and will be put to good use. If you are reading this before March 1st then please contribute what you can.

So the reasons I think it isn't working well are:

1. UK culture is different from US culture. We aren't naturally predisposed to crowdfunding. It seems a bit unseemly. Talking about money. And asking for help and support. Aren't these things best fine through "proper" channels?

2. Many of my friends are not very tech savvy and spend little time online. They have also had a lot of practice at ignoring my communications because I communicate so much. Possibly too much. Many of them won't even know about the campaign, despite the emails and the social network promotion. Friends are the first and most important rung of the crowdfunding ladder and mine generally don't even know what a podcast is and check their emails very rarely (or at least respond to them rarely.)

3. People may think that since Stand Up Tragedy Tickets are £10 on the door that they have already given more than enough to the cause if they have attended or they are going to attend the live show. A point if view I do understand. They may even think, if they don't know me that well, that it is a bit of a con. It isn't. I don't set the ticket prices and I would never ask for money if I didn't need it. SUT may break even. It won't make a profit.

4. We are in the middle of tough finacial times. People are being cautious. Everyone is worse off than they were. Even if they were predisposed to funding independent arts (and many people aren't) they may feel this an inappropriate time to do so. People see art as less important in austerity.

All of the above may well be true but there is a 5th reason: my lack of ability to do the job of fundraising. I may feel like I am being brash and in people's faces with this campaign. But am I?

After talking to Liz I realise that I'm milder than most fundraisers. And sadly for my campaign that's the way it'll remain.

Here are some of the techniques Liz, who has years of fundraising experience and is more culturally in tune with both crowdfunding and podcast culture, suggested:

Sending targeted emails to key people. A key person is someone who has lots of social contacts and a history of contributing to things like this. I could only think if two potential key people. And one of them was taking to me. They are both American. But then she explained that it was all about the people those people might know. And then I could think of a few more. Not that I would feel comfortable directly approaching anyone about this. I don't like the idea of hassling individuals at all. I won't be contacting key people. But it's good to know how people do it.

She then said it was about making the communications clear and simple. Something that I have tried to do but since I often fail in my aims of clarity and brevity I've probably failed to achieve. She said I should make a template email and send that to my key people. Then they just have to fill it in and send it on to their contacts. The idea of this makes me feel a bit queasy. This sort of hard sell doesn't really fit with me. I prefer to respect peoples free will.

When I discussed the problem of my people not being online much she asked if my friends texted. My girlfriend who was also with us balked at this idea. I was more aware of it. I get texts from people telling me about their gigs quite often. It doesn't work on me but it doesn't piss me off. I've occasionally texted close friends about gigs myself. But the idea of texting people to ask them to fund my shows just doesn't work for me. Too intrusive. Too pressurised. I don't want people to feel obliged.

Later I mentioned that when payday comes I'll be contributing to the campaign Liz rolled her eyes and said I'd already paid with my time and effort. I said "Well actually I've already paid over 300 on publicity out of my own pockets, which I may or may not make back! But I can't ask people to give what they can and not give what I can myself."

And this is my biggest problem. I don't like or relate to money. I can't take it seriously. I can't hold it fully in my mind. I'm politically against it. I take it personally too because it's not about raising the money but about what the money can do. So friends aren't deciding not to give me money. They are deciding not to help a friend out. Which is the wrong way to look at it. And I struggle not to see it that way.

But me and my projects exist in the real world. And money is necessary.

If I was a different person I'd send a well written and calculated begging letter to all the richest people I know. I shouldn't care about hassling them. I believe in the redistribution of wealth but I don't want to ask for it.

I'd locate my key people and send them templates, try and get them to hassle their friends using my words.

I would text everyone I know and tell them about the campaign.

But I'm not that person. Which I'm a little bit glad of. And a little bit sad about. But there we have it.

The campaign offers perks. It isn't a begging thing. It's a chance for people to directly fund the arts. To cut out the gatekeepers and go directly from audience to artist. That's why it appealed to me. But it's still ultimately about money. And for many people money is too valuable to part with, even in small amounts, and for others, such as myself, money and art have no real relation to each other. It is hard to connect them up. Apart from of course they do relate very strongly because in this world money controls and influences and restricts and allows everything. And occasionally someone, rarely the artist, will make a lot of money from some art.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Stand Up Tragedy: The Opening Night

Our site is currently being attacked by malware. We are currently sorting this out. In the meantime I thought I'd post about the first night on my occasional blog:

The first night of tragedy is now over, and we got off to a great start. After a swift introduction where I tragically failed to say the word trajectory, we started with a pop! As in, an alternative pop song from The Reactionaries, who reframed the parable of the boy who cried wolf as a story about a character who dies because of his tragic flaw, and implicated the audience in his suicide.

Then Casual Violence disturbed and enchanted the audience with some sketch tragedy, two scenes from their Portable Residency show which you can see in full on 27th February in Camden’s Etcetera Theatre. Why is this man telling us about the feelings he has for a pillow? Will the little boy in the supermarket ever find his mum? We laughed in all the sad places.

Emily Lewsen then told the true story of a tour taken in Israel: a couple ostracised by their politics. The tour guide takes a fall when her tragic flaws get the group lost. We ponder whether things are dilemmas or facts, and empathy and Prosecco wash away tears by the Sea of Galilee. This is Emily telling a different tale at true story night Spark London:

Then The Reactionaries sang a song about the spirit leaving the body of a dead person. It had a very catchy dance for the choruses; it may well prove to be the next big dance craze to sweep the nation.

Next we had Jacqueline Downs’ The Great Big O performed by Libby Edwards, a tragic story about domestic violence, motherhood, and a sad, mad moment. Moving. Painful. And beautiful. Have a read of it here. This story was sourced from Liars’ League where writers write, actors act and everyone wins. Libby finished telling us the story. The audience clapped.

But where was the next act? A man appeared, asking some people in the front row about the strange lighting on the front of the stage, the line of light bulbs on fake grass, with daffodils scattered between them. This awkward moment began What do you think of it so far? performed by Drunken Chorus, a tragic attempt by a man to perform a double act. The night ended with a dying comedian bleeding to death on the stage lit by a mirror ball.

But then the tragedy was over as The Reactionaries came back on stage and attempted to lead the audience in a sing along. This sing along will end all the nights.

The first night was full of tragedy but it wasn’t one itself. It was, I’m pleased to say, a success.

We’d love to be able to pay the performers who participated. The Stand Up Tragedy team are doing this for a love of tragedy and I’m covering costs out of my day job salary. We hope the show will break even. If audiences keep coming like they did on our opening night, we will. To help us pay the artists we have set up an IndieGoGo campaign. No contribution is too small to be helpful.

We will be releasing extracts from the night as a free weekly podcast via iTunes, SoundCloud and the Stitcher Smart Radio app, so you’ll be able to hear some of the brilliant tragedy I’ve been talking about. The first one will go up on Friday 10th February 2012.

And now, like the song says, it’s time to go.

Dave Pickering

Host of Stand Up Tragedy