Originally uploaded by madabandon.
Here's the situation: a composer colleague with whom I have a long acquaintance--we have both studied with the same teacher, and have appeared on concerts together, and I've performed on a concert series this composer curated--is having some upcoming performances in NYC. The concert series featuring my friend pays a fee to the composer, and handles the publicity. The fee rarely covers the total cost of paying performers. The composer provides whatever other funds are needed.
Maybe several months ago, this composer sent an email to a list of people asking for contributions to help fund this concert. I was taken aback by this approach, and did not respond to the email except to say that I was looking forward to the event.
After getting an email the other day about the upcoming performances, I followed a link to the composer's website. It seems out that my friend has created a "performance and commission club." One can donate (through PayPal even!) a sum to fund future works and performances by this composer. There are suggested levels; at the highest, the donor gets a mention on the concert program, a signed copy of the score, a CD of the composers' older works, and a recording of the live performance. These trickle on down; everyone gets a CD.
I was dumbfounded. All artists, or most anyway, know the tedium of applying for grants and awards, fellowships; the stuff that helps fund work of a non-commercial nature. But to ask, outright, for your friends and fans to give you money so that you can write seems just way too...too something...crass? I am not sure of the right word for what I want. To me it is like approaching my friends and musical admirers and asking for a handout.
At the same time this is a person I genuinely like and with whom I have a good professional and personal relationship. But now I feel funny. I don't want to be judgmental but at the same time I can't deny that I find the whole concept disturbing both ethically and professionally. I can't imagine asking my friends to contribute money to me so that I can keep composing.
It reminds me of a far more savvy version of the old story: you go to a concert or an opening or some performance and go out to dinner with friends and some young artist or musician comes along and when the bill comes said artist or musician has no money. I never had the gall to do that myself.