I have been mulling for a while if what could save nonprofit theatre from the clutches of corporate and plutocrat philanthropy would be to copy the Obama-campaign model of massive internet-fueled "micro" donations.
Well, looks like B'way may get there first! Thanks to young maverick producer Ken ("Altar Boyz") Davenport, who announced he will take just such an approach to the financing of his projected B'way Godspell revival. As he announces on his blog this week:
Thanks to entrepreneurs like Guillaume Colboc and Benjamin Pommeraud, as well as my bloggin' hero Seth Godin and his book Tribes, the guys at Kickstarter.org and, of course, the King of Crowd-Funding himself, Barack Obama, a new era in bringing people with a common vision together has been born.
We've even talked about it on this blog on several occasions . . . and we've even wondered, "Can we apply this to Broadway?"
Well, guess what? We can. It just took a few extra lawyers and a few extra hours to figure out a new way of doing things. (I even had to pass a Series 63 Exam to become a Securities Agent!)
So, it is with great pleasure that I officially announce to all of you first, that my upcoming Broadway revival of Godspell will be the first-ever Crowd-Funded, or as I like to call it, "Community-Funded," Broadway musical.
True, as incentive he promises billing for each and every donor as "producer," threatening to only exacerbate the current "above-the-title" producer clusterfucks that already mar every Playbill and Tony night. But still, small price to pay, I think, for a worthy experiment.
And I hope the nonprofits are watching. Davenport is simply creating a very large "limited liability company." But imagine a small 501C3 company truly owned and financed by a community of theatregoers. I'm worried philanthropy (as evidenced at Lincoln Center now) only encourages and lionizes immense concentration of wealth in few hands--and inevitably gives undue influence to such individuals.
I've already seen promising signs. Last December--at that desperate end-of-year fundraising time--I was glad that a few theatres started soliciting just $10 donations. How much more included I felt in such a mailing when being asked only for that--as opposed to being huckstered into thinking I'm getting some great value of perks for becoming "only" a $50 of $75 "Friend of..." Note to development dept's: You ask me for "only" $50 and you immediately alienate me. I know people of my income level are not your target audience...but then why am I on your mailing list? Presumably as a frequent ticket-buyer and theatregoer, I may potentially be supportive of your endeavor. So why tell me right off the bat my money doesn't matter?
Upshot is: I gave $10 to any company that explicitly welcomed that amount. All others I tore up.
Now I'm not promising the same this year, folks. But I bet there are others out there who might be similarly inclined to help if you humbled yourself to ask for their help on terms possible for them.