Editor’s Note: Please read this article and let us know whether you would like us to incorporate a voluntary “Benefactor” button on your Talent Profiles.
Art changed the way I interact with the world and relate to people. This may be trivial for some, but it was a big deal for me. I was sitting next to my girlfriend at a dance performance totally distracted from the performance as I deliberated how to break up with her.
The refrain to the accompanying piece was “You already know how this ends,” like a sign from the universe. Time to break things off. I alternated between watching the dancers on stage and deciding what to say to her. Why prolong the inevitable?
At that moment, I noticed one dancer in particular. She took such complete enjoyment in what she was doing that I actually felt envious. She was spectacular, and despite the fact that it was rehearsed and there was no “discovery” per se, she performed her work with utter and complete enthrallment.
That's when it hit me – I understood, in my bones, the value of the process, with no regard to the outcome. I wanted to live my life in the same manner in which that dancer performed her piece—to surrender myself to the moment, and find value in each discrete experience without worrying how that will reflect upon the whole. I found myself willing to risk loss in exchange for whole-hearted connection, to live more in the moment, expectations be damned. People spend billions of dollars at yoga and meditation retreats to learn a lesson that cost me the price of a cheap ticket and took less than two hours of my time.
I resolved to go big or go home forever after.
Clapping isn't enough
Immediately on the heels of that epiphany came another: there were two hundred other audience members. Any number of them could have been having similar, life-changing experiences. And similar experiences are shared everywhere, between artists and audience members, all over the country. I clapped as loudly as I could for that dancer, but it just seemed so paltry compared to the experience she had already given me, and others.
Changing how people view themselves and the world – how do you set a price for that in the form of a ticket? You can't really – some people will be touched and others not. Each person experiences a different value.
Can we close the gap between the ticket and the experience in a way that lets each audience member appreciate each artist or actor individually? Not by replacing the idea of tickets, but by augmenting them.
Why not let the audience tip the performers that they enjoyed the most? Make an app, let artists sign up, and let the audiences tip them. Maybe even send a congratulatory message, too. Why not? That’s what Benefactor can be.
On the other hand, is Art too sacred a thing to involve tipping? Does tipping imply some lesser form of value to the work? Shouldn't I be paid what I'm worth initially rather than hope for tips? Also, isn’t there social anxiety involved – a worry that it would be perceived as pandering? And sending artists personal, congratulatory messages? Well, that was the most debated aspect of all.
The tip, I've come to believe, is a way for the patron to express themselves and feel agency in how they support the arts, rather than being about financial gain (though, that part isn't horrible). And, the App aspect removes the social awkwardness – if the audience wants to tip me, they could. If they don't, they don't. There's no verbalized request, no pandering.
Will you try it?
So my partner and I decided it was worth creating. We developed Benefactor.org. We've held off on a big launch– still have to iron out the kinks there. And we’ve heard a variety of ideological responses, and we’d like to hear yours..
The Southern and The Phoenix are two Minneapolis groups that have jumped on board with the idea. MinnesotaPlaylist is willing to consider the App as a button on individual talent profiles, but anyone, individually or as a group, can sign up in any way. Audiences seem to love the idea – the ability to support the individuals that they specifically find the most charming, the most personally touching. It lets them feel an even stronger connection to the performers who change their lives. I know I wish it existed back when I had my own artistic epiphany – to give back a little of what I was feeling would have been incredible.
What are your thoughts on the idea? Could this benefit you as an artist? Would this enhance the relationship between you and your audience? And should we let people send a message along with their tips? Are there other features you see as necessary and/or helpful?
An app that lets the audience tip the actors and artists. Yay? Nay?