Show me the money

Fan­tasy artists are mak­ing money through plat­forms such as Pa­treon, Gum­road and Kick­starter – but is it that easy? And is it sus­tain­able?

ImagineFX - - Imagine Nation -

Artists are sup­ported by fans, and fans en­able their favourite artists to give them more of what they love

Free­lance il­lus­tra­tor and comic artist Ilya Ku­vshi­nov earns $3,129.85 ev­ery week through crowd­fund­ing plat­form Pa­treon. That’s right. $3,129.85. Per week.

The Rus­sia-born, Ja­pan-based artist only joined the site in Novem­ber 2014, but it’s al­ready be­come his sole source of in­come, and he’s not the only one at it. Dig­i­tal artist Paul Kwon, aka ZeroNis, has 1,237 pa­trons who do­nate $6,269.53 ev­ery fort­night. And Cana­dian fan­tasy artist Sakimichan pulls in a whop­ping $28,421.57` fort­nightly, thanks to the sup­port of some 3,432 pa­trons.

Pa­treon is one of sev­eral new plat­forms that en­able cre­ators to fund their projects via do­na­tions from sup­port­ers – or ‘pa­trons’, in this case. Un­like Kick­starter, where a suc­cess­ful cam­paign leads to a sin­gle sum, Pa­treon is a sub­scrip­tion model: fans pledge a fee per art­work or on a re­cur­ring ba­sis, in re­turn for ex­clu­sive con­tent.

“Thanks to Pa­treon, I can do – draw – what I like. I don’t need to take bor­ing or un­in­ter­est­ing com­mis­sions just be­cause I need to eat ev­ery­day," says Ilya, who of­fers his donors a tiered re­ward sys­tem. For pledges of $1 or more per week, fans re­ceive 10 pic­tures ev­ery week, plus be­hind-thescenes sketches. For $5 or more, pa­trons also get Pho­to­shop doc­u­ments and full-size im­agery, while for $10 or more process videos are added to the mix.

Mile­stone goals give artists the op­por­tu­nity to fur­ther thank their fans when spe­cific tar­gets – earn­ing $1,000 per week, for ex­am­ple – are reached. How­ever,

these com­mit­ments can prove chal­leng­ing, and not just be­cause of time con­straints. A com­mon ob­ser­va­tion from new users is that it can be tricky to know ex­actly what sort of in­cen­tives will best en­cour­age pa­trons to pledge.

“It’s eas­ier now, though,” says Ilya, “be­cause they’re com­ment­ing about what they want to see – tu­to­ri­als, for in­stance. Tu­to­ri­als can be hard, be­cause I’m still learn­ing my­self. But if you have pas­sion and love what you do, it at­tracts peo­ple.”

“The peo­ple who don’t see much suc­cess lack strong con­tent, con­sis­tency and point of view,” says mul­ti­me­dia artist and toy de­signer Chris Ry­niak, who pro­vides his 139 pa­trons with be­hindthe-scenes stu­dio up­dates, news, se­cret sales and more. “It’s not a model that will work for ev­ery­one, that’s for sure.”

Ea­gEr cus­tomErs

For artists who al­ready have a large fol­low­ing, how­ever, di­rect-to-fan sites such as Pa­treon, Kick­starter and Gum­road – the lat­ter be­ing a plat­form that en­ables cre­ators to rent or sell dig­i­tal as­sets straight to con­sumers – are a no-brainer. Af­ter all, there’s lit­tle need for a costly mid­dle­man when an en­gaged com­mu­nity is ac­tively wait­ing for you to cre­ate your next piece of art or con­tent.

Jason Seiler is an il­lus­tra­tor spe­cial­is­ing in car­i­ca­ture and por­traits for publi­ca­tions such as Rolling Stone and The New Yorker. He’s been selling video tu­to­ri­als along­side his work on Gum­road since the au­tumn of 2014, and gen­er­ates in­ter­est through so­cial media for each new tu­to­rial by shar­ing trail­ers and links with his 153,000 Face­book fans and In­sta­gram fol­low­ers.

“I’ve been an in­struc­tor at for 10 years now and fig­ured that I could use the Gum­road site as a way to get more stu­dents to sign up for my Schoolism class,” says Jason. “The videos are a way to share some of what I teach for a fair price, and then if you want more you can sign up for my class.”

To make real cash on crowd-fund­ing sites, how­ever, artists need to in­vest se­ri­ous time into the plat­forms. “When a video first comes out,” says Jason, “I can do quite well for a cou­ple weeks. But it’s not a re­al­is­tic way to make se­ri­ous money. For me, it’s just a lit­tle ex­tra cash here and there. If I wanted to make Gum­road my full in­come, I’d have to put more energy and time into.”

Artists also need to be aware of tax is­sues. From 1 Jan­uary 2015, a new reg­u­la­tion means VAT on dig­i­tal prod­ucts sold in the EU is charge­able in the place of pur­chase, rather than the place of sup­ply. VAT­MOSS (VAT Mini One Stop Shop) aims

when a video first comes out i can do quite well. But it’s not a re­al­is­tic way to make se­ri­ous money

to pre­vent huge com­pa­nies di­vert­ing sales through low-VAT coun­tries like Lux­em­bourg. But the new rules ap­ply equally to cre­atives.

“The seller is re­spon­si­ble both for charg­ing the cor­rect taxes and re­mit­ting them to that na­tional tax au­thor­ity through VAT­MOSS,” says Heather Burns, a Glas­gow-based web de­signer and dig­i­tal law spe­cial­ist. Be­cause many cre­ative plat­forms are lo­cated out­side the EU, there are unan­swered ques­tions about how these are ex­pected to com­ply.

too small to bE taxEd?

“With so much un­cer­tainty about the law and its fu­ture, cre­atives must find out whether their plat­form is VAT­MOSS com­pli­ant,” says Heather. “If it isn’t, you’re ex­posed to a mas­sive ad­min­is­tra­tive and tax­a­tion bur­den.” She re­veals that the EU Vat Ac­tion cam­paign has re­ported Euro­pean tax author­i­ties chas­ing artists out­side the EU over VAT­MOSS dis­crep­an­cies of less than ¤5. “No cre­ative should think they are too small to be caught out.”

So, will crowd­fund­ing plat­forms con­tinue to pro­vide a sus­tain­able source of in­come? For now, yes. Ac­cord­ing to Mas­so­lu­tion’s 2015CF – Crowd­fund­ing In­dus­try Re­port, global crowd­fund­ing in 2014 ex­panded by 167 per cent, reach­ing $16.2 bil­lion in con­tri­bu­tions, up from $6.1 bil­lion in 2013.

“I think that re­mov­ing the mid­dle­man can, in some in­stances, be for the best,” re­flects world-renowned fan­tasy artist Todd Lock­wood (see pre­vi­ous page for more). He’s launch­ing a Kick­starter cam­paign in au­tumn this year for a new art col­lec­tion book. “It’s ‘win’ all around: artists are sup­ported by their fans, and fans en­able their favourite artists to give them more of what they love.”

Chris agrees with Todd: “As long as there are cre­ators gen­er­at­ing con­tent that peo­ple care about, and those cre­ators tend to their com­mu­ni­ties, I think peo­ple will want to feel like they’re do­ing their part,” he says. “Since con­tri­bu­tions are gen­er­ally low, donors don’t feel pinched.”

“I’m pleased with what I have to of­fer and feel con­fi­dent that peo­ple feel the same,” says Jason. “I want to in­spire peo­ple and get them ex­cited to draw. Hope­fully that’s enough to keep peo­ple in­ter­ested.”

Ilya Ku­vshi­nov’s fan art, Uni­verse, cel­e­brates Uru­sei Yat­sura’s char­ac­ter Lum.

Ilya Ku­vshi­nov’s Maid is another of his many crowd­funded pieces.

The Cap­tain’s Fish, painted by Jason Seiler for Adobe. Todd Lock­wood il­lus­trated the cover of Tales of the Emer­ald Ser­pent.

Two of Chris’s Chur­ble­furb resin fig­ures.

Jason Seiler cre­ated this piece

for The Milken In­sti­tute Re­view.

Triss Merigold – Witcher 3 fan art by Ilya Ku­vshi­nov.

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