Crowdfunding the arts in South Africa

Money for a Monteverdi melody, and Bach for their buck. The Cape Consort is a Cape Town-based ensemble in search of investment to help them put on a concert.

The Cape Consort offer CDs, signed programmes and tickets to performances in exchange for investment

The Cape Consort offer CDs, signed programmes and tickets to performances in exchange for investment

 

 

By Leonie Erasmus,

As with many struggling artists, they are in need of funding. After all, “musicians need to pay rent and eat just like everybody else,” says Hans Huyssen, cellist with the group.

The Cape Consort has turned to crowdfunding, an online collective fundraising approach. They achieved their target amount of 15,000 rand ($1,525; £945), raising 60% of that in just six days.

The funds raised allowed them to put on a series of concerts, with the last one having just taken place on Sunday in Cape Town.

Instead of approaching one investor to ask for capital, crowdfunding is an online platform that allows small initiatives like Cape Consort to post proposals on a dedicated website and ask the world wide crowd for funding.

Even though the concept of collective fundraising is not new, (New York-based Kickstarter is widely credited with pioneering online crowdfunding in 2009), one crowdfunding website in South Africa is using it in an unusual way, to get funding for the arts.

Hans Huyssen from the Cape Consort says musicians rely on their audience

Hans Huyssen from the Cape Consort says musicians rely on their audience

Patrick Schofield is the founder of Thundafund, described as a “crowdfunding cafe” for African innovators and creative entrepreneurs. It provides both a crowdfunding platform together with mentorship.

“I think the funding is one thing but people need the supporting environment to help them realise their idea and to make it successful, and that’s what we bring together,” he says.

Thundafund has been up and running for over four months, and 80% of the projects that have gone on the website have gained funding.

People power

Michelle Constant is the chief executive of Business and Arts South Africa (BASA), a public-private partnership that aims to build partnerships between business and the arts.

“It’s simplistic to assume that the private sector and the government can do all the funding of the arts as we move forward into the future,” she says.

 

Funding arts projects will always take a backseat to issues such as reducing poverty and improving healthcare and housing – issues which are key in Africa.

“So if there is an opportunity where people who in their individual capacity can give [to the arts], it’s exciting,” says Ms Constant.

But crowdfunding for the arts is about more than just funding a specific project – it’s also about tapping into a more engaged audience by using technology as a platform.

Mr Schofield compares the power of crowdfunding as a vehicle for raising money to the power of social media when it comes to current affairs.

“When you talk to 100 people and say, ‘look, I’m not asking you for a huge amount, instead I’m going to say back me with a small amount and together we’ll all make it happen’ – in many ways it’s the same way as news is fed through Twitter.

“There’s 100 people talking about the event and it’s often so much more powerful than one voice and they will funnel 100 people together to a larger channel.”

 

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