Noah J Nelson on Wednesday, Mar. 18th
It’s been a while since we’ve done a “latte fund” round. As in, I think it’s been a year since I used that term, which is my way of saying that what I’m about to talk about is worth backing to the tune of at least the price of a latte. Which in Los Angeles is about $5 with tax and tip.
The price of an LA latte is extra apt for this campaign, which is for the Live Arts Exchange, aka LAX, an experimental performance festival which runs each year in the City of Angels. For the past two years LAX has been a co-production of Los Angeles Performance Practice and the Bootleg Theater, and it’s featured a cross section of music, theatre, animation, dance and multimedia mash-ups of these and more which become their own thing.
In short: it’s LA’s one-stop shop for uncovering what the edge of live performed art is all about these days. Last year’s festival featured some of the most challenging work I’ve seen in a long while—and yes, I mean the good kind of challenging.
The challenge right now for the festival is making sure it breaks even. Cleaning edge performance art programming isn’t exactly a major moneymaker, but without a space to showcase such work some real genius voices can wind up getting lost. I reached out to LAPP’s Miranda Wright, who always seems to have her hand in the most interesting work happening in LA, about why this year’s LAX was up on Kickstarter.
“We have essentially self-funded the festival for the past two years,” said Wright, “and have invested tens of thousands of dollars out of pocket in the festival’s success. We really can’t sustain this model anymore. We need help to keep the momentum going. Not only is the funding important, but knowing we are serving a larger community- a community willing to have some skin in the game- is vital in propelling us forward.”
To get people to ante up, Wright has turned to the festival’s network of artists.
“Several artists who have benefitted from the festival in the past have stepped up- proudly- to help spread the word about our Kickstarter campaign. It’s very inspiring, actually, to have such an incredible network of artists- artists who are really changing the way performance is experienced in this city- take a strong stance on the Festival’s behalf. LAX is critical for all of us.”
This strategy of activating the network is sound: it’s precisely the kind of logic that underpins crowdfunding as a whole. The idea is that networks are replacing marketplaces, which we see as the motivating idea behind start-ups like Patreon and Gumroad as well.
The specific way that Wright is activating the network is clever as well.
“Local artists and performers are sponsoring specific days of the Kickstarter campaign. They are asked to email at least ten people on our behalf, and post about their support on social media. They are doing this out of a desire to bolster the entire community- not just themselves or their own work. Everyone is pitching in to ensure opportunities are available for the next round of LAX artists. It’s really amazing.”
Compared to some campaigns the scale of LAX—they’re looking for $12,000—is small, but this kind of campaign is where crowdfunding can have the most impact. Instead of strictly on the whims of institutional patrons of the arts individually wealthy benefactors events like LAX can pool smaller pledge amounts to have a big impact.