Patreon, CrowdFunding, and “E-Begging” – It’s Time for an Honest Discussion
Post updated May 18, 2018
If you were to ask me 5 years ago what I thought about “crowdfunding” campaigns, I would have told you that I thought they were totally cheesy and that any campaign worth its salt wouldn’t need to hold out the virtual cup; people would be naturally supportive of quality products, endeavours, music, etc.
Particularly as a musician, I quickly grew tired of bands asking for people to pay for their new album production. I would say, “man, just work and save up enough to pay for your own studio time… and if your music doesn’t suck, people will buy it!! That’s how you make money!!”
Old School Work Ethics
I just recently had a phone call with my mom who lives in Ontario, and I was discussing with her our upbringing; how we were raised with that “old school” work ethic, by parents with “old school” work ethics. I was raised to believe, not unlike the wealthy barber, that success means working harder and longer than your peers. Grinning and bearing, not groaning and moaning, and eventually you’ll earn enough clout within your employment to get that pay raise, and then eventually the money would get better… and eventually, you’d retire in your 60’s with a decent savings. Hopefully, you’d be healthy enough to enjoy whatever wealth you’d traded for those hard earned years.
What I was too young and stubbornly conditioned to understand is, time gives no shits about how hard you’ve worked and this life is not to be taken for granted.
You see, when you’re young, you have boundless energy and you’ll live forever while outpacing everyone around you… until you get a little older. With a decade of hard earned and too few dollars under my belt, and my 20’s blown away with over-time, long weekends and holidays spent in the office striving to have the edge over “the competition”, it began to dawn on me that my “quality of life” was not mutually exclusive to my increased earnings; that younger and hungrier, smarter and better looking people would always be nipping at my heels, as I’d been and done to climb the corporate ladder.
I wasn’t happy, I wasn’t satisfied, the “challenges” were meaningless in every real way, to the advantage of someone else’s bottom line. While I fell in line. And slowly waited in line for my time… in a distant future, decades from now.
Well, that time is NOW!!
It really is, no matter your circumstances. We’re no more owed a long life than we are owed any wealth. We’ve invented, as a society, new resources to compete for an unnatural scarcity, but the laws of nature persist. Whether the environment is artificial or jungle.
I know now that if I’m not guaranteed a long life, and that if “wealth” may not be there when I cross the “finish line” of that rat marathon, then I’d better make the most of what is here and now! Your “old school work ethic” holds no water in a world that “isn’t fair”, in an economy that doesn’t directly equate “hard work” with ample pay. Often, those with the softest hands, the furthest from the fire, were raking in the greatest rewards.
How was it fair that my wasted 20’s and hard-ass work ethic went largely unnoticed and uncelebrated, while some kids were seeing $1000’s showered on them, while their music was being discovered and celebrated by a new and engaged audience? Regardless of their relative talents? Meanwhile my music went unnoticed, because it was “cheesy” to seek that new market?
When the game is rigged, why keep playing?
So, how was it wrong – then – for us to be “opportunist”, when our society rewards superficiality with recording contracts, and fraudsters with millions on the daily? We’d been playing by all the prescribed rules, and yet the house was still winning and our odds of winning the lottery was still infinitesimal.
Yet, the laws of nature persist!
There is a scarcity of people who dare to break the mold and take a risk on banking a different kind of resource: A wealth of experience(s). We’ve observed that, if one is willing to hedge a life of monetary wealth in exchange for “intangible” experience, that there is a market that exists that rewards those risk takers.
Equally as much as there is a risk of failure. But the risk of failure, in nature, doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t discriminate in the business world, and it doesn’t discriminate in the jungle. So, where would we rather fail, in a cubicle or a rainforest?
So, now we’re beggers, right?
There’s our mentality rounded out. So, now, we’re surely beggars? Now that we’ve stuck our cup out there on Patreon and “self-promote” our story on YouTube?
Here’s where we’ve arrived at some clarity on the matter.
Story telling and content have always been marketable. In the jesters court, you got to live, sing and dance another day if you were entertaining enough. In the 60’s, you never knew who was partying in your field when the local young band hit the band-stand, and were subsequently invited to play a set at Woodstock. In the 2000’s, content was carefully crafted to fit into a tight corporate model, to resemble something “authentic”, but was clearly not.
And now, there’s a market for something sincere and real again. Something that isn’t confined by advertising rules and corporate image. That’s given us the rise of the YouTube stars. And, although the money men scratch and claw to retain their influence on how content makes THEM money, the market has demonstrated the value for “TV” that isn’t scripted. Stories that aren’t part of some agenda. Real people connecting and interacting with real people!!
The evolving entertainment market
We’ve established there’s a market, and as the old saying goes, “the people are never wrong”. So, is it exploitative to make money delivering a “product” that answers a demand from that market?
Well, considering that it’s nearly impossible to monetize content on the common marketplaces (for the vast majority of those that deliver content), it’s hardly shooting fish in a barrel.
It goes without saying that there are Sailing Channel “stars” that exist now. If you zero’d in on those exceptions and portrayed them as the rule, it could appear as though it’s an easy way to make A LOT of money while traveling around filming soft-core porn on a boat and drinking too much in sunny destinations… oh, “how is it fair that ‘they’ are doing that, while I’m stuck in this god-damned cubicle?!?!”
It isn’t, if only it were that easy. You see, the reality is… it’s an extraordinary risk with NO GUARANTEES of ANY LEVEL of success.
Barriers to entry
“There are levels to this game”, said Daniel Cormier, UFC Champion.
The barriers to entry may at a casual glance seem quite low… almost anyone can buy a $5K boat and sail off to the Bahamas while making videos for YouTube. How far will that $5K boat make it? Well, a recent example would suggest anywhere from maybe a couple years to 2 DAYS!! lol.
The reality is this, in order to deliver content that is engaging and will warrant the patronage of enough people and advertisers and sponsors to make a “sailing channel” a singularly viable source of income, that boat has to make it far enough and long enough to develop an audience.
We invested everything we had to do this
No $5K boat has lasting power, believe me!
If anyone is going to be around long enough to have a viable channel or blog, they’re going to have to cope with the up-front expenses of making their vessel seaworthy, and otherwise having the cash, knowledge and skills to carry out the endless work that is required to keep a boat seaworthy and enjoyable to live aboard!! This is a significant barrier to cruising long-term, as it takes a certain type of person that is certainly prepared to do what is necessary to literally stay afloat!
In our case, we sold our half-million dollar house (and rising) to pay off our mortgage, and with what was left over, we were able to buy a well-equipped vessel that was reasonably within “ready to go cruising”… and when we say reasonably, that means we’ve already spent $40K in the last 9 months on our cost of living and boat repairs and upgrades for long-term cruising. That’s after the $150K up-front expense (after taxes) of purchasing a vessel that was cruising-ready with the off-shore equipment and live aboard gear necessary for long-term, sustainable cruising.
Giving up a secure future
Everyone will have different thresholds for comfort and necessity, and we have a good budget to work with, to start, but you’d have to ask yourself if you’d be willing to take the risk on exchanging long-term gainful employment for uncertain and inconsistent income? How about trading an investment in property and housing, that continually sees annual increases in market value, vs. purchasing a depreciating asset that is a constant maintenance expense and burden… are you up for that?
Would you trade the social acceptance of being a “homeowner” with reputable careers, and part of a community, for the stigma of being “homeless” with sometimes difficult and uncertain moorage, access to town and amenities, and sometimes very remote living conditions? Or otherwise crowded marinas and city anchorages with many encroachments on privacy?
These are just some of the “barriers to entry” that start to sound a little more like hard work than handout!
This is really expensive!
Now, if you’re like we are, we ARE NOT videographers! lol. By no means.
Morgan has been a government employee for the last 12 years, and I am formerly Sr. Mgmt of a private security firm, followed by marketing management for a non-profit, some hospitality management and finally starting a surfboard manufacturing business on the west coast of Vancouver Island.
None of that involved making video content and competing with channels consisting of couples that have been producing video content for years, or couples with videography backgrounds preceding their decision to start a sailing adventure / entertainment channel. Not to mention the many thousands of dollars of equipment that is absolutely necessary to make good quality, approaching professional, productions!
I don’t know about you, but the friends and acquaintances I’ve made over the years who worked in video production had over $10K in video production gear. Shit, just one Canon 5D body new is over $3K, and lenses will quickly add up to much more than that!! Throw a drone on the pile at nearly $2K, some $600 GoPros here and there, gimbals, $500 editing software, graphic design software, website hosting, internet connectivity for uploading content, time to edit the content, mic’s for quality audio capture… if the equipment cost alone isn’t staggering, I know that the hourly rate for professional videography services are!!
Those friends and acquaintances? Well, you wouldn’t get them to produce professional video products for much less than $100 per hour, at least!! That’s per hour of filming, and per hour of editing!!
So, when I see comments about “e-begging”, after someone has just watched a FREE video on YouTube, that isn’t MONETIZED, that was produced with REAL expensive equipment, burning REAL time… I have to exclaim, “how in the ever-living fuck is the suggestion that someone maybe punt in $2 here or there begging?!?!”
Put YOUR money where your mouth is
So, why do people get their knickers in a knot and denigrate sailing channels as “e-beggers”?
Well, I think it’s because they’re pissed off that they’re seeing people playing around on boats, filming T&A and having fun, while they’re grinding through rush hour traffic and stuck in office buildings all day.
I totally understand it, man, that was my life for 10 years!! That was Morgan’s life for 12 years!! That’s still her life!! We’re STILL working on, and saving for, this dream!!
So, I say to the proverbial YOU, if it’s so fuckin’ easy, why don’t you put your money where your mouth is? Are you prepared to “risk it all”? We did. Over $200K later, costs a-risin’, haven’t even “begun” our sailing adventure as yet, and there’s absolutely no guarantees that anyone will “like us” or that our content will get watched!! That’s the risk YOU run!! Life isn’t for the faint of heart.
Thanks for reading! Feel free to comment or ask questions below – would love to get a dialogue going with you.