The idea of a patron is a fascinating one – according to Dictionary.com (which is NOT down today just fyi)
1250–1300; Middle English < Medieval Latin, Latin patrōnus: legal protector, advocate (Medieval Latin: lord, master), derivative of pater/ father>
I find this fascinating for two reasons. One is that the customer of today has lost that sense of being a “father” or “advocate” and leans more toward the “lord” and “master” meaning of the word. You SERVE me and are slave to my bidding and I will throw you some money.
The second is about the creative process which I’ll go into in a minute.
To me, the idea of the customer is always right turned consumerism on its head. With the advent of things like the internet, we are able to research and learn “on our own” (which is not actually viable at all) and we feel empowered to challenge the vendor/service giver in whatever assumptions we have made about what we know or don’t know about a product or service. We also have leaned heavily on “reviews” which may or may not actually be authentic or relevant to us. (I still laugh at an example a friend used about a hotel review she read that said the thread count on the sheets wasn’t high enough and that the room smelled like lavender. which she was allergic to. because the hotel staff knows that.)
Instead, the derivative of the word patron comes with it a sense of responsible consumerism and more of a personal partnership. I am investing in YOU when I give you money and I want you to succeed and stick around. So when we put our dollars down on the counter, we are making a statement about the establishment and our relationship with it.
So, let me ask you this? What relationships do you have? Where do your dollars go? If I were to look through your receipts for a month, what will I know about you and what you care about?
Secondly, in historical terms, “the arts” were always sustained by patrons. From the little research I’ve actually done (sans Wikipedia because they’re down today) an artist used to have to find someone who strongly believed in his/her work and wanted to see them continue to thrive and grow in their skills. So they would pay for their living expenses or commission work and the artist wouldn’t die in a ditch somewhere.
Of course artists tend to be a temperamental bunch and if you’ve seen Amadeus the movie about the genius (which I assume is only partially true in its account of his life) you know that it just doesn’t matter how brilliant a person is, money can be hard to come by. Especially if you happen to be a drunk. Which is also a trend with artists .. or so they say. “They” meaning non-artists who are just jealous.
So the trend for artists to be funded by government, institutions, grants, etc., is one of those things that is a real sticking point for me. And here’s where certain people will get up in arms. Of course a civilized society has great art. Of course a government that doesn’t support the arts is made up of a bunch of neanderthals with no joys in life.
But I like the new trends of connecting person to person on a near-ancient level of commerce. I make this. You like it. You buy it. I get to make more. It’s so simple you would think we’d be doing this for years.
And well, we have. Somewhere along the way, businesses decided that we need to make lots and lots and lots of “it” and at a fraction of the cost you make “it” and with lots of steam and small orphans who don’t look right without dirt on their faces.
But fast forward to where we are now and you have…
and loads of websites freely exchanging goods and services and stuff for purchase. You have grassroots movements all over to buy local and handmade. You have people, like me, who are starting to refuse to eat at chain restaurants and try to buy gifts that are not mass produced in Thailand.
Then let’s get even more progressive and sell stuff we haven’t even MADE yet … and you have … Kickstarter… which is a fantastic concept and exactly what I’m talking about with patronage. The idea that I think you are going to do something I’ll love, so I’m willing to throw in buckaroos to help you do it and then get to brag to my friends that I am an investor in your genius whether I gave you a dollar or a hundred.
I guess I’m reflecting on this idea today because I feel like as a society, and maybe as a human race, we are always trying to make things BIGGER BETTER STRONGER FASTER and maybe we are doomed to this recycling of SIMPLER LONGER-LASTINGER MORE-MEANINGFULLER market which we are now in… mostly because the Big Boys in our market are really screwing up our economy… and mostly because we let them.
So let’s make the customer right this time. Not because the customer is inherently right… but because they are making the RIGHT choice. Be a true PATRON – advocates… loyal, committed, helpful, advocates. It’s the only way we will all survive the coming apocalypse. Not the zombie one. The economic one is a bit scarier.