Chapter 6

Audiences at the Gate: Re-Inventing Arts Philanthropy Through Guided Crowdsourcing

By Ian David Moss and Daniel Reid

ABSTRACT: In this chapter the authors argue that traditional market gatekeepers’ lack of capacity to evaluate the rapidly growing volume of art produced and distributed in the 21st century has dangerous implications for the socioeconomic diversity of successful artist-entrepreneurs. Drawing on crowdsourcing, a practice originating from the open-source software movement that centralizes the time and talent of dispersed individuals in productive ways, the authors envision a new model of institutional arts funding that promises a fairer and more meritocratic distribution of resources throughout the arts field. By channeling a portion of its grantmaking budget through a carefully cultivated online community of passionate and committed devotees of the arts, an enterprising philanthropic institution will enhance its ability to nurture the most promising artists and artist-driven organizations to maturity. At the same time, the forum will serve as an incubator of aspiring critical talent and a site for robust discussion of the rich tapestry of creative expression in the public life of our communities.

Right on, guys! Just read the chapter after getting the gist of it from Ian’s blog these past few months. In a certain way, I can see this trend starting to emerge in a very diffuse and non-funded way in the (nascent) online jazz community, a loose network of blogs that link to one another and have occasionally been aggregated by sites like (formerly) and NPR Music’s jazz page. But I agree with your contention that this kind of activity needs to be encouraged, and in order for it to flourish needs access to philanthropic capital!
Having had a horse in the race for an arts grant in the past year for the first time (which was not granted … but this isn’t just sour grapes) I saw close up how an approach like this could have made the process MUCH more worthwhile for everyone: applicants, funders, grant panelists, grantees and runners-up. The lack of transparency is a real problem and this looks like a promising way to improve the landscape.

Alex W. Rodriguez 11.21.10 / 11am

With the notion of overabundance, or super-saturation as I like to think of it, in online arts communities I am still unsure how I feel about promoting online congregation. While I agree that such agregation online is a good thing, does it perpetuate a decrease in physically present audiences? Or is there research to prove a direct correlation between online presence and butts-in-seats?

Jess Kaswiner 11.29.10 / 1pm


According to the 2008 NEA study, “Audience 2.0: How Technology Influences Arts Participation,” arts participation through media appears to encourage —rather than replace— live arts attendance. The full report can be found here:

Dani Loebs 1.17.11 / 10pm

Thanks Dani, I wish I had been notified by your comment, as I am only now (two months later) seeing it for the first time. I like this form of back and forth, but unfortunately there is no method of ‘conversation’ if i’m not sent a message about your response. Nonetheless, if you do return, thank you for the link to this research!

Jess Kaswiner 3.26.11 / 7pm

I have returned and I say: you are very welcome Jess! :)

Dani Loebs 5.18.11 / 2am

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