Anatomy of a Failed Fundraiser

by Neil Nisbet

30 Days ago Article19 started something that Article19 has never done before, we tried to raise funding from the people who visit this website every month.

30 days later and that fundraiser has ended its run in failure. You pay your money and you take your chances, that’s how it goes. The question as to why did it failed is probably impossible to answer however.

One thing I know is this, raising money is hard, in fact it’s very hard.

Over the last month Article19 was able to make tens of thousands of people aware of what we were trying to do. Not only through advertising on every page of the site for regular visitors but through social networks, emailing, texting and any other method we have for communicating with people.

In statistical terms it would only have taken 0.5% of our monthly readers to donate £10 each to hit a target of £3,000. So why could’t we hit it?

Any editor of any news website will tell you that getting your readers to give money, through donations or otherwise, is extremely difficult. Internet users are simply not tuned to give money to online publications because almost all websites on the internet are essentially free to use.

Another major issue is that Article19, as a publication, concerns itself with an industry full of dancers who are very badly paid and quite a lot of those dancers are a big part of our reader base. The pages of this website are full of stories of the ridiculous wages and employment prospects of the very people we were asking for help.

Dance students have a hard enough time of it and many professional dancers are working two or three jobs just to keep the lights on. Most admin folk, the ones who don’t work at The Royal Opera House, are not rolling in money either.

The result was, perhaps, predictable.

It makes us wonder, here in TheLab™, if our next project should be called “Billionaires, How They Should Spend All Their Spare Cash!”

Despite all of that though many did pledge support and for that I am truly grateful. The support really does mean more than hitting the actual target.

Cold Irony

There is also the distinct possibility that many people who read and use Article19 actually don’t like Article19 very much.

From the very start, many years ago when I was writing on a single page on another website*, Article19 (it wasn’t even called that back then) was talking about the wide world of dance the way it really was for the people living and working within it.

As a dance student I intensely disliked Dance Theatre Journal, The Dancing Times and the other dance publications for the simple reason that their writing was completely irrelevant to me and bore no relation to the dance profession that I was experiencing on a day to day basis.

I also believe that this art form doesn’t belong to just a few choreographers and even fewer theatre directors. It belongs to everybody that chooses to be a part of it.

A new dance maker with little or no money scratching out a work in a dusty corner matters just as much as anybody else. Article19 can’t always get to them to provide coverage, if only, but their work is important because everybody starts somewhere.

When you, our dear readers, look at the wide world of dance does it seem fair to you? Does it seem like everybody gets an equal chance to succeed or fail? Do you think everybody is doing everything they can to make the dance profession progressively better for everybody?

Like it or not Article19 is the fourth estate for dance and when you’re in that position making friends with everybody isn’t really possible. Some people are going to love you and a lot of people are going to hate you.

So yes, a lot of people dislike Article19, but that’s part of the job and I don’t take it personally, even if there are some out there who try really hard to make it personal.

Twist and Sulk

In a suitably ironic twist a couple of days ago a job advertisement appeared for an “Editor” on the completely ignored and massively expensive (£16Million at last count) Space project being run by ACE and the BBC.

That particular job comes with a salary of £50,000(+) per year for the lucky winner. For that kind of money Article19 could cover every single dance company in this country including every GFA recipient for a year and still have money left over to buy a pony.

The job description for that position describes one of the editors tasks;

“To lead on making sure all copy on The Space is high quality, readable, accessible, fresh, well written and interesting to the general reader”

Apparently that means writing like this, an interview with an academic, that reads exactly like the nonsense I disliked all those years ago from Dance Theatre Journal.

Writing like that won’t so much get people interested or engaged with the arts as it will have them searching for the nearest rhinoceros to headbutt.

Perhaps a comparison between the massively well funded Space and the not funded at all Article19 is the perfect metaphor for the arts in the 21st century.

The thing with all the money is pretentious, ugly and stupefyingly boring. Article19 on the other hand is almost completely out of control, gets to show some amazing work from great companies and dancers, speaks to actual issues and is, most importantly of all, fun.

Even the people who dislike Article19 keep coming back and keep reading because at least this publication is interesting, at least this publication is capable of provoking an emotional response. Isn’t that what all art is supposed to do?

I will close by thanking all of the people who pledged support on Kickstarter, all of the people who shared the campaign with others on social media and through email, all of the people who come and read Article19 every month and keep on coming back (and have done for years now).

A special thank you though to all of the people who really don’t like Article19 but also keep coming back. This website is not Facebook, it’s not about being friends, it’s not about liking everything that everybody says or does just because. Article19 is about seeing this industry as it really is, what you do with that information is up to you.

*Article19 started life as a single page on another website called DanceService UK

photo by Pedro Vezini