posted on Jul 20, 2018
Why? I asked that myself often enough when I saw friends of mine setting up an account and that they offered all this great material to very few people. But with time, the number of people increased so I guessed this was how these things worked. Then I saw the TED Talk of Amanda Palmer called The Art of Asking and I realized the potential of this platform that kept growing with a lot of success. It wasn’t until a few years later that I saw friends of mine running these Patreon accounts with a purpose that brought them the possibility to pay their bills and concentrate on being themselves, only working on their IP or their content.
So, the next step to crowdfunding this was another tool to give artists, and creatives in general, real independence.
Around 3 months ago, I sat down and thought about it after two of my friends asked me why I didn’t run a Patreon account myself so that they could support Firestarter. Remembering Palmer’s TED Talk, I gave it serious thought and ultimately decided to give it a try. The aspect that pushed me over the edge was that even though I knew the people that contributed wouldn’t ask for anything in return, since this was a community project, I still felt that it should be rewarded, even with a small, symbolic compensation. After all, it wasn’t easy, no matter the perspective, to let this run just with exposure dollars and keep asking for content and know this was people’s time I got in return. I know, they now have an article in a publication, but without the articles there is no publication. With over 30 people bringing in content – over 60 if we include the events – this needed to take a different direction. And it still seems to me that it makes no real sense to keep the magazine going in the current form and publish it again in 2019 with content that is free work.
I have thought many times before about changing a part of the concept that the magazine had, to include portfolios for the sake of being good, or generally run different kinds of features and tutorials, but I believe there are mags out there that do all these things better than I ever could. It is not of anyone’s interest to have another publication just like that. So, I try to have sponsors that care about the community and adverts that the readers can profit from. It would not make much sense to have advertisers selling their toilet paper in this mag, but software for creatives or paper products like sketchbooks are something that brings value into this whole thing. So now the 4th edition has come out and I can still say that despite unnecessary idealism and the need to be neutral, we are still here doing this, and so far, the worst feedback I’ve gotten about the magazine was “it is too heavy,” which I can live with. After all, this is a whole lot of work so the product will in the end be something with weight and with value which I hope is visible in the quality of the material.
What it takes to make this magazine
Now you might ask yourself what exactly it takes to create this. Well, it definitely is more than I thought it would be in the beginning and with passing time it has become even more. The development of new sections for the magazine takes a lot of time since it also means a lot of revisions and testing, discussing…all that. Besides the website that needs to be fed constantly with content, it is also a lot of work to find people who would like to support the print of the magazine which is quite a thing to do for 184 pages and 5000 mags (if you can, do the math haha). So, talking to sponsors and discussing their content is also a big part of getting this done. Then there is the juggling of the content of 22 events and those that are on the website. With events being in a constant flow and having a lot of changes along the way, this means that many articles have to be reevaluated and changed. Often shortened. Which then leads to the layout and the always changing page counts and positions. I would estimate that it takes the interviewers at least half a day or a day to do research on their interview partner and write relevant questions. Then the artist needs at least a day to do the portrait, I guess often it takes longer. And then the interview is written and the questions are answered, which also takes at least a day to hone it all. The text then gets proofread. Lectures take even longer to write since often the speakers/authors haven't had their talk written down as an article before. So all this gets multiplied by, let's say 15, and then we add the content of the 22 events. All that gets into a certain order to also have space for advertisers and corrections along the way that will need to be made. The layout of the whole thing might take around a month, but it is hard to estimate that since this goes over many months on and off. And getting people interested to invest in this and sponsor the magazine takes even longer than all this. Getting the articles, the features, the adverts, the portraits, all that in time to have it printed and distributed to the events is quite a piece of work. Yet, when I talk about the Patreon account, it is about the contributors and the content the readers value, online and in print. So, you see this is a huge time investment from everyone working on Firestarter. And this has been happening for over a year and I want to thank everybody – EVERYBODY – who made this possible through personal sacrifice, because you didn't have to and still did. Please also check out Björn Hurri's thoughts on community. Jump to 11 minutes and keep an open mind.
What is valuable content?
When I was at my first IFCC, I loved how despite not being a professional artist I could still draw a lot of knowledge from the speakers that mainly talked about mindset and their lives, their experiences and things like freelancing and its struggles. This is how I try to choose the content. Making it of value for all kinds of creative people. No matter if it’s 3D, 2D, arch viz, traditional, digital…all that shouldn’t play a role and everybody should draw something from what people with a lot of different experiences have to say. Firestarter always tries to include as many different artists as possible. No matter the gender and no matter the kind of art they make. If you are an interesting person and have something to say, at some point I will knock on your door and ask you about your work and from there we might take it to an article. We’ve gotten a lot of praise for the portraits and their different styles, which was a way to include something artistic and have another person (the portrait artist) profit in the same way as the author. In an interview for Firestarter, you have three creatives who have a publication and the chance for a visa based on this or maybe just the exposure or the joy to have something printed. This is the maximum of value I can currently get out of this and will continue to do it as such. Besides these things that we still have, it also seems necessary to include our own reviews of events. Now to be careful, this is not about rating but about orientation. Firestarter will always stay neutral and will always be about making your own experience based on some guidance, not badmouthing the enormous effort made by the people creating an event. I will be at IWL, THU, PL, PG and CTNX so there is a lot of things I alone could cover. But it would be even better if other people who went to other events could have the chance to write articles, and this also includes the website, for meetups and all the other ways to hang out with other artists.
Now there are still a lot of plans to extend what Firestarter can be for you guys and we already launched the forum and created the profiles that you need to show people what you do. There is more to come that will make it easier to not just find events but also to bond with each other. Make friends. Enjoy an exchange of thoughts and experience and, of course, help each other. In the end, this is what it all is about, this difference that turns colleagues or people of a similar interest into a community.
Let me end this long piece of blah blah blah with the message that people receive who have decided to support us on Patreon:
Let me thank you for the support! This step you have made to help Firestarter and its readers is the little but significant difference between liking something and truly endorsing it. The greatest support that we can have is that you let your community and friends know how you feel about this and is why you helping us helps everybody else. What the community needs is people like you who believe in projects like this and what we can do for ourselves and others together!
You might think it is cheesy and roll your eyes, but I mean it. And if you would have experienced what I have experienced in the past year, you'd know what I am talking about.