A couple of weeks ago I attended a very interesting panel and live music event put on by Tom Sebastian and John Berg, co-presidents of Swirl, an advertising agency in San Francisco and Bob Weir and Chris McCutcheon from TRI (Tamalpais Research Institute) studios in San Rafael, California. The event, named The Patron Project, took place at TRI's state-of-the-art studio in San Rafael. There were about 150 attendees, mostly from the music industry.
The objective of The Patron Project is to begin an important conversation about the role of patrons in the arts and the role of brands and how brands can better support artists. The panel was composed of legendary musicians including: Bob Weir, Sammy Hagar, Lukas Nelson (Willie's son) and Jerry Harrison. There were also several professionals from the entertainment industry including, Kevin Eagan from Microsoft's e-commerce, Simon Fleming-Wood from Pandora, Jason Fisher from Redbull Media House, Gunnar Larsen from Dolby Laboratories and Dax Kimbrough formerly from EMI Music/Capitol Records.
Bob Weir set a context for the dialog reminding everyone about the critical importance that patrons have played through the ages including, for example, the vital role that the Medici's played in supporting artists during the Renaissance Age. Then, the question was raised exploring the difference between sponsors and patron's--- sponsorship, was pointed out, usually involves a time-limited commitment and the financial backing for one of more specific events. Patronage, on the other hand, focuses on the long-term development and financial backing of artists.
The benefit of Patrons underscores the vital role that seasoned veterans in the music industry can play in the success of younger musicians as they come up in the industry. However, the role of patrons goes well beyond musicians and extends to many of the others arts including: writers, painters, dancers, sculptors, actors, etc. In the new economy with an explosion of online media distribution channels, social media as well as blogs, wikis and other new media tools, calls for creative ways to get visibility and create a following. In a sense, the transformation that is occurring in the music industry is similar to the changes affecting the print industry; the old media tools such as print media and television are being superseded by the Internet and digital distribution methods.
In addition to the critical role of Patrons, it's helpful to think of the role of mentors in helping young artists perfect their craft and navigate the seas within their industry. Mentorship (originally from Greek mythology, Mentor as Odysseus trusted counselor) brings together the notion of a patron with the benefits of a trusted counselor and teacher. In a way, a mentor is a step closer to the artist and provides a nurturing and wise counsel that so many youth yearn for as they enter the arts profession. I've noticed in several conferences, the young participants are hungry for mentors who can help guide them as they contemplate getting experience and building their skills ranging from technical know-how to leadership and personal growth.
A huge thank you to the creators and developers of The Patron Project for courageously planting seeds for a conversation that is needed and will undoubtedly spread far and wide. This is a welcomed dialog that applies to people in all areas of the arts. I look forward to seeing additional events that generate new ideas for young artists to succeed.