Follow The Crowd

Photo of Chateau de Peyrepertuse

Last week I found myself in the middle of a huge conspiracy. Visiting the Languedoc part of France, now renamed Cathar Country by clever tourism people, I climbed a hazardous mountain path to the ruined castle of Peyrepertuse and found myself in the setting for Kate Mosse’s bestseller Labyrinth.

I don’t believe in the conspiracy theories about the Holy Grail. I tend to think such a big story wouldn’t really have been kept secret for two thousand years. Even if true, I’m not that interested. Nevertheless Mosse writes a gripping narrative and brings alive a dramatic period in medieval French history.

I first came across Ms Mosse as the writer of the book accompanying the BBC TV documentary series which went behind the scenes at the Royal Opera House. I found that a gripping read too. Where the book generated light, the TV series preferred the heat of conflict and confrontation including a memorable occasion when a frustrated marketing person broke his phone which, as I recall, was not even worthy of a mention in the book.

I actually helped publish Ms Mosse’s most recent non-fiction work- a history of 50 years of Chichester Festival Theatre. The book was crowdfunded by the publisher Unbound and I was one of the crowd. Given it’s probably my favourite producing theatre, I decided to put up £20. There was no risk. The funds were raised so I got a copy of the book with my name in it, but if there hadn’t been enough subscribers, I would have kept my £20.

This is nothing new. I have a set of leather bound works of Shakespeare from the mid nineteenth century which were published by subscription periodically as and when sufficient money was raised. Clearly it wasn’t an entire success as there are no Roman Plays!

This year, for the first time I think, a West End musical was partly crowdfunded. Through the Seedrs website, The Pajama Game, which I saw and loved at Chichester, raised £200,000. Theatre is a risky investment. I once asked a well known and successful West End producer whether I should put money into one his productions. ‘Only if you are prepared to lose it,’ was his candid reply. However, unlike the usual situation where the smallest amount you can put in might be £3000, you could have been an investor in The Pajama Game for as little as £10. A better bet than the Lottery, I suspect, and a lot more exciting.

Thousands of entrepreneurs with good ideas are now looking to the great mass of small investors rather than one big venture capitalist to help them launch or expand a product. Many musicians, writers, filmmakers and artists are looking to fans to help them get their work made. For the entrepreneurs and artists, it’s a way to get around an establishment that can be risk averse and limited in vision. For you and me, it can be a fun way to put a small amount of spare cash into supporting something we like.

We can all be dragons now.

This blog originally appeared on the Daily Echo website. It was written by Paul Lewis, owner of the Winchester based marketing consultancy Seven Experience. You can connect with him on Google+ and LinkedIn.

By Paul Lewis

After a short stint as a journalist, I have spent most of my working life in marketing and retailing. I love theatre and have been lucky enough to work in theatre marketing for many years. I provide small businesses and arts organisations with holistic marketing at an economic price through my company Seven Experience Ltd

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