I've just stolen a big chunk of text from my friend Carl Wilson's blog because I think he's saying something that more people need to hear:
I've mentioned the project ArtistShare before on Zoilus. I wish I'd thought to bring it up yesterday: It organizes musicians' fans to fund projects up front, rather than just buying T-shirts and CDs at the back end - and that's a model that could be emulated in various forms for other endeavours. But also, as moderator Misha Glouberman said, it would be a simple step forward if arts audiences (music fans very much included) were encouraged to think of themselves as patrons rather than consumers - rather than trying to get a bargain price on a CD, pay extra for it. Buy the T-shirt even if you're not going to wear it. Who cares? Give it to your little sister. And if you're broke, what about forgoing that pint of beer at the bar so that you can help out the band? Because what you're doing is funding artists whose work you admire. It's not like trying to get the best price on breakfast cereal.
Yes, yes, and yes!
And what might those "other endeavours" be? For starters, note the parallels between artists and farmers. ArtistShare seems to me to be a lot like a CSA, which helps fund planting up front rather than requiring the farmer to take out a loan. And I like the idea of being patrons rather than consumers. I think it's important for those of us who have the means to pay a living wage to farmers to do so. Support what is excellent! If we patronize the art of sustainable agriculture, maybe one day everyone will have access to better food.