I work at the local arts council. Every day, I get a lot of spam in my inbox, and I've gotten pretty used to scanning through and dumping roughly half of my daily mail so I can address the concerns of the non-robot, non-scammer people of my community.
Artists are often the target of scams, and some of this spam email I get ostensibly offers 'promotion' for artists, when in reality it's just admail for one of a million schemes to capitalize on the poverty and overextended resources of those trying to make a living from their art.
A few weeks back, I almost looked over an email from firstname.lastname@example.org, thinking it was one of these. This out-of-the-blue email was bouyantly enthusiastic about bitcoin and "wouldn't it be great if there was bitcoin tipping for artists?!" It was addressed impersonally and signed off 'cheers' without a name, and I almost deleted it right there, but something about it must have seemed genuine to me because I gave it a second read.
We are not overstaffed at the arts council, and were not exactly in a good position at the time to take on new projects, but I was curious enough to shoot an email back. I asked for an example of this kind of tipping, so I could at least get my head around the concept. I had heard of bitcoin but wasn't familiar with it beyond the fact that it exists as some sort of digital money-type-token thing.
The answer I got was that there wasn't really such a thing as tipping for artists yet, besides "Cheers",, a bticoin tipping system for musicians, but al the same, isn't it a shame that there isn't an option available for regular folk to support the art (i.e. artists) that move them without actually purchasing the artworks themselves. Often the full purchase is not an option, either for financial reasons or even the matter of space to store the work, or taste.
Let me give you a scenario. You're the artist, and I'm a person who has come into contact with your work. I absolutely love a portrait you've done, it may even have moved me to tears (tears, I'm telling you!). I think you're really on to something and should be supported to continue. I want to give you something in return for what the work has done for me. But I can't afford to buy it, and it IS worth the $600 or $12 000 you're asking. I don't have space for it in my tiny basement apartment, and as much as I love it, I also can't have it staring at me day in and day out! I could tell you it moved me, but what I'd like to do even more is give you $1 towards print materials, or $20 for a new paintbrush, or $50 for your next canvas. Probably I would just give you $5, and we would both feel good about it!
BUT, if money wasn't my issue, just wall space or having to live with those haunted portrait eyes, I'd love to give you $500 for a month's studio rent, or $6000 for the year, or $20 000 so you could travel and paint people all around the world and still ship and store and insure your work.
The production and exposure of your work is worth more to me than the actual object, and I can support that dissemination for less than it would cost to buy the object. And that is kind of cool.