Since the pandemic has hit and income from live performances has been crossed out for many musicians, a lot of artists are getting interested in how to do Patreon right.
Patreon is a membership platform that allows you to earn a consistent income directly from your fans, either monthly or per creation. It’s like crowdfunding, but on an ongoing basis. In this subscription-based model, fans become “patrons” by pledging a certain amount of money in exchange for certain rewards and perks that you offer at different price tiers. Artists get to build a network of paying superfans in exchange.
Unusually high growth in both creators and fans – Patreon saw a 30% upward spike of total creators on their platform, which is roughly 40,900 people launching new membership campaigns. Even Patreon acknowledged this explosive growth on their platform as their largest influx of new creators in the company’s history.
For music specifically in that same span, it was up by 35.2% for the music category with over 3000 new pages from musicians seeking financial refuge due to lost performance revenue and uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic.
It’s interesting how music has been a bit under-represented on a platform that was originally created with music creators in mind. The music category only accounts for 7% of all creators on Patreon. The idea of Patreon came from someone who is a musician himself. Jack Conte, the co-founder and CEO of Patreon, originally conceptualize the idea of building a crowdfunding platform to help recoup $10,000 of debt from a music video for his band Pomplamoose back in 2013. It has since turned into a membership platform where fans can make fixed, recurring payments to creators who want to get paid consistently for their work.
How can musicians successfully grow their Patreon accounts?
If you are considering starting your own membership-based music business on Patreon, read on for suggestions to how you can grow your account –
It’s a two way street, so communicate with your fans – Being accessible and having fan engagement is an effective way to create a stronger emotional connection that allows the fan to feel more invested in everything that you do. One idea is to film a private “thank-you” video that is shown to patrons once they’ve signed up to support you. It’s a really nice gesture that adds a personal touch to their experience.
Be smart about how you plan your tiers – One of the most important things for every creator is to have a $1 tier in order to allow fans to support you even if they don’t have much money. Some acts like circus use this as a 12 per year access to a fan discord chat room since this costs nothing to do, but gives an incentive to the fan to do more than just leaving a tip and allows their community to grow while getting some income.
Most people target to get fans to invest at is the $5 a month level which will often give first access to tickets merch sale codes, early access to new songs, and music videos. Upper tiers on patreon are usually 10 to 25 dollars and they give access to everything from stems, play throughs, and depending on what an audience may respond to as well as putting the names of the patrons in the credits of videos or an album, some people with more rabid fanbases charge fifty to two hundred dollars to do custom messages or songs for fans. While these high priced items can feel off-putting, in this day and age, where musicians are horribly compensated for their work, the idea of allowing your more financially endowed fans to give you a good payday for a little effort can be very helpful.
Really though, the key to what you should do on patreon is to look at what fans want more of. The group Spiritbox saw that fans really responded to their live stream chats, so when the pandemic hit, they started a patreon and put those live stream chats behind the paywall of patreon. Look at what your fans want from you and figure out how to structure them in tiers. Everyone is still figuring out how to make this work.
A great example is the one set up for Kevin Devine right after coronavirus. It was launched it on April 1st and has seen shocking success. They are just under 500 patrons that pay between probably an average of $12-$13 a month. Something like this is the most incredible thing that could happen to an artist who mught have a family to support, even when all touring gigs have come to a halt. His team is treating the account very seriously, where they have fully customized branding for it. In the first week of every month, Kevin does a cover, in second week, he does a rendition of one of his catalog songs in an acoustic-ish manner. In the third week, he does a video addressing q&a and finally in week four, he does an Instagram private live stream. Besides all this, they offer merch discounts, vinyl etc.
Get help for long term gains – Although not entirely impossible to manage yourself, launching and maintaining your Patreon page can be a lot of work for one person, especially when you also have to dedicate time to the creative side of things. Depending on deep and intricate your Patreon page is, you might want to consider getting help. Some of the tasks include keeping things organized, managing monthly perks, scheduling posts, creating video content, providing support to patrons, coming up with new ideas and staying up to date with the latest platform changes.
Promote, promote, promote – You will have to be persistent in promoting it while thinking up of new ways and angles, so it doesn’t get so repetitive. Learn what works with your fans and what doesn’t. Incorporate feedback and suggestions from patrons to improve your membership experience. Keeping things fresh for fans is a way to keep them excited to ride along this journey. Revamping tiers and rewards are what Patreon says correlates to a big boost in earnings, retention and new patrons as well.
A large social media following does not equate willing payers – A “follow” on these kinds of free, open platforms is casual, noncommittal,
and non-indicative of engagement. And it doesn’t even come close to
indicating the deep level of trust required to convince a stranger to pay for
your work on a recurring basis.
Although email marketing fares better, social media has been less effective for getting people to convert to Patreon. It’s not just because of the algorithms either, as newsfeeds just don’t lend itself to being a personable channel for fan engagement. So give fans a taste of what you have to offer on Patreon. Keep dropping vide snippets. Although this doesn’t necessarily help with direct conversions, people really like and engage with this type of content. The goal is to keep warming them up to the prospect of joining.
Warm up fans with premiere content – When you have something that normally would get your fan’s attention, like a new music video or a new album, you can use this to bring attention to your membership page. You can make posts on Patreon that are visible to the public and not gated by how much you pledge. You can announce that you’re premiering the new music video or the first single from the new album on Patreon. You funnel all the traffic through your promotional efforts directly to the Patreon post where that content is. The idea is to get your fans familiar with Patreon and remind them that your patron members get early access.
Incentivise fans to move tiers – Once you get them into your Patreon ecosystem, you want to think about ways of incentivizing them to move up tiers. You could introduce merch as a tier reward. Another idea is to add a special tier catered to fans that are aspiring and emerging artists by offering monthly music critique as a perk at $25. The main point is getting your patrons to move up tiers can be just as valuable, possibly even more, as bringing new patrons in. For example, if you get a patron who is paying $5 a month to move up to $25 tier, that’s the equivalent of getting 4 new patrons paying monthly!
Leverage Patreon’s special offer feature – Patreon has a built-in feature called ‘Special Offer’ that allows you to run limited time exclusive deals as a way to incentivize new fans to join or to get current patrons to move up tiers. However, this is only available for creators who charge monthly and not per-creation. You set the number of days the offer is active (no more than 60 days) so fans can see how much time is left. Usually you want to leave it up for about 4 weeks, which gives you a good amount of time to create a promotional campaign for it. Some ideas for a special offer can be a digital download or some physical good like a pin (which is what we first started with). Another great offering is to do a personalized video shout for a fan that they can use to post on social media.
Don’t get discouraged – According to , music creators with over 10 patrons make up 28% of the total music category population on the Patreon. That means the other 72%, or 9,000 Patreon pages, in the music category do not have more than 10 fans supporting their page! Anyone can get more than 10 patrons if they really put the energy into it. But if you’re not motivated enough to be consistent, there’s no way it’s going to work.
Why artists are finding it challenging to consistently thrive on Patreon?
- Unlike YouTube, Facebook, Kickstarter etc, Patreon does not have a discovery or artist spotlight feature. The platform optimizes for creators and not advertisers like in the case of others, so the artists are required to do the work to get fans to find them. To compensate for the lack of discovery features, Patreon gives you full ownership of your fan relationships, unlike other social media platforms. This means you get access to email addresses and subscriber information.
- Patreon started in 2013, but not all music fans are familiar with what it is. The idea of paying a subscription cost to a musician is not exactly a common thing. Another potential issue is that a membership model doesn’t really fit seamlessly with the day-to-day routine for a music fan in the age of streaming and social media.
- There’s added pressure to stay consistent with what you promise to your subscribers for their patronage. Especially if you’re charging fans monthly, you’ll need to keep up with that pace while figuring out new ways to keep them engaged.
- Starting something new like a membership page is going to take time and patience. It’s not something you can post a couple of times and expect fans to come in droves. Your fans have been accustomed to engaging with you on other platforms, so it’s going to take time to break the habit and try something new.
Hope you’ve found value in the suggestions shared above.