• Hannah Brown

The Alternative Music Industry: Patreon

There’s no doubt that we’re now in an age where the procuring of likes, follows and streams are often financial transactions. It’s a new normal that can tempt the most ethical of minds and is not unlike previous tactics employed by the music industry. Record labels were notorious for bulk buying their own CDs in order to guarantee top chart positions and the fine art of payola has consistently been practiced since it’s conception in 1916. Of course, you’re less likely to be caught sat at home streaming your song on repeat than you are bulk buying your own CDs in HMV. But can we really rely on playlist services, designed to increase listens, to actually provide the success we all hope for? With music sales plummeting and royalty rates from streaming remaining woefully low, you may not be buying that new guitar pedal any time soon.

If you find yourself pessimistic in attracting record label interest, you’re certainly not alone. There are now fewer long term contract offerings and an increase of single song deals, often seeking to benefit off of already established artists. So what are we to do if we don’t possess sufficient capital to keep us in the race? Here’s one suggestion many independent artists have sought after, which has allowed them to stick two fingers up to the day job and cultivate a real, human fanbase - Patreon.

Patreon is an online membership platform that enables creatives to run a subscription content service. In other words, it lets you sell your work direct to your fans for a monthly fee. “Change the way art is valued” is its slogan and exemplifies their unequivocally sanguine approach. They oppose the depreciation of music resulting from the current 'conveyor belt culture’. Whilst the service strictly deals in American dollars, it’s popularity has been on the rise amongst UK creators over the last few years.

So why Patreon? The biggest difference we see is an immediate, consistent pay scheme allowing creators to have their work funded in real time rather than competitors like, KickStarter, ArtistShare, Indigogo or the late PledgeMusic, who house campaigns that only pay the artist upon completion of project or funding target.

"[Patreon] provides an income which is independent of touring or of traditional, formal releases or of merch, all of which require a pre-investment of money as well as time.” Richard Bennett, Patron.

Taking a look specifically at the crowd funding model, we see a long term commitment without much possibility of alteration as you are required to ask fans to pledge money based on an original set of ideas. It also epitomises the concept of needing money in order to make more money, which can discriminate against those not in that advantageous position. Patreon levels the playing field and offers an opportunity to develop, adjust and create as spontaneously as one pleases. And if you are questioning whether direct-to-fan platforms are even worth while to begin with, it’s interesting to note that a survey (promoted by the likes of UK Music, Music Managers Forum, Musicians Union etc.) intending to shed light on the impact caused after PledgeMusic’s demise in 2019, only reinforced the gravity of the platform’s contribution to the music industry’s economy.

With traditional marketing methods becoming increasingly prejudiced and difficult to navigate, Patreon cuts out the middle man and allows you to invest more time into creating. Hooray! You’re also free to choose how much you wish to receive from your Patrons, with creators often favouring a tier system in which they can offer a particular level of personal benefit. For example, one of the UKs favourite artists, Orla Gartland, currently receives support from 1474 patrons and offers 3 tiers between $3 - $15. These include products such as monthly demos, exclusive streams, access to a secret Instagram page and instant downloads. Alternatively, some artists have prioritised rewards that bring the audience closer to the them. With tools that enable direct messaging and the opportunity to customise rewards, you’re able to offer exclusive content and make fans feel extra special.

So what’s the catch? Well, alongside all the benefits, it’s important to remember that this platform requires an ongoing commitment to your art and your fans. The need for versatility in order to attract people to your cause should also not be underestimated.

“Artists need to still be prepared to put in the legwork to build their audience and fulfil their projects. Patreon only really works if you know how to spend money wisely and are prepared to be highly interactive with your supporters. Artists are often casually or even actively resistant to learning business skills (that’s why most of us want to get signed) but the reality is that these skills are the only way to stay afloat as an artist anyway - signed or not - and to create a Patreon is, effectively, to run a business.” Rookes (@iamrookes - https://linktr.ee/rookes), Creator.

In an age that celebrates instant gratification the commitment to weekly/monthly content may be a little daunting, but no one creates a successful business overnight. Fear not, Parallel Tribes is committed to helping you on your way to a career with longevity. For more information take a look at our catalogue of blogs, written by industry professionals, designed to help you cultivate your brand and build a community that benefits you completely. Visit www.patreon.com to find out more about what they have to offer and how you can sign up today.

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