Here’s something you have probably heard said every single year for as long as you can remember: The music industry is not what it once was. The various meanings behind this cliche are far too numerous to count, but more often than not those complaining about the changing of the tides are referencing the changes in consumer behavior and how that impacts the bottom line. Albums are still being made and sold, but not at the same rate the were even a decade ago, and there is now an entire generation of young people who have never needed to enter a record store in order to find music from their favorite artists. Heck, it’s possible record stores don’t even carry the artists kids enjoy today because many modern musicians are releasing everything online in order to forge a direct connection with the audience. Who needs a middle man when you have MP3s, right?
You cannot stop the changing of the tides just like you cannot stop the constant evolution of consumer behavior. The best anyone in music or entertainment can hope to do is adapt, and even that is far easier said than done. There are hundreds of ways to engage music fans in 2016, from Twitter and Facebook, to more niche platforms like Tumblr or Periscope. The key for the longest time has been for artists to find where their fans already exist and connect with them there, but thanks to the emergence of Patreon a new way to engage has arisen, and it has benefits for fans and artists alike that no other platform can offer.
Patreon, for those unfamiliar with the service, is a way to get paid for creating the things you’re already creating (videos, songs, etc.). Fans pledge a few bucks per month OR per thing you release, and then you get paid every month, or every time you release something new (whether it’s on SoundCloud, YouTube, your own website, or anywhere). In exchange for their contributions, fans receive the content you create, as well as access to a contributor only portal that is controlled by you, the content creator. This space can be used to send updates regarding new projects, links to free downloads, or anything else you can think to share with those who give a damn about what you desire to create. Unlike other social networks or sales platforms, Patreon provides a space for creators to connect directly with those who are financially supporting their dreams, and in turn fans are able to see the result of their contributions.
The appeal of Patreon should be clear already, but as further proof of the service’s ability to help artists further their career I want to take a brief look at the Patreon page created by rapper MC Lars. Anyone familiar with the world of alternative hip-hop would know MC Lars has been a creative force in music for over a decade at this point, and in that time he has toured the world several times over while releasing a slew of albums, EPs, and singles through various record labels and imprints. Lars has been working for years to have more control in the distribution of his music, and thanks to Patreon he now has that power. Fans who contribute to MC Lars’ page are committing to give Lars money for every single song he releases, and in exchange the rapper has promised to release two new songs every month. Some tracks will be from upcoming releases, but others will be exclusive to Patreon backers. In addition to this offering, Lars has created contribution tiers that offer additional rewards for people who choose to pledge more per song. Everything from a digital discography download to a concert held in a contributor’s backyard are available, and it’s likely new rewards will be added in time.
For a better idea of what Lars has planned, here’s the man himself explaining the purpose of his Patreon page:
Lars’ page has been up for less than a month, but already has commitments from contributors totaling nearly $800 per song he releases. While we could debate the amount of money generated from a typical single all day, $800 in exchange for a new track you don’t have to promote or really market in any way at all is quite the deal. At two songs a month, Lars is already poised to bring in $1500 a month from Patreon. Add to this money he receives from touring and merch sales and you have a reliable source of income that is highly likely to grow in time. Even if it doesn’t, which would be absurd, Lars is going to bring in more than $15,000 from Patreon alone in 2016.
I cannot promise you will see the same kind of response from your audience as Lars has seen from his, but every penny counts. Patreon makes it possible for creators to connect with their most dedicated fans and further their own artistic endeavors with the knowledge there is an audience willing to pay for whatever they create. This helps not only alleviate stress, but costs as well, which ultimately allows you, the creator, to focus more of your time and energy on your craft.
James Shotwell is the Marketing Coordinator for Haulix. He is also a professional entertainment critic, covering both film and music, as well as the co-founder of Antique Records. Feel free to tell him you love or hate the article above by connecting with him on Twitter. Bonus points if you introduce yourself by sharing your favorite Simpsons character.