Things I’ve Learned about Patreon since 2014

I’ve been on Patreon since November of 2014, and while Skull Toaster isn’t my sole source of income, I’d miss it if it were gone. In recent months I’ve been able to chat with a handful of people about setting up their own Patreon projects. They’re a varied bunch; podcasters, writers, musicians, and sometimes a combo of all three (and more). We all make our art for various reasons, and different motives drive us, but as Yancy Strickler (co-founder and CEO of Kickstarter) said in issue #13 of Offscreen Magazine:

“It just so happens that money is a critical – and gatherable and measurable – component of bring an idea to life.”

It’s not that we’re on Patreon hell-bent on quitting our day job(s), but money in our PayPal account is part of the tool box that help bring our ideas and passions to life. Getting $1 from someone you never met in real life, just for “doing the thing,” greatly expands your creative universe.

Here are some things I’ve learned over the past year or so:

“True Fans” trump any amount of planning.

You can craft the best copy, amazing reward tiers, and write out your goals from your first $10 to $1,000, but what you need is “True Fans.” What are “True Fans?” Read this excerpt from Kevin Kelly’s ‘1,000 True Fans,’ which was published in 2008:

“A True Fan is defined as someone who will purchase anything and everything you produce. They will drive 200 miles to see you sing. They will buy the super deluxe re-issued hi-res box set of your stuff even though they have the low-res version. They have a Google Alert set for your name. They bookmark the eBay page where your out-of-print editions show up. They come to your openings. They have you sign their copies. They buy the t-shirt, and the mug, and the hat. They can’t wait till you issue your next work. They are true fans.”

How do you build an audience of “True Fans?” Show up everyday (I’ve been Skull Toaster for nearly five years, but have been doing the “music blog thing” since 2001), care about the people, and get vulnerable sometimes.

Failing to plan is planning to fail.

You need to plan your rewards and goals. Some folks can get away with not having reward tiers and goals, and maybe you can, too. It won’t hurt to plan things before you tell all your social media followers to visit your half-baked Patreon page.

Don’t create extra work for yourself.

Rewards should be by-products of what you’re already building, for the most part. I write heavy metal trivia every week, and schedule Tweets every weekday. My questions are written by Friday, so on Sunday I send them to my patrons, as a reward for their $1/mo or more support.

Musician Christopher Jon (see his Patreon page here) really smacked some sense into me from a recent discussion. Going to the post office every month is lot of work. An hourly Google Hangout is a lot of work, too, and so is writing a song for someone. Make sure you don’t bury yourself in Patreon rewards, which could take you away from your main work.

Have lots of patience!

People will support you on their schedule, not yours. A Tweet or email once a month might not lead to 10 new patrons, so let it simmer. Some people will jump at the chance. Some take a week or a month. Don’t lose hope.

So keep updating!

Make regular updates on your Patreon page, and share those with everyone. A video, a song snippet or piece of audio, photos, stories – hold back some of your Instagram pics or Twitter rants and throw them into a Patreon update! As more people read, some will see what the heck this Patreon thing is all about. Not everyone pulls out their credit card on their first visit.

I’ve helped some great people with their Patreon pages, so please check them out: Sarah Saturday, Kallie Marie, Nikki of the Everything and the Kitchen Sink, Erik of the Shoot the Shred podcast, and Travis from the As the Story  Grows podcast. Be sure to check out my Skull Toaster Patreon page, and if you have any questions, just shoot me an email (hi@sethw.com).

Seth Werkheiser is the quiz master of metal trivia at Skulltoaster. He’s also the founder of some music sites you may have heard of, including Noise Creep (2009) + Buzzgrinder (2001). He’s anti-Facebook, anti-clickbait, and anti-growth hacking. You should most definitely follow him on Twitter. Yes, right now.

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the Director of Customer Engagement at Haulix and host of the company's podcast, Inside Music. He is also a public speaker known for promoting careers in the entertainment industry, as well as an entertainment journalist with over a decade of experience. His bylines include Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, Substream Magazine, Nu Sound, and Under The Gun Review, among other popular outlets.