patreon1536x1024By Aidan Rush

Aidan decided  to check out Patreon, who claim to be  serving a crowdfunding market neglected by  Kickstarter

As has been written about in  this magazine before, the proliferation of  online art that’s taken place over the  last few years is nothing short  of staggering. Not only has it given a  worldwide platform to any self-proclaimed artist  (good or bad), it’s also turned the established entertainment industry on its head.

With media streaming companies like  Pandora and Netflix leading the  way, we’re transitioning  from an  ownership- based  entertainment consumption  model to  a rental- based one. And because it’s  so easy to create something and  publish it online for the entire world  to see, the idea of  an entire album needing to  be released at once is quickly disappearing. Why not release your art one piece  at a time, as it comes to you? That’s  the question a lot  of musicians have been  asking, and in Patreon they’ve  finally found  a company  to help  them take  advantage of this shift.

Similar to Kickstarter, Patreon is a crowdfunding platform. Unlike  Kickstarter, Patreon  was designed  primarily for  the benefit  of artists  who make  art in piecemeal fashion: little by little in the form of one song at a time, one comic at a time, one music video at a time, etc.

Here’s how Patreon works. An artist—for the sake of easy explanation let’s  make this artist  a songwriter  who wants  to film  themselves performing an original work—will write and record a song, film their performance and upload it to  You- Tube or  another embeddable  video platform.  Then, they  can add  this video to their profile  on Patreon. 

When someone  finds their  profile on  Patreon, that person has the choice to pledge any dollar amount they like to watch that  video and every subsequent piece of art the  artist creates. That pledge amount can  be as low as $1.

So let’s say our songwriter publishes 3 performance videos a month – someone who pledged $1 per song would have $3 deducted from whatever bank account they  link on Patreon and get to watch all videos. To prevent an artist from having a  wave of inspiration, producing a heavy stream of content and making their pledgers go broke, the pledgers can set a monthly maximum amount to be withdrawn from  their accounts.

Content creators also have the choice to let pledgers pledge on a monthly basis. So if  a fan  pledged $1  / month,  they’d be  pledging $1  total regardless  of whether the creator published 1 or 10 videos that month.

The Pros

Patreon  solves a  problem that  Kickstarter and  its competitors  do not:  the financial needs of artists who create works one at a time and are more interested in that model than the “one big chunk at a  time” model. Consider it  a digital tip  jar of sorts  – some creators  on Patreon are making upwards of 5 figures per contribution due to the fan base they amassed on social media and then directed to Patreon. Not too bad! Patreon is also nice  in the  way that,  like Kickstarter,  it allows  artists to  set different  pledge levels. Higher  pledges are  sometimes able  to get  rewarded with  supplemental material  on  a regular  basis  depending on  how  the artist  structured  their offerings.

The Cons

I expect  they’re working  to rectify  this situation  (Patreon is  a fairly new service,  launching  in  spring  of  2013),  but  at  present,  Patreon’s search functionality is subpar. Searches result  in only Patreon creators who  have the entered  search words  somewhere in  their profiles.  It’s possible  to sort  by category of art (music,  comics, film), but not  possible to search by  any sub- category. This makes  it very difficult  for anyone with  any degree of  musical preference to discover a certain kind  of  musical  creator  on  the service.  The  result  of  this  poor search functionality  means  that  unless  you’ve  built  a  fan  base  on  other, more established, social media services like You-  Tube, you’re going to have a  very hard time attracting new fans on Patreon.

Check out what these singers are doing on Patreon

Eventually, it would be nice if the site could recommend Patreon creators  based on a  pledger’s preferences.  Just imagine  the number  of talented  artists who would have  their bottom  line affected  by a  move like  that! Even with just a handful of pledgers  pledging $1 per  creation, an artist  is bound to  bring in more royalties than the pennies he or she would on YouTube alone, where  viewers cannot decide  how much  their view  is worth.  And hey,  if all  goes well  the artists could bring in income on both services.

Only  time will  tell if  Patreon is  capable of  fulfilling its  potential and becoming a vital stream of revenue for all of the talented artists out there who deserve to be paid for their work. The idea itself holds tremendous promise, and if founder Jack Conte (of YouTube darlings Pomplamoose) is able to translate his artistic magic  into business,  there’s no  doubt that  Patreon is  destined for great things.

 Sign Up

Our mission is to empower the singer through their voice, performance, health, understanding of the biz, and mindset so they can go out and create to their heart’s content.