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A Letter From Patreon's Head of Music

In working in music for the past 20 years, I've never seen anything like this. This moment in time certainly goes far beyond the arts — but with the arts as a focal point, I’ve never seen so many people in limbo given their loss of income. Whether on the stage or crews behind-the-scenes in charge of helping artists to look good, sound good, and reach an audience, this is truly a challenging time for the arts.

I've received hundreds of texts, calls, and emails over the past week from artists who have canceled tours, laid off staff, and even a few who are choosing to close out their journey to search for other income streams in order to support their families. Boatloads of merch expected to be sold on the road sits in warehouses and marketing dollars used to garner exposure and ticket sales have fallen into the red. These artists are also dealing with the unprecedented debt driven by empty practice spaces, recording costs, and unrealized promo costs.

Ironically, art is one of the greatest tools we have to cope with times like these and yet those who create the very thing we rely on are falling by the wayside due to a broken system within a brutal time.

I wanted to take this moment to share more broadly my response to the many folks reaching out and looking for a solution during these trying times. If you’re an artist looking for a way to earn a living in the Coronavirus era, there are many options out there right now. We’re proud to say Patreon is one of them, but you could also ask your fans to support you on crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter or GoFundMe, promote your current e-commerce store or ask them to buy your album on Bandcamp or one of the other many outlets. Thankfully, there are lots of options that may be a good fit for you, as a creator, looking to reach your audience — or as a fan looking for ways to give your support.

I thought I’d write out some actionable, revenue-driving ways music creators can use Patreon to run a sustainable monthly membership during this difficult time and beyond.

First a couple things I’ve learned from helping musicians launch on Patreon.

One amazing thing to me is, when it comes to how you run your Patreon, there is truly not a “one size fits all” approach to membership. The key to creating a Patreon program is based on you doing something you personally enjoy doing.

You may have heard a myth that running a page requires a huge amount of extra work. That's false, but it does require smart thinking and structure behind what you want to create and share with your fans. More than anything, I employ you to spend a few hours thinking about all the things you've created in the past and all the things you're excited to create in the future. Consider offering all of the amazing art/music you’ve never had the chance to share, or doing the thing you’ve always wanted to do but haven't because of timing, limitations or whatever — these are the kind of things that will make your Patreon shine.

If you’re thinking of setting up a Patreon to gain support, here are five things you can offer your fans:

1. Livestream: A concert (canceled tour), acoustic session, recording session, band practice or hang to chat with friends. Your fans want to hear from you now more than ever.

2. Merch: Have any merch that you were going to sell on tour? You can offer them as a benefit for your Patreon, whether that’s exclusive, patron-only items or special offers on things you’ve sold elsewhere.

3. Share content from your Vault: The behind-the-scenes of that music video or photoshoot, the demos, live tracks or alt-mixes you never sent around — these are all great things to offer your fans for membership. They’ll be happy to become a member of your community for access to this content.

4. Chat Community: Create a place where fans can connect to one another and/or chat directly with you in a monthly AMA, etc. Due to social distancing, people need human connection, so provide a place where they can gather, talk, and also, get to know you better.

5. Something unique and amazing: What’s the craziest idea you’ve ever had? Think of something that’s never been done or a way to express your creations that you’ve always wanted to try out. The people who believe in you the most will respond to your raw intuition for creativity. Try bold, new ideas here and share that journey with a few supporters. Then, put that in a higher tier and limit it to 10 patrons only — they’ll be the only 10 people in the world to receive that song you recorded on the spot via your phone, or that limited-release cassette, or that hand-painted alternate album cover you always wanted to draw. This can be absolutely anything. Remember, Patreon is a place you can flex the creative muscles you were born with.

This is an awful, devastating and very sad moment in history with COVID-19’s spread across the globe and the effect that it has on the health and financial well-being of so many. It’s forcing many of us to look inward to reassess what’s valuable.

In these moments more than ever, we’re reminded how artists, and the gifts they create for us, stand out as a beacon of hope, a moment of calm and a lever for feeling. We’re reminded that art is likely the purest and most important human creation and yet remains universally devalued in our society. No matter how we create it or support it, if nothing else I hope this moment helps us all to understand just how valuable art is.

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