When Judith left her band Wir sind Helden, she was burnt out and ready for a change. Now the independent musician, writer, and podcaster is charting her own path on Patreon.
The year is 2012 and artist Judith Holofernes is at a crossroads in her career. From the outside, she’s reached dizzying heights of success – her band Wir sind Helden is headlining major festivals, delighting crowds of over 70,000 people with their up-tempo blend of pop rock and new wave. They’re releasing records that are going platinum and are critically acclaimed (influential German magazine, Der Spiegel, declared their debut album as one of the best of the year). She also married her bandmate, drummer Pola Roy, and started a family while still playing non-stop shows.
But that was the outside — on the inside, Judith was feeling burnt out.
She loved raising a family, but being a touring mom was taking its toll on her. Plus, she was being pulled toward other creative projects outside of her music. She wanted to write more, both in poetry and as a blogger, and she wanted to start a podcast.
“Being Indie wasn't a style decision anymore, which it would have been, in part, when I was really young. It would have been like an aesthetic decision, and a coolness-based decision,” says Judith about quitting Wir sind Helden to pursue a solo career. “But now I really know why people need to be independent: because it's a life-saving matter.”
Enter Patreon. She first learned about the membership platform through Amanda Palmer’s book, The Art of Asking.
“It struck me like lightning,” says Judith about the book. “I was so in love with it. I was sitting in my father's garden crying over that book because it made me feel so seen. I was like, ‘That's me. That's how I think art should be and that's what it is.’”
She says that she, “basically wanted to run over to Patreon and do it right away,” but because many of the people around her quite vocally discouraged the idea, it took her another five years to finally get the courage to launch her page.
“People [were] like, ‘You've already made a name for yourself and you shouldn't do it because it'll ruin your career,’ and it was really hard to get to a point where I was like, ‘Yes, but this is what I want to do,’” she says.
When she did decide to go for it, she was fortunate enough to get Amanda Palmer’s personal guidance with launching her page. Amanda Palmer was featured on an episode of Judith’s podcast, Salon Holofernes, which is where the duo took their relationship from admiring-peers to friends.
“[Amanda] actually coached me to a point where we pressed send on my Patreon together,” says Judith.
Now, with the support of her patrons, Judith finally has the time to explore all of her creative outlets. On her podcast, Salon Holofernes, she’s connecting with artists of all types, from German chef, Tim Raue, to rapper Philipp Grütering of the hip hop/electro band, Deichkind. She’s reigniting her passion for poetry — her first book of poetry was published in 2015 — and turning her love of memoir and auto-biography into an exciting new writing project (more on that to come).
“For the past few years, I've always had the feeling that I should narrow myself down and I didn't want to,” she says.
“With Patreon, it feels like I have an audience now who really appreciates everything that I want to do and who are quite flexible and curious about it.”
Before, Judith says that she might not have tackled a long writing project, “it would mean me writing for a year, and then having to take that leap of faith of putting it out there.”
But her patrons give her the freedom and flexibility to try things out and see what her audience is most interested in. She even brings them into her creative process, giving them early access to her writing and allowing them to help her shape her art.
“I think the most freeing thing about it is that people can support your work on an ongoing basis,” she says. “And it's not like giant mammoth projects that you try and make work and then it doesn't work and it's really exciting and then you cry and then you start over.”
For multi-passionate creators like Judith, the pressure to ‘stay in one lane’ and focus on one creative pursuit can be stifling. Thanks to the recurring support of her patrons, she feels empowered to chart her own path and create the art she wants to make.
“Before, I kind of felt that the music or the art, was just like a pony that you send to the racetracks,” says Judith. “And it's never the main thing. It's not. It's not the thing that you actually do. But it's something that you do to gain attention to make people at some later point maybe spend money on you. And now I feel that I make the art. I give it to my people. And I move on to the next thing.”