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The Musicians Guide to Success on Patreon

While many artists still choose to sign with a record label, that’s not the only way to “make it” as a musician. With platforms like Patreon, they can cut out the middleman and connect more directly with fans, whether sharing backstage photos, live streams, unreleased songs, or other content.

As Joe Barham, Patreon’s creator partnership lead, shares,“There are tens of thousands of ways to do be successful in the music industry now and avenues to release your music and conversations to be had, which is a far cry from what it use to be.”

We talked to Barham about how bands or solo musicians can launch on Patreon, cut out the middleman, and connect directly with listeners.

Tap into Patreon resources

Before you set up your own Patreon page, study the information available on Patreon’s website to learn how artists like Zola Jesus, Dead End Hip Hop, and Amanda Palmer engage directly with their fans. There’s also a month-by-month guide to how indie musicians can launch on Patreon.

“We have a lot of different resources and tools,” Barham says. “We’ve tried to make it easier to have a conversation [with fans] in the way that suits you the most. Also, we work one-on-one with creators to identify what tools or resources work best for their specific goals.”

Study other Patreon pages

In addition to reading case studies of musicians on Patreons, look at other Patreon pages to see the types of benefits they offer and how they describe them. You’ll likely find artists, like Ben Folds, who offer just one tier of benefits, while others, like The Gift of Gab, offer a wider range of ways to support. You can also decide to become a patron yourself so you get a better idea of what the experience is like from the other side. As you’re studying other Patreon pages, remember not to automatically emulate what others artists are doing. Treat their pages as an example, not a rulebook. “It’s important to look at other pages, but it’s more important to think about what works best for you,” Barham says.

Figure out the time commitment

Unlike a crowdfunding campaign, garnering support through Patreon doesn’t have an end date. So, before you jump in, it’s important to understand how much time you can devote and choose benefits and tiers you can sustain over time.

One way for musicians to save time when creating for Patreon is by releasing content they’ve already created. In fact, Barham shares that many artists have done that successfully, “If once a week I’m recording songs in my kitchen or my living room and one out of the four times a month I share that, it’s releasing and promoting something that’s already happening.”

Choose benefits that make sense for you

Barham shares, “All that extra content can be really valuable,” and lucky for musicians, that’s what they create around every album campaign. Whether it’s extra photos from an album cover photoshoot, outtakes from a music video, or other visual or audio content, these are the perfect places to start when preparing exclusive content for your audience.

It’s also smart to think about how you can create content live from your tour. “Now we have really great technology from the front of the house when you go to venues,” Barham says. “There’s the ability to do really high-quality audio recordings. They’ll go on tour and they’ll record each show from the tour. Their fans can get that download the next day.”

Braham has also seen artist successfully plan meet and greets at live shows with patrons, or collaborate with other artists or tap into other mediums for songs and rewards fans couldn’t find anywhere else. “The artist might be interested in doing a podcast and could release bonus podcasts,” Barham says. “A lot of musicians have other projects such as visual art. It does often come down to the artist themselves.”

What are you excited about?

Once you’ve launched your Patreon page, you’ll start to see what tiers appeal to your audience and what benefits you can create and share efficiently. You’ll also start to see what you feel great about producing and sharing because as Barham shared, “The most important thing early on is identifying what you’re excited about doing.”

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