Tom McNeill once let a baroque chamber orchestra conductor take the stage in an Insane Clown Posse t-shirt. He was thinking, “This guy clearly loves Insane Clown Posse just as much as he loves Bach!” The board of directors however were thinking, “What on earth is a juggalo?!” A few jobs and one continent later, Tom remembered that conductor when he helped Insane Clown Posse launch their Patreon. It brought his decade-plus-long career in the music industry full circle and helped prove his point that all music - and all creativity - has value, no matter what that board may have thought.
In his days as an artist manager for a talent agency, Tom would work with maybe 12 artists, 365 days a year. Now, as a Creator Partnerships Manager for Patreon, he works with 365 artists a year for 12 days each. Working this way, he’s able to make a bigger impact on more creators and help folks like Beardyman, KT Tunstall, Mona Chalabi, and others launch their businesses with year-round success.
You never know what an average day for Tom will hold. Some days, it means reaching out to Joe Budden’s agent after hearing about his Spotify breakup. Other days, it means helping Insane Clown Posse launch their page in a single day. And then working with their streaming partner after the juggalos manage to crash the site with the sheer volume of their enthusiasm.
On the surface, Tom’s job sounds very, very cool, and that’s because it is: as a Creator Partnerships Manager, Tom is responsible for reaching out to all sorts of creators and then helping them launch on Patreon. He brings creators to the platform in a few different ways—some find the platform on their own and others through targeted campaigns run by Tom and the Creator Partnerships team. But then there’s “the magic bucket of dreams,” as Tom cheekily calls it. This is how some of the biggest names find their way to the platform. Creators can be referred by their agents or friends, they can be part of Patreon’s extended network, or, in the case of Rhiannon Giddens, they can come from Tom sending an email after listening to an NPR Tiny Desk Concert.
On any given day you can find Tom listening to Tiny Desk concerts. “All the flamboyance is stripped away — they’re intimate.” And tuning in to those concerts isn’t just fun for Tom. They’re inspiration. “You see Tiny Desk concerts and that intimacy of people sitting in the same room, just a meter away from the artists—that's the feeling that a really good Patreon membership should have.”
But of course (and I promised Tom I would say this), his job is not all Tiny Desk Concerts and emails to industry connections. A major part of his role is making sure creators are set up to build the most successful Patreon communities possible. Sometimes that calls for Tom to convince a skeptical agent that Patreon is the right platform for their client. And sometimes, like when the SUPER NUNS launched their Patreon membership last year, Tom has to reach out to the Vatican for details on the “papal Paypal.” Because the actual pope became their first subscriber. The actual pope.
But all that aside, his favorite part isn’t (virtually) rubbing elbows with celebrity creators or meeting artists he’s a fan of. One of Tom’s favorite parts of the job is just being a part of building the new creative economy. “So often in the entertainment industry, you have to sit within a silo. You choose your lane and you say, ‘I'm going to become an expert in film, music, TV, or podcasting.’ But something that I love about Patreon as a company and about Creative Partnerships as a role is that you're able to see what everybody's doing, and get a really broad view of what a podcast is doing that video creators can learn from, and what a video creator is doing that musicians can learn from...It encourages experimentation and learning.”
For Tom, it’s not just about helping a musician make more music, or helping a YouTuber make more elaborate videos. It’s about letting creators express their true, authentic, creative selves and helping fans connect with that.
One of his favorite examples of that expression comes from the rapper NoName. She uses her Patreon to run a book club focusing on authors of color, and her audience loves it because it’s so authentically her. For Tom, it’s a perfect representation of the new creative ecosystem, where an artist can say, “don’t make me choose a genre; don’t make me pick a lane and stay in it. I’m a creative individual, and I want to form an authentic, independent community around the things I care about.”
That kind of experimentation, diversity, and creative freedom is truly unique to Patreon. And only at Patreon can one person get to play a part in helping media icon Joe Budden launch a fan club, the SUPER NUNS combat human trafficking, countless bands and musicians survive a global lockdown, and so many more artists carve out a place for themselves with their fans and the world at large.
You can (in normal circumstances) find Tom in Patreon’s New York office, meeting with his team over Shake Shack and discussing the latest Tiny Desk concerts. And in 2021, our Creator Partnerships team’s role is set to keep growing as Patreon works with bigger names with even bigger communities to help them launch faster around the world. You can learn more about our open roles here.