CROWDFUNDING RADAR: Finding a New Path with Patreon
Sawyer Fredericks (photo by Chris Griffy)
A few years ago, I interviewed John Oates prior to an appearance at Bonnaroo. Eventually, the conversation turned to how the business of music had changed for artists since he entered the scene. Oates acknowledged that the rise of streaming required a different mindset, shifting from albums to playlists. In some ways, he said, it was almost a return to how he consumed music as a child, when most pop songs were released as 45 rpm singles and “albums” were primarily just collections released when there were enough singles to fill one up. For some artists, the art of the single is alive and well through the membership platform Patreon. I’ve featured Patreon here before and mentioned the mind shift it requires, from an album-driven view to a single- and access-driven one. Monthly subscriptions require monthly content because you’re always one click of a mouse from losing a customer at any time. This week, I’m taking another dive into three Patreons, one from a young artist who is just dipping his toes into the platform and two that have been successful for several months.
Sawyer Fredericks (click here to view page)
In some ways, Sawyer Fredericks is almost the perfect musician to make it on Patreon. At 20, he’s young enough to be social media savvy, he has an extremely loyal fanbase from his days as a contestant on The Voice, and he’s an artist whose other social media accounts have always offered the kind of “behind the scenes” travel and life diaries that can bulk up a Patreon feed between song releases. Fredericks just started his Patreon campaign this month and already has more than 100 subscribers. Fredericks offers five levels of access to his page, from a $5-per-month subscription that promises Patreon-exclusive posts and a Patreon-only Song of the Month download and a $10 subscription that throws in secret surprise concerts and behind-the-scenes videos all the way to a $100-per-month level that includes eight guest list spots per year, complete with meet and greet, setlist, free merch, and a bouquet of flowers. Fredericks is an artist I’ve seen a couple of times now, and one who turned some heads at this year’s AmericanaFest with his mix of folk, blues, and soul, so it will be interesting to see how he fares with the next generation of crowdfunding.
Ben Folds (click here to view page)
Ben Folds is an artist who has never been afraid to take risks. He has constantly refused to be pigeonholed into a genre and has collaborated with everyone from yMusic to Amanda Palmer to William Shatner. So the fact that he’s willing to give a platform that has been hit or miss for musicians a go isn’t a surprise. For Folds, so far, it’s been a hit. Since he began his Patreon page last April, Folds has more than rewarded the over 550 fans who have subscribed to his single $10-per-month level with a whopping 125 posts, with everything from four monthly song downloads, VIP/masterclass admission at a tour stop, live chats, and regular online concerts where Folds composes music to lyrics sent in by subscribers.
The Black Lillies (click here to view page)
I’ve enjoyed Knoxville-based The Black Lillies for several years, even more so after they added former Everybodyfields member Sam Quinn to the band. The band has always been extremely interactive with fans, a necessity learned in the competitive Knoxville music scene, regularly doing “Sprinter Sessions” on Facebook Live in which they would test drive rough versions of new material to get fan input. Those Sprinter Sessions are one of the things that has moved to the band’s Patreon page, along with a host of other rewards based on their six subscription levels, which ranges from $5 per month, which gets you patron-only posts and a private message board; $10 per month, which adds access to the Sprinter Sessions; up to $500 a month for superfans who want perks like a house show, customized playlists, a thank you call, and a yearly mystery box.