When pulling campaigns for Crowdfunding Radar, I typically visit three sites: PledgeMusic, Kickstarter, and IndieGoGo. Being the “big three” crowdfunding sites, they host the vast majority of campaigns that run. But in the past few years, a fourth platform has emerged: Patreon.
Patreon takes the original kind of “fan funding” — rich patrons whose grants allowed composers like Bach and Mozart to live while creating their masterpieces — and applies the crowdfunding model to it, allowing large numbers of fans to donate a few dollars per month for access to exclusive content. While Patreon is the site of choice for bloggers, artists, and models, it’s less popular with musicians because it requires looking beyond the “album-tour-album” model and requires regular releases to keep the subscriptions up. In this week’s column, I’m going to look at three artists who are at three different stages of Patreon success.
Hymn for Her
The husband-and-wife duo of Lucy Tight and Wayne Waxing, known collectively as Hymn for Her, has only just launched their Patreon page in the last month, but they’re as perfect a band for the platform as any in roots music. The band has always been one of the most organic in connecting with fans, visiting their homes, cooking meals with them, and holding yoga classes at tour stops. Their monthly donation levels run from the $1 level, which unlocks an “Ask Me Anything”-style Q&A monthly, to a $25 level, which unlocks a monthly songwriting session. More devoted fans can donate up to $150 per month, which gets you a personalized song each year on your birthday, or $500, which gets you a house concert. Their site is new enough that Hymn for Her hasn’t released any subscriber exclusives yet.
I will admit when Hayes Carll announced he was joining Patreon, I was skeptical. Carll has never been as interactive on social media as one would expect from an artist needing to keep up a monthly stream of posts and songs. But Carll, who uses the “per song” rather than the “per month” model of payment, has maintained and amassed 400 patrons at various funding levels who get monthly Patreon-funded song releases ($1 and up), priority access to live shows ($5 and up), a video of Carll performing a song of your choice ($25 and up), and weekend packages to his annual Drunken Poet Society gatherings ($50 and up). Since launching in February 2017, Carll has released nine Patreon-funded songs.
On the extreme high end of the Patreon success ladder is Amanda Palmer. No surprises there. Palmer has long been a master of using social media to connect with her fanbase on a personal level rarely seen from an artist so successful. She has also been a longstanding champion of the “asking” culture in arts, parlaying it into a successful TED Talk and book. While the universal application of her method can be debated (and is very well by No Depression’s own Isa Burke in a recent column), it has certainly worked for Palmer, who has a staggering 11,000 patrons subscribing to her site. Palmer has tiers that run from $1 (which unlocks her interactive community posts) to $3 (which gets you emailed copies of any music, art, or stories created for patrons), to $25 (which gets mailed physical artwork), and on up.