A musician’s guide to Patreon (2021)

Image Credit: Patreon

Is having a Patreon for your music worth it, and how does the platform work? Learn more about how to make money as a musician with our introduction to Patreon for musicians.

When the pandemic hit last year and restrictions rolled out, musicians and producers looked desperately for a way to make up for income lost from live gig cancellations. Membership platform Patreon was one service that artists turned to as a way to make money from music.

Between mid-March and May 2020, over 70,000 new creators launched on Patreon, which included a 150% increase in musicians joining the site. The site exploded in popularity, and the platform has recently been valued at $4 billion.

Is Patreon good for artists? If you find it a good fit you could see revenue rolling in on a consistent basis, as if from an online tip jar. But what exactly can musicians offer fans on the platform, and what do artists gain from becoming a Patreon creator? Let’s explore a little deeper into what it takes to be a musician on Patreon.


How does Patreon work?

The membership platform lets creators offer exclusive content in exchange for a pledge. It offers a way for artists to make money on a consistent monthly basis, unlike the time-restricted one-hit of a crowdfunder campaign.

Creators can have several different price tiers ranging from, say, $1 to $50 a month, exchanged for rewards of varying levels of value. It’s free to set up an account, and Patreon only starts taking a commission once you attract patrons.

Patrons pledge money to gain specific perks, with different price tiers available depending on what the artist is offering. Artists such as Orla Gartland, Jacob Collier, and Amanda Palmer have made a success of the platform.


Think about what you can offer your fans

The attraction of Patreon is to have exclusive goodies that people can’t get anywhere else, like your patrons are part of a secret club.

Look at what musicians and other creators who are successful on the site offer their patrons, to get inspired for what might work for you. A common offer is free downloads of unreleased demo tracks, or voice memos for a behind-the-scenes peek at your creative progress. Fans can get involved, offering feedback.

Merch like badges and posters is an easy option or try early access rewards, giving audience access to future projects, so that they are the first to know. Patrons want to feel special for contributing personally to your career.  

Tutorials are popular with patrons. You could offer lessons of how to cover your songs, or perhaps beatmaking tutorials if you’re an up-and-coming producer.


How to grow your Patreon account

The tricky part is turning your fans into paying subscribers. Offering promises, “Goals”, such as an exclusive livestream once a certain number of patrons is achieved, encourages new patrons and keeps your fans engaged. There’s no in-platform promotion tools, so you’re going to have to plug your own Patreon on other social media.

The best thing to do is ask your patrons what content they’d like to see. Start off simple, with 1-3 tiers of core benefits, that you can build on depending on what resonates well with fans.


Make it easy on yourself

Think about what you can offer on your Patreon that doesn’t take up a silly amount of your time. Offering rewards like demos, or releasing supplementary content like old videos of gigs, requires little extra work on your part.

Consider what comes most naturally to you as an artist. Love sharing your life on socials? Create a secret patron-only Instagram or TikTok to offer behind-the-scenes footage. Do you have other creative skills, like making artwork? Offer exclusive prints. Poet? Start an exclusive blog where you post your lyrics in poetry form. Got lots to say? Start an exclusive podcast, like Orla Gartland’s.


Time spent working on Patreon vs. the rewards reaped

Success on Patreon requires relentless promotion of your page, like any new release or social media campaign – except that in this case, you’re asking for extra money outside of buying your widely released music, which adds another level of pressure.

Self-promotion can be draining. If it’s not something that comes naturally to you, you might struggle with Patreon.


You’re not a charity case

Asking for money from the public takes some getting used to. Have confidence that supporting your career is worth somebody parting with their hard-earned cash. Think creatively about what exciting rewards to offer, and always remember that your art has worth. You’re going to need to push the Patreon hard on social media and in the real world to gain new patrons, so you need to believe in what you have to offer.


Stick with it

Patreon works best when an ecosystem of loyal users is created around an artist. That means forming a strategy and being pretty relentless with promotion. Try putting aside the same time each week to focus on Patreon so you don’t lost momentum.

Don’t get despondent if you’re not seeing immediate sign-ups. It’s very hard to convince people to spend money. Equally, don’t get burnt out – don’t forget to focus on you, outside of pleasing your fans.


So… is Patreon worth it for musicians?

When Patreon first launched in 2013 one of the creators was a musician, so you would think that music artists are a natural fit for success the platform. Is it worth a go? The answer is: Yes and no.

It would be very hard to make a living solely from Patreon. The time spent on the platform versus money earned is certainly not a balanced scale. It is however a way to generate a little more money in tough times, and also a way to get closer to fans.

Patreon seems to work best for musicians and producers who already have a large, dedicated fanbase; lots of fans who are not just hungry for more content but also willing to chip in once a month to support your career. Equally, if your music has carved out a niche for itself, especially one neglected by Spotify algorithms, then Patreon could be perfect.

If you’re searching for a new way to reach your fans, and you have the time, energy and spare creative capacity to commit to another platform, have a nose around the Patreon site and see if you feel inspired.


Are you an independent artist looking to make money from your music? RouteNote can get your tracks onto all the major streaming sites so you can start earning from your music – and the best part is, it’s free. Find out more and sign up here.

I write about music for RouteNote, sharing fun stuff, news, and tips and tricks for musicians and producers. Also a saxophonist and hater of marmalade.

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