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How do artists make a living off their art? The old answer is, they don’t. Unless they’re super famous. In the old day of labels and publishers dominance, it used to be extremely hard, impossible really, to make your own way as a musician, a video creator, an author, etc. Being an independent artist required resources, which most people just didn’t have.
Several years ago, we started seeing a blessed change. Music was suddenly available as digital downloads, video websites made it possible for absolutely anyone to create and upload a video, and eBooks make it so every budding author could independently publish their book. The Internet also made it possible for anyone to have their own website and publish content as they wish.
That’s all nice and dandy, but the question still stands: how do you make a living from this? If you’re lucky, you have millions of views on YouTube, or managed to sell your eBook on Amazon, or succeeded in selling your art on websites such as Etsy or eBay, or through your own website. If you’re less lucky, or if it’s not enough, you’re pretty much stuck. Or at least, you were, until Patreon came along.
Patreon: Become Your Favorite Artist’s Patron
Patreon is a new initiative from musician and video-maker Jack Conte, that tries to solve the age-old problem both artist and fans face every day. For artists, it’s the need to stay afloat while still doing what they love, and for fans, it’s the precious few ways to support your favorite artists, especially if you live outside the US. Patreon caters to both.
Patreon is a little like Kickstarter, in that you “pledge” a sum of money to support your favorite artists, but is different in that you’re not helping them fund anything big. You’re just helping them live. Instead of pledging $100 one time, you get to pledge any amount you want every time the artist releases a new piece of content. So, for example, if you’re supporting your favorite YouTube artist, you can give them $2 every time they release a new video.
In return, the artists can offer any sort of reward they see fit. This can range from access to a patron-only stream and patron-only content, to first dibs on concert tickets, exclusive Google Hangouts, or even physical rewards, if that’s what the artist is making.
For artists, this is a great way to make a little money off your work, and let your fans show their appreciation.
So You’re A Fan, How Does It Work?
If you’re a fan, it couldn’t be easier. Well, I take that back, it could be a little easier if there were a way to browse all the artists on Patreon. As it stands, I couldn’t find such a way, so you’re limited to the search box where you can search for artists, locations, or type of content, and to the featured content creators and artists on the main page.
Chances are you’re coming to Patreon with some favorite artists and creators in mind, so you can simply search for them by name. Artist pages are somewhat similar to Kickstarter pages, with a video, a short blurb from the artist, examples of the artist’s work, etc. You can also easily see how many patrons this artist already has, and how much he or she are making for each new piece of content.
Before you decide how much you want to give, check out the list of rewards at the bottom of the page. You might think you only want to give $1 per piece of content, only to realize you’ll get something much cooler for giving $3. You never know!
If you want to give $10 and still get the $3 reward, don’t worry. You can choose your reward after clicking the “Become a Patron” button. You can also choose to receive no reward. At the moment, you can only pay using a credit card, and you’ll be charged at the beginning of each month, according to how many pieces of content were added during the month. You can cancel your patron payment at any time, and as long as you’ve made at least one payment, you’ll remain a patron for this artist forever.
So You’re An Artist, How Does It Work?
If you’re an artist, start with creating your Patreon page. This is an easy process, especially if you already have some content to show, and requires some writing, some uploading, and a little creativity.
In case you’re wondering, no, I don’t make virtual candy, unfortunately, but if I start, you’ll be the first to know. As you add your personal information to the page, you’ll be able to see a preview of what it will look like on the right side of the screen. This is an awesome little feature, helping you see how things go together as you add them.
You can add a link to a video, if you have one (if you don’t, you should make one!), and once that’s done, you get to the fun part: the rewards!
Here’s where you can get really creative. Think how you can say thank you to your fans, and add as many rewards as you like. You can even have two rewards for the same pledge amount, giving your fans the chance to choose what they prefer. Rewards can be completely virtual, or require a shipping address. They can also be unlimited or have limited availability.
When each month ends and your patrons are charged, you’ll get all the information regarding who should get what reward, and your account will be updated with the funds. Actual payments are made through PayPal, check, or direct deposit.
Patreon is free to use for both fans and artist, but there’s an approximate 3% for credit card processing and 5% for Patreon to cover the cost of running the site.
A New World For Artists
I’m not an artist, and never was one. I guess writing is an art form, but seeing the talent people around me have, I cannot in all honesty call myself an artist. All that’s left for me is to be a fan, and as a fan, Patreon is a brilliant way to support the artists I love. It’s so exciting, that the mere idea sort of takes my breath away.
Living outside the US and other more fortunate countries, I have no real way to support the artists I love. There’s barely any way to buy digital music, no way to buy movies or TV shows, and the only thing that’s left for me, fortunately, is to buy eBooks. You might say I can buy CDs and DVDs, but buying physical media I cannot even play anymore is not an option. Patreon is, and I hope to see many more artists join.
Will you support artists on Patreon? What do you think of the idea behind Patreon?