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CROWDFUNDING RADAR: How Artists Are Using Patreon Amid Pandemic

COVID-19

As the COVID-19 quarantine continues to keep musicians and fans homebound, artists are looking for alternative ways to keep their revenue stream going until they can resume touring. This is causing some to turn to, or in some cases increase their activity on, Patreon. I recently put out a call on social media for artists who have active Patreon pages and asked for some thoughts on the platform as a resource for musicians. I got a number of submissions, and a few who shared Patreon thoughts with me. This week, I’m going to feature three of the artist pages I received and their quotes about Patreon and how they’ve adjusted their business model to adapt to the new reality.

Music 2020

Levi Lowrey
One of the first artists to reach out to me was frequent Zac Brown collaborator and acclaimed solo artist Levi Lowrey. Lowrey was also the most philosophical in his thoughts on Patreon, getting to the heart on why it is a platform that requires a complete change of mindset. “I honestly think that the problem with content is that we have to eliminate our filter. We don’t have to be perfect. We just have to be. I struggle so much with this. People are not craving quality as much as they are quantity. If we are to give them what they want then we have to eliminate that voice in our heads that says, ‘This ain’t good enough.’” For a business that has long been built on the album-tour-album model, that can be a tough task. But Lowrey sees room for both. “Obviously, the bigger projects need to be handled with time and care. But while that’s happening there are thousands of moments (imperfect and wonderful) that can be captured and posted for instant gratification.” Lowrey’s Patreon page has two membership levels, $5 and $25 per month. Both get access to his posts, photos, original and cover songs, and his Discord server. The higher level receives additional exclusive content, as well as a thank you on each of his future albums.

Sarah Peacock 
Sarah Peacock is a crowdfunding veteran, one we featured here when she ran a Kickstarter for her forthcoming album, Burn the Witch. When she reached out to me, she spoke of how she talks to her fans about the differences between that kind of campaign and her Patreon page. “Kickstarter to me is transactional, and it’s a wonderful pre-order system. I like to think of Patreon in a more intimate way. It’s still crowd support, but it’s more about building a community.” Peacock went on to discuss one of the primary reasons I’ve seen from artists for creating a Patreon page: “It’s not healthy for me (or any artist) to tour 300 days a year. It IS healthy for me to have a family life, enjoy time at home, and rejuvenate my creative self.” Peacock has three levels of support on her page; $5, $10, and $20 per month. All levels get access to new songs and exclusive unreleased music. Higher backer levels get perks like postcards from the road and VIP access to live shows.

Barb Carbon 
Barb Carbon is one of several artists to reach out to me who’ve had Patreon pages for some time, but now find themselves increasing the frequency of their content to stay busy and make money while off the road. “I’m working on doing better to provide them content. Especially now, I’m really going to be relying on crowdsourcing until this all blows over.” Carbon is keeping a positive attitude about it all, noting that shifting direction is nothing new to musicians today. “As if the industry wasn’t changing rapidly enough, now we have to completely redesign it! Maybe it will end up being for the best.” Carbon has seven funding levels on her Patreon page; from $1 all the way up to $500 per month. The $1 level is something I’m seeing become more popular with artists. It gives fans a “taste” of the more blog-like posts and some music, with the hope of enticing them to upgrade to a higher level of funding to unlock the more exclusive music content and perks like digital downloads.

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