This year has exposed the uncomfortable truth that many in the music industry are struggling to keep their heads above water both financially and emotionally. The pandemic has destroyed the touring eco-system and underlined the endemic issues caused by loss of income due to streaming.
Paradoxically the Internet which caused the collapse of physical record buying, could actually offer some useful solutions. Since lockdown began musicians have been diversifying into live-streaming and using their social media to connect with fans.
Platforms like Instagram and YouTube offer further opportunities but these may veer too close to asking musicians to become influencers or vloggers for some to be entirely comfortable. Selling out might be an outdated concept but there are still some limits. And while crowdfunding for individual projects has been helpful in the past, many have been burned by the Pledge Music scandal which left artists and fans out of pocket and suspicious of digital middle men.
In contrast the direct funding site Patreon seems to be much less of a risky endeavour. Artists ask for monthly donations in return for tiered rewards which are usually content based rather than linked to physical products – for example exclusive live-streams, q and as, discounts on merch, first opportunities to buy tickets for shows, written updates, cover songs, workshops, meet and greets etc. Some do offer physical products but there seems to be less potential for issues if Patreon ceased to exist.
Like the name suggests this is inspired by the original idea of patronage where someone with money supported an artist just to do their work. The site’s model goes further than this by incorporating ideas from social media to help create communities of fans, letting them connect with the artist on a new level. Most fans donating will likely buy albums too so this becomes an additional rather than a replacement source of funding.
Personally I’m happy to just donate without rewards but I can see the added value in what many artists are offering. When I asked about the site on Twitter I received only positive feedback from fans and artists alike. For once this seems to be working for everyone.
The only problem with Patreon then is choosing how to spend your money if you are lucky enough to have some extra to give. There are hundreds of worthy artists all needing your help. My plan is to donate a certain amount of money each month and then rotate to new artists after six months. Some might prefer just to choose one favourite and give them as much as they can afford.
If you are looking for options here is a list of women in music who are currently using Patreon – all of whom have been featured on Highway Queens in the past. Click below to help support the future of music: