Patreon meditations (fall 2018)

This write-up is an attempt to come to terms how possible online crowdsourced income can (could?) work and what are my personal obstacles. I’m not sure how relevant it is to anyone, so please take it as a personal rambling and self-reflection about my desires, idealistic projections and facing the truth of inevitability of discipline, structure and focus.

I have neglected a bit my Patreon page/campaign. So here I am trying to evaluate the past, present and future.

The fact remains I have this fantasy that it is possible to get some financial support, to earn income through  patronage. And I continue to think about various ways how to achieve that goal. Here are the three things I want to write about:

  • how fan support works via membership platform, seemingly
  • obstacles (one in particular) that are preventing me personally to progress with Patreon (or membership patronage in general)
  • steps that I want to take in the near future – a strategy

how it works tooted:

I think success on #Patreon has way more to do with what you do outside of Patreon than how you configure your rewards.
The steps go:
  1) do the work
  2) give people a reason to support you in it
  3) ensure they know you exist
  4) make it easy for them to give you money
Patreon is step 4).
For me step 2) involves putting my work online for free, and step 3) is mostly demo recordings, which I have been v v lax about recently.

Let me take a bit of time and analyze this in the context of my work:

1. create the work

no. 1 is – for me, generally looking – creating art, mainly music, maybe audio-visual works. I think I’m past the point where I’m not sure what I want to do (I am also a new media artist, but to be fair – I’m not interested in exhibitions, the Art World).

The more pressing question here is what does no.1 mean in the context of online membership platforms and possible paying audience? How is it ‘packaged’. I think it has to be packaged, it has to be visible, it has to have some kind of ‘readabily’ in it, so that people can say, oh, yes, this is this, and this is that – i.e.: it’s … an album, it’s a … music video, it’s a … short art film, it’s music performance…

I mean, Amanda Palmer seem to prove that this is not necessary – she’s simply making ‘“things” and “thinging” her art (charging her audience). But her fanbase is already huge. And she’s been cultivating the communication with her club for more than a decade – it seems.

To conclude this heading, for me to create the work is really a sound work that is publicly released, maybe – or often – a music video. I wonder however, if this is not a self-limiting-kind-of-a trap, where the channel of distribution is influencing the package which is then influencing the content of an artwork. This remains to be answered.

2. give people a reason to support you in your work


For @artsyhonker this reason is her putting her music online for free. While I totally understand this, and, hey, I’m doing the same thing, my intuition is telling me this is not quite right – for me and my work. And I can articulate it quite well, I think: I want people to support my work because they experience a slight change in their life experience – perhaps they see something in new light, and/or maybe it’s something inside of them that moves, is touched with my work. I don’t want to be supported solely because my cause is humanitarian (giving back to the commons).

Releasing the music into the world for use, remix, reuse is an important part of my daily existance and work, but I think the art as some form communication is what I’m interested in the most. And I’d hope that for majority of my audience is too. I mean, Creative Commons licencing can be some kind of an add-on, an additional layer of reasoning for support. But the basis should be is the artwork itself, all its contexts from which it emerged, and of course what environments it will be consumed in.

The question is then, how to give people a reason. How to communicate the immersion offered by my varied musical practice? Ah, perhaps with…

3. ensure they know you exist (communication)

This is probably the most marketing-like and self-promotion-abound part. I guess, it probably roughly divides into offline and online ‘communication’:

  1. local networking, going to other artists’/creators’ events, talk to people, say hi.. have stickers, usbs, busines cards (with download codes) in the pocket all the time? play DJ nights, performances, stick around, give your work to foregners
  2. have an awesome home page, keep it updated with latest work, news. write a blog. Send out an occasional (or regular) mailout – your little newsletter with updates with what happened, and what’s coming. Maintain your online presence through social networks (I use only those on the fediverse).

4. make it easy for them to give you money

I guess that translates to “run a Patreon, Bandcamp and/or PayPal”. Or, if you are technically so savy, your own shop. So, I already have my own Bandcamp, in conjunction with my netlabel Kamizdat.

It seems that it’s a common mistake to think of a Patreon campaign (and Bandcamp shop) as a tool to attract potential audience. I believe this does not work and I guess I can confirm it with my own experience. It does not work. Number 4 – having a Patreon/Bandcamp or other outlet, DOES NOT AUTOMATICALLY BRING YOU (paying) AUDIENCE (all caps beacuse mental note to myself). This means that pretty much all of ‘marketing’ work has to happen through other channels –  most of this is actually in number 3.


While above seems to be a kind of analytical objective observation and thinking about online creative work and the business, the following section is quite the opposite: a subjective assesment of a very personal trait.

I’ve been running Patreon for two years and a half now. I had great plans, probably too great. My basic idea was (and still is) to create a Bandcamp release of 2 or more tracks and maybe a video. I wanted to possibly do it on a per moth basis. It was much too ambitious. I then gave myself a goal to do it every two or three months. And I failed that too.

In about 33 months I have made 7 releases for which I charged my patrons and posted 28 updates. That’s less than an update once a month, and it’s one release every 4.7 months. After a lot of thinking I realized what is my main problem: inability to do something really regularily. And in more personal terms this means discipline. Perhaps it’s not the right place right now to go into reasons for this personal trait, but this is the reality. And I’m determined to face this reality and fight it by working with it, working through it. I guess they say that challenges help you learn and grow. Yay!


So, we have two seemingly conflicting realities:

  • reality 1: running membership platform requires regular content and/or update
  • reality 2: personal working habits are in strong favour of irregular creation instead of regular production of content – but to put it very bluntly: major obstacles are
    • delaying/procrastination, and
    • unrealistic planning

I am inevitably commiting to improve my working habits. This is quite a big deal for me, to be honest. Delaying (procrastination) has been a deal breaker in too many projects and ideas and I’m determined to improve in that area. And it just seems so, that very slowly there could be said there is progress. But I have to do more. That’s one part of strategy.

The other part of strategy deals with how to set realistic regular goals. (Oh, I have soooo many ideas!) I think I should set a goal of 3 or 4 releases for Patreon in next 12 months – at least according to analysis above. This part is actually my hardest and the most difficult challenge: how to set realistic goals.

To deal with this challenge, I have a feeling I have to consciously setup a process of goal-setting that maybe lasts for more days. I should take it as a longer process where I am patient with myself but I continue to dig into the question what is realistic, and how to sacrifice certain ideas and wishes, how to deal with pain that comes with prioritizing.