Rather than depend on live events or streaming, why not create consistent monthly income through patronage? To get started and maximize the amount of money you can make, follow these critical steps.
As we discussed in “Subscription revenue and patronage can build your music career,” some of the more lucrative musician revenue streams are inconsistent and unreliable, including merch sales, playing live, and streaming royalties. So, while you should pursue these variable revenue streams, why not add patronage to your arsenal and generate steady, reliable subscription revenue each month?
As we’ve stressed in various Disc Makers Blog posts, to make your music business work, you need a coordinated release schedule. This is also crucial for patronage since each release gives you an opportunity to plug your site and the exclusive rewards you have available. Highlight the benefits your supporters will receive and by doing so, you’ll entice those enjoying what you’re already releasing to support you and get the additional content.
The eight steps to making money with Patreon
Currently, the largest patronage service is Patreon, and many of your potential supporters already trust the service and have their credit cards tied to it. When you set up your Patreon account, use these eight steps to set yourself up for maximum income.
1. Pull all of your business information together before you set up Patreon.
Patreon needs your business information because they will be sending you checks/deposits, so the first thing you’ll need is to make sure you have everything we talk about in the “your business” chapter of Making Money With Music ready to go. As a refresher, have the following created and ready to go:
- Your tax ID.
- A bookkeeping tool or method to track your income and expenses (e.g., QuickBooks or free apps like Wave or Slickpie).
- An online payment-handling service like Paypal.ME, Venmo, or Stripe so you can sell other items or accept tips from your supporters.
- Links to all your web and social presences.
- Your contact information, since Patreon can also make it easier for people to discover your music and license it.
The most important one above is your tax ID since you can’t get paid unless you register one with them. If you don’t have a business entity, you’ll need to give them your personal tax ID (i.e., your social security number.) If you do this, keep in mind that anything you make will increase your personal income when it comes to income taxes and you’ll want to track expenses to offset them.
2. Create a pre-launch Patreon account.
Create your Patreon account, but make sure to keep it “pre-launch” until you’re ready. You have a lot of prep to do before you announce it to the world. These pre-launch steps are critical so your Patreon profile looks good when you finally announce it and make it public. At a minimum, you’ll need:
- Imagery. Like any website, you’ll need to create and upload profile images including a banner, avatars, graphics, and more. Patreon will call out some of the basic ones you’ll need to upload. Check out other successful Patreon artists to see how they’ve set up their sites to get ideas.
- Intro text. Patreon asks you to fill out a section that describes who you are, what you create, and lets you tell people why they should support you. This is NOT a bio: the function of this section is to convince people to click the button to pay and support you. Keep this section short and to the point and make it as compelling as you can. Ask people to check out and click the reward tiers. For more help with this, see the “marketing strategy” section of Making Money With Music.
- Sample content. Many people may stumble on your Patreon page and not know exactly what you do or where to find your music, your website, or other content. So, choose your BEST piece of music or video and let potential patrons experience you and your music directly on your Patreon page.
3. Diversify your rewards.
Patreon allows you to set reward levels at your discretion, so create tiers and rewards that work for your minnows ($1-$5/mo), dolphins ($5-$10/mo), and whales ($15+/mo). Not all your supporters are the same and you should segment them based on what they spend on you. You’ll leave money on the table if you don’t have options each group wants to pay for. Note that most of your income will come from your whales, so make sure to provide great whale rewards. Rewards are critical to success — check out our previous Disc Makers post for more tips.
4. Create a video for your main Patreon page.
People are more willing to click a video and watch than read text, especially when they first take a look at a Patreon page. Your welcome video’s sole purpose is to entice people to become a patron, so give them a taste of who you are, the music you create, and tell them why and what they’re supporting when they pledge. Then use the video to take them on a tour of the reward tiers you created and what they’ll get if they pledge at each level.
5. Create welcome messages and thank yous.
Because you’re asking people to fund you, give people a welcome message and a thank you. You can create these as each supporter pledges, but it’s much better to have a message prepared ahead of time and ready to go. Or, you can use an app like Bonjoro, which allows you to send personalized welcome or thank-you videos to your customers.
6. Create an initial reward bundle.
You should create an initial reward bundle so the subscriber gets something immediately after signing up rather than having to wait for the next reward to come out at their level. This is where the “thank you” message you create comes in. Most rewards you’ll create will come out on a weekly or monthly basis (tied to your release schedule), and so you’ll want to tell fans they can get something immediately after they pledge. This bundle is usually digital, so it can be a special set of tracks, a PDF, desktop wallpapers, or any other digital item that would be valuable to the fan and get them to click the button to pay and support you. Do not add any physical items in this initial bundle or your potential profit will be eaten by postal expenses.
7. Get initial supporters.
While you’re in this pre-launch phase and setting up and testing your Patreon page, it’s the perfect time to “seed the tip jar” and get people you know will sign up and support you on board. Having people already subscribed to the various reward tiers on the first day you publicly announce the Patreon page provides social proof that other people are already supporting you. Using this time to “soft launch” your page is the virtual equivalent of dropping a $20 bill in your guitar case so other people feel comfortable throwing in bigger donations, since they’re not the first.
8. Launch and promote your page.
Only after the steps above are done, tested, and completed will you be ready to publicly launch your Patreon page. Make sure to promote your Patreon account everywhere when you launch.
Once your Patreon page is launched, don’t be afraid to make adjustments to it. Small changes can make a big difference when you try to convince fans they should become supporters. Use the metrics Patreon gives you on how many people visit the page compared to how many sign up to help you gauge whether your page is working for you and enticing backers.
Also, remember that your Patreon is a communication channel: everyone who signs up wants to get posts and notifications from you. You can use this platform as a free newsletter mechanism for your paying fans. It’s a great way to communicate what you’re up and keep them engaged.
Finally, remember to upsell your reward tiers. Keep pitching the rewards of the higher tiers every time you release something to try to encourage people to support you more every month. A person who is supporting you at $5 every month should feel like they’re missing out because they’re not getting the great stuff you’re giving out at $10. Each time you communicate, it’s an opportunity to grow your supporters to a higher patronage level and boost the amount of money you make every month.
Authors of the critically-acclaimed modern classic, The Indie Band Survival Guide, Billboard Magazine called Randy Chertkow and Jason Feehan “the ideal mentors for aspiring indie musicians who want to navigate an ever-changing music industry.” Their latest book, Making Money With Music (Macmillan) and free Making Money With Music Newsletter, help all musicians — from startups to pros — build a sustainable music business so you can make money in today’s tech-driven music environment.
Subscription revenue and patronage can build your music career
Choosing the right rewards for patronage and crowdfunding campaigns
A release strategy to fill your yearly calendar
Merch strategies for your live streams
You can’t make money if you can’t take money: How to take payments as a musician