Patreon for Artists
“for artists and creators to get sustainable income”
Patreon for artists: The main feature of Patreon is that your supporters pledge an amount monthly, like subscribing to a magazine. Although there is another way to charge per project/production, more commonly creators charge per month.
We will see how to use this platform for the art business and if it could be used in your case.
Beforehand a small tip: when there is any kind of tool proposed to you for free, try to hack it your way and do not simply follow the suggestions.
For example, we are not using Patreon just for support but for organizing monthly art business coaching sessions. Nobody is doing that and it allows us to be transparent on the income and to do a monthly follow up with the artist, no matter what!
Patreon for artists? What is Patreon?
The original concept
Solving an artist problem
The start-up was founded in 2013 by musician Jack Conte. He had a large fanbase but could not fully monetize his influence online. He felt if he was being underpaid for the value he brought to his community. To solve this problem, he teamed up with his college roommate and invented later what was known as Patreon.
It all started at the right time. It combined the qualities of 3 different trends and put them into one: crowdfunding, sharing economy and subscription business model. If you combine the following three things, you will get Patreon.
What to know before starting Patreon
Funding from a Large Number
Launched in 2009, New-York based Kickstarter became trending among creators and made all sorts of creative and social projects possible. It changed the way startup projects to get funding.
Crowdfunding for creatives
Wikipedia has described crowdfunding very well: it is the practice of funding a project or venture by raising small amounts of money from a large number of people. It’s a form of alternative finance that complements traditional finance, e.g. taking a loan from financial institutions.
When it comes to financing a venture with the help of the general public, you might think: ‘hey it’s like an IPO!’ But no. Legally speaking, crowdfunding is not (and should not be) a form of acquiring capital investment from individual investors. The money that goes into your account is considered donations for a good cause, instead of loans or equities.
Patrons, not investors
On Patreon, you can ask people for any amount of pledge from 1 USD to thousands of dollars. However, typically people don’t contribute a lot, just like crowdfunding. The idea is you need to get a lot of patrons who pledge 5-10 dollars, so you can have enough to cover your expenses. Imagine if you need $50,000 a year to run this project. How to get this money? Typically in the startup world, you get this money from one angel investor. However, with crowdfunding, you need tens of thousands of social media followings to reach your goal.
Equity and artworks
What is Equity?
Equity can have several meanings in different context. In the startup world, equity refers to the shares that a co-founder or investor is entitled to. It is usually represented as a percentage of ownership in a company. Equity can also mean stocks or shares. Perhaps you have heard stocks more often, like the stock exchange. Stocks, shares or equity are interchangeable in this scenario. they all represent the ownership in a company.
Now you might say: Alright, I got it. I have 3 founders in my art business. I invest the most so I get 50%, the other two co-founders get 25% each. Sure, no problem! You can split the shares however you want, depending on the money, work, and IPR you invest in. You are the founders, so you can rationalise it your way.
Artwork as a Share
Now I challenge you to think about this: your artwork is a share of your art business, and your collectors are your shareholders. They spend their money investing in a piece of your art because they believe in your potential growth as a brand. What you have to do, is to maximize your shareholder value.
I know it can sound very brutal and shocking. When I was in my first accounting class, my professor asked us: what is the goal of doing accounting. What is the goal of running your business? I was like: ‘Make a better world?’ She told us one version of the answer: ‘Maximizing shareholder value’. Of course, this is a free market way to understand business. It could give a bad connotation: you might be overlooking the social value you bring to society.
Issuing a share to a collector
Personally I don’t agree with this statement in business, however, I think it works in art. You are an artist, you spend time making this product that is limited and high in potential growth. It’s like if you are issuing a ‘share’ to a collector. You have the right to issue it to whoever you wish, at what price you think it’s right. By owning this piece of art, your collectors now have a stake in your business. You need to represent their interest, as well as the interest of your shareholders big or small.
Debora Puac “An Interview with Noël Carroll”
Sharing economy risks
An important characteristic of the sharing economy is that it enables individuals to monetize assets that are not being fully utilized. On Patreon, many artists are sharing their underutilized assets. A digital artist who creates customized brushes, templates can share them with his or her fans. Patreon made it very easy to share files, videos and other exclusive content with fans in certain tiers.
It sounds easy because you don’t need to spend too much money or effort, however, it takes some tolerance to share your very private assets with other people. Additionally, if they abuse your assets, you are on your own. In the sharing economy, the risks are externalised.
-Adam Curtis Documentary Filmmaker
Interview Loney Abrams for p2pfoundation (2016)
Patreon for Artists to Get Paid Monthly
Your fans give you little money over a long period of time. You are never secure because your supporters can cancel their subscriptions at any time. You do need to keep them happy and entertained as much as possible. Today customers are harder and harder to retain in the digital age. They can find more artists like you faster and easier than ever before. You are competing against similar artists on Patreon and outside of Patreon all the time.
To conclude, Patreon is not for everyone. It can be right for you if you have the right qualities, skills and personalities. You need to attract a large number of audience with your art. You need to be willing to share a lot of your private assets or private life and trust your community. You need to be constantly available and entertaining your fans. If you like to be off the grid for several months, perhaps you won’t be able to retain your fans.
-Ted Forbes “The Art of Photography”
Ideas You Can Offer to Your Fans
Are you excited to start a Patreon page? It’s a great way to connect with your inner circle while making money to support your art career. However, your fans are already getting your art for free. Why should they pay? I’d like to talk about a key factor in your Patreon success:
What rewards should you offer to your patrons?
There is no golden rule on what to offer because what you can offer is quite unique. Here I’d like to share some ideas with you so you can make attractive rewards:
Are you excited to start a Patreon page? It’s a great way to connect with your inner circle while making money to support your art career. However, your fans are already getting your art for free. Why should they pay? Today I’d like to talk about a key factor to your Patreon success – what rewards should you offer to your patrons?
There is no golden rule on what to offer because what you can offer is quite unique. In the meanwhile I was setting up our Patreon, I have done some research. Here I’d like to share some ideas with you so you can make attractive rewards:
#1 Physical Rewards
Who doesn’t love gifts? In every culture, there is a gift culture and gift economy. If your fans are in the same country or region, it’s a great idea to offer them some physical gifts with a personal touch.
Postcards, art prints, art merchandise like t-shirts and mugs, sketches, original works of art. You can choose to send out once a year, instead of every single month. It is not written in stone – you can modify the rewards later if you feel that you couldn’t keep up with the demand.
BTW, Patreon has also made it easy for you to keep track of your deliveries & deliverables within the platform via a digital management tool.
There are some minor problems with sending out physical gifts. Postage could be costly, risks of damage (or gone missing) in the shipping, normal postage insurance doesn’t normally ensure original works of art, higher carbon emission (not eco-friendly) and many other problems with logistics.
#2 Digital Rewards
Currently, this is the most common reward for visual artists, especially digital artists. It does not have to cost anything to produce, and it’s very scalable in case if you grow very fast.
High-resolution images, PDFs, time-lapse videos, tutorials, layered PSD files, podcasts, behind-the-scenes videos and everything digital.
The sunk cost of time, being used wrongly, not attractive as they could access it anyway
Patreon was not designed for consultants, coaches or teachers to offer their services. However, you can be very creative with Patreon and ‘hack’ it in many ways. Offering your time in exchange for pledges could be an interesting way. Because it is all about your relationship with your fans. Would you like to tighten the bond with your fans? Spending your time with them would be a great reward!
1:1 coaching, video streaming, voice call, group call, meet-up
Not scalable, burn out, misunderstood (for porn)
Most of the rewards start from 1 USD. It’s not enough to buy an art print or even downloadable digital content. What can you give for 1 dollar? Many artists just give a ‘big thank you’. For lower valued tiers, you can offer just some symbolic things to your fans.
Mention on your website, shoutout on your social media, follow their social media, rolling credits, early access to content, access to historic content, invited to your art shows, their names appear on your art book.
PR problem, technical problem
How much do artists make on Patreon?
Cool Patreon channels examples
You might have heard about numerous rumors about how artists do not actually make money on Patreon, and the ones who are making a living are a very small percentage of artists on Patreon. This is true for most of the art careers: only 10% of art school graduates actually make money by making art. Patreon alone can not change this situation. It offers an opportunity for artists to build a supportive community of fans. It’s up to you to promote your Patreon and make it happen.
Sakimi Chan (Yue Wang)
Number of Patrons: 7800
Yue Wang is a Canadian digital artist who majored in 3D animation. She worked as a concept artist for a couple of years until becoming a full-time freelance creator. She makes fan art and original digital paintings. Because she has been in Deviant Art for 8 years and very active on social media, she could gain a large fan base and get thousands of supporters. She works very hard to deliver fresh content every day. She mentioned that being an artist on Patreon is a lot more work than a 9-5 job, which she clearly had experience in.
Number of Patrons: 4888
WLOP or also known as Wang Ling, is a Freelance digital artist from China (based in HK). He creates dreamy beautiful digital paintings. He has been very active on different platforms, also has a large following on Instagram. Unlike Sakimi Chan, Wlop is quite popular in China. Perhaps because the women’s bodies in his paintings are more slender, more esthetically pleasing for Chinese fans.
Number of Patrons: 3278
Belle Delphine is the artist’s name of Belle Kirschner. At a minimum, she receives around $50,000 a year via her Patreon alone and that’s if everyone who subscribes pledges just $1.
Belle Delphine Patreon earnings
Considering her patrons spend an average of $12 per month, she could be earning $500,000 per year. Not long ago she became an internet sensation. Look at the girl with such a cute face. She is between a cosplayer and performance artist. She got famous for selling her bathwater. You might think she is not an artist, but she creates digital images that are spread and sold.
Number of Patrons: 1173
Ross is a handsome Asian American digital artist who majored in industrial design, popular on Youtube and Instagram. He has a dog called Milo who accompanied him on camera. Apart from the art style, Ross has decided to put himself in front of the camera a lot more often than other digital artists. He has such a charming personality and always found ways to stay connected with his community.