This blog was original published on Electric Kiwi.
In March of 2020, Patreon saw a 21% increase of new creators on their platform, their largest surge since they started in 2013. The music category specifically went up by 25% with over 3,000 new pages from musicians seeking some financial stability through the shut down of the live performance sector.
A membership-based model can offer a much-needed financial safety net for musicians to sustain during times of uncertainty like in the COVID-19 pandemic. I’ve seen it first hand with an artist I work with who has a Patreon page ranked in the top 100 for the highest number of patrons, according to Graphtreon. He’s been able to survive comfortably with the monthly income he earns from his fans for the past 2 years since we launched.
As much as I love Patreon, I can tell you it’s not easy to grow a membership business. I’ve helped launch Patreon campaigns for two other musicians that flopped while their peers ended up abandoning their pages as well.
If you are considering starting your own membership-based business for your music, I will share my top 5 tips for a successful Patreon page. This includes the specific tactic that helped my client grow his Patreon page to reach the top 1% of the music category on the platform.
Looking for more insights, strategies and tactics? I wrote an ebook “Patreon for Musicians” where I go more into depth on the topics I cover in this blog and a lot more.
1) Have an established following or fanbase.
One way of improving your chances for success on Patreon is to only start if you’ve already built a fan base on another platform.
With no discovery features on Patreon, it is entirely up to you to grow your subscriber base from other channels you’ve established yourself in. Even with a large fanbase on social media or an email list, it may not be enough.
One of the campaigns I helped launch in 2018 was for an established artist who had over 100k social media followers and 300k monthly listeners on Spotify. Despite the larger following, we couldn’t get more than 50 people to make the jump in the first few months. Of course, there were many factors at play, but it’s certainly not all about size.
For the one Patreon page I helped launch that was successful, he has about half or a third the social media following. I’ve seen a couple of other musicians grow their Patreon pages with even less.
Growing a membership page with a smaller following is not impossible, especially if they are highly engaged fans, but it’ll be a harder hill to climb.
2) Start simple.
One of the big mistakes I made in the past was overcomplicating the tier and reward structure. At that time, I believed that you needed to offer fans a polished and fully-built out membership page to impress them. Investing all that time and energy up trying to get it “perfect” before launch is a waste.
I realize now that it is not necessary and there are more advantages to starting out simple:
- You get your page out faster so you can start generating income. There are fans who just want to support you and don’t care about all the fancy perks.
- You can be clearer and more concise in your messaging. It’s easier to pitch to fans without worrying about confusing them with too many details.
- You can always add new tiers and rewards later. These changes can be used as a promotional campaign to build around to get more members.
When you’re starting out, set the foundation for your Patreon page with 1 – 3 tiers that offer your core benefits. However, you want to make sure the other elements of your membership page, like the about page, the introduction video and branding, are on point.
Offer digital rewards first and hold off on the physical merch until you have a system in place. Patreon does not have features in their platform for you to easily manage and track merch offers if you’re producing your own merch to ship.
Remember, it’s better to add and adjust as you go rather than breaking things down to change something already built.
3) Think outside of social media and emails.
Although social media and email marketing are easily accessible channels to reach your fans, they may also not be the most effective in converting them into Patreon members.
Email will fare better than social media in regards to conversion rates, but you may need to consider a more personal and direct strategy to persuade them to join. It could be using a text message marketing tool like SuperPhone and Community or even sending a DM (direct message) to fans one by one on Instagram.
For the first Patreon page I helped launch back in 2017, the conversion rates from using SuperPhone was significantly higher for recruiting patrons than email and social media combined. Using the latter, we ended up with about 19 patrons in our first wave of promotion. After sending out a mass direct text message through SuperPhone to around 500 fans, it jumped up to around 65 for a 9% conversion rate!
Assuming you have fans with a strong emotional connection to your brand, direct messaging fans individually can be surprisingly effective. It’s not scalable, but that personal one-to-one interaction is why I’ve seen it work so well for my client to grow his membership business.
4) Give fans what they want.
According to Patreon, the most popular benefits across all creators are:
- Exclusive content
- Early access
- Physical goods
You’ll be in good shape if you offer these types of perks with your membership page, but you might want to find out from your fans directly.
To get more specific, asking fans on social media can help generate ideas on what they want to see.
For your current patrons, use the built-in polling feature on Patreon.
There are also exit surveys in Patreon that are sent to fans who delete their subscriptions. Although no one wants to lose a paying member, this is an opportunity to see if there’s anything you do to improve the membership experience on Patreon.
This is another reason why you want to start simple. You can incorporate feedback from your fans as you grow so your Patreon page is built around benefits they’re more likely to be excited about.
5) Don’t get discouraged. Stay motivated and have patience.
Even with the right strategy and game plan, growing on a new platform is going to take time and patience. There’s a lot of challenges involved so it’s something you must commit to if you want to be successful.
This means don’t get discouraged when you don’t see the results you were hoping for after first announcing your Patreon.
According to the data I gathered from Graphtreon, music creators with over 10 patrons make up 28% of the total music category population on the Patreon. That means the other 72%, or 9,000 Patreon pages, in the music category do not have more than 10 fans supporting their page!
I know everyone reading this can get more than 10 patrons if they really put the energy into it. But if you’re not motivated enough to be consistent, there’s no way it’s going to work.
I hope this blog has provided you with useful insights on how you can become successful on Patreon.
As an advocate of the membership model for musicians, I’ve seen the positive impact it has had for my client. He struggled throughout his 20+ year career to earn a sustainable income from music without having to do endless tours and shows.
If you want to start with a membership-based model for your music, the good news is it doesn’t cost anything to set up or launch a page. Patreon only earns money if you’re able to generate an income from fans on their platform.
To get started, head over to Patreon.
If you’re looking for additional help with Patreon, check out my new eBook – Patreon for Musicians.
I breakdown everything for you in my ebook where you’ll learn:
- Tactics to get more patrons
- Strategies on how to market and promote your page
- Things you may not know about using Patreon for the first time
- Advice on how to structure your membership page based on research
- The best tool to help manage, track and fulfill merch on Patreon
- Tips for a successful launch
- Mistakes I made from my years of experience so you know what not to do
David “D4” Nguyen is a freelance music marketer and content creator for D4 Music Marketing, an online resource he created to help aspiring and emerging independent artists improve their chances of making a living off music. As a non-musician, his interest in music is fueled by its power to connect us and change lives for the better, like it did for him. You can read more of his work and follow his journey at D4 Music Marketing.