Since its launch in 2013 as a way for YouTubers to make money directly from their fans, crowdfunding platform Patreon has been growing steadily. Its patronage model helps fans of creators of all kinds – vloggers, journalists and musicians included – commit to paying small amounts per month or per creation to support their work.
The company, founded by musician Jack Conte, raised $15m of funding in June 2014 to fuel its growth; revealed the following month that it had helped its 18,000 creators earn more than $1.5m in the previous 12 months alone; and then hit the milestone of $1m in payments every month by November.
So, how are musicians doing on the service? Music Ally has examined a sample of 20 of the most popular music and music video creators on Patreon to find out.
They range from increasingly-famous a cappella group Pentatonix, who have 3,099 patrons generating $19,161 per video, to indie singer/songwriter Danielle Ate the Sandwich with her 168 patrons paying $919.85 per video collectively.
19 of the 20 musicians charge per video, averaging $5.79 per patron. The 20th, Nate Maingard, is paid by the month, with his 127 patrons stumping up $1,177 – an average of $9.27 each per month.
Calculating annual earnings is difficult, because the 20 artists have very different work patterns – some release a new song or video every week, while others have sparser release schedules.
But for a notional artist with 1,000 “true fans” backing their Patreon, and who release a new song every fortnight, based on the $5.79 average above, their annual Patreon income could be around $150,000.
This, of course, isn’t the full story: for most artists, Patreon will not be their only source of income – and in many cases it will subsidise other parts of their businesses.
Jack Conte is one of the most prominent examples. He earns $5,399.04 per solo video from his 1,401 patrons, while the duo he’s part of – Pomplamoose – makes $6,738.26 per video from their 1,923 patrons.
But Conte wrote a widely-shared blog post last November breaking down the costs and earnings from the band’s last tour (spoiler: “We lost $11,819” is the key sentence, although Pomplamoose’s Patreon income plus the $5,000 of music they sell every month through iTunes and Loudr were also mentioned in his piece).
Still, Music Ally’s analysis of the figures for the top musicians on Patreon indicates the service’s potential IF they’re willing to embrace the platform; the expectations of fans who’ll be backing them; and the discipline of regular enough releases to make that income mean something.
In the wider scheme of music industry earnings, services like Patreon ($1m of monthly payments to artists), Bandcamp ($3.1m a month), TuneCore (around $11.2m a month in 2014) and others are still small. Yet for the individual artists that they serve, the income is increasingly meaningful.
Here’s the full data from our sample (with ‘Total’ referring to the amount paid per video – or in Maingard’s case, per month):