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How do I earn money as a musician with Patreon – and is OnlyFans an alternative?

Standing on stage in front of fans is the best, but how do artists manage to generate income in digital space? © Pixabay via Pexels

The US web service Patreon enables artists to be funded directly by their fans. We show how the platform works, how you can use it and what OnlyFans is about as an ambiguous alternative.

Even in the second year of the coronavirus pandemic, the situation of the event market remains difficult to devastating. Countless artists who depend on the income from the live business are also affected by the pandemic and the measures to combat it.

It is therefore all the more important now that musicians can earn their income independently of ticket sales and live encounters with fans. Can platforms like Patreon – and, more recently, OnlyFans – help with this?

The concept of Patreon

Patreon is unquestionably the best-known social payment service provider. Social payment means that every creative person can be paid by their social contacts or fans on a voluntary basis.

The service is mainly used by creatives such as YouTubers and video producers, podcasters, video game designers, painters, authors or musicians. In theory, however, anyone can create a creator account on Patreon, regardless of what he or she creates.

Patreon and related platforms differ from crowdfunding platforms in that the funding is not limited to one project – for example a video game or music album, film or tour – but lasts as long as the fan is willing to pay.

Diverse rewards

The opportunities to participate on Patreon are diverse and basically in the hands of the artists. The creative person puts together various packages that paying followers can then buy or subscribe to.

Mostly there are two to five different levels, to put it simply, from a simple fan to a super fan. For example, for 5 euros per month, fans can receive news earlier than the rest of the world or gain access to exclusive content such as music or videos.

For example, for 10 euros fans can take part in live streams or watch an online concert stream. For 15 euros you can get physical merch like posters, t-shirts or other goodies for each release.

Participation and feedback

Premium fans who pay even more may even be given the right to participate in the creative process. You can get the opportunity to listen to demos, vote on song titles or help design the artwork for the next release.

Of course, all of this is in the hands of the artists. If you have no idea what to give your fans, you can check out the top 10 benefits that musicians give their fans on the official Patreon blog.

More options

Incidentally, it is also possible with Patreon to offer free subscriptions. It can also be successful to allow small contributions from 1 euro per month in order to allow as large a group of fans as possible to support their favorite artists.

Alternatively, Patreon allows payment per creation, not per month. This has the advantage that artists don’t have to regularly provide new content to keep fans happy.

For these amounts, however, fans also expect proximity and interaction. Patreon is definitely not a platform for musicians who shy away from direct contact with fans or want to keep their creative process as secret as possible. After all, fans pay money every month and want something in return.

And the cost?

Patreon withholds a commission from all purchases. The creators can use it free of charge, but Paetron keeps a deduction from the payments made by the fans. This is between 5 and 12 percent and depends on the service package that the creator would like to have from Patreon.

Those who collect enough “patrons”, i.e. supporters, can earn an independent, regular income. Meanwhile, the fans are let into an inner circle and are in closer contact with artists and other fans. This is what makes it so appealing, but it also requires that artists constantly fill the platform with content.

Advertise fans

Each creator has a profile with posts and collects followers, which is why Patreon has similarities with other social media platforms. But there is no feed with suggestions of what else the user might like, which is why the user has to search directly for their favorite act. This makes it necessary to draw attention to the Patreon account on other channels.

The best method for this is to advertise membership permanently and on all channels, but at the same time unobtrusively – for example by repeatedly mentioning the Patreon site as active. Alternatively, artists can insert information on their website and in their social media profiles or as an addition in their posts.

The possibilities range from the use in the descriptions of music videos, references to postcards in fan article programs to flyers and the band blog – and basically all places where fans can be reached.

Just try

Basically, of course, every creative person has to know whether they have enough and, above all, sufficiently committed fans to make a trial at Patreon worthwhile. The idea may even come from the fans.

In any case, it is not a mistake to just give it a try and be inspired by the offers and strategies of others. The rewards of the individual levels can always be changed or expanded later.

It is important to understand what the fans appreciate about your art and what they would like to support financially. Regular content is a must, but taking a break isn’t a problem as long as it’s clearly communicated.

But if you don’t publish or offer anything, you have to expect that the users will cancel the subscriptions. After all, most people want something in return for their money.

Pros and cons

There will always be people who refer to the use of a site like Patreon as “begging for money”. But critics should keep in mind: Everything that artists have previously offered without additional payment will continue to be available. On Patreon there are only services that go beyond that and are also labor-intensive.

As a counter-argument to the criticism, one can also add that the support helps to make art better. Successful artists on Patreon get more time to spend on their projects, as they don’t have to look elsewhere for jobs. You can invest in tech and cool designs, risk more, and position yourself more independently of mainstream demands.

After all, they receive direct feedback from the fans, who can also contribute good ideas and suggestions that the artists might never have thought of.

Last but not least, this is just an offer for the fans who would like it. Nobody is forced to take part. By the way, there are some lesser-known alternatives to Patreon such as Buy Me A Coffee, Liberapay or the European variant Tipeee.

Is OnlyFans an alternative?

OnlyFans could also be an alternative. The platform was founded in 2016 and grew rapidly in popularity in 2020: the number of users more than doubled within a year. The company’s value has risen to over $ 1 billion.

OnlyFans has a similar structure to Patreon: The most common model is that users pay for every account they want to follow. The pandemic lockdown is seen as the reason for the skyrocketing number of users.

OnlyFans gained popularity because the “adult content” platform was open from the start. It helped that the platform can only be used from the age of 18 and in conjunction with a credit card.

Provocation as a strategy

Numerous male and female porn stars owned and have accounts. It was precisely these who were looking for income during the pandemic, as the production of porn films came to a standstill as did the production of movies and series. OnlyFans allows them to generate income from self-produced porn and to build a fanbase.

Some musicians use the hype and the provocative image of OnlyFans and also created an OnlyFans account. Some offer open-hearted insights into their sex life, others use it in a similar way to Patreon and, for example, post behind the scenes photos or videos. Cardi B, Tyga, Austin Mahone and Aaron Carter are represented. Artists from rap, hip-hop and pop are on the rise here.

Possible advantages of OnlyFans

One advantage of OnlyFans over Patreon is that fans and creators can communicate with each other in private chats. Creators can use this channel to sell personalized content. Musicians can use this function, for example, to sing personal birthday greetings for fans or a song for them.

The pornographic image is still attached to OnlyFans, but the web service wants to move itself away from it and become more appealing to the mainstream. The operators are looking for athletes, film stars and other content creators to use their platform. The company is seeking advice for the image change and is looking for investors, as reported by Bloomberg.

As long as the image change has not taken place and the platform is still very much geared towards the USA (for example, there is no German-speaking support), it is questionable whether it is worth trying to build an OnlyFans community as a musician.

Arjun Sethi
Passionate guitarist, gamer and writer. Lives for the perfect review, and scrapes texts until they are razor-sharp.


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