Out of all the talk of new business models for music, perhaps none rings as dubious as the one that fans will simply pay artists to make stuff out of the goodness out of their hearts. In an industry in which idealism and cynicism do plenty of battle, fan “patronage” pulls us towards the latter.
Want to fund a bunch of bands just to be a nice person? Fire up Google Maps. We have a bridge to sell you, right between Brooklyn and Manhattan.
That’s why, when John Pointer of Patronism contacted us following our write-up of the direct music subscription platform Distro.fm, we were a little skeptical, and asked for some hard numbers to back up the idea that fans really want to fund artists directly.
In return for “new songs, live recordings, archived material, back stage videos, blogs, and more,” Patronism asks that fans commit to paying artists directly, each month — whatever amount they choose. So far, the average fan is donating $12/month, which is more than they would pay for all of the music on Spotify, Rdio, Rhapsody, MOG, et al.
You might not have heard of Patronism, but it was a semi-finalist in the Harvard/Berklee Re:Think Music Business Model Competition, and our pals at Wired.com covered it last year. Here are some numbers to back up the idea that direct fan subscriptions can work for some artists.
And while there are only 39 artists on the site, they’ve racked up the following:
- In August, one band broke the $2K/month barrier. In September, it broke $3K, and is on target to make $4,300 in October.
- Over 200 more artists are currently uploading content and have yet to go live. Pointer picked each one out by hand.
- The average patronage, again, is about $12/month. The highest-paying fan donates $200/month, and many pay $50 or $100.
- Pointer himself averages $18/month.
- He’s adding “‘Line Item Patronage.’ It’s like Kickstarter, but instead of just getting the thing running, it also has a fuel injection system (subscriptions) and NOS booster (a myriad of single-time payment options).
The scale here is fairly small. Pointer knows he needs more bands and fans using the site. But remember, this program is just for the hardcore fans; the band can still sell and receive airplay through traditional channel even as it runs one of these programs.