Patronism: Reinventing Musical Patronage

image from www.google.com Startup Patronism combines crowdfunding and fan clubs to create a platform for ongoing artist support. Rather than simply donating money or getting a package of swag for your contribution, Patronism members pledge a monthly amount to interact with artists and get access to unreleased creative content from music to "archival photos, videos, behind-the-scenes stories and oddities like noteworthy answering machine messages."

The site provides patron access to artists through their "Patron Community." The combination of artist access and unreleased content is potentially quite powerful. Fans can get a sense of what featured artists are making available by clicking through on the homepage and then hitting Preview to see the individual artist's "Latest Content Feed". You can already see different levels of activity with different artists though you'd have to support the artist to see how interactive they get in their Patron Community.

Patronism is still in beta and artists can apply for an invitation. The application page for artists includes more of the value proposition including the fact that artists get 85% of subscriptions with Patronism covering storage, streaming costs and credit card processing fees which seems like a really good deal.

Patron applications are conducted via individual artist pages and start at $2. Subscriptions at $10 and above are billed monthly while lower subs are billed in 2 or 5 month increments in order to minimize transaction costs.

Launched in September 2010 by John Pointer, Michael Torkildsen and Dave Kuster, Patronism's founders took a lean and agile approach for a quick launch with four features listed on their company blog:

• Musicians needed to upload music
• The storage had to be secure
• Fans must pay for access
• Fans can download music

Using low-cost, ready to go web tools and services like the Paypal button and Amazon's web storage combined with a startup apps deal from AppSumo for a fast start, Patronism embodies the new breed of web startup that has transformed Internet business funding by needing quite a bit less. In fact, they're attempting to finance their company, at least in part, by getting folks to become patrons of Patronism which provides access to featured artist content plus behind the scenes access to the Patronism team and content related to the company's development.

One smart touch is the Artist Pledge which allows fans to suggest artists for Patronism and encourage their participation by pledging monthly support. Once "enough demand has been demonstrated", Patronism will contact the artist.

Overall this seems to be a well thought out platform and though, in the wake of questions about such company philosophies as Google's "do no evil", I've become a bit cynical about high-minded Web company statements, it is nice to see a publicly stated Philosophy of Patronism's values. Beyond that I'm happy to see an innovative business model that makes sense. It's not hard to see why Patronism was recently dubbed one of 10 new ideas that could save the music industry.


Exploring similar terrain with an individual approach, Amy Martin has been working on the concept of The Patronopolis to support her own work and establish an approach for other artists to use as well. She's using IndieGoGo as a fundraising tool and is a sponsored project of Fractured Atlas to make donations tax-deductible and so that she also receives additional services. Martin offers a variety of membership levels and benefits for her supporters.

While artists and arts groups have long used patronage models, only a few artists have truly benefited and they've typically limited the majority of direct access to larger contributors. Both Patronism and Patronopolis indicate how use of the Web has facilitated mutually beneficial relationships between artists and fans and opened up such processes to emerging artists and lower budget fans.

Hypebot contributor Clyde Smith is a freelance writer and blogger. Flux Research is his business writing hub and All World Dance is his primary web project.

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  1. Well, been intending to do this Directly with fans thru artists website already. It would be a lil hassle to set up the blog, the shop, the membership script together tho. Patronism can help here but I don’t think fans will be logging in and using this everyday. Maybe…

  2. This is much better for artists starting out and it’s cheap. Up to now it has been almost impossible for artists to get a break, but with the popularity of sites like PATRONISM they are sure to find support in their niche. I wonder who the first big artist to come out of here will be.

  3. hmmm, Not new. I envisioned this over a decade ago. Suffice to say some of my first patrons received a choice of VHS tapes or SVCDs of video tour journals. I could have done it just for myself, but wanted to set it up as a web-based system so that other artists could use the idea as well, not just me. So I collaborated with Will, The Real Waldo behind Nowhere Radio, in a stopover while touring in 2001, and he implemented it as part of the Artist Services available on Nowhere.
    Here’s the introduction to the system, though I haven’t updated it in a while
    and the system has been running for ten years, and is still available to artists at NowhereRadio
    I don’t know what has happened with the system over that time, you’d have to ask The Real Waldo for that story. I emailed him with a link to this story. Maybe he’ll comment, maybe not
    In addition
    is my personal invite to prospective Patrons, which talks about what I hoped for in my personal relationship with my patrons, rather than the system as a concept. The final paragraph I think is the most informative of how I saw the concept.
    This all feels a little weird.. to be so ahead of the times. And I had to drop it after a couple years because I had troubles to deal with, though the link and info has remained on my site.
    My concern is the new systems and websites may not be as good as ours, might be exploitative, designed to benefit the websites rather than the artists, by getting artists to upload free content and drive traffic to the site. While I am an indie artist, designed it to serve me and my fans, and chose someone really dedicated to the indie music scene to implement it. The fact is, show biz ha always been full of people trying to make their fortunes exploiting artists, and there’s plenty of website operators just out to make their fortune in the internet gold-rush, and people winning by gaming the system, or pouring corporate money into it. That is not to say there aren’t also sincere and dedicated people in the indie music scene, both website operators and music promoters.
    In my concept an artist decided what they wanted to give their patrons, and patrons decide if they want to support the artist’s work, really, not buy something. If the patrons liked what they got, they could continue, or not.. it was an individual and unique relationship between each artist and their patrons, with Nowhere simply facilitating, and providing what you now call “cloud-computing”, a website-based app so I would not need a computer to participate, could use libraries and cafes on the road (no wireless back then folks).
    The economic model wasn’t about being pop, or “making it big”, or becoming a “star” or any of industry showbiz lottery where a few make a lot and the rest get nothing, but really enabling thousands of artists to be able to pursue their art, not get rich or famous. It was about support for artists who might not ever make it “big” but were still worthy of support, still could have a small but dedicated following. It was about getting support as an indie artist, by having a small but dedicated group of supporters, no matter how eclectic or specialized, if an artist developed 1000 to 2000 patrons world-wide subscribing at just $25 a year, the equivalent of magazine, they’d have $25K to $50K a year, enough to dedicate yourself to producing your art, whatever it was, whatever you did. Even as just a baseline of support, to bankroll the CDs, the touring, enabling you to balance out with the gigs and CDs sales and tips that we usually survive on. At least have some amount we could count on, year to year.
    But the details are on the website, have been for over a decade. Interesting to see people finally catching on, catching up. Definitely weird to see how I really was so far ahead on so many fronts, and then had to move on to other things, whether because of circumstances or because the web and web community wasn’t ready for my ideas, and I had to keep playing, making a living as a musician, and had lost track of the web when it did catch up and passed me by. Only chance I heard about this from my distributor. Maybe I’ll check them out, though I don’t need it, did it already, ten years ago. Still good enough I expect, maybe better. So it goes.

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