How to reward your fans
To encourage retention and growth among your fans on Patreon and elsewhere, it’s important to consider how to structure your rewards for varying levels of support.
Guest post by Randy Chertkow & Jason Feehan from the Disc Makers Blog
In previous posts, we’ve addressed why you need to consider patronage, the eight initial steps you should take, and how to promote your Patreon page. This final article in the patronage series covers one of the most important parts of your patronage: the rewards you offer your supporters. When you design your reward benefits with certain support segments in mind, you’ll lure patrons to give you money every month and grow your revenue.
As we’ve previously noted, your release schedule drives the rewards. This is because your free entertainment, which you consistently release over time through streaming music releases, videos, new merch releases, live shows, etc., will keep your audience engaged, spur various platform algorithms to promote your content, and draw new fans to you. Therefore, you should always promote your page by promoting the compelling premium Patreon rewards you offer so fans get excited to sign up.
Here’s a breakdown of the reward levels to consider. Each level comes with some recipes and suggestions you may want to use for you and your music. These suggestions can help you entice your audience to click that button to support you and boost the amount of money you make each month.
1. Minnow rewards ($1-$2 a month)
Once someone supports you on Patreon, they are automatically included in your feed, so they’ll receive messages from you. It’s important to provide an inexpensive option to get people to commit to you, because you can always up-sell them to higher levels once they’re a supporter. Therefore, it’s the minnow rewards that are critical for pulling people into your orbit.
Most creators set this level at $1 or $2 since many fans can usually afford $12-$24/year and get trivial benefits for it. If you can offer something at this price point, it increases the likelihood people will support you. Note that at $1, most of the money goes to Patreon and transaction fees, so $2 is a better amount to use if you want to earn more of the income. However, at that low level, your main goal is to get fans to sign up for something so you can upsell them to higher levels.
Some of the reward ideas at this entry-level include:
- A PDF packet with band info, lyrics, artwork, and other entertaining content
- Song downloads
- Desktop backgrounds
2. Dolphin rewards ($5-$15 a month)
Fans gravitate to this reward level, so you should make this a compelling set of rewards. Again, try to tie these Patreon rewards to your releases so your fans who enjoy the release will get something extra as well. Here are some ideas and examples based on the type of release.
Video release rewards
- Early access for video releases
- High-definition version
- Extended versions
- Extra interview content (for interview videos, always keep some juicy topics separate so you can use them as rewards and tease it in the original video)
Music release rewards
- Early access for music releases
- High-quality/lossless versions of songs
- Alternate versions (a capella, live, demo, remix)
Photo release rewards
- Extra images not in the original sets
- High-quality versions
- Behind-the-scenes photos from when you recorded a song or played a show
Live event rewards
- Early ticket access
- Special/VIP section access
- Backstage/soundcheck access
Merch release rewards
- Early access to merch
- Exclusive Patreon rewards for subscribers
These rewards are simply online options that you can provide as part of your regular process.
- Discord access (and Discord flair and emojis)
- Streaming access to see you create music or do things online
- Twitch channel access
- Premium social channel access (such as Twitter invite-only feeds or Substack extras)
You can create the above content more easily if you make it while putting together the original release. For example, you can make the high-definition exports of the songs when you are exporting the regular version. Or you can make an extended version of a song with an extra chorus before you finalize the original. Then, you can decide which reward levels will be able to see which premium content.
Also, make sure that when you release your free material, you remind people about all the premium extras you offer if they support you. Provide links to your Patreon page so they can sign up. And keep letting them know what they’re missing if they don’t sign up!
3. Musician Rewards ($10+ a month)
If you’re comfortable sharing your studio files with others, then your fans who are also musicians may pay you monthly to get access to your DAW files, sounds, loops, and more. If you choose to share this, when you release a new song, be ready to also release your raw studio files so people can make remixes and more.
Consider sharing the following for $10 to $15 a month for musicians:
- DAW files
4. Whale Rewards ($20+ a month)
Your top-level funders will often make you the most money, so you’re going to want to make your whale patrons happy. Your first ideas might be personalizations and rewards that cost you time to put together, but it’s not a good idea to make many of these. Your time is very valuable. Instead, come up with items that are rare or of higher quality. For example:
- Personalized song (singing a chorus with the patron’s name in it, writing a custom song)
- Personalized videos
- One-on-one streaming concerts
- Meetings with your top-end funders
- Q&A sessions online
- Teaching sessions
- Short-run or one-of-a-kind art
- Autographed merch
- Personalized messages on signed photos
- Expensive merch items (like neon signs, etc.)
- Music gear (signed for extra value!)
- Call-outs/announcements while performing
Sales and marketing techniques
Don’t forget these great techniques when you present your Patreon rewards. For more on pricing techniques, check out the free guide, How To Make Money With Music.
- Create upsells. Make sure your reward tiers cascade upwards and that you remind your backers what they can get (or are missing out on) at each level. Include this in every post you make at each level of rewards.
- Use plug-ins. Patreon has plug-ins for your website that can lock up pages on your site to subscribers-only if they sign-up for the right level of reward. Best of all, if they aren’t signed up at that level, the plug-in gives them a big button that asks them to subscribe and then lets them click, sign up, then jump to the content at that next level. It’s a frictionless way to get people to sign up or boost their level.
- Link rewards to your goals. Don’t forget to pitch your Patreon goals when doing your rewards. Goals are usually a set target number of sign-ups where fans get something extra if you reach them.
— — —
Make sure to keep track of your metrics so you can evaluate how well your rewards do with your fans and make adjustments over time. Creators are sometimes reluctant to change their rewards because they’re afraid of alienating those supporters who signed up to get something which you are now thinking of changing. While you shouldn’t change your rewards too often, you should be willing to adjust them at least every six months or so if you hit a plateau of support. Doing so may help convince more patrons to support you or encourage others to move up a tier.
Finally, the most important thing about your patronage efforts is to communicate with your fans. Use Patreon’s features to ask questions of your supporters, and then listen to what they are asking for. You just might find the best ideas for rewards coming from your current supporters.
Authors of the critically-acclaimed modern classic, The Indie Band Survival Guide, Billboard Magazine called Randy Chertkow and Jason Feehan “the ideal mentors for aspiring indie musicians who want to navigate an ever-changing music industry.” Their latest book, Making Money With Music (Macmillan) and free Making Money With Music Newsletter, help all musicians — from startups to pros — build a sustainable music business so you can make money in today’s tech-driven music environment.