Last night I was roaming the internet again, discovering new music. We live in a wonderful time where exposure to new music is not limited to the physical media that our friends or relatives own, or what the local record store stocks.
But it’s a time of adjustment for artists, where the old model of getting a deal with a record label and waiting for them to market and sell on the musician’s behalf before passing on the proceeds less hefty commission is no longer good enough. Sales of physical media are plummeting, and sales of downloads are not always filling the gap.
Most musicians today sell their music themselves, but there are multiple ways to go about this, and not everyone is getting it right. A while ago I wanted to buy Nick Cave’s 2013 release, Push the Sky Away. There was no download available from his site. So, instead of Nick Cave getting all the revenue, I ended up buying it from a download site where I’m not sure he got to see much, if any, of the revenue. I checked back now to see whether this had changed, but the site’s shop is down. C’mon Nick, get it together!
Nick Cave is an old, established musician, and probably well-paid by his record label. While most music distribution companies no longer add DRM, an attempt to prevent piracy that just ended up being abusive towards music fans who had made a legal purchase, they still restrict music distribution in other ways, limiting its availability by geographic region for example.
Understandably, most younger musicians are just connecting straight with their fans, promoting themselves, and selling directly from their websites.
Patreon.com is a website that’s become popular very quickly. Its model gives fans the opportunity to directly support artists (not just musicians) by pledging either a monthly amount, or an amount for each new release. It’s very exciting for artists, as it ensures a regular, predictable income. As the name suggests, it models the idea of an artist having a patron, but instead of relying on a single wealthy patron, a legion of fans making small contributions allow the artist the same freedom to focus on their art.
I’ve been wanting to support artists on Patreon for a while. About a year ago they announced that they were looking into accepting Bitcoin, which would be wonderful. Credit card companies and banks take huge chunks of each transaction, and along with Patreon’s share, the artists only get around 90% of the donations. Of course that far beats the percentage a record company would pass on, but I would prefer to see even more of the donation go to the artist.
I used to run a local and organic food co-op, and one of the main reasons we never implemented credit card transactions was that I could never fully accept the idea of a transaction between a small, local farmer, and a buyer supporting the local farmer, both on the tip of Africa, enriching a giant multinational corporation. None of the money comes back, and it’s a giant vacuum cleaner sucking money from Africa to the USA.
Patreon don’t look they’ve made progress implementing bitcoin, and the main difficulty is probably the lack of automated bitcoin payments. The artists would probably get less as many patrons forget to pay each month. For now, credit cards are probably still the best way to go.
So, I’ve decided to try an experiment, and use Patreon to support 30 artists in 30 days. Each pledge will for now be very small, but let’s see how it goes.
#1 – Nate Maingard (music, guitar & vocals)
#2 – Amanda Palmer (music etc.)
#3 – Cyra Morgan (music, acoustic vocals)
#4 – Julia Nunes (music, guitar & vocals)
#5 – Dan Newbie (music videos)
#6 – George Aguirre (comics)
#7 – Okori (comics)
#8 – Walt Ribeiro (classical music)
#9 – TimH (film)
#10 – Peter Yuen (animal photography)
#11 – Peter C Blanchard (nature photography)
#12 – The Dark Side (electronic music)
#13 – Raina Rose (music, folk/country)
#14 – James O’Deorain (fractal art & photography)
#15 – Caitlin de Ville (music, electric violin)
#16 – Danielle Ate the Sandwich (music, vocals, guitar, ukulele)
#17 – Nika Harper (writing, videos)
#18 – Scott Bradlee Postmodern Jukebox (music)
#19 – Lauren O’Connell (music, vocals & guitar)
#20 – Ana Free (music, vocals & guitar)
#21 – Sean Osborn (music, clarinettist & composer)
#22 – David Sides (music, piano covers)
#23 – Cyrille Aimee (music, jazz improvisation vocals)
#24 – Phil J (music, drums)
#25 – Tony Lucca (music, vocals)
#26 – Christopher Bill (music, trombone)
#27 – Walk off the Earth (music, alternative, ska band)
#28 – Taylor Davis (music, violinst)
#29 – Unwoman (music, cellist, vocals)
#30 – Gabby Young (music, vocals, gypsy, folk, rock and jazz)