Making Money on Patreon

As artists, we are lucky to live at a time with so many new tools at our disposal to help us generate revenue by simply doing what we love. Despite the widespread impression that in the age of streaming audio and video content is ‘free’, when we flip the coin there is a whole another story. Starting from advertising revenues in YouTube to crowdsourcing websites like Kickstarter, monetizing content has been possible for a long time; but today we have something that has a little bit from both worlds: Patreon.

You probably heard of Patreon many times, but were never quite sure how exactly it works. Well, first off, it was started by Pomplamoose’s Jack Conte – who you might remember from their awesome music videos on YouTube which led to worldwide huge success following, only to be followed with a plot twist: In 2014, Jack authored an article about how indie artists can easily lose money from touring – and it went absolutely viral.  So, following this interesting experience, he has created Patreon, which allows artists to share their content with their followers and monetize it.

So who is allowed on Patreon? I think it’s pretty much anyone. In fact, the range of content is very diverse. You can do anything from lessons, to tutorials, videos, animations, cooking videos, game reviews and so on… And it is not all petty cash either. Musician Jacob Collier was generating about $10,000 per month when he was making his acapella harmony videos last year. So Patreon is certainly a force to be reckoned with for an indie artist, especially if you play your cards right.

The Patreon model works kind of as a hybrid of Kickstarter – PledgeMusic and YouTube models. So to take a step back, what are these models? YouTube is based on advertisements, where you monetize videos based on the view count of the video. Crowdsourcing websites like PledgeMusic and Kickstarter are based on a different model, where an artist uses crowdsourcing to generate funds before realizing a project. It is a one time payment per fan or follower, and based on the different levels they contribute to the campaign, the artist promises to offer something special or exclusive in return.

In contrast to the Kickstarter model, in Patreon this payment is monthly, which is where it gets interesting. Since your subscribers agree to pay you a certain amount every month to have access to your content, this also brings a tier of exclusivity to the platform, where you can choose to give access to certain videos for certain people. And just like Kickstarter, you can create exclusive videos for higher paying customers while creating a tier system of different rates people pay for your channel. That way, not only you diversify your content, but also generate further revenue to your channel.

There are not any restrictions to what you can do at Patreon in terms of content, it can be anything from music videos to cooking classes and yoga lessons. One of my favorite features of Patreon is that as the artist you have to provide a rationale to why are you charging people money. This can be anything from ‘I would like go buy a better camera to shoot better videos’ or ‘I would like to acquire a better condenser microphone to make sure I can provide better audio quality on my next guitar lesson’. So the platform actually encourages better quality of content over time because people are paying to view the content you’ve created. On the other hand, the rationale doesn’t necessarily need to be equipment related rationale either. For instance, your campaign could be about raising awareness for a social cause using music videos.

So, on a larger scale, Patreon actually pushes the artists and creators to plan ahead for the “what”, “when”, “why” and “how” of releasing content, which is a really nice way for the artist to not only connect to their current followers, but also discover new followers as well.  

Have you used Patreon before? How has been your experience as a user or as an artist? Feel free to share your comments below!

Alper Tuzcu is a Berklee College of Music and Denison University alumni, and a Boston based guitarist, songwriter and producer. His debut eclectic album ‘Between 12 Waters’ featuring 8 different vocalists is available on Spotify, and you can follow him on Instagram or Twitter @alpertuzcu, or visit his website


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