201114 / by Simeon Smith

Last night I went out, had some curry, won a pub quiz, went home and watched a video of that Jack Conte guy of off the YouTubes talking about art, and promoting his Patreon project at an XOXO conference. He used some dirty words like “Content Creator” (I’m not content creator, I’m a free man!) and monetisation (which he obviously spelt wrong, being of the American persuasion), but he’s a generally inspiring guy to listen to so I then spent the next hour and a half (in the early hours of the morning) fantasising about starting my own Patreon page, and it being successful.

I signed up, and filled in the very specific boxes. I watched the “How to make your page successful” videos. I carefully picked and edited a photo of my actual real face (rarely seen in conjunction with my art) because that is What Works. I wrote a little bio that was neither overly chatty nor overly formal and didn’t make me sound like a douche. I set myself some “Funding Goals” and dreamt up some “Fan Rewards”. I mean there’s a lot to like about Patreon, and none of my concerns over disingenuous Kickstarter campaigns really apply to it. But then I had A REALISATION.

Jack’s little inspirational talk thingy at XOXO stated that not making money from music is fine, if you only want to do it once. But to continue spending time and effort on music, you will eventually need money. So far, so good, and the money I spend making music is currently coming from same pot I feed my kids and pay the mortgage from, so yeah, that’s kind of a problem I need to address.

The talk also contained the formula “f(music)=money”. He said that in the past “YouTube(music)=money” and that now, for him at least,  “Patreon(music)=money”. But I think this is that this is kinda flawed in the whole “correlation does not imply causation” way. Jack’s little formula could contain many successful music service and seem to be true (BBC(music)=money). But… what’s the common ground here? Where does the money actually come from? 


And I should say that Jack also touches on this, but at that time my sleep-deprived brain was full of the fluffy dreams of Patreon-fuelled world domination.

This week I casually went to a lunch event with a Billionaire. His advice? If you ain’t got a customer, you ain’t got a business. For artists I suppose this equates to: if you ain’t got an audience, don’t print the t-shirts.

So let’s say I go on the Twitter and promote my brand spanking new Patreon page to my totally whopping and amazing 285 followers. To my 90 SoundCloud followers. To my 316 Facebook friends. To my 93 Instagram followers. To my bros on the Monome forums. To my actual friends when I meet up for beers or coffees (Okay, I only put coffees because I don’t want to sound like an alcoholic. It’s usually beers). And, you know, I might get some retweets and friendly little reposts on the tinterwebs, but…. do any of these people value my music enough to give me a couple of dollars, the equivalent of buying me a coffee (beer), every time I release a track? Do people engage with my art enough to care? Is my music marketable? Is it good enough? Are these questions I really want the answers to?

I know there’s one way to find out.


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