Soooo Patreon. It’s come up in ugly headlines again and people seem to be hating on it. The issue this time seems to be that Allegaeon think that they deserve some sort of universal basic income for being musicians. This is dumb and shows the same sort of entitled opinions that have ruined so many other bands. Not only do Allegaeon, as far as I can tell, lack the rabid fanbase of a band like Ne Obliviscaris (Although 252 patrons seem to think otherwise) but also the way in which they asked for money seemed totally inappropriate to me and countless other commentators. I’m aware I’m in some ways only adding fuel to the fire but I want to take the time to really pick this apart and give everyone a chance to kind of analyze what Patreon means and if it is truly the future of crowdfunding as we know it or if it’s a weird blip on the radar that’s going to make us all hate music and the music industry more than usual.
The fundamental issue with what Allegaeon is trying to do is that they seem to think that they are entitled to a sort of universal basic income. This is what seems to have provoked the majority of the vitriol. Furthermore – unlike Ne Obliviscaris the band isn’t offering regular content, but rather perks that essentially are saying “I’ll be your best friend” which, in the words of Strongbad, they stopped taking those at Wal Mart forever ago. Essentially – if you want to ask for money regularly from fans, and a lot of it (Allegaeon are hoping for around 300 thousand dollars a year) you can’t make it sound like you are trying to fund your lifestyle but rather your band. This is the issue that led to them failing where Ne Obliviscaris escaped largely unscathed. Sure a lot of people were pissed – but again they were just capitalizing on superfans. I don’t think there are too many people who want Allegaeon touring year round, except maybe their management.
I think there is a way to make Patreon work though and avoid a lot of the associated vitriol. Being in a band costs a hell of a lot of money. We all know this. That sucks. If you ask to help just cover those costs than I think you are going to have a lot more luck than your average beaver. It’s not about making money – it’s about creating regular content. This is an important thing to realize, Patreon isn’t really there to fund your life, if it does that’s just a fun bonus. However, it makes sense why people would want to help their band be able to buy more merchandise, fund more recordings and go on more tours. This is awesome and crucially important to stepping up and beyond in the world. You need funding – we’ve talked about this in depth, so I get why bands want to do it. You just need to be incredibly careful with phrasing so as not to come off as painfully entitled.
Patreon is more there to go out and ask for regular funding so you can put out consistent content. That’s why the model seems to work so well for podcasts and webcasts, those are things that people regularly want to check out and are willing to give a certain amount of money a week for. The fundamental issue is that with the music industry you aren’t expected to put out a record more than once every two years or so – not the weekly releases that define so many of the things that do well on the site. If you want to launch a Patreon be ready for it to require a lot of work on your part, not just fucking skypes with the band. Skyping bands is dumb – nobody is realistically going to care about that beyond a few superfans. It’s cool to service them, but that shouldn’t be the cornerstone of your fucking campaign – you should instead be trying to service them with unique merchandise and truly exciting, one of a kind ideas. I know that sounds hard, but I’m not the one asking people for $200 a month.
Also – please, please, PLEASE make sure you actually have a fanbase before launching your Patreon. People aren’t going to give a shit just because it’s on Patreon. There is nothing sadder than a tragically failed crowdfunding project, seriously. Mish Barber called out Allegaeon for their bullshit and that doesn’t mean that she’s a bitch. I’m sure if the band was working to provide regular content and not sounding so entitled (And showed a better business sense) the might have gotten a little bit more sympathy. You need to be realistic with Patreon, because it’s something that’s really easy to look douchey while doing. If you are pushing for a better tomorrow you need to make sure that today you aren’t making yourself look like a fuckup. You can’t just come off as an entitled kid asking for money, you need to give a piece by piece breakdown if you want any hope of moving forward with this nightmare.
Patreon is a tricky fucking business and no one seems to have quiet nailed it down yet. Eventually someone will land they won’t get think pieces tearing them apart all the time but rather pieces praising them. There is a future in Patreon for musicians, I legitimately believe that – just look at the Bandcamp subscription model, that process that we are, as a culture, not against regular payments to musicians, but we need to make sure that we frame it appropriately and offer enough content that it remains worth it – not just jerking yourself off in the name of making some more money so your girlfriend doesn’t try to break up with you.