Patronism Interview, Part Two: On Artist Applications, Breaking the Album Release Cycle, and Patronism’s Future – We All Make Music

Patronism Interview, Part Two: On Artist Applications, Breaking the Album Release Cycle, and Patronism’s Future

Yesterday, we gave you the inside scoop on what led Patronism founder John Pointer to the idea for his platform. In part two of our interview, we discuss Patronism’s artist application, breaking the album cycle, and his site’s future. Here’s what happened.

One of the things you have currently in the beta phase is an artist’s application. Without getting into numbers or metrics, what does an artist who’s eligible for Patronism look like?
Well, here’s the trick. I believe that any artist who is compelling will attract people to them. However, nobody knows who we are. And so somebody has to know something to get there in the first place. So the real point of that application right now is to help us work with artists who can pull their fan bases towards them already. We’ve got some numbers in mind, but it’s fairly loose. You know, an artist with 500-1500 people on their e-mail list is off to a good start. A few thousand Facebook fans, a few thousand Reverb Nation fans, but we also check to see how active they are on social media. Every single application that comes in gets looked at by me, [laughs] I’m the guy. So everyone who applies comes straight through me. And I look and see where they are on social media, I try and apply my A&R ears a little bit, where I look and try to find out if they’re doing something compelling. That doesn’t mean I have to like their music, but if they are doing something compelling and they can leverage their social networks, and they have a couple thousand fans, that’s where this critical mass happens, where one segment of their fans will become patrons.

Now, it’s not magic, and there are exceptions to that rule, clearly. And this is not about numbers, this is about music. But there are artists whose music I really love, but they just don’t have any reach at all. And then I give them constructive feedback, where I explain that this platform requires you to do all the work to pull people toward it, because they don’t know who we are. And so, until they know who we are, you’re going to have to do all the pulling. And that means go out and build your social network, build your e-mail list. Or it means one house concert at a time, one big concert at a time to let people know there’s this new way of supporting music that benefits everybody.
Patronism subscribers are supposed to get a steady stream of content from their artist(s) of choice, and this essentially requires artists to think about releasing things frequently rather than just sticking with the two year album cycle. What kinds of input or advice do you give artists as far as strategizing and generating that content?
We’ve got a five page quick start guide, and a full, nearly 40-page manual that really explores all the ways you can engage more meaningfully with your patrons. And that involves things like, “You can create a live stream of your concerts, or a live chat, that’s easy.” You can import calendars, because you don’t want you to have to rebuild your calendar on every single site. You can import and password protect videos, so suddenly you’ve got a way to monetize videos in a way you couldn’t before, because you can pull them behind this paywall and the only people that see them are patrons. What patrons tend to look for is, [one] “What are they doing with their money” and two, “What is the outcome of the patronage.” So it’s really on the artist to create something compelling in there. And it’s on them to maybe enrich it more fully than what you’d get on a CD.

The cool thing is, it’s really only limited by their imaginations. One of our guys is basically creating his own “behind the music” story, and he’s had a career for 25, 30 years. So there’s a ton of stories. He’s writing a new story about each song, so you get the storyteller element. He’s looking at it as, “This is a legacy I can leave my daughter, so she can filter through my career and see what her father did.” And that’s how he’s treating his patrons. He’s treating them as though they were his family.

There’s another guy who’s doing a similar thing, except he’s got interviews with Andy Johns and him sitting poolside talking to the guy who produced the Rolling Stones. And you can’t share that on a CD or a DVD, because it’s evolving.

I also love that you guys are selling the opportunity to become a patron of Patronism. Where did that come from?

I think it just came from us wanting to put our money where our mouth is. If we’re telling artists, “Look, you can generate a salary for yourself,” why don’t we just practice what we preach? Then the onus is on us to create something valuable for people. And so on our side, I’m blogging about some of the artists that we’ve signed and others that aren’t yet eligible for the platform, but are still awesome, like, “Listen to this guy from Portugal! He’s only got 50 people on his e-mail list, but damn! Listen to the production on this! It’s crazy!”

I might also write about conferences we’ve attended, or how we just got back from meeting with our lawyer, and taking the fans inside of what it’s like to be launching a start-up and funding this movement. I’ve also sent out a request saying, “If you’re interested in being a featured artist, send us one of your tracks, and in legalese you’ll grant us a license to put the song in a free compilation only available to our members. And each song will include a link back to your own patron area, and that’s how you get exposure to a lot of the artists in one place.”

And you get interviews, and a deeper understanding of what everybody’s doing. I’ve been doing them really quick and tidy over e-mail, but what I want to start doing is sitting down with people and a camera and talk to these artists so people can see one artist interview another about the creative process.

Of course, I’m an artist, and I’m compulsively creative. That’s my job. In my own patron area, I’ll be doing some blend of what it’s like to run the business, but mostly it’s going to be about my music. And the patrons of Patronism will get a high-powered magnifying glass on what it’s like to be in a startup, the artists we’re working with, thoughts on the industry, thoughts on the model, all those kinds of things that are happening all the time within the programming walls ofhe site that no one ever gets a chance to see. We’re building our own documentary movies.

At the very least, if it doesn’t save the music industry, it may save music, using the same technology that destroyed the current industry.

Fundamentally, what you’re selling is more of an idea than a service. Are you worried, down the line, about maybe a label discovering Patronism and saying, “Gee, what a great idea. We could totally do this ourselves?”
They totally could, but they’d have to spend a lot of manpower and hours doing it, and they have a problem that we don’t. They have to serve an artist’s entire fan-base. We just have to serve the patrons. And like I said, patronage is about what you’re doing with your money. Consumption is about what you’re getting for your money. So then, creating a throttle valve on how to do that paradigm shift where you’re still catering to consumers, but you’ve also got this pay-what-you-want thing going on, because really only 20-40% of your audience in any given moment is going to become a patron of yours and give you money every month.

We’re seeing 20% will do it consistently, but we’ve also found that up to 40% will register if you’re really doing it correctly. So then the other 60-80% of your fan-base still wants to give a little and get as much as possible. So those are the folks that will go over to a Napster service or a Rhapsody, where they’ll pay 7 bucks or whatever and get access to that entire catalog. But here’s the cool thing. Everyone is in that 20th percentile for someone. There’s some band you really love, that sings the song you couldn’t sing yourself, that says the words you couldn’t even formulate without their help, that moves your body in a way it couldn’t without those drums, you know. Everybody feels moved by some music, and in that environment, those are the people we specialize in. The bottom line is really that we’re talking, in the much longer term, we’re talking about music and subscription patronage. Which is not a new concept. We just happen to have reinvented it in a really frictionless way for the digital age.