Blindboy Boatclub is fast becoming one of the most influential content creators in Ireland today. As a podcast creator, musician, producer and author, he is gaining a strong following the world over. A recent podcast raised a question on how difficult it is to make a living as a musician in today’s world. A podcast patron asked Blindboy’s opinion on Spotify and it’s impact on musicians. Outlining the miniscule payments issued by Spotify and Youtube to artists with considerable listenership, Blindboy even highlighted his royalty check of just 36 euro, after a song of his was featured in a major film. Contrast this with the current model his podcast is operating from and the 4746 listeners actively donating to his Patreon page in exchange for his weekly ramblings and it is clear that there is a massive gap between what he earns for his music and what income he generates through his podcast. Why are we willing to fork over for podcast content, while maintaining a distance from the bands we love?
Since the heady days of Napster, music has slowly become a “service” and the public’s mentality has shifted, with the standard expectation being that music will be free. The sheer convenience of Spotify and Apple Music have prompted many fans to source the bulk of their music from these streaming sites, known for paying pittance to artists. At just $0.00397 per play, Spotify are running foul of artists the world over, while users continue to flock to the site. Apple Music fare slightly better at $0.00783 per stream but are still not paying their fair share. No wonder creators began looking into new revenue streams.
Patreon currently has 100,000 creators and over 3 million patrons supporting them through monthly donations. Founded in 2014, Patreon patrons will have donated $500 million to content creators by the end of 2019, with a total donation figure of over $1 billion since 2014. Despite these massive totals, the majority of creators have been found to earn less than $100 per month from the site and there is a distinct lack of musicians appealing to their fans on the channel. Blindboy seems to be an outlier, generating a monthly salary from his legions of fans around the world. So what is his appeal and how has he managed to convince over 4,000 people to part with their hard earned cash?
The 6 Principles of Persuasion posit that reciprocity is one of the primary factors influencing consumers. Reciprocity is the feeling that if someone gives you something, you give them something in return. The obligation to reciprocate drives many consumer decisions, and a Patreon model is no different. Creators put out weekly content and request a contribution, largely voluntary. An innate feeling of social contract and fairness will move a certain percentage of people to contribute, as requested. In Blindboy’s case, he re-iterates regularly that if people cannot afford to donate, the content is still available to them. He is concrete in his assertion that he will always have content for listeners, week in, week out, which speaks to the second principle of persuasion, consistency.
Blindboy has developed a loyal and engaged fan group who are willing to support him and his laid back approach to contributions that further bolster his fanbase. The appeal to fund Blindboy’s content is “based on soundness”. There are no special features, or additional bonus content for patrons. The fact that he has put out almost 100 episodes on a weekly basis shows his dedication and listeners have come to expect the content. This no doubts strengthens the need to reciprocate. Similarly, the fact that he has a five star rating on Itunes, is selling out live podcast gigs the world over is further Social Proof of the quality of his product. The third principle of persuasion, states that the more people that like a product, the more people will continue to consume it. But as he states himself, his thousands of plays on Spotify and Youtube are not earning him any money, despite concrete evidence that his fans are eager to support him. Could it be that the intimacy of a podcasts creates a more persuasive medium, and that the direct appeal to listeners helps to secure the support creators need? This kind of direct patronage is something that musicians could benefit hugely from but as of yet, many bands are not utilising Patreon.
As artists continue to push back against Spotify’s royalty model, Patreon is looking for a way to generate more income and restructure their current framework. Knowing what we do about music fans, many are willing to pay for music. Just look at Radiohead’s Pay What You Want experiment for the launch of their album In Rainbows in 2007. More recently, vinyl sales are the highest they’ve been in 30 years. Fans are prepared to pay for music and stars such as Amanda Palmer are proof of that. Palmer has crowdfunded entire albums, tours and more, via fan donations. Would it be in Patreon’s best interest to focus on recruiting musicians, frustrated at streaming service payouts? Patreon recently announced that investors were looking at ways to generate more profit for the company and with a new round of venture capital funding having taken place, the company are hoping to branch into new areas. Spotify face regular backlash against their royalties but with streaming services generating over 60% of revenue for the music industry, it’s not going anywhere fast. Patreon would do well to capitalise on the influence of it’s creators and coax more musicians over to the site.