Thanks for being interested in this project. It’s been more than three years since I decided to experiment with it, and I can’t tell you how important it has become to me, in terms of my art, in terms of community, and in terms of keeping me going professionally.
I was looking for a way to have a deeper connection with a smaller group of people who value what I do and want to stay in closer touch than I can on social media. A group I could share new songs-in-progress with, get feedback on new projects and ideas, and cultivate some community, unrestricted by boundaries of geography. Through a website called Patreon, I found a way to do all of that.
Patreon is a ‘place’ on the internet where folks who appreciate the work of particular artists can get to know them better, find out about new projects long before the rest of the world does, and get to know each other in a deeper way than I have found is possible on social media. It’s a subscription model, and on my Patreon page, everyone chips in whatever they choose to each month (more on that below). That financial support literally kept me solvent during the pandemic, and it continues to be an essential part of what makes my work sustainable.
About 75 folks signed up right away when I first announced it in November of 2019. Then four months later, the pandemic hit, and suddenly a whole lot of us realized how important music and community are, when both were suddenly in short supply.
As of now, about 250 folks are a part of my Patreon community. People join in for two reasons, I’ve found — one is simply that they want to support the work I’m doing in the world, through music and writing, community work, and holding space for conversations that matter. I’m deeply grateful for those folks. The other group wants to engage more with me and my music; they come often to the twice-monthly Zoom hangs, check out the songs I send out each Monday, etc. It’s been really fun to get to know some of that crowd.
I had no idea, of course, when I launched this in November of 2019, that the pandemic was on the way. Most of 2020’s scheduled events would soon be canceled, along with virtually all of my income. And I had no idea that the nation and world would soon begin actively wrestling with dismantling entrenched systems of racism at a new level, with all the tumult that requires. Here we are, and I am even more grateful for this group of good folks, and the constant support, and healthy community they have offered.
Folks who are part of the community chip in whatever amount they choose, monthly. Some do a dollar, and some do a hundred dollars (and it’s easy to change or cancel the pledge whenever you like). The average is just under $10. On my Patreon page, everyone who contributes, at whatever level, gets the same thing, so you can contribute what you want to. It’s deeply moving for me to feel like my work is valued by folks, and Patreon is providing a way for me to keep doing what I do. At this point, Patreon provides about half of my annual income.
Through the pandemic, this community has truly been what kept me afloat. Now that we seem to be emerging from it, I am as committed to Patreon as ever. Among the things I promise to Patreon folks is a song and a greeting in their inbox each Monday, to kick off the week. I also promise a NEW song every month, which has meant that the pandemic has been the most prolific time of my entire career. And we have hangouts twice a month online, in addition to occasional special events (a Patreon-only holiday show just before Christmas, for instance).
So over the last three years, I’ve been sharing stuff with the Patreon community as I create it: The Patreon peeps heard all of the songs on my new album, Still, before it came out, because they were the first folks I shared them with when I wrote them — sometimes in early, rough form. Promising my Patreon peeps a *new* song every month has meant that the time since I launched Patreon has been the most prolific period of my whole thirty-year career.
In addition to the weekly song in your inbox, and the monthly new creation, twice a month, we have a video chat with the folks who are part of Patreon. I’m getting to know this community of folks, which already includes people from New Zealand, Australia, Scotland, and Germany, as well as across the U.S., from corner to corner. When I have an in-person retreat, or do a new project, Patrons are the first folks to have a chance to sign up.
The support of this community has also made space for me to offer projects to wider audiences, like the pandemic project, Sustaining Our Spirits, where I interviewed 25 artists and asked them to share their music/photography/poetry, as well as their thoughts on making it through challenging times. When people join Patreon, they get access to every post I have ever shared.
In these days when physical CD sales are no longer much of a thing, Patreon is a platform that is allowing lots of artists to continue their work, and giving their listeners and supporters a way to support them, and to keep in touch, and keep hearing the new art musicians are creating.
It’s also really fun for me. It’s great to have a place to share things that feels like it’s a bit more private than social media, and I’m really enjoying the bonds that are beginning to form between other people in the group. Of course, I’m also grateful to folks who just use it as a way to support my work, but don’t really participate in the online events. That’s not only OK, it’s deeply affirming.
If you’re interested in knowing more, click over to Patreon to see how it works. You can change your pledge or cancel any time you like. Thanks for believing in me and my work enough to read this far. I hope to see you there soon!