I caught up with John Pointer, a great artist from Austin, Texas (see his "Holy Trinity of Rhythm") and talked to him about his new web venture Patronism.com We also recorded a podcast which is available on Innovation Central.
Tell me about Patronism.
Patronism is a direct, pay-what-you-feel subscription tool. It empowers the people who love music to directly connect with and support the individual musicians who make the music they love, at whatever funding level the patron wishes. Musicians can use the site to crowdsource a subscription income, which allows them to make more music. They can share it with their patrons as soon as it's done, and patrons can then share it with whomever they choose.
I built the first iteration of it after having spent years only barely making a living as a relatively successful independent musician. It seemed to me that if I was having a hard time earning money from selling products like CDs, maybe there was a better way. Musicians used to ask, "Did you enjoy the show? How much will you pay for this stuff I'm selling?" Now they can also ask, "If you really enjoy what I'm doing, what can you chip in to make sure I can keep doing it?"
Is Patronism a fan club or something else?
Patronism is built from the best parts of a fan club, a funding site and a publishing platform. It takes the focus off of the individual products, and puts it squarely on the value of people and relationships rather than just buying a piece of plastic.
How do you choose the artists who participate in Patronism?
There are four ways onto the platform:
1. Direct invitation from Patronism
2. Direct invitation from an artist already using Patronism,
3. Fans can pledge to support an artist who isn't on the platform, helping us to identify who could benefit from using it
4. Artists can apply.
In every case, we decide whether they fit with the site on an individual basis, and ask of each: Is this potential relationship beneficial to everyone involved?
How is Patronism different than Facebook, Myspace, or Last.fm?
We're fundamentally different in many ways. First, none of them have quality filters -- literally anyone can create a profile and upload content to those sites. Second, none of them empower artists to connect directly with their audiences in a way that results immediately in financial support for them, and a really tight inner circle of inclusion for the patrons. Third, we are not currently a discovery engine -- patrons who visit have likely been invited by a specific artist to check out their profile. Fourth, we believe that trust is valuable, and in the future it will only become more so. In layman's terms, that means no advertising. Our focus is to foster as pure a relationship as possible between musician and music lover.
What's the future look like for Patronism?
The future is wide open. While we talk about music and patronage, what we're really doing is connecting meaningful things with the means to sustain them. We are building a future in which the value someone generates for the world can meet directly and proportionally with an income crowdsourced from those who benefit from it, and want them to keep doing it. We want people to be able to fund the change in the world they want to see, and do it in a way that's easier, specific and more fundamentally beneficial than ever before.