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How Subscriptions Can Monetize Your Fanbase with Recurring Revenue

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By Gideon Waxman for Bandzoogle

Every artist in the music industry is looking to generate some form of consistent revenue. It’s a no-brainer, would you rather have unpredictable income or amounts that you can reasonably count on?

Undeniably though, the balance has shifted from the sale of recorded music to performing and promoting live music and merchandise, which is much less consistent. Touring is never as reliable as it seems. Although it is incredibly fulfilling and rewarding for artists, touring requires an enormous time and energy commitment, and then what happens when a global situation like COVID-19 happens and all of a sudden all of your live events are canceled?

So how can artists inject a certain amount of, well, certainty, into their earnings?

It’s not as elusive and out-of-reach as you might think. Modern services offering membership programs and subscriptions are proving to be incredibly popular amongst both artists and music fans alike. And best of all, they provide recurring, consistent revenue. But first…

What are subscription-based services?

There are various platforms that offer fan subscriptions like Bandzoogle, Bandcamp, and Patreon. They enable creative individuals to engage with their fanbase, and take full creative control, while earning monthly revenue from their fans (note: with Bandzoogle the monthly subscription revenue is commission-free).

Subscriptions allow artists to communicate directly with their fans and offer their own tiered rewards alongside a curated selection of content. There is a clear human personality on the other side of this transaction that fans can connect with personally, which is so much more powerful than monthly subscriptions involving algorithmically-generated content, like Spotify.

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So then what’s the difference between a subscription and a crowdfunding campaign?

Subscriptions and crowdfunding are not to be confused with one another. While they both generate direct revenue for an artist, the process and intentions behind each model are pretty different.

Crowdfunding projects are used to raise money for a specific project, like an album, and designed to include a deadline. Crowdfunding campaigns also often have a target figure they need to hit.

Crowdfunding campaigns and subscription-based services do both offer rewards in exchange for fans’ donations, but crowdfunding requests a one-time payment from fans, whereas subscriptions generate recurring revenue each month, or each time content is published.

Fans want to be a part of an exclusive community and to enjoy regular new content. Fans can subscribe or leave freely and they have flexibility to choose a level of reward based on a benefit structure.

Subscriptions generate predictable income for creators.

Who actually pays for monthly subscriptions? One might assume that on top of existing bills such as rent, phone/internet, and whatever other costs people’s lives generally incur, nobody would opt to add to those monthly costs — but this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Music fans want to be engaged with their favorite artists and creators. They love to feel a part of a community, and they also want to help sustain artists in order for them to continue creating the music they love. Therefore, subscriptions appeal to the most engaged music fans; and there are many reasons why it’s rewarding for them.

Is a subscription-based service right for me?

If you love creating content on a regular basis, then taking advantage of a membership business model is a great way for you to earn recurring revenue on that material—and that will help you pursue your passion full-time. 

There are lots of ways that musicians can make money in the industry right now, but it is very rare that artists can find predictable, stable, and regular income.

Creative individuals who are mostly (if not entirely) self-sufficient receive the most benefit from using membership-based platforms. If you write, produce, and mix your own music then you will be able to provide your fans with as much new content as you so please, and you can price your subscription packages or tiered rewards respectively.

Creators offer tiered reward packages that correlate to the value of perks or content offered. So, premium-level subscribers must have access to premium rewards. The highest-level rewards can include perks such as direct communication with creators and bespoke content made for those who pay.

Remember that when you launch a subscription-based service, in order to incentivize your fans to join and part ways with their cash, you must offer substantial unique rewards and content. It’s a value-for-value exchange — one that must justify expenditure out of your fan’s monthly entertainment budget.

Final thoughts

If you have an existing loyal fanbase then you are able to turn your creative passion into a thriving business that will give you more control, as well as freedom and time to live your life how you choose. If you are entirely self-sufficient with music creation, and you can produce without limitations, then it removes the need for any middlemen outright.

Using fan subscriptions will enable you to focus more on creating the best content possible, and for those who directly support you. You can communicate with your fans and enjoy meaningful interactions. In the same way, your fans will love the recognition they receive.

Speaking of subscriptions…

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Gideon Waxman is a London based drummer with over 13 years experience. Since completing a Music Degree at the University of Westminster, Gideon has been touring with metal act Familiar Spirit. You can find more of his advice over at Drum Helper, a free online resource dedicated to helping drummers achieve more from their playing.

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