​Real Artists Case History Series: Nataly Dawn, Finding Funding Through Patreon

If you’ve been a regular reader at this blog, you know that from time to time we profile an artist who has developed a livable income selling art online. Typically these artists find success selling their work through web outlets such as EBay and Facebook. In this week’s Real Artist Case History, we take a look at a completely different way in which artists can use the internet to fund their craft.

Nataly Dawn is a singer/songwriter. Together with her husband Jack Conte, she performs in the musical duo Pomplamoose as well as having her own solo career. When Dawn found herself with a nearly finished record and no label, she turned to a modern version of an age old method of funding.

Patreon was founded by Dawn’s husband and his friend and partner Sam Yam. The site is designed to allow creators to connect with patrons. Unlike a standard crowd funding campaign, Patreon allows patrons to follow a particular artist, writer, musician or other creator and provide ongoing monetary support. Similar to other crowd funding sites however, there are incentives for patrons directly from the artists. A tiered system allows patrons to “unlock” higher level incentives such as video content or new music.

Dawn had already run a successful Kickstarter campaign, raising over $100,000 to fund an album. It wasn’t long before she realized that a single campaign just wasn’t going to be enough. She needed a way to connect with patrons willing to sign on for more than a single album. Patreon was the answer.

The decision to leave her record label was fueled by the desire for creative freedom but Dawn knew that, as her career continued to grow, without a label she would need to hire people herself to help with some components. This meant the ability to have a steady source of income. Patreon gave her the confidence to take this step. Within the course of three months on Patreon, Dawn more than doubled her income from patrons.

So how did she do it? Early on she realized that it was important to get her whole vision across to her paying audience. She needed them to understand that this was a long term relationship. Unlike a Kickstarter, Nataly Dawn was asking for steady support across the arc of her blossoming career.

The first thing Dawn did was take an honest look at her rewards. She knew that she needed them to be fresh and enticing. She also knew that she needed to offer rewards at lower financial tiers that were just as exciting, if not more exciting as those at higher donation levels. The majority of fans would be more likely to kick in $1 or $5, not necessarily $100 and she needed them to know that every single dollar really does count.

Dawn offered up things like exclusive access to videos and early downloads of completed music. Fans could choose what level they wanted to give based in part on the available incentives for their given financial bracket. She even used time to her advantage. For patrons pledging before a set date, Dawn included their names on the album.

Another way Dawn ensured that patrons got the message was to…well to deliver the message. There’s no use having great incentives if no one knows about your campaign. She flooded all forms of social media with her message. She used her own Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram as well as those for her band Pomplemoose. Dawn invaded her fan’s headspace loud and often to make sure that the message was received. Her plan worked.

Dawn made sure that her social media posts were simple and engaging. Often, she included any text in the actual image (a photo of her holding a hand written sign, for example) rather than caption photos. This simple trick made her social media posts more compelling and got the message across without unnecessary extra text.

Another important detail that Dawn made sure to address was making patrons feel as though they were genuinely a part of the process. She publicly celebrated financial milestones and made clear that it was only through the support of her patrons that she was able to achieve these milestones.

It wasn’t just that her campaign was clever and well positioned, Nataly Dawn’s success on Patreon was due in large part to her unceasing tenacity. She hit her audience hard and didn’t let up. She brought them into her world and showed them every corner of the vision they were funding. She made sure they felt as though they were on the inside with her rather than just looking through the window.

A Kickstarter campaign can be a great way to fund your work. These campaigns can offer the chance to fund a project as well as familiarize you with the crowd funding process. But when it comes time to think a bit more long term, a site like Patreon just might be the answer you’ve been waiting for.

If you want more support, check out the suite of courses for artists, from Getting your art exhibited to making a great Kickstarter or Pateon campaign.

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