How creatives are using Patreon to build and support the communities they serve
Creatives are often on the hunt for an engaged and genuine community. Vincent Schwenk, Document Scotland and Yellowzine tell us how Patreon is the place encompassing all that.
Creatives, when asked, will tell you various reasons why they love what they do. It could be that they’re constantly learning new things or that they get to express themselves. One thing that comes up again and again, however, is the sense of community they have found; working with and meeting new people all the time which leads to engagement with others and useful feedback.
Social media is one way many creatives have found their place within the industry, as these platforms allow them to connect with their peers. And while retweets and the likes are all well and good, genuine interaction can never be beaten. It’s for this reason that many creatives have turned to Patreon as a place which not only provides financial support but which garners genuine conversation and exchange, building communities which are truly supportive.
Having enjoyed sharing his work on social media, Hamburg-based 3D artist Vincent Schwenk was drawn to Patreon for the community it offered first-and-foremost. “Many of my followers were asking me how I did this or that and instead of always answering each one of them, I came up with the idea to gather all my knowledge in one channel,” Vincent tells It’s Nice That.
Now, he offers three tiers with varying access to tutorials on Cinema4D, Redshift, rendering, colours, lights and composition. And while his community on Patreon is smaller than on Instagram, for example, it’s tight-knit and Vincent values the ability to be able to interact directly with his supporters. “It’s possible to chat with them and answer most of their questions,” he explains. “Also Patreon has some nice prebuilt options to connect with everyone. You can start polls to know what they want next. You can chat with them in the comments and you can also communicate directly with them.” What’s more, by asking his community what they want to see from him next, Vincent has found he’s ended up making tutorials about things he never expected “and each month I learn a lot for myself.”
This idea of asking the audience what they want from you is something photography collective Document Scotland also enjoys. Established in 2012 with the goal of photographing their country for publication and exhibition, Document Scotland started its Patreon this year “given the very difficult and uncertain economic conditions which exist at present in our industry,” says Colin McPherson, a member of the collective alongside Sophie Gerrard and Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert. And while some of its pre-existing community joined them on Patreon, the collective has been pleasantly surprised by the number of new-comers and tries to “engage these individuals and organisations in dialogue and discussions which could, in turn, shape what we offer them.”
Document Scotland does this by offering all its supporters equal access to all its content, placing the onus on the audience to decide what it is “worth” to them. “We also wanted to make the content affordable, as we recognise that in the current climate, a lot of the people we would like to share our work with have limited means or other financial commitments to the arts,” Colin adds. Being able to work in this way is something only Patreon offers Document Scotland, Colin continues. “We looked at the possibilities offered by crowdfunding specific projects but decided very quickly that Patreon as a model reflected best what we required – a long-term, regular and sustainable source of income. We didn't look much beyond what Patreon had to offer, as we could not find an equivalent competitor to it.”
For Document Scotland, Patreon is the platform that puts its audience first, in turn, shaping its content accordingly. It’s a similar story for Yellowzine, a company and community that centres artists from the African, Caribbean and Asian diaspora, for which Patreon has only furthered its ability to support its community. Before joining the platform, Yellowzine already consisted of a print magazine, a website and Instagram featuring Black and Asian artists, live exhibitions and events and an annual mentorship scheme which piloted last year. But since joining Patreon, it’s added a monthly newsletter for those who support the company through the platform.
“Through this newsletter, we offer readers our featured content, as well as a view of events and opportunities for and by African, Caribbean and Asian creatives,” Aisha Ayoade, the company’s co-founder, tells us. “Not only does this allow us to directly communicate with those that support us by providing some support in return – but we also open the doors for feedback.” It’s crucial for Yellowzine to know “what our patrons want from us,” Aisha continues, and Patreon is the way that they figure that out. Directly from that feedback, Yellowzine has updated its newsletter to now include “a self-care section of the newsletter, giving patrons exclusive access to self-care tips from creatives. Also, we’ve included more opportunities and events for our patrons because we’ve learned that this is something that they value and has proven to be an asset to our newsletter overall.”
What’s more, Patreon is part of Yellowzine’s mission to support and give back to the community it serves. “Through Patreon, we know we have a set monthly income that can be distributed across our contributors,” Aisha says. “As much as Yellowzine was born to ensure that diaspora artists are appreciated (and therefore compensated) we have to make sure we’re doing the same ourselves. In the name of practising what we preach, we signed up to Patreon to support the people that support us. It’s still something we’re working on, as we’ve only recently joined the platform, but it’s been awesome so far and we believe it’s a great step towards taking Yellow where it needs to be.”
When Vincent, Document Scotland and Yellowzine were all asked what their advice is for creatives who aren’t sure whether to join Patreon, it’s a resounding “just do it.” Through joining the platform, each has been able to support their communities which already existed in new and exciting ways, but they’ve also encountered a whole new audience which is interested and willing to support them. It’s win-win, as they say.
Vincent Schwenk (Copyright © Vincent Schwenk, 2020)