Patreon has become this buzzword in the artistic and creative community that everyone thinks they should have one, but they don’t really understand what’s involved with it. On today’s podcast, Bree Noble brings on music career coach and podcast host Katie Zaccardi to show us how to launch Patreon the right way. Katie has helped tons of musicians, music teachers, and music coaches grow their careers and their bank accounts while ditching overwhelm, self-doubt, and burnout for good. Launch your Patreon in a way that’s going to make you happy income-wise. Tune in to hear Katie’s tips.
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Monetizing Your Fanbase By Launching A Successful Patreon With Katie Zaccardi
I am here with Katie Zaccardi and I’m excited to talk about Patreon. This is something that comes up a lot with my students. It’s like this buzz word around. Everyone thinks they should have a Patreon, but they don’t understand what is involved with it. They are always feeling this FOMO, “I should be doing Patreon, but I don’t know what is involved.” I wanted to bring Katie on because she does teach about how to launch your Patreon, and how to do it the right way. I want to make sure that you have the tools to be doing this the right way the first time.
I can tell you from working with students that have started a Patreon, but they have only gotten 3 or 4 people in their Patreon, then the Patreon is just total stress. They have made all these promises, and then they have to deliver them four people where they’re making a very small amount of income. It becomes this resentful situation. Let’s get into how to be able to launch your Patreon in a way that’s going to make you happy income-wise, and in a way where you and your fans are doing this together. Before we do that, I’ve had Katie on the show before, but I just want her to give you a little intro about what she teaches and her musical background and all that, then we’ll start talking about Patreon.
Thank you, Bree for having me on again. The short story of who I am and how I got here, I’ve been a musician my whole life, studying music business at NYU, where I also did a trillion internships, tried to figure out what I wanted to do in the industry, came out of college knowing that I wanted to start my own business, but didn’t have an idea of what to do. I ended up working in music publishing while also helping to grow the nonprofit WomenCrush Music. I got my hand in the corporate side and the more entrepreneurial side at the same time. Fast-forward, I ended up quitting my jobs, because I have a lot of jobs at that point, including working full-time and being an artist, and I started a coaching business.
When I started coaching, I was focused on wellness for musicians. Although the truth was that even though that was the focus, in my private client calls, we always did strategy work, whether it was release planning, Patreon planning, or anything like that. A lot of my clients at the time also had coaching business or were starting coaching businesses or teaching businesses. It became an all encompassing coaching session. I decided to make the official pivot and focus on strategy. I still take a very holistic approach. I’m very mindful of wellness and mindset in my strategy coaching. My mission is to help women in music grow their multifaceted music businesses, whether they are musicians, coaches, teachers, or maybe a little bit of all three, and help them get wealthy.
You’ve made a pivot, but in a way you haven’t because the wellness, the self-care, and all that needs to be a part of everything we do. As I said in the beginning about your Patreon, you don’t want it to be this stressor or this albatross around your neck. It’s stressing you out and making you feel annoyed. That’s part of keeping ourselves well-balanced as artists and all that. Before we get into the strategy of how to do this right, I want you to go over on what are the common mistakes that artists make, so that the people that are reading this can feel, “I’m not the only one that did this when I launch my Patreon.”
The biggest overall mistake is people think that launching a Patreon is this quick and simple thing. I’m going to come up with the idea. I’m going to do it. I’m going to go ahead, plus the step of setting it up, announced it to the world, and I’m done. The biggest mistake right off the bat is that is not true. It is a longer process. Once we start to look at that longer process, there are a couple mistakes that come up throughout. One of the first ones is in the creation process of the Patreon. I see a lot of musicians coming up with the ideas, the perks, the deliverables on their end and not taking the time to validate the offer with their audience, and asking their audience what they want. When they go to launch it and sell it, they don’t get the results, and they’re wondering why.
Moving on from the next stage, after the offer creation is the launch and the pre-launch. The biggest mistake I see there is not doing a pre-launch and not taking the time to warm up their audience. Maybe they validated the idea, and they ask their audience what they wanted, but then they pushed it out there without taking time to ramp up to the launch and to the announcement, and get their audience ready to opt-in and buy. There is a lot of mistakes we can talk about selling. Generally speaking, I see a lot of musicians, and I’m sure you’ve seen this a ton too, Bree, of artists who slide into the DMs of people that they rarely talked to and being like, “Listen to my music or buy my thing.” It’s this sleazy, gross sales strategy that’s not based on connection. You don’t want to go through this whole launching process and do that.
I was doing an interview with someone about it using Instagram for promoting your music. We were talking about the same thing, about how I get all these DMs all the time like, “Check out my track and share it.” Why would I do that? First of all, I don’t know who you are. It’s so bad.
I could talk about that for hours on end. Every day I could wake up and talk about that because for some reason, it never stops. Even if it’s not as bad as someone cold jamming a bunch of random people like, “Listen to my Spotify,” there’s still versions that are better but still bad of people that you haven’t talked to at all, or even talk to recently that you’re reaching out to with a big ask from them. You can’t expect someone to do something for you, let alone pay for something if you don’t have a relationship with them, and if they don’t have any reason to buy that thing that’s going to serve them.
Let me add a mistake here. One of the probably bigger ones is the initial approach of the Patreon, which is a lot of artists come at it thinking, “This is for me. This is a way for me to make money. This is a way for me to do this.” The truth is if you take that approach, especially when it comes to sales, your audience is not going to vibe with it. They needed to know what’s in it for them, how it serves them, and why they would want to join.You can't expect someone to do something for you, let alone pay for something, if you don't have a relationship with them. Click To Tweet
This is the same lesson about anything that you’re launching, and if you guys have been following this show, you’ve known me talking about this in relation to releases. It’s the same thing. You can’t all of a sudden come out with a single and expect people to jump on board, and start sharing it with everyone, and talking about how awesome it is when you haven’t done anything with them in the previous three months. It’s the same thing of knowing that launching is a long game. Whatever it is you’re launching, as an artist, you’re going to want to launch lots of things. Maybe you’re going to start teaching voice or instruments. You’re going to do a big release party or a concert or something. There’s always something you’re going to launch. You can’t have your engagement with your fans go up and down, and up and down. It’s only up on the launches. You’ve got to have this even and these little hills when you’re launching, but not these wild data points.
“Buy my thing,” and then I’m disappearing forever. Nobody wants to buy your thing if they haven’t spent months and months engaging with you, and enjoying what you have to offer for free.
I’ve been in business doing this for six years. There are some people that have been following me for 4, 5 years, and then they joined my Academy or then they buy my course. You can’t assume that they’re going to be jumping on it right away. That’s such a good point. Those are the things that we don’t want you to do wrong. If you’ve done those in the past, you can always do a relaunch of your Patreon and do it correctly this time. What’s the game plan at a high level that you give people when you’re teaching? I know you did a challenge about launching or relaunching your Patreon. What’s the high-level that you give them.
First of all, it’s such a good point that even if you have a Patreon already, if you’re reading this and you’re like, “I do not have the results that I want. I have four people,” if four people is your goal, we’re not judging, but if four people make you feel like you’re doing a lot of work for nothing, then that’s a problem. We don’t want you to be feeling like you’re slaving over your Patreon to make $10 a month. That’s not worth your time and energy exchange. Whether you’re thinking about launching a Patreon or you’ve launched one already and it didn’t go well, or you simply want to give it another push, this is going to be relevant for you. When it comes to launching with Patreon, the first announcement is an important one, but it’s not the only one. It doesn’t mean that you’re done.
Looking at it at a very high level, we have three phases of the launch. The first phase is offer creation. The second phase is the pre-launch and prep, audience warm-up phase. The third phase is the actual launch phase. If you’ll notice, a lot of people think, “Create the offer and then put it out there.” When I say launch, they’re thinking it’s about doing the work, promoting it, and selling. The reality is there are two important phases that come before the actual work of launching. In that offer creation phase, luckily with Patreon, it’s relatively simple because you’re working within the structures of that program. You’re figuring out what are your perks and your tiers.
In my program Out to Launch, we talk about how to figure that out, how to make sure that your tiers are priced appropriately, and the perks that you’re offering are something that your audience wants. As I alluded to earlier, market research is an important part of the step that a lot of artists skip over because I don’t think market research is something that we talk about often in a music, especially when it comes to creating music.
I think that as musicians we want to be polished. We want to get in front of our audience and be like “This is what I have.” We feel uncomfortable asking for their input. At least that’s what I’ve seen. I’ve seen that tendency in musicians like, “I want to present myself as all put together.” If I asked them what they want, that means I haven’t thought it through and come up with the perfect thing.
That totally makes sense. I can definitely talk to that. What could also go along with that is the idea that if you’ve only up until this point created music, you’re not necessarily going to be asking feedback from your audience around like, “How do you like this?”
That’s such a good point. Your audience is not going to tell you, “That’s a good melody.” You’ll get their input later, but they’re not going to be coming in on the middle of the process.
For Patreon, it makes sense that if you’re using that same model that you would be like, “I’m going to create it. I’m going to put it out there. If they don’t like it, then I’ll take it back, and then I’ll redo it or whatever.” You don’t have to do that. There’s also no shame or no unprofessionalism by doing your market research upfront. It is important how you go about it. There are a couple of different ways that you can do that, whether it’s more casual on Instagram, or what I recommend is getting on some calls with fans or potential clients if you’re a coach who’s running a Patreon or a program. The market research phase is one that you don’t want to skip. I know that most people do skip it because they either don’t know they should, or it feels uncomfortable.
They pretend and talk themselves out of it that they don’t need it. A lot of your problems if you’re Patreon is not selling is probably coming from the fact that your audience doesn’t resonate with the content that is in it. They don’t want it. They don’t think they want it or need it. They don’t see what they are going to get from it. The other thing is that market research provides a lot of valuable insight into how you can write good sales copy and educational posts for your audience by finding out what do they want.
What words do they use? What are they struggling with? What are their desires? Why do they like your music or your platform? What are the themes that go beyond the music and the sound that resonates with them and hits home? That’s not just necessary for creating your offer. We can talk about how I make fun of the basic Patreon offer like, “You get a live stream and a welcome note.” Nobody wants that, but it’s also important for your content because if you can use their words in your content, they’re going to know you’re speaking to them. They’re going to be much more likely to listen.
The thing that I’ve heard from some people is sometimes when they do the market research, it’s something so unexpected and simple that they want like, “I want a shout out on Instagram stories once a month from you.” It’s something that you would never think would be valuable, they think is valuable. That’s where it’s super useful. I also think that the market research can be a little uncomfortable if you’ve gotten in that headspace of having this invisible wall between you and your audience. I know I talk about this in some of my welcome emails when people join my email list because I got into this early on where I was up on the stage, and they’re down there. You don’t mean to think that way. Sometimes you’re like, “Why would I converse with them on a regular level? I’m the performer and they’re the fan.” We need to get out of that headspace. They are people and we are people. That’s very egoic and it’s terrible to realize you’re doing it because sometimes it’s subconscious.
I get it. You want to be the rockstar. You want to be the person who people are looking up to. In some ways you do want to create a sense of authority where people do see you as the authority, whether you’re the coach authority, or you’re the teacher who’s an authority, or you’re the musician. People take you legit and see you as a serious musician. That doesn’t mean that you’re not listening to your audience or connecting with your audience as to what they want from you.One of the best reasons to do a Patreon is so that people who want to connect with you and support you have the opportunity to do so. Click To Tweet
It’s a totally fine line. I wanted to mention that because I know that early on in my career, that was something that I got into. I was glad that I eventually realized I was doing that because it can turn people off.
One of the best reasons to do a Patreon is so that people who want to connect with you and support you have the opportunity to do so. They are also going to want to do it in terms that work with them. It is that fine line where you want to give them the opportunity while keeping in integrity with any boundaries that you have. That’s why you get to decide what your perks are. You get to decide what you’re going to do based on the feedback of your audience and what makes sense. You’re also allowing a door in for your audience to get something out of it. It’s not just about, “Pay me for this thing.” Your audience wants to know that they’re involved, they’re in a community, or they’re getting something that they’re desiring, and you’re also getting something out of it.
We talked about the market research and figuring out your offer. What do we need to do in the pre-launch to build it up? Do you talk about it in the pre-launch or do you get mysterious?
The pre-launch consists of two things, the outward pre-launch and the inward. Behind the scenes, you’re going to be doing the work to prep for your actual launch, prepping the Patreon, making sure your contents on point, doing all of that planning behind the scenes. Outwardly, you’re going to be warming up your audience. What that means is that you are teasing them. You’re not going to hard pitch it like, “Here’s a Patreon, it’s open for enrollment, go join now.” You’re going to be sharing with them that something is coming. You’re going to be putting content out that gets them intrigued and involved in wanting more and alluding to the fact that you can do what I called bread crumbing.
It’s a term that a lot of coaches use where you might very well say, “My Patreon is coming. Are you excited?” It’s not out yet. Think of it like this. You’re getting them to a point where they are on the edge of their seats, waiting to join. They know it’s coming. They know how this is going to benefit them. They know why they want to join at this point. When you launch, they are ready to opt-in and you’re not having to convince them, or do the work that should have been done during the pre-launch phase during your launch in terms of educating them as to what Patreon itself even is.
Keep in mind, some of your fans might not even know what Patreon itself is. During the warmup phase, you’re going to be educating them on things like that. Depending on what your perks are, it’s going to look different. Let’s say your platform is very community-based, or maybe you have a strong message of mental health. You’re going to be taking these themes and implementing that into your content, so that you can get your audience ready to join a community that’s focused on mental health and healing through music or whatever it might be.
Do you recommend the Patreon platform itself for doing this? I know we’ve started using Patreon as this general term for a way for fans to support you. Are there other platforms that you think are just as good? Do you think Patreon is designed for this, it’s perfect for it, it’s easy, just use it?
I do think that Patreon has a solid setup and some name recognition behind it. I’ve had a few clients who have created their own platforms, their own membership sites, but you need a developer to do that. You need knowledge of computers or being able to manage that behind the scenes. I personally think that Patreon gets the job done. I don’t have any complaints with it. Your audience might not know what it is, but the truth is that even if you are doing a membership site, they’re going to have to log into a platform anyway, and get used to that platform regardless of what it is. Even if you have to take a little bit of time to warm them up to this platform itself, I like Patreon. It’s pretty well organized.
The other option that I would look into if you’re able to get a web developer, or you are one and you’re savvy at that, you certainly could create your own platform that works for you. You could use a combination of things. I use Kajabi for my courses. That’s a good way to have a portal. If you wanted to have a portal of videos and a Facebook group or something like that, you could makeshift your own thing, or Discord channel or a Slack channel that goes along with it. There are no rules saying that you have to stay within the Patreon platform. Even those things could be a perk of your Patreon if you just wanted to host in Patreon.
We do have our own Patreon to support our free group on Facebook and all that stuff. A shout out to our friends, they’ve set it up. If you have your website on, you can do a subscription model and have stuff that’s behind a paywall. That’s another option too, which is great. Patreon is made for that. It’s got all the tiers. What’s cool about it is in the background. You can send special emails, messages to people that are at different levels so they get access. For us, if you’re at a certain level, you get to submit music to Women of Substance for free. We can give them access to that special Dropbox and things like that.
In that sense, it keeps it organized for you. If you want to create your own organizational system or you prefer to work without the confines of Patreon, I totally get it. Thinking about the money, some people might not want to do Patreon because they take a cut. If you have to build out your platform, that’s going to cost money too. Even if you decide to go with Kajabi for hosting stuff or another platform for storing videos or whatever, it’s still going to cost you money. It was not a reason to leave.
Patreon is an all-in-one solution, which is great. It does have the ability for them to communicate with you in the background and all that stuff. They take 10% or something, but it’s totally worth it because I don’t have to think about it. It’s just an amount of money once a month.
Work it into your prices. If that 10% is freaking you out, bump your price up a little bit so that you can account for the cut. There’s no one saying you can’t do that.
We’ve set it up. We’ve warmed people up. Now, what does the launch look like?
The launch is going to be what you probably think of when I say launch. As you would when you’re releasing music, you make the announcement, you do the thing, you give it a push, hopefully at least. If you’re following Bree’s show by now, you should know how to do this for music. Now we’re going to adapt it to Patreon. We’re going to do that same push over a certain period of time so that you’re not endlessly going. With an album, it can feel that way. You’re endlessly promoting it. You don’t know when to end. When we’re launching your Patreon or program, we’re going to make sure that you pick a timeframe. Depending on if it’s your first launch or a relaunch, you can do different things. I usually recommend for a launch period, adding some bonus or incentive that goes along with it so that people feel compelled to join.
I was going to ask that. Is there a way to insert urgency in here?
This is where it gets a little funky with Patreon. If you were talking about a course like you or I would launch a course, we might have a start and end date of enrollment. Especially if it’s a group coaching or one-on-one, you have to start at this point, it’s a live coaching. It doesn’t go forever. With a Patreon, you could close it or keep it a secret, but most likely you’re going to have it open so that people can join at any point. The thing though is that people need urgency to join.
If it’s open forever and there’s no pressure or no reason to join at a specific time, it leaves people to be like, “Maybe I’ll do that. Maybe I won’t. I forgot. I’ll do it next week.” They never take action. You want to compel people to take action. Having a specific time period where you are actively pushing it, and within that time period, adding some bonuses or incentives is going to be helpful. With Patreon, a couple of things I have done with my clients before, this was still a relaunch because she had done a push before we worked together. I don’t even know. Maybe there were a couple of people in there, her parents and one other person or something.
We treated it like it was a new launch. We did a founding members discount where a certain number of people who are the founding members can get in and lock it in at a lower price for her top two tiers. It was 50% off her top two tiers for ten people only. That gave people incentive to join at that bonus, or at that discounted price. An effective thing to do is adding a bonus, a special concert, a special giveaway, or something unique that you can offer to people who joined during that specific timeframe to incentivize people to do it.
I’ve also chatted with clients and I have a couple of clients who have launches coming up that they’re going to be integrating with releases, either a music video release or a single release, and using that as an extra push for giving their audience incentive of extra behind the scenes for that, a kickoff party, or a listening party that only these people get. It’s thinking about what’s the broader picture of your business that’s going on, or if it is just focused on Patreon. What is something within that platform and within your scope that you can give a unique bonus that’s going to incentivize people to act during this timeframe?
We’re both course creators. We’re trying to teach musicians to think creators because we’ve been launching this for a while now. With releases, with Patreon, and all that, it’s this launch mindset of you’ve got to get people excited. You launch it and you have a deadline of some kind. It’s not something that musicians necessarily do naturally. They haven’t been studying this stuff like we have. It’s great how you walk them through the whole process. Is there anything else that we haven’t covered with the Patreon process? I know one thing down the road when you’re doing Patreon, you do have to pay attention to people that fall off. They don’t pay and stuff like that. There’s administrative stuff that goes on.
Once your Patreon is active and launched and continuing to grow, you want to make sure that you’re keeping a pulse on your audience as you go. If somebody is not paying, or somebody is being disruptive, or if your community is losing steam, that’s a point where you’re going to want to go in and actively do another round of market research, or maybe add an incentive for your patrons. If it’s a billing issue, that’s something you want to make sure you have set up within your team to follow up and reach out, and also have a strong policy upfront of if you don’t pay, you get kicked out. You can’t stay in without a thing.
If you’re feeling like you’re losing steam or you want to reinvigorate it, you can repeat this strategy that I teach inside of my program Out to Launch that we’ve gone over briefly here endlessly. You don’t want to do it every two weeks, but you can take 2 or 4, maybe a couple more than that, depending on how you spread it out, periods throughout the year once every quarter. Do a hard launch of your Patreon to get another wave of people in. You might have people join you here and there, but that’s going to help to keep your audience hyped up, adding new people, adding new things, and re-energizing. It should be helpful.
It’s important to look at some promotional calendar throughout the year for your music. Put that in maybe once a quarter, and the same thing with like, “I’m going to mix this in.” Maybe I’m going to release a single once a quarter or whatever, and have different focuses. You know what you’re promoting when, and you’re not just scrambling like, “I need to launch this again. My membership is going down in my Patreon.”
The reason that people make these mistakes in the first place usually comes down to scarcity. It’s either scarcity of time or money. It’s usually a scarcity of time because it’s a scarcity of money. People want to get money and they want to get it fast. They look at their Patreon or they look at their bank account and they say, “I feel broke. Now I have to rush, push this out here, and make it work and make it happen.” It doesn’t work that way. If you force yourself to do something super quickly, that does not mean it’s going to be successful. We know time is money. I see artists all the time wasting money by wasting time trying to figure it out by themselves, or trying to rush something out in order to get a quick buck, and then not getting it. They have to go back and figure out what they did wrong and redo the whole process in order to get results.People need urgency to join. If it’s open forever and there's no pressure, it leaves people to never actually take action. Click To Tweet
If you’re approaching it with that scarcity mindset, you’re amplifying that out and not realizing it, but it’s clear. You’re not attracting people. You’re giving off this vibe of “I need this now.”
It’s very much what I said at the beginning like, “I need you to support me for my music.” How many times? I can guarantee every single person here at some point has seen a post from a fellow musician saying, “I would love for you to support me and my music career.” That does not work. Usually, when people say that, it’s not necessarily coming from an energy of scarcity, but people will perceive it that way. I want to believe that everyone has a good heart, but everyone also wants to do what they want to do with their bank account and with their money. They might want to support you, but that might not be enough of a reason for them to put money in it. You need to not only give them a reason but also make sure that you’re not coming from a place of desperation and push and forcing it because that’s not going to work.
I believe that success is attractive. If you come at it from what you’re going to give them, what you’re excited about all these benefits that you can’t wait to share with your community. If you come at it in that way and talk about the people in your community that have already benefited from that, that’s the way to attract people. It’s not the “I need you to support me” vibe.
“Times are hard, please support musicians.” We know times are hard. We know musicians need support, but that’s not enough. I know it sounds harsh, but it’s the brutal honest truth that you need to know if you want to be successful.
I’m glad that we talked about that because I know you’re super big on mindset and everything. We’re both on the same page about that. I’m glad we brought this up. This has been awesome. Thank you so much for giving us this whole blueprint. It’s very high level. If you work with Katie, you’re going to get that hand-holding that you need to do it, which is the key. It’s always like, “I get the strategy, but then how do I make sure I do it?”
That implementation and accountability is a huge missing piece. There’s a lot of free info out there, but that’s not getting you the results that you’re desiring. At this point, it’s about taking action and being held accountable for it.
If they want more of that, how do they get in touch with you? Especially, I know you’re active on Instagram.
You can catch me on Instagram @KatieZaccardi, shoot me a DM if you read this episode and let’s chat. As of this interview, I am launching my program Out to Launch, which walks you through launching a program. It’s the whole process we talked about with hands-on support, strategy, and everything that you need to have a sold-out launch. I don’t know if it’s still going to be open for enrollment by the time this goes out, but you can definitely DM me and ask me about it anyway. Worst comes to worst, we’ll get you on the wait list for next time. Those are the two big things going on. You can always head to my website KatieZaccardi.com for more information. My podcast is the Out to Be Podcast, which we have episodes each week.
Definitely go and check out that podcast. It’s fantastic. Thank you so much, Katie. I appreciate all of your knowledge and experience that you shared with us.
Thanks so much for having me, Bree.
About Katie Zaccardi
Katie Zaccardi is a music career coach for musicians, music teachers, and music coaches, helping them grow their careers & their bank accounts while ditching overwhelm, self-doubt, and burnout for good.
Growing up in New York, Katie watched her parents run an online commerce business and knew she would be an entrepreneur…someday, somehow.
After dedicating 10+ years of her life to the music industry as a student, indie artist, and music industry professional, and creating a life of freedom, abundance, & music for herself, she founded “Out to Be” to give women in music the tools, support, & motivation to do the same.