Crowdfunding sites like Patreon have demonstrated that fans are willing to pay extra to support artists, especially in exchange for exclusive content. However, those sites usually charge fees, and might even take a portion of your revenue. Additionally, you’re not in control of policy guidelines or pricing changes.
Fortunately, it’s easy for artists to create their own membership sites instead. By building and running your own site, you can have complete control over your pricing structure and program setup. Most importantly, you can keep 100% of your fans’ pledges, and communicate with them however you'd like.
In this article, we'll talk about how using a platform like MemberPress can be a smart alternative to crowdfunding sites for artists of all stripes. Let’s start from the top!
1. You Can Reap the Power of Crowdfunding
By starting a crowdfunding page, you can tap into a very powerful income stream. Crowdfunding is a system where you can harness a new or existing audience, by asking individual people to contribute as much as they can to a project, even as little as $1. As of 2017, crowdfunding has contributed $65 billion to the global economy.
In particular, crowdfunding can be an excellent way for artists to earn money directly from their fans. In Amanda Palmer’s TED Talk, for example, she explains how she used this technique to break away from her record label and become a truly independent musician.
As an artist, it may be hard to find commercial backing for your work. However, if you have fans, or even supportive friends and family, you can ask them to directly support your art. A membership site provides you with a platform to accept these investments.
2. You Can Use Your Site to Fund Ongoing Projects
Crowdsourcing platform Kickstarter is well known for launching plenty of successful projects. However, not all art lends itself to the platform's usual process. If you’re working on a longer project such as a novel, or one without a clear deliverable (like a webcomic), it may be difficult to use Kickstarter and similar websites.
Fortunately, a membership site offers an excellent way to fund your ongoing projects. For example, if you already have a website where you post your work, you can easily add a section that offers bonus content behind a paywall.
In this scenario, your existing work will continue to attract fans to your site, and anyone who wants to support you or loves your art will be tempted to pay to see that extra content. You can offer sketches or demo recordings, or even post content for your members a day before you share it with the public.
3. A Membership Site Enables You to Keep All of Your Profits
If you use a crowdfunding service, you’ll almost certainly be subject to its fee structure. For example, Patreon takes 5% of every transaction, on top of normal credit card processing fees. Kickstarter also takes 5% of your pledges.
That may seem like a small amount, but if you end up making even $5,000 per year from your audience, you’ll end up surrendering $250 of that amount. However, if you set up your own membership site, you’ll get to keep all the money your fans pledge.
4. You Can Stay in Control of Your Project
One of the most appealing aspects of running your own membership site is that you retain complete control over its design and fee structure. With crowdfunding sites, there’s no way to avoid company-wide changes – your site is at the mercy of whatever service you're using.
For example, last year Patreon introduced a change that caused many patrons to withdraw their support. The company backed down from its fee change after the outcry, but the damage was already done. Many Patreon users lost pledges due to the incident.
When you depend on revenue from fans for some or all of your income, it’s crucial that nothing happens to destroy their trust. If you create your own membership site, you can avoid something like the Patreon fee change happening to you. Instead, you'll have total control over your fee structures and policies.
5. You'll Be Able to Attract More Views
Crowdfunding services like Patreon require you to host the content on their own websites. This may seem harmless, but it can actually make it harder to implement Search Engine Optimization (SEO) techniques that drive traffic. Keeping visitors on your own site can boost your SEO, on the other hand, improving the chances that new people will encounter your work.
By also including whatever bonus content you provide on your site, you’ll maximize the amount of time visitors spend on it. Directing people to another page on your own site can also help build internal links. Overall, the more people who engage with your site, the better it is for your SEO (and ultimately your traffic).
How to Start Your Own Membership Website
Fortunately, it’s easy to get started with a membership website. We'd recommend using WordPress, which is a simple yet powerful website-building solution. It also integrates with our MemberPress plugin, a flexible tool for creating membership sites of all types.
Both WordPress and MemberPress enable you to use a visual interface, with no coding experience necessary. Artists in particular may appreciate the ability to design your own site's appearance as well.
The first step is to create a WordPress site, if you don’t have one already. Simply find a hosting service that offers easy WordPress setup options, and you can get started in less than an hour:
As soon as MemberPress is activated, you can configure its settings in about five minutes. From there, you can start putting some of your site’s content behind a paywall. You can even create multiple donor levels for different types of content.
Crowdfunding can be a powerful way for artists to generate income directly from their fans. What's more, creating your own membership site enables you to receive continual support from your supporters. This can give you space to grow as an artist, as well as allowing your most devoted fans to receive exclusive content.
Some of the reasons artists can benefit from building their own membership sites include:
- You can reap the power of crowdfunding. Crowdfunding has surged in popularity over the past few years, and for good reason. It’s a way to earn money directly from your fans, without bowing to commercial interests.
- You'll be able to fund ongoing projects. Membership sites are perfect for long-term projects such as novels, films, and webcomics.
- You can keep all of your profits. If you use a crowdfunding service like Patreon, you’ll have to surrender some of each pledge to fees.
- It's easier to stay in control of your projects. With a membership site, you’re completely in control of your fees and site design. If you use a crowdfunding service, on the other hand, you may be subject to its whims.
- Running your own site makes it easier to attract views. The more time visitors spend on your site, the better it is for your SEO. That’s why it’s smarter to host your own content instead of using an outside website.
Do you have any questions about using a membership site as an artist? Let us know in the comments section below!