“Every Man also Gave him a Piece of Money”

Every Man also Gave him a Piece of Money. Verso: God the Father with Attendant Angels c.1821-3 by William Blake 1757-1827So let’s imagine there’s a cult songster somewhere hidden away somewhere, outside the mainstream, looking for an income stream now that the lazy teenage boasts are now dancing on their own, etc etc. But who doesn’t want the hassle of a recording contract or indeed any commitments at all.

Let’s assume that this imaginary person could probably count on 15,000 or so sales of any CD he produced, and there was a fair ongoing interest in them.

Such a person might want to have a look at Patreon. Patreon is a patronage and content platform that allows fans to subscribe for anything an artist produces, at a preset rate per piece of content, capped at an arbitrary amount. So for example you could choose to pay £5 per item and cap it at £30. If more than 6 items were produced in a month, you’d still get all of them, but pay a maximum of £30. You get billed at the end of any month where something is produced.

Even just assuming a third or so of the 15,000 signed up for an average of £1, that would make anything produced worth £5k instantly. But for a cult artist producing work infrequently you can easily imagine people would pledge more, and there would almost certainly be a follow on market for physical copies on top of that. Limited edition of 200 vinyl LPs anyone? Nothing is promised by Patreon to users, you pay for what you get and nothing more. No ties, no contracts, no diabolically articulate and urbaine figures waving signed pieces of paper and talking deadlines.

Fascinating idea. It’s being used by Amanda Palmer currently and so will get a lot of press (however irritating La Palmer may be, she’s a great songwriter and commercial innovator). Will Paddy do it? Probably not. But by God he should!

And just a word on William Blake. The title of this piece is the title of one of his plates from the “Book of Job” engravings, which seems appropriate. The Job of Blake’s imagination looks a lot like Paddy, and Paddy could probably rival Job in terms of torments and trials: we hope he’s now passed those and can look forward to a Job like later life of comfort and music.

But above all, the “Book of Job” was financed by subscription in a very similar way to the way Patreon works – as a matter of fact Blake was advised and largely financed for whatever he could produce, as much or as little, by a close friend, who also happened to be my great great great grandfather. So perhaps history should be induced to repeat?

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