The Fan Platform Principle: The New Independence for Artists?
The fan platform principle is easily explained. Artists, who already have a standing fan base on social media, guide these fans to a new online contact point. There, artists are offering them access to exclusive content next to free general information. Fan platforms provide artists with new ways of direct marketing; artists can address their fans directly and convert their fans’ enthusiasm for their œvre directly into cash.
Proceeding digitalisation facilitates this: nowadays, fans are much easier and quicker to activate than ever before, complex content is easily created, stored and shared; and on top of this, transactional cost are low even for smallest amounts.
However, it is the small things that cause problems. An artist may gain independence using a fan platform only if that fan platform is being played well and if it has the most suitable concept of treating artists and their contents in terms of data security, proprietary rights and payment processing.
Especially in Germany, fan platforms are being evaluated not only by striking technical features or apparent additional reach. Legal questions are just as important: once an artist has registered – who own the profile with all its content and contact data? Is content technically secure and how? How much is being charged? How are payments being handled? What happens to personal data? For artists setting up their own sustainable direct marketing, these questions are major issues. Exploitation of creative content and to whom to commit oneself to do so (be it gallery owners, publishers, or record labels) is very important to any artist. All artists want to make a living by sustainably exploiting their own creativity. Being dependent on someone, may hamper setting up an independent long-term direct marketing. Less commercially focused artists may not instantly be able to relate to most of the above-mentioned issues. Does unconditional independence remain a dream for artists despite of all those new and attractive prospects? – Now that depends on one’s own objectives, one’s reach so far and the suitable choice of platform.
Here we are presenting three different concepts of fan platforms:
Patreon, the American type; pioneer and top dog from the US. The initial focus group were “Creators” on YouTube and their viewers. Any artist may register there. By doing so, that artist grants license to the platform on the own profile and content for the purpose of marketing to subscribers. Following this concept, the artist licensee having to pay fees to platform for the profile, payment processing and other secondary services. Videos for fans are provided via third platforms like YouTube or Vimeo. Payments are not instantly comprehensive for both fans and artists: Fans, who are using Patreon in Germany, see prices set by the artist in USD and must pay VAT to the platform on top. Artists suffer relatively high commission on payouts: upscale fees on all payment transactions including payouts to own account and graded platform fees according to range of usage. Data security follows US law and is not very high standard due to the integrated video platforms and 3rd party cookies. Knowledge on fan user characteristics is being pointed out as (a chargeable) advantage of the platform.
YouTube and Facebook – the social networks: These two US American giants of digitalization are now also offering essential features of fan platforms. They are both “Gatekeeper” for contact data as well as video content and data. As these companies are funded basically by advertisements and data sales, they are increasingly integrating minor add-ons and payment facilities for fans. However, these options are available to wide reach creators only and against either 30% of the sales or paid membership. Worldwide reach of these platforms provides ginormous opportunities for artists. So far, artists as well as fans have been granting both platforms extensive rights on their data and content. Similarly to Patreon, amounts are stated in USD which implies that these amounts require conversion into EUR plus VAT plus bank fees when paid to these platforms in Germany.
getnext, the German type. This platform was started in 2019 in Germany and is subject to local law; according to their own statement they run their own servers from the German region of Nordrhein-Westfalen and are therefore able to store content encrypted and safe. getnext works like an electronic marketspace (similiar to ebay for instance), where contents are being provided exclusively by the artists themselves. Invited artists set up their own profile and imprint as well as their own linked account with a partner bank. Fans pay sales amounts including VAT directly to the artists’ linked accounts which cost a minor transaction fee. The platform charges artists 15% of each amount afterwards. Artists are trading for their own account and thus may generate an own regular income. The only data fans provide to the platform are a username and an e-mail address; any other data are owned by the artist; there are no interfaces to the advertising business and therefore also no 3rd Party Cookies.
Having compared several types of fan platforms, only the artists themselves make the decision if they want to use one as licenced party, range profiteer or merchant. On the bottom line, artists may gain independence by choosing the right one out of the various types of fan platforms and then playing it smartly. At the end of the day, it is the fans and the right contents that make a regular income - and was the case already before there such things as fan platforms.