Artists on Kickstarter’s New Drip Platform See Potential for Extra Income
In November, Kickstarter announced the launch of Drip, a new online platform that serves to provide funding to creative individuals. Beginning on an invite-only basis with a group of over 60 artists, musicians, writers, filmmakers, podcasters, and other creatives, the site allows these individuals to drum up funding, and asks ordinary people to become arts patrons. For as little as $1 per month, a user can subscribe to the artist of their choice and gain access to exclusive content on Drip. The platform is currently in beta, with plans for a public launch early next year.
While the concept is not new—a strong competitor in this space is Patreon, which officially launched in 2013—Drip is compelling, not in the least since it arrives under the umbrella of one of the best-known crowdfunding websites. Artists already using the platform are optimistic. “Having funds come directly from people who trust my work ethic and vision allows me to spend less days in doubt, and more days creating,” says artist Nic Annette Miller.
But could Drip actually replace a struggling artist’s day job? At the moment, the average returns are modest—in the range of a few hundred dollars a month—but once the site launches to the public, it’s safe to say its overall user base will grow, and so too could artists’ incomes.
Kickstarter, which takes a five-percent cut of the subscription revenue creatives earn (plus credit card processing fees) on Drip, didn’t launch the service from scratch. It was created by record label Ghostly International in 2012, geared toward musicians. Kickstarter bought the platform in 2016, when it was on the verge of folding. Over the past two years Kickstarter has supported Drip’s operations, before replacing its product with a new one, intended to suit a broader range of creatives—and to reflect the company’s values, namely, its Public Benefit Corporation charter.
Kickstarter’s co-founder and chairman Perry Chen acknowledged that there are existing platforms that operate similarly, giving creatives the opportunity to earn profits from subscribers (he cites Flattr and Steady, in addition to Patreon). But Drip, he explained, will find its own niche, engaging those who don’t necessarily consider themselves “serial content creators” (unlike YouTubers and podcasters, who create a steady, often week-after-week stream of content). Over a third of Drip’s first crop of creatives falls under the Art category—including artists like
Kickstarter does not want to lock creatives into using Drip, should they decide to move onto another comparable platform in the future. “Creatives work really hard to build relationships that kind of fuel their practice, and they own those relationships,” says Cassie Marketos, Kickstarter’s new vice president of community strategy, who will be focusing on Drip. To make good on this, they’ve promised to “port” Drip content to other sites, meaning artists won’t lose their posts and subscriber contacts if they leave the platform.
Something that sets Drip apart from its competition is that creatives who are on the site launch their pages with a limited-time founding membership program (it can last anywhere from seven to 30 days), incentivizing fans to get in on the ground level. Creatives can offer special perks to these early supporters. Painter and illustrator Elizabeth Haidle invited her founding members to a live-drawing livestream and Q&A; Nic Annette Miller offered hers a behind-the-scenes look into her printmaking process, and a print in the mail once the limited-edition series is complete.
Marketos notes that the founding membership period mimics the “urgency and social cred” that’s made Kickstarter campaigns successful: “I think people like knowing they got there early—being designated on the page, and being able to interact uniquely with the creator.”
Beyond the founding membership period, creatives on Drip develop various subscription tiers, with incentives for each. Molly Soda has a $1 per month tier, which gives subscribers access to images and text related to her current projects; a $5 per month tier, which also includes exclusive .gifs and videos; and a $10 per month option, which also includes previews of her work and Twitter shoutouts. (The average Drip subscription is $4 per month, Marketos says.)
Other artists have tiers that ask for a bit more of an investment. Shantell Martin, for example, has a $20 per month tier where subscribers receive an enamel pin and a drawing each month in the mail. (More cash-strapped users might prefer her $10 per month tier, which involves online access to live music recording sessions and conversations with her artistic peers.)
“I think an ideal subscription tier is anything that makes your community feel closer to you,” Marketos says. “You’re asking someone to give a couple bucks, maybe indefinitely, so it just takes time to establish some trust and build that relationship.”
Miller, who’s currently earning $255 per month from 35 subscribers, notes that she’s considering her Drip as a kind of monthly stipend. Meanwhile, she’s writing her subscribers with updates on her work, a beneficial exercise in its own right. “This has been a great challenge to dedicate time into writing and documenting the beginning phases,” she says.
After roughly one month of use, Drip seems to have offered a fairly seamless adjustment for video and internet artist Soda. She’s now earning about $136 a month via 52 subscribers. “Generally everything that I make goes online immediately, or it will eventually,” she tells me. “Kickstarter really stressed that Drip didn’t need to be creating more work for artists. It could be something that supplements what I already do.” Her process, which can involve mining the internet for stock imagery and making videos of herself while dressed in eccentric costumes, is well suited to the site. “I’m updating people on what I’m working on currently or how I make things or just generally more behind-the-scenes things,” she says.
Haidle, who creates lush figurative illustrations, sees Drip as a long game in terms of seeing returns. “I didn’t want the Drip page to detract from other projects I have going on, but I also realized that I had been wanting to offer tutorials and art education-type stuff,” she notes. “I thought a good compromise would be to post three items every Sunday, on a weekly schedule.”
She also keen to use it as a way to find out who her most engaged followers are. “Since I’m doing a lot of long-term projects, I thought it would be a good way to find out who really wants to hear about the release dates of graphic novels, comics, books,” Haidle says. “So this way I can send something straight to their inbox and they aren’t going to miss it.”
While Kickstarter is publicizing the launch of the platform, it’s up to the creatives themselves to get the word out and build up their subscription base—which is best suited to artists who already have an eager online following. (Soda has over 68,000 Instagram followers, for instance; Martin has around 151,000.)
Brooklyn-based artist Sean J Patrick Carney likewise turned to his existing community, through email and social media, when launching his Drip. He’s using the platform for his writing and podcast project Humor and the Abject, which delves into the intersection of comedy and contemporary art; the podcast, which launched in June, features interviews with comedically minded artists like
He’s taken to plugging his Drip page on the podcast, encouraging listeners to subscribe and gain access to bonus episodes and other content, like drawings. “Instead of reading ads for mattresses, subscription food boxes, or fashionable underwear, I get to treat every podcast episode like its own sound sculpture,” he says, “and I create ridiculous satirical sponsorship spots and psychedelic radio theater.”
That’s not to say that there aren’t kinks to work out with the platform. Multiple artists note improvements that Kickstarter may want to implement. First and foremost, there’s currently no way for creatives and subscribers to engage in discussion, or for subscribers to share their feedback.
“Right now it feels a little bit like I’m shouting into an empty void,” Soda says. “I would really would like to see a comment or messaging feature so that I can actually talk to people.” That would allow for a space for critique or to test out content before it goes public.
“There’s a potential for artists and subscribers to be almost like collaborators on the site,” Martin adds.
Other possible improvements: an easier way for subscribers to choose how long they want to support an artist for (rather than the “indefinite” default that current exists), as well as the option for a “pay what you wish” sponsorship.
Marketos notes that new features and bug fixes are in the pipeline ahead of the 2018 public launch, which does not have a hard date yet. “When we go wide in the world, my goal isn’t in terms of how many people want to be on Drip, it’s just that it’s the right tool, and a good tool, for the people who do want to use it, and that we can continue to defend the integrity of the creators,” she explains.
At this early stage, where the majority of contemporary artists on Drip are currently making in the $100–$300 per month range, Drip seems to be poised to offer artists, at the very least, a small stream of extra cash, which can also be a source of encouragement. “Right now, it’s encouraging to see people signing up and to be getting a little bit of ‘walking around money’ each month,” Carney says.
“Overall, the more that we have these kinds of platforms, the better,” Martin offers. “You can give three dollars a month, or even one dollar, and that little bit really helps. You don’t have to be very wealthy—you don’t have to be in this art bubble—to go out and support artists.
Casey Lesser is Artsy’s Creativity Editor.