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NFTs, and social tokens for patronage and fan connection

An explanation of a compelling example showing how NFTs/social tokens have been used in patronage.
Silhouette of fans with hands in air an concert
© RMIT 2022

In the corporeal world, and even in the Web 2.0 world, performing artists and other content creators have limited options for connecting directly with their fan bases.

In the corporeal world, opportunities are limited to gigs or guest appearances at events. For visual artists these events are usually gallery or installation openings and the like. In the Web 2.0 world there is of course social media, but social media outlets like Facebook, Instagram and YouTube can make fan or supporter outreach difficult or complicated. As while these platforms are almost ubiquitous and have massive audiences, they aren’t designed primarily as platforms for artists to reach their existing or potential fan bases.

Additionally, these platforms are subject to changes in the way their underlying connecting algorithms operate – for example Facebook’s content-sharing algorithms tend to steer users towards posts from close contacts, such as friends and family, over a musicians’ and artists’s (or even businesses’) pages. That makes sense for the many users who want to keep connected to their inner circle but even if a band plays a huge role in someone’s life, that band’s “musician page” is not considered a close connection in the Facebook ecosystem and the artist may have a more difficult time reaching their audience through their page.

Social media limits

Referral traffic is the result of people sharing your content and their friends liking and commenting on it. This results in less of an impact than if most of your traffic comes directly through page posts, so artists need to be savvy about making posts that connections will share. Facebook does offers artists and other business pages the opportunity to ‘boost’ their page exposure, but for a fee which many may struggle to afford.

The real world and most social media have their limitations when it comes to creators reaching out to their fans and supporters but provide even more limited scope for fans to reach out to their favourite artists and provide support in material ways.

Additionally, the major social media platforms are also subject to increasing pressure to censor content, particularly when advertising is linked. YouTube, for example, from time to time adjusts its rules about what could be considered ‘advertiser friendly’ and, as a result, many creators who swear or include crude humour or other content elements that may be deemed offensive have had their content withdrawn and their advertising revenue taking a major hit.


On the other hand, the patronage platform Patreon is designed for creators to reach their fans and supporters more directly. Patreon’s platform facilitates the peer-to-peer financial support of content creators via money subscription. Patreon also allows creators to crowdfund their work. Unlike the crowdfunding platforms Kickstarter or IndieGoGo, Patreon funding efforts don’t connect to a single project or deadline. Instead, Patreon lets donors become ongoing supporters of their favourite creators’ work. Supporters/fans can make a one-off donation but may also elect to pay their favourite content creator a monthly subscription, or a contribution whenever new content is released.

Patreon lets creators customise their pages and offer perks and incentives, allowing them to tailor the way they engage with their fans and supporters. Creators can offer tiered subscription levels that attract different levels of access, engagement, and perks for different levels of financial contribution. Some creators might have just a few tiers that are relatively inexpensive while others may have several tiers that range from $5 per month to $10,000 per month.

For example, Swedish inventor and YouTuber Simone Giertz’s ran three fan tiers:

  • A monthly $1 no reward tier that served as small fan gratuity.
  • A $3 monthly tier that unlocked citizenship to Simone’s “Shitty Robot Nation” series and monthly mini vlogs and blogs
  • A $5 monthly tier that gave donors access to the $3 tier perks plus monthly livestreams and raffle entries.

Patreon is a known quantity and people have a certain amount of assurance that their contributions are going through an established channel. However a significant criticism of Patreon’s model is the fees charged to creators. Creators are subject to a platform fee, transaction fees, payout fees and foreign exchange conversion fees which add up so much that an artist attracting a $1 payment can expect to have 17-25 cents absorbed in fees.

Giving up altogether on the major social media platforms may not be an option given their near-ubiquity, but shifting marketing, outreach and even patronage towards other innovative platforms makes more sense, especially if the pound-for-pound response is greater.

Building fan bases through blockchains and social tokens

Social tokens offer the opportunity for creators to gain greater independence, sustainable revenue, and more connectedness with their fans through a blockchain-based, decentralised ‘monetising’ system. Social tokens offer a way of overcoming the pitfalls of conventional social media channels, including lack of control in their fan relationships, unreliable economics and erratic policy changes. Social tokens offer decentralisation, self-sovereignty, and a token-economic model that affords creators new opportunities to engage with their fans while creating new monetization streams and lessening their dependence on any individual social media platform.

Social tokens are built around an “ownership economy” principle with the basic premise that a community will be more valuable tomorrow than today. Creators can monetise their work as a non-fungible token (NFT) or social token, and supporters can give something back to show their loyalty. Social tokens are secured by blockchain and built on a similar model as common cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin or Ether.

Artists can issue tokens to fans and supporters in recognition of their attending or hosting performances, or fans can purchase and hold tokens to support their favourite artists. Tokens may carry access to perks like exclusive or pre-release content, early access to tickets and exclusive merchandise, and provide a way for fans to take a stake in the future of their favourite artist, all in ways that either can’t be done or are much harder (and less targeted) in ‘traditional’ social media platforms.

By using NFTs in the form of social tokens and working directly ‘wallet-to-wallet’, creators in many fields can connect directly and often with their fan bases and direct rewards, perks and other recognition to supporters. And fans can be sure that (most of) their material support goes directly to their favourite artists instead of being eaten away by ‘middlemen’.

© RMIT 2022
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NFTs: A Practical Guide

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