The creator economy is huge and growing. We all know this. In fact, I encourage musicians to consider a business model inspired by creators of all formats – one based around monetizing your top fans. We've seen platforms like Patreon, Memberful (which is owned by Patreon), Kajabi, and a certain platform that rhymes with “lonely plans” grow into huge parts of the creator economy.
So I think it's inevitable that Spotify and Apple Music will release their own versions of those creator tools for musicians directly integrated into their platforms – and it's surprising that it hasn't happened already. It's not a matter of if, but when.
The Benefit For the Platforms
Businesses like Spotify and Apple exist to make money. They are always going to be on the lookout for how to make MORE money. Patreon makes money by taking a cut of all transactions (currently between 5%-12%). That's money Patreon and similar platforms are making that Spotify and Apple currently NOT making, but easily could. Apple would probably charge between 15%-30% of revenue judging by their App Store fees. That would add up quickly for them.
Adding these features to their Spotify for Artists and Apple Music for Artists offerings is extremely low-hanging-fruit. Every artist has their “for artists” account on the platforms already, so it would be very easy to get artists to try it out.
It would also benefit those services as an attempt to lock-in users. For end users, makes it harder to switch to a different streaming service if you're already invested in that ecosystem. Switching from Spotify to Apple Music or vice-versa is no longer just “which app do I open for music” but a now platform you've built up memberships, content, etc. Similar to how Apple has tried to get you using iCloud for notes, storage, photos, etc – switching phones is also switching ecosystems, and that's a pain.
It also allows for differentiation between platforms. Imagine if Taylor Swift inked a deal with Apple to have their platform be the exclusive home of her membership content. All the Swifties would basically HAVE to switch to Apple Music if they want to get the superfan content.
Imagine the PR headlines: “Apple has paid out over X million dollars directly to independent creators in 2024,” and blurbs/PR videos going on about how they're “empowering creators to build sustainable careers” in the same way they wax eloquently about how the App Store has let people build businesses in the app economy at all their developer event.
We've seen a trend where platforms have been adding more monetization tools directly in their platforms.
It's been clear that Apple has been pivoting to services for revenue growth over the past decade, so adding memberships would be very in-character for them. In fact there's precedent for this exact thing! In 2021, they added memberships/subscriptions for podcast creators! They obviously see the value in getting in on the creator economy and have built the framework to do so that could probably be ported over to the music platform fairly easily.
Spotify also did a similar thing in 2021, by adding subscriptions via their Anchor platform. So once again, they see the value in it. It looks like Spotify isn't taking a cut right now, but they might add features that do in the future.
A similar example of a streaming platform adding membership tools is YouTube. They added memberships/contributions in the Partner Program where creators can make private videos and posts for those that contribute.
Like I said, I think it's inevitable they will try this. There's just too much money on the table and we see that they're clearly interested in getting in on the business model.
Do I think it will replace Patreon? Probably not. Naturally, you have fans on many different platforms and having to manage a community on Spotify AND Apple Music would get frustrating to manage. Plus if the platforms have any social component, it will mean dividing the social community.
I have no idea how it will play out, I just think it's bound to happen sooner than later.