Introducing… the Friends Club!

Published On February 21, 2024 
by Chase Tremaine
Would you be interested in becoming a supporter of Chase’s writing, music, and other productions? Join the Friends Club, and in return, you’ll receive all of Chase’s albums, new members-only songs every month, opportunities to meet Chase and discuss music, art, and life with him and other likeminded music lovers, and much more!

Introduction

At the start of 2024, I unveiled a new venture, titled the Friends Club, that could completely alter the trajectory of my music career. It’s designed to provide the greatest benefits possible to those who enjoy my music, while providing those who join with more music than ever before alongside opportunities to connect with me and other listeners. The article you are about to read goes into great detail about the intentions behind the Friends Club, its creation, its value, its platform, and its relationship to the rest of the music industry. If you would like to learn in-depth about this venture, sprinkled with context regarding the industry and my background, then please keep reading. However, if you would rather read the big-picture highlights of this article to learn the basics about what the Friends Club is and whether you should join, then you might want to read the “Short & Sweet” abridged version of this article instead:

The Short & Sweet Version

And whenever you’re ready to check out the Friends Club firsthand, go here: friends.chasetremaine.com

State of the Industry

I’d like to kick things off with my observations of the larger music industry and its intertwined relationship with the online world, specifically relating to the big platform players. I believe this information will be helpful in contextualizing everything that follows:

  • Spotify rolled out a handful of changes at the top of 2024 which could be detrimental to artists of my size, including a new payout system where most of my songs would receive zero dollars alongside Spotify-for-Artists gutting its backend data resources, which have ruined one of the key benefits which made the service useful to me. Spotify has always been a tough place to create a fanbase: there’s no way for artists to connect with their followers or listeners, meanwhile the entire concept of “monthly listeners” is a bloated measuring stick that does less to present the actual popularity of an artist and more to measure the popularity of the playlists an artist is currently featured on. This incentivizes artists to chase after playlist spots, even when those artists are album-oriented creators.
  • Other streaming services suffer from a litany of issues which the big two (Spotify and Apple) largely do not, such as confusingly mixed-up artist pages, buggy interfaces, slow distribution times for new music, poor discoverability tools and algorithms (or a total lack thereof), and relatively small user bases. Meanwhile, atop aforementioned issues which all these services share (most notably for the sake of this discussion, the inability for artists to connect with listeners or learn anything about them outside of generalized demographics), there’s also the looming reality that music streaming is a non-viable, unprofitable business model inside a bubble that’s ripe to burst.
  • Bandcamp — which I’ve loved for many years and continue to use as my store for selling physical merchandise — has changed owners twice in the past two years, accompanied by notable lay-offs and reduced features. At the moment, Bandcamp is still one of the best music services on the internet, but I’m preparing for the possibility that its artist-friendly practices will begin deteriorating soon, as many of us fear will occur under its current leadership.
  • Facebook has demonstrably been burying my posts about music ever since I created an “artist page” with the ability to pay to boost my posts. Effectively, Facebook has made it clear that it doesn’t want to show my music-related posts to any of my friends or followers without some money to back it up, even when it gives me terrible price guarantees such as “pay $14 to boost this post to 60 people.” In short, Facebook has proven itself to be a money-hungry scam, and following the official “Chase Tremaine” page provides no guarantee that you’ll ever see my posts.
  • Instagram (which has been on an unfortunate downward spiral since it was purchased by Facebook back in 2012) has become a cesspool for advertised posts, making it near-impossible to see what your actual friends are posting; meanwhile, my attempts to pay for ads on Instagram largely resulted in responses from bots and fake accounts.
  • With no plans to try out TikTok for myself (and let’s be honest, even if I wanted to, that ship has sailed), the final bastion of true potential and discoverability among social media services is Twitter…even though it’s no longer called Twitter. And that’s part of the problem. Even though I still love using the site now known as X, it’s under volatile leadership with unstable circumstances which could see it simply disappearing off the face of the planet any day now.
  • Twitch is a fascinating platform, in theory, offering ideas I like through a website that I hate. It’s both confusing to use and utterly chaotic in its busy layout. I can easily accomplish a cleaner, simpler version of Twitch within a Zoom call. And that’s all without mentioning the potential legal issues which have Twitch constantly teetering on the edge of extinction.
  • Patreon — the most direct parallel to what I’m about to share with you — rebranded in 2023, rolling out an assortment of new features which looked shiny and cool on the surface, yet which, in the fine print, cost creators an extra percentage of their monthly income to access, on top of Patreon increasing its baseline fees and revenue share. These changes reveal that Patreon isn’t as creator-friendly as many might assume, alongside some other concerns that I will be addressing later in this article.

What is the Friends Club?

The Friends Club is an online place where my family, friends, and fans can invest in me as a creator, and in exchange for this budget-conscious investment, I will make a wide assortment of preexisting music and newly recorded songs freely available on a platform through which I can readily pursue additional ways to serve, benefit, and grow in relationship with everyone who joins.

The Friends Club is my attempt to amalgamate my favorite aspects of the platforms listed above, with greater control and fewer drawbacks. That said, its closest relative is Patreon; I’ve spent many years considering the creation of a Patreon, and up until late 2023, I was still researching platforms and considering Patreon as the way to go. So even by me saying that the Friends Club is similar to Patreon, the cultural ubiquity of that platform probably gives you a decent mental image of what to expect: a monthly subscription which comes with the guarantee of a specific list of monthly perks.

This is largely accurate in this initial stage of the Friends Club’s roll-out: as of writing this (a few days after the late-January 2024 launch of the Friends Club), the membership costs a monthly or annual fee with the promise of a consistent stream of new songs, podcast episodes, and behind-the-scenes features that will be exclusively available to members. I acknowledge that, so far, this entire venture could have easily been housed on Patreon; further down this article, I’ll explain why I think my platform (Podia) is the better platform, but first, I want to explain how the Friends Club will outgrow this simple comparison and begin to resemble the other platforms listed above as time goes on.

The Friends Club website is where I’m trialing out a new webstore, where I’m able to give away all of my albums for free, just like I do on Bandcamp; however, while these downloads and purchases can be made by people who are not members of the Club, I can also release albums and other digital products which are available to members while being invisible to everyone else (which cannot be done on Bandcamp — currently, examples of these members-only releases include the Unfall Commentary and the upcoming release Unfall II, which has been made available to members nearly two whole months ahead of its public release). As time goes on, I will be expanding the list of digital products and offers that can be purchased through the webstore, which will always be made available for free or at a discount to members.

Overall, the Friends Club is my attempt to take control over my relationships with my listeners, without having to worry about Facebook posts that get buried, Instagram ads that attract bots, emails that get marked as spam, or figuring out who all my faceless, nameless Spotify followers are. But at the same time, it’s not really an attempt to widen my pool of listeners — it’s an attempt to deepen it. Inasmuch as the desire for relationship exists, I would love to get to know my listeners better while giving them an avenue toward getting to know me. And through getting to know one another in non-artificial ways, I believe that it will ground my songs within their concrete meanings and their concrete purposes to uplift, challenge, entertain, and comfort those who listen to them — and I expect this to be all the more true of the new songs I write within the context of the Friends Club, as these new relationships, experiences, and conversations begin to influence and color the lyrics that I write for the songs that I’ll be recording and releasing exclusively for members.

What You Get

Currently, here is the list of what is publicly being offered to everyone who joins the Friends Club:

  • One new Friends Club-exclusive song each month (building to a full-length, members-only album every year)
  • Immediate access to all previous releases and early access to future releases
  • First dibs on physical products, with bare-minimum pricing and exclusive merchandise
  • Discounts on personalized songs, how-to tutorials, and other offers on chasetremaine.com
  • If desired, opportunities to write songs and record podcasts with me
  • Much more, including perks that are earned over time and a forum to request new perk ideas directly

Below, I’ll be expanding upon each of the six bullet points above (in the same order):

  1. I will be self-producing (home recording) a brand new, never-before-heard song approximately once a month (starting in February 2024). The long-term plan is to release a new song ten times a year (January – October), then to compile the ten songs together during November and December into a full-length, Friends Club-exclusive album, placing improved mixes and freshly finalized masters of all ten songs into an official track listing. Meanwhile, I expect members to receive more than ten songs over the course of most years, between special/surprise releases, one-offs of extra songs, and the annual covers albums. My plan for these exclusive songs would be to never release them to the public or place them on streaming services; however, it’s possible (maybe even likely) that some songs which were initially written for the Friends Club could eventually be repurposed and re-recorded for a future studio album.
  2. My full discography is available to members for free. This might sound extremely similar to my Bandcamp page, where my studio albums are already available for free (or pay-what-you-want), but there are a few key differences between this and my Bandcamp store: i) upcoming releases will be added to each member’s library as early as possible; ii) there will be a steadily growing number of releases that are available here and not on Bandcamp, such as the commentary edition of Unfall; and iii) I occasionally do charge a price for the music I release music on Bandcamp, such as my homemade annual covers albums (which cost $4 as an attempt to recoup the licenses I have to purchase in order to legally distribute the cover song recordings), and these releases will also be available to members for free. (Side note: At the moment, I also have an album in the works that I had hoped to release in late 2023, but I was unable to finish it in time. My new plan is to release it as a Friends Club-exclusive album as soon as it’s completed.)
  3. Currently, my only physical products for sale are CDs, which are already being sold on Bandcamp at-cost. For future physical products, not only will Club members get the cheapest prices and the first opportunities to order, but they will get to vote on which products to make, which designs to go with, etc. For example, the physical product which is already in demand among a number of my listeners is vinyl, but due to the cost of producing high-quality vinyl records, I would most likely be ordering a small run of vinyl records, which would be offered to members first – and which could theoretically be purchased in entirety by members before I ever take the sale public.
  4. I have a long history of writing and recording personalized/custom songs for people, so once I have some current projects wrapped up and once the Friends Club is moving at a normal rhythm, I plan on using this platform to reopen the “song shop” and begin accepting custom song commissions again. Custom songs are just one future offering of many which I plan on making available at a significant discount to members. Other future products on the webstore (ranging from e-books to video tutorials to editorial services to perhaps even a board game I’m currently developing) will all be made accessible to members at a discount, if not free altogether.
  5. If you’re unaware, I’m pretty deep into the world of podcasting, having appeared on a wide range of shows while hosting and producing over 200 episodes of my own. However, while the two shows that I’ve hosted were both situations where I was approached to help with someone else’s brand/idea, I’ve long been wanting to have full control over a podcast that could be about music, movies, life, theology, anything! And I’m excited to pursue this long-gestating desire within the context of the Friends Club, where the members get to be the guests on each episode. With the exception of members who are uninterested in recording an episode, I plan on having every member as my guest on at least one episode to discuss their favorite music, their relationship to my music, and whatever else each guest would like to drill into. The current plan is to release two episodes per month of this Club-exclusive series, with the possibility of slowing down or speeding up the rate of new episodes, depending on the rate of member sign-ups. (These podcast episodes will be made available within the Friends Club website as well as through an RSS feed, which will allow members to add the show to whatever podcast app they normally use.) Related to this, though, is that the platform has a community aspect where any of the members can discuss any topic with me or with one another, and there will always be an easy avenue for contacting me directly, whether it’s just to chat or to discuss a creative collaboration.
  6. As I will explain in greater detail further down (in the section about 2024 and 2025), I have a special (albeit optional) assignment for everyone who joins within the year of 2024: provide your feedback and ideas about how to improve the Friends Club, including what additional perks you would like to see. You can even offer complaints or constructive criticism about the new songs you receive each month, if you feel so led! My obvious desire is to attract members who want to stick around for the long run — people who will renew month after month or year after year because they’ve never felt like their time or money in the Club has been wasted. My primary two methods for accomplishing this will be: i) listening to your thoughts and comments about the Club; and ii) offering bigger perks that accumulate across the span of a membership. For example, one such perk that I hope to offer is writing and recording a custom song for each member as they hit a certain milestone for how many months or years they have consecutively been a member. But I don’t consider myself the arbiter of all good ideas, and I’m excited to see what ideas you have to bring to the table.

What It Costs

For the year of 2024, new memberships cost the lowest imaginable price of $1 per month. For a small discount, you can even save $2 each year by paying only $10 for the annual membership. This low-balled price comes at the end of a long line of brainstorming and number-crunching, as I sought to find the perfect balance between what would be worthwhile to me while providing a low barrier of entry across the whole spectrum of my listeners, whether you’re a super-fan with a tight budget or a casual fan who’s happy to provide some financial support. And by the way, those prices of $1/month or $10/year are the exact amounts you will see on your credit card bill; there’s no additional tax or fees placed upon that flat amount.

But I started by saying “for the year of 2024” because I plan on raising the prices at the start of 2025. Before you raise an eyebrow at the hairy beast of looming inflation, allow me to clarify: everyone who signs up in the year of 2024 will be locked into that low, low price forever. The increased price will be for new members starting in 2025 (or for returning members who ended their memberships at some point in time). That new price has not been finalized yet, and as I will explain in the section below about 2024 and 2025, there are a handful of reasons why I do not plan on determining the new price until late in 2024.

When you join, there is no commitment to stay for any fixed or forced amount of time. If you cancel your annual subscription, you’ll be able to finish out the year before losing access. If you really want to game the system, you can join for $1 a month in December 2024, accessing all the songs and other perks from throughout the preceding year while locking in your low price at the last chance before the 2025 increase. Why would I even plant such a devious idea in your brain? Well, for two reasons: i) because I will have no hard feelings toward anyone who chooses to do this, as I trust that each person will do what’s right with the money, time, and resources they are stewarding; and ii) because I firmly believe that greater value in the Friends Club will come through the length of one’s membership: by joining as early in the year as possible, you’ll get to experience the excitement of each new song release and soak in one song at a time; you’ll accumulate your length-of-membership perks as well as get in line early for your podcast episode – perhaps so early that we’ll get to record multiple episodes together; and you’ll have more time to build relationships with me and the other members. Not only do I think these reasons are good enough for people to join as early as possible, but as I’ll be explaining shortly (in the section “Buying Songs”), I also do not think that the investment in a membership should be viewed merely as getting as much music for as little money as possible.

Side note: On the website, you may notice that $10/year is listed as “Recommended” as opposed to the $1/month ($12/year) option. Why is that, you may ask? The reason is: processing costs. The payment service, Stripe, takes a cut out of every payment it processes, therefore, the extra two dollars you’d pay for a full year gets eaten up entirely by those costs. In fact, not only does the $10-option save you a little bit of money, but I receive a little bit more of that money, as well. So it’s a win-win! But I fully understand that many people live on tight budgets, where spending an extra $1 per month would be far better than unexpectedly losing $10 one year from now, when the membership renews. Or maybe you’re not sure you want to commit full-time, and you’d rather invest $2-3 for 2-3 months to see if you enjoy the Friends Club and its perks. Wherever you fall on that spectrum, make whatever choice you’re most comfortable with!

Buying Songs Versus Investing in Art

Now that we’re done discussing how much you’ll be paying and what you’ll be receiving, I want to present a different model for considering what exactly your money is going toward. As I’ve written about extensively in the past, I don’t like viewing songs as only being worth $1 each — as we’ve been trained to do in this post-iTunes era — and I would argue that it does a disservice to the artform, from the perspectives of both the “creator” and the “consumer.” In light of that assertion, I genuinely don’t want members (or those of you considering membership) to think of the Friends Club as buying one song every month for $1 each.

I dare present a paradigm shift which thoroughly tables the conversation of what you’re “buying” through the Friends Club. I ask that everyone consider your membership as an investment in me: a vote of confidence in me as a person, as a writer, as a curator and cultivator and creator of music. Instead of thinking about the monthly perks as what I’m selling to you, you can view the offerings as a token of my gratitude that you would commit to the long-term investment in my musical pursuits.

Over the past year or two, I have been investing increasing amounts of time and resources in my knowledge, experience, hardware, and software within the realm of music engineering and production skills. And there has already been fruit: look no further than directly comparing my first homemade covers album from 2020 to the third volume from 2023. The difference is night and day, and I am actively engaging with continued learning that should keep me on this upward trajectory. Thus the extra income I am able to receive through your membership will create symbiotic results, where I’m crafting home-recordings at a higher quality and faster workflow that are ultimately more enjoyable for you to listen to!

By investing in me, you are also contributing to my budget for future studio albums. For anyone who read the paragraph above and worried that I had given up on making music that’s on par with industry standards — never fear! My production pursuits are by no means meant to displace the act of going to real studios to record with real producers. If at all possible, I hope that I have opportunities to continue recording music in-studio for the rest of my life, whether that’s making my solo music, joining a band, or contributing to the recordings of other artists. For me, there’s nothing quite like the experience of shutting the world off for eight-to-ten hours, zoning in on building up my songs one instrument at a time, getting to play on higher-quality drums and amps and guitars and mics than I would normally have access to, and getting to collaborate with the ideas and insights of producers and other musicians. There have been magical moments during the recording sessions of all my albums, and the privilege of recording in these studios has truly been one of the greatest earthly delights of my lifetime. However, it’s a costly one — I came very close to bankruptcy while making two of my albums — and any support that I can receive on raising funds for future albums will go a long way towards benefiting the overall quality of the recordings and the amount of time that I’m able to dedicate toward those sessions.

Without going on too long of a tangent, I experimented in late 2020 with the question, “What’s the most affordable way I can record a studio album?” This resulted in the first version of my sophomore album, Development & Compromise; however I ended up feeling so displeased with the corners I cut during the process that I returned to the studio and retooled D&C, in an effort which ultimately turned D&C into the most expensive of my three studio/full-band albums. I hope to avoid situations like this again, and I am making strides toward finding the proper balance between budget and quality, as on my third album, Accidental Days. As I’ve stated in multiple places and forums previously, I’ve been on a mission to release an album every year throughout the 2020’s. This is still my goal, but it has become increasingly unrealistic to pursue totally legitimate, full-scope studio albums every single year — as already hinted by the album I dropped in 2022: the live, acoustic, and very budget-savvy Questions at Thirty. I also want to make sure that, every time I go into the studio, I’m doing so with the mentality that it might be the last album I ever get a chance to make; this is the mentality I had while recording my debut Unfall, as I truly considered the likelihood that those studio sessions could be a one-and-done event. Moving forward, I don’t want to merely record the “next” ten songs or the “newest” ten songs but to earnestly make whatever would be the greatest album possible with the songs, skills, and savings available to me at that time — for every future studio album to be a work of art which could proudly be my swansong.

These two overarching categories of your investment converge neatly: by investing in me, you’re helping me save up a larger budget in order to create the greatest studio album possible, and yet while these studio albums will now be spaced out to every 2-3 years instead of every single year, your investment in my production skills will allow me to fill in the gaps during the off-years, creating the greatest homemade albums possible while still accomplishing my goal of releasing at least one album every year for the remainder of this decade.

Beneath these two categories of investment, there is a baseline level of expense that goes into running my new website and the Podia-platform webstore. Most of the $1/month memberships throughout 2024 will be going towards these expenses — towards breaking even. Unless of the number of sign-ups I receive during 2024 blows past all my expectations, it’s the more expansive and expensive memberships of 2025 onward which will serve as investments in my production skills and in my budgets for future studio albums.

Podia and Platform Comparisons

I originally discovered Podia as a recommendation from a friend who firmly believed that Podia was such a malleable platform that it can work for any business model which does not deal primarily with physical products. Podia’s primary use (as you can probably guess from the name, if you familiar with the plural form of “podium”) is for lessons, courses, and instructors. I was unconvinced at first, and I began a lengthy journey to find out which platform would provide the best, cleanest, simplest experience to its users while allowing the most potential growth and flexibility for me moving forward.

If you search for platform comparisons online, you won’t find a crazy amount of Podia versus Patreon articles because Podia is usually being compared to other teaching platforms such as Teachable and Kajabi. These comparisons are useful in some regards, especially for how positive they tend to be toward Podia, but they don’t provide much insight relating to how I plan to use this platform in the immediate future. (That said, I would love to someday utilize Podia’s standard teaching/video lesson model for creating tutorials on how to play my songs on every instrument, how I wrote and recorded them, etc.)

When directly comparing Podia to Patreon, Podia comes out on top in regards to its beginner-friendly and customizable design tools (as opposed to the branded template across all of Patreon), its chat support for creators, its built-in emailing and blogging tools, and its ability to bundle and upsell products through a public-facing webstore. That webstore feature is huge for me, especially as I consider a future model where it might behoove me to step away from Bandcamp. The webstore allows me to sell products for free or at cost, meanwhile those items can be available automatically or at a discount for members of the Friends Club. So for people who don’t wish to become members or aren’t sure yet, they can still access many of my products; at the same time, I can setup products to be available to members that are not visible on the webstore at all (such as the commentary edition for Unfall).

Patreon is the winner in a few regards: it has a recognizable brand and trustworthy platform where your subscription for one artist can live alongside dozens of other subscriptions, whereas you will be required to make an account solely for the Friends Club; Patreon supports multiple payment options, while Podia only (currently) supports Stripe and Paypal; it has integration with Google Analytics; and it provides the option for subscribers to pay more money each month than what a tier/subscription normally costs. None of these issues are particularly notable for me, and I truly hope that the requirement to create an account with Podia will not be a deterrent to anyone considering joining the club.

A secondary feature I appreciate is that, while conversations between members is heartily endorsed, those conversations must occur within the open/public discussion threads within the community. Unlike Discord, Slack, and other community-based platforms, the Podia site only allows direct messaging between me and each member, not between members. This will create an open accountability around all conversations that should prove easy to moderate. (Meanwhile, I personally only plan to use DM’s to gather sensitive information when necessary, such as retrieving mailing addresses for physical products). Patreon is well-regarded for its built-in integration with Discord, but as I’ve described above, I have no use for a Discord, which I believe would go beyond the scope or usefulness for the Friends Club.

The greatest aspect of Podia, which I’ve already seen in action a handful of times over the past few months of learning the platform and building my community here, is that Podia is constantly, eagerly rolling out new features — and they’re always free/included. None of the latest and greatest additions to Podia get placed behind a paywall. In direct contrast to the new features at Patreon, most of which increase the percentage of fees you have to pay to Patreon each month, the new features at Podia become immediately accessible to me. So for all the details that I could lay out here about comparisons to other platforms, it is clear to me that Podia will only become increasingly more competitive and fruitful as time goes on. Speaking of the future…

Plans for the Future

I can’t help but hear The Starting Line singing in my ear when I think about this topic: “I’ve got BIG, BIG plans!”

A wise piece of advice is to “under-promise and over-deliver,” but my motto for this launch has been to “over-promise and over-deliver.” I have so many exciting plans and ideas and projects in the works, and I would love for the Friends Club to be the place for all these plans to come alive.

As you may have ascertained from the sheer length of this article, I love writing: song lyrics and creative non-fiction are the two zones I’ve been living in for most of the past decade, but throughout my life, I’ve dabbled excessively in storytelling, letters, poetry, and art criticism, not to mention some scattered attempts at writing film scripts, musicals, and theological dissertations. Between friends.chasetremaine.com and the public-facing website chasetremaine.com, there will be a resurgence of these other genres and styles, ranging from weekly blog posts to Friends Club-exclusives to e-books made available for sale on the webstore.

I also see the massive potential for a synergistic relationship between my music and my writing, going far beyond merely writing about my songs. I’m working on think-pieces that coincide with and expand upon new songs; I have outlined a full-length book that is part-memoir, part-music business instruction as I reflect upon all my crazy experiences and lessons-learned from recording my first few albums; and I’ve got a handful of movie script outlines and fiction novel ideas which I am considering adapting into concept albums of new music instead. Regardless of which of these projects come to fruition soon or ever, the Friends Club will always be at the forefront of the audience, whether that means early access, the ability to freely download something for sale on the webstore, or at the very least, a discount to purchase new products for a lower price than everyone else.

Yet as prolific as I hope to become in my written output, I still plan and expect my prolificness to primarily be in the realm of music, where I truly believe that the “one new song per month” structure will be something that I regularly outdo. In 2024 alone, I have hopes and plans of two bonus albums and two bonus EPs to release to the Friends Club, if everything in my life goes according to plan. I’m well aware that life is crazy and plans change, but in an ideal world, this first year would include a barrage of new music. Meanwhile, the Club will also be the “you heard it here first” destination for other projects that I work on, whether it’s music I produce for my wife, old music I’m currently reviving with my brother, or new collaborations with friends such as Theo MacMillan, Daniel David, or Benjamin Daniel.

Another big part of the puzzle is the eventual relaunch of my song shop, accepting commissions to write and record personalized songs for people. Once I’m ready to make this service available, I plan on selling these custom songs to members at a very steep discount; and I am also considering custom songs as a possible length-of-membership perk (for example, that I would write and record a song for you, about whatever topic you desire, in whatever style you request, at no additional charge to you, once you reach, say, two years of consecutive membership).

For those who are interested to commit more of their time to the growth of my skillset and the expansion of my webstore’s products, I will also be able to use the Friends Club as my “guinea pig” (in the most positive connotation of that term) for new features, giving away a new product or service for free while I hone it with the help of the Club members, before eventually taking it public and selling that product or service to non-members.

The big pie-in-the-sky goal which I’m lunging toward is the possibility that the Friends Club (and other music- or writing-related streams of income) will allow me to transition my current full-time occupation into a part-time job. As a true believer in bi-vocational artists, I am making no attempts or plans to exit the workforce altogether, but if the Friends Club grows beyond my expectations, then I would love to pursue part-time work as a possibility.

(Bonus: Since you’ve read this far into this article, you deserve to know a few extra thoughts that are floating around my head. One idea, especially if I’m able to shift my day job from full-time to part-time, is to increase the promoted monthly perks from one new song to two; but this wouldn’t just be two random songs — rather, it would be the ongoing creation of two separate members-only albums, where one of the two songs each month ties into a greater concept, leading to the release of a concept album at the end of each year. The second big idea currently bouncing around my head is: now that I’m slowing down my official studio album releases from yearly to once every few years, I want to go all-out in ways that would have previously been impossible without the ongoing support and investment of the Friends Club members; specifically, I would love to take a page from K-pop’s book, literally, and forgo jewel cases in favor of making full-size books to accompany the physical CD’s, containing lyrics, stories, essays, photos, and more.)

About the 2024 “Beta” Year and the 2025 Re-Launch

I have not-so-quietly been referring to 2024 as the beta year for the Friends Club: a 12-month experiment to see how this all pans out. Even though I’ve been brainstorming and planning this venture for years, there’s still the legitimate possibility that it could fall flat on its face, which I believe will become clear by the end of this first year.

There are two criteria upon which the ongoing future of the Friends Club is contingent: i) its sustainability in my life; and ii) the number of members who join during the beta year. If both criteria are satisfied come December 2024, that means I will be committing to the growth and flourishing of the Friends Club for many years to come. However, if either of these criteria fall short, then I will be closing up shop and using early 2025 to fulfill whatever else has been guaranteed to those who joined. The first criterion is straightforward enough: can I maintain the promises of the Club without forgoing my other priorities, the needs of my family, or my own health and sanity? I am extremely optimistic that the answer will be yes, but I will remain honest and observant over the course of this first year, so as to not chain myself into harmful commitments to the detriment of my family, my closest friends, or my day job.

Regarding the need for enough people to join during this calendar year, there’s a magic number in my head for the amount of members the Friends Club will need to have in order to continue marching into 2025 and beyond, and it’s a number that I think is realistic and attainable: 60. (This happens to be fewer than the amount of people who contributed to my successful Kickstarter campaign back in 2019). If I can average 5 new sign-ups every month this year, then I’ll hit my goal. I arrived at this number because this amount of members would make these websites/platforms self-sustaining; it wouldn’t yet be profitable, but thanks to the payment structures offered by Podia, every investment beyond the first 60 members would go directly to me — and all the more so if I decide (as is currently the plan) to increase the pricing structure for 2025gbvg onward.

As of now, the increased membership price for the 2025 re-launch will likely fall anywhere on the scale between $2 per month and $5 per month. There are a handful of reasons why the exact price increase has not been determined yet: i) depending on how the Friends Club grows and what sort of workflow I am able to settle into, it’s possible that the amount of monthly perks might grow large enough that it merits an amount on the higher end of the spectrum; ii) the discounts, freebies, and length-of-membership perks might come with such huge savings and small margins that a higher membership could be validated if not required for me to continue to break even; and iii) once 2024 comes to an end, I plan on surveying all members on what they think would be a reasonable price for the membership, (even though their price will not be increasing), such that the new price will come with the stamp of approval of experienced members who can confidently say, “What you’re paying will absolutely be worth what you receive in exchange.” To that extent, it’s thoroughly possible that the majority of the beta members inform me that they think $1/month is already the perfect rate for membership; and if that proves to be the case, then the official “re-launch” could feasibly happen without a price change. (I will also have the option of taking a page from Patreon’s book and offering different “tiers,” with greater amounts of perks made available to those at the higher tiers — but at the moment, my plan is to continue with the one-size-fits-all model.)

Side note: I want to spell out something important regarding fiscal integrity. There is the theoretical possibility that someone could sign up at the annual rate of $10/year in November, after which I might decide to close up the shop. Would it be unfair to that person? Would I be stealing their money? The answer is no, because the person who arrives in November would have full back-catalog access to a year’s worth of new songs, free albums, podcast episodes, etc. Obviously, I hope that the Friends Club will last for many years, and I will only be relaunching in 2025 if I’m confident that such stability is possible. But one of the main points I want to reiterate to everyone considering joining the “beta” year, before the price most likely increases in 2025, is that I will be doing everything in my power to make sure all members feel like they receive far more than their money’s worth.

Conclusion: My Hopes for the Friends Club

(I’ll be writing separately about this soon, as part as my commitment to publish a new article every Monday throughout 2024, but…) One of my greatest hopes with the Friends Club is built right there into the name: to become better friends with my listeners. In today’s social-media climate, the word most frequently thrown around pertaining to artists and fans is “parasocial.” A parasocial relationship is the feeling of knowing someone that’s created by the emotional investment you place into people who make their personal lives known to you via the internet, despite the relationship being wholly one-sided. You feel like you know someone well when they don’t even know who you are.

You might have noticed that the term “Friends Club” bears a striking similarity to the more common term, “fan club.” That’s intentional: I do not want the Friends Club to be a “fan club.” I want the barrier of entry to be casual and affordable enough that my “irl” friends and family members are happy to join; meanwhile, and perhaps more importantly, it’s a place where my listeners, if they desire to do so, can bridge the gap from fan to friend in an authentic manner. I don’t ever want to pretend that I’m on some special social echelon of unknowability, and I would genuinely love to get to know you in a one-on-one, non-parasocial sort of way. [Fun fact: When I kicked off my music career, I kicked around the idea of calling my listeners “Friendlies.” It was a term I already enjoyed using in casual contexts, but it didn’t test drive well and ended up feeling too gimmicky and awkward on my end, as if I was trying to give my not-yet-existent fanbase an official title, in the way that, for example, Lady Gaga calls her fans “Little Monsters.”]

Again, I’ll expound upon the topic of the artist/fan divide at a later date, but I think it should suffice for now for me to emphasize this point: I believe art is meant to be relational, and art loses much of its potential when we remove it from its relational context. For many years — dare I say, for most of human history — art has predominantly been a direct person-to-person exchange. Music? Theater? If you didn’t experience them in person, you didn’t experience them at all. Even books, in the centuries before the printing press, were often read aloud in the context of groups, such as a family or a church. Sure, the author might not have been present, but there was still a communal element which has grown increasingly rare and sadly unnecessary in modern times. Like the troubadours of old, I would love to play songs in the context of a community, where I can get to know my audience and learn to write songs directly and purposely for them. House shows, campfires, and other casual music events would be the natural extension of that desire here in the Nashville area, but the Friends Club will be how this desire extends to the rest of the globe.

I don’t refer to the “globe” with any grand expectations that this little “club” — which understandably might be deemed a Patreon rip-off by some — will become a global phenomenon that thousands of people are flocking to. In fact, it’s my smaller size as an indie artist which allows the Friends Club to even exist as a place for friends; if too many people joined, the feasibility of me getting to know all the members would disappear. In full disclosure, I would be thrilled to see more than 60 members join and stick around by the end of 2024. I mentioned in the previous section that I’m treating 2024 as the “beta” year for the Friends Club, with the possibility that I’ll close up shop if i) not enough people show interest and sign up, or ii) the amount of work involved proves to be unsustainable for me. At the moment, I’m not concerned about either of those factors, and because I’ve low-balled the price for everyone who signs up in 2024, I’m fully confident that everyone who joins will receive enough music, podcast content, and other offers/discounts such that no one could possibly feel like their $10-$12 went to waste.

If you trust me to steward your investment well, I would love to have you in the Club. We’ll chat, we’ll record podcasts together, we’ll talk about our favorite books and movies and new music releases, and you’ll receive loads of new music over the course of the year. Are you still on the fence? Do you have any concerns? Are you worried, for example, that the quality of my homemade music won’t measure up to an enjoyable standard? Please contact me with any of these questions or concerns and I will do my best to address them promptly and honestly.

Otherwise, if you’re convinced that the Friends Club is for you, what are you waiting for? Head to friends.chasetremaine.com now!

Have you considered joining the Friends Club?

The Friends Club is where I connect with my listeners, provide all of my music for free (including new members-only songs every month), and offer discounts for all of my other services, including writing and recording custom/personalized songs. Come join the fun!

Check Out My Recent Blog Posts:

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“Settled in the Unsettled” – Story Behind the Song

“Settled in the Unsettled” is a special song, unlike anything else I’ve yet written. It has perhaps the highest bang-for-your-buck ratio within my discography, packing many memorable musical moments and interesting intellectual inquiries within less than three minutes. The composition leans into my classical and traditional influences, and it’s the first song I’ve released that sounds like it has already existed for many decades, as if it could’ve been released in the 1950’s.

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