Let us entertain you!

Many of us are on furlough, layoffs, or reduced hours. Some of us are now working from home full time but still have our commutes and other errands and activities slashed and need more entertainment with so much downtime on our hands.

Netflix is such a sweet escape when we should unplug from the uncertainty and stress of the virus outbreak and fallout. Yet we all see the economic black hole looming ahead and it’s extra hard when we know that some of our friends and community members have no safety net and our individual help can be limited at best.

In particular, independent creatives are already suffering from this. We rely heavily on our audience for our livelihoods. But we also know that everyone is about to get walloped right now and it’s difficult to budget with what may be limited means the next few months.

Below I have listed a few sources that will help consumers and audiences stretch their dollars to directly support each other.

If you have services such as Netflix, Prime Video, Hulu, and Disney+ and would consider shifting that budget for a few months to these platforms instead, you would be making a world of difference for creatives right now and getting quality content and entertainment for good value.

These can all be done for about $25–30 total, either one-time or continuously.

1. Patreon (price: choose-your-own-adventure)

The best thing about Patreon is that you get to choose how much you pledge to each campaign, and you get exactly the content you want. It’s like having a cable package except you pick exactly all the channels and you get access not just to art, but also literature and visual content. There’s a good chance that an artist with any notable following will have a Patreon account and most love low-dollar contributions like $1 — $5 pledge levels.

CREATORS: If you have a decent and active following, already create and post at least once or twice a week on any platform, consider moving some content to Patreon if you don’t already have one, even if just temporarily.

2. Medium ($5 monthly)

If you’re already reading this on Medium behind the paywall, I don’t need to explain this to you; thank you for your readership and keep on!

However, if you’re reading this on any other platform or are not behind the paywall, please strongly consider joining the Medium Partner Program. This is by far the best bang for your buck. It’s $5 a month and that money goes straight into writers’ pockets just by reading their work. Other interactions like highlighting, clapping, and commenting help but it’s not necessary. Writers are paid royalties based on reading time and all members have access to the entire library.

CREATORS: This is the best place for writers to host their content at present. You can cross-post any material that you have exclusive rights to which means you can import previous material, submit to publications to get your work seen, and also may have your story selected for curation (that is, for it to be distributed in topics without a home publication).

3. YouTube Premium ($11.99 monthly)

I know, YouTube can be the devil. It has some serious issues with algorithms and has contributed directly to the rise of the alt-right movement. It has a major issue with illegal material. And it was founded because of the fallout from the racist and misogynist reaction to Janet Jackson’s nipple.

However, YouTube Premium can be a great way to support writers, musicians, actors, and others with valuable skills to share. YouTube is the video library version of Google. One of my favorite things about YouTube are the 3-hour soundscapes that I listen to for writing. With my premium membership, I can listen to all the bubbling brooks, haunted castles, and crackling fireplaces I want, uninterrupted and ad-free.

CREATORS: ANY skill you have you can immediately put up onto YouTube! This one has the steepest curve of learning and audience access, but virtually any type of work or teachable skill you have can be ‘Tubed and if not generate income for you at least supplement your other work.

4. Kindle Unlimited ($9.99 monthly)

I have seen so many requests for book recommendations to catch up on reading with the downtime, and fortunately, people are jumping at the chance! However, it seems as though people are recommending bigger names and more well-known titles. All authors need support to be sure, but this is the time to really establish a base for independent and self-published authors.

Kindle Unlimited is an Amazon-exclusive library that lets you read thousands of titles for one membership fee. Jeff Bezos is a dead-eyed, soulless monster but this is actually one way that indie writers can make a reliable income and does not put undue pressure on overworked and abused warehouse teams.

The royalty structure is based on a percentage of Kindle pages read. Instead of asking people for book recs, ask your writer friends if their titles are on KU, load it up, and read! If you don’t have a Kindle, there is an app that will work just fine on your smartphone.

CREATORS: For a long time, I resisted using Amazon KDP at all, much less making my ebook exclusive to the platform. In the end, desperate times call for desperate measures, and I got tired of chasing down and managing three-dollar sales. It’s just easier to let KDP deal with it for now. If you have a book already in e-format, consider putting it on KU for awhile. Note that royalties take 60–90 days and you can get quite addicted to watching your titles’ ranks shift but it’s nice to know that money will for sure come to you down the road.

6. Buy Direct (price: varies)

Any person who writes, draws or paints, or makes something will almost certainly have some kind of stock at home. Having something physical in your hand to read or observe (or consume!) can bring you a richer experience and help feed literal starving artists.

Ask your creative friends if they have copies of their book, prints, or other goodies that they are just waiting to sell. Don’t ask for discounts (let them figure it out and extend the offer if they can) but ask if they have something in stock that fits your budget.

CREATORS: Tell your friends to be cool and buy your stuff! Let them know you have stock available! Is shipping extra or can you throw it in for free or a deal right now? If you don’t use a platform like Etsy, did you know that with a PayPal account you still get discounted shipping labels? Don’t be ashamed: there’s a chance at least a few of your friends or audience are looking to buy right now for the exact reason you need to sell.

This is not at all exhaustive. There are many ways to affordably support people who need it more than the Netflix C-suite does right now. Arts and entertainment are going to get us through a lot of tough times and nothing would encourage us more to create it than people enjoying and supporting it directly from the source.

Creators, share this with others and include your own work and platforms that are available right now. Feel free to comment below with links and brief pitches.

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