You created a Patreon site. What made you decide to create this site, and what are your goals for it?
When the Covid started, I was like, “Yeah! A holiday!”. I thought that two months without concerts would be great. But when my management called about three weeks into the lockdown and warned that it could go deep into 2021, I got a bit scared. They suggested I check out Patreon in the meantime. I didn’t because I couldn’t be bothered; I was too happy holidaying somewhere in the South of Spain. But when I mentioned Patreon to my 22-year-old son, he told me it was cool and that many YouTubers had moved there. He had always pushed me to be more active on social media, though the older I get, the less I care. My weekly average on Instagram is less than a minute per day since I get bored looking at photos easily. In general, I find it an enormous waste of time, but, as I’m not stupid and would love to do what I do for the next 20-30 years, I can’t close my eyes and ignore how social media has become an essential part of a musician’s career. It also has its advantages because it allows young people to reach out to older people and learn from them. I could never have been in touch with my idols, but nowadays, the youngsters have all of this at their fingertips.
The threat of Covid and the fact that my son thought Patreon was cool made me decide to give it a try, although I hated it at first because I had to overcome too many problems; I never liked taking selfies, leave alone filming myself. My son was instrumental through the process, reminding me that in order to learn to play the cello, I had to practice it, so I should just practice filming myself. Speaking into a camera might not come naturally, but I should just do it again and again. It was a slow process, but after a while, I found some pleasure in creating content that more and more people seem to find valuable.
My first Patreon project was to present what I call my “daily routines”, which are nine different exercises I have gone through every day for the past 35 years and which enable me to play any piece in the cello repertoire without too much practice time. I am trying to convey to my patrons, mostly cellists, that they don’t have to work through all their exercise and etude books but focus instead on these essential and narrowed down routines which give a cellist all they need.
I think musicians often feel overwhelmed with all of the available material at hand, and once they reach a certain level, they leave these rather basic exercises behind, which I think is a huge mistake. Some of my patrons expressed relief when an accomplished player reminds them of the basics but narrows it down to the essential. Other highlights have been my segment “PlayTalk”, where I play and talk through a cello concerto, explaining musical and technical difficulties and how to solve them. Also pretty popular is “AlbanTalk”, in which I have interviewed so far a couple of colleagues of mine, including Steven Isserlis.
Thanks to Patreon, I’ve met fascinating people, like a couple of retired cellists in their 80s. They aren’t necessarily famous but have lived with the cello for the last sixty or seventy years and have so much to share. I have these video chats with them, and it’s charming. One of my patrons is a molecular physicist who loves to play the cello in her free time. Quite a change in my lifestyle: I’ve always been rather a loner, and suddenly I’m in touch with all these different people. I have by now 280 patrons who pay to see my content and give me the incentive and inspiration to keep going, although I have started playing concerts again.
External link: https://www.patreon.com/AlbanGerhardt