Patronage meant supplying a musician with the support needed to go about their creative endeavors, whether that meant giving a commission for a mass setting or hiring someone as the court composer.
Of course these examples refer to a world when the Church and noble families had a larger grip on the artistic culture. These larger institutions would be the main supporters of musical progression. As they say, the Renaissance had to be funded.
Now supporting the arts isn’t so much based on institutions as it is also on individuals. For instance, selling recordings, tickets, and merchandise is based on sales per person. Institutions aren’t exclusively giving financial help to musicians anymore. Fans (ie: individuals) have now taken the largest slice of the pie.
In this sense, everyone is a patron today.
Where we invest our attention, time, and money is to what we value most. Patronage stems from the simple idea that culture is worth investing in, that it is a beauteous necessary in society.
That is a great power and, with it, a responsibility.