Posted on March 6, 2014 in Archive

Patreon is changing the crowdfunding model


A few months ago we published a blog about implementing the concept of artistic patronage, where authors are the investment for publishers, not already completed manuscripts. It would encourage long-term relationships between authors and publishers, and would probably assist in genre development. Well, good news, Patreon has started doing this! Only not just for books…

Patreon is a San-Fransisco based startup company that wants to change the way crowd-funding works in three ways. As previously mentioned, there are patrons in this system who agree to support ‘creators’, as opposed to the traditional crowd-funding method where people choose to support a particular piece of work’s production, like a book, invention or film. Within this, patrons can choose to go one of several ways with their money: they can choose a flat monthly fee, which is optimised for creators who can churn out content quickly (like a regular podcast or a webcomic), which is a popular choice for creators on the website.

They can also subscribe for a per-fee option – so for example, if a band signed up for Patreon and received a $100 per-fee subscription, every time they successfully produced a music video or album they would receive $100 from that person. So note: if by some miracle they managed to produce 50 pieces in a month, they would receive $5,000 from one person. Unless they install a cap, of course, which is an option for users.

Creator of Patreon, Jack Conte, takes full advantage of the system as an independent musician. Conte started out as a Youtube musician, but became frustrated with the available methods for digitally distributed content. Pitiful earning from ads all over his videos weren’t helping, either. But now, every time he creates a music video, he receives $7,341.27 from 1,211 patrons all over the world. So far though, that seems to be one of the highest figures for any Patreon user.

Liquid State - Crowdfunding Model

My favourite Patreon creator to date – this fellow, Smooth McGroove, receives several thousand dollars a month to create acapella versions of popular video game themes. Note the third panel of the bottom row – his cat often makes cameos in videos.

This system seems to be popular among webcomic artists – Saturday Morning Breakfast Cerealsince launching it’s campaign in December, is up to roughly $7,800 per month from over 2,800 patrons. Other successful comics are generating thousands of dollars per month. There are hundreds of comic artists using Patreon – enough for there to be a ‘Top 100 Comics Campaigns‘, anyway (by the way, that hyperlink is great for information about comic book campaigns across most of the major crowdfund initiatives).  Many of the platform’s users seem to get great use out of the website’s option to allow creators to blog about their progress, as it gives them a platform to record their achievements onto.

Additionally, Patreon also works as a content platform and hosting service, since it makes available all the content that it helps to fund. Rightly so – creators need to have some accountability if they are taking money without having created content first.

How would new creators fare on this method, I wonder? Most of the major beneficiaries of Patreon seem to be already established creators looking to supplement their income, remove advertisements from their websites or surrounding content, or expand their business further – there isn’t a lot of data to be found concerning smaller or ‘undiscovered’ creators. In fact, not to put a downer on a great idea, but some of the data made available by Patreon isn’t that helpful – yes, their “Total Reoccuring Pledges per Created Work” chart might be impressive, but it isn’t clear whether the $150k figure is for the monthly subscription fee, the per-fee system, or both. It also doesn’t address how many items were created to reach that sum. Nevertheless, according to Conte, “We have creators on Patreon who are making over 20x what they make from YouTube ad revenue.”

I’m viewing this as a confidence booster for ‘creators’ everywhere – someone agreeing to subscribe to your ongoing creation of work is like saying ‘Here, I think you can do it! This is how much I believe in you!’  So, why couldn’t this work for independent or struggling authors? They could post snippets of their novels as proof of progress, be paid a monthly amount as an advance of sorts, or receive an immediate payout when they publish their book, depending on what mode their patrons prefer.

So if you are a budding creator, or want to go cold turkey on AdSense, then maybe you should hop on the infinitely-giving Patreon train. That’s the great thing about it – you can have patrons and supporters for life with Patreon, who might not be aware that it is not a one-time contribution, but rather a subscription (I kid, I kid). And doesn’t a subscription in someone’s livelihood sound more worthwhile than a magazine? So go on – back people, not things.