How Patreon is Destroying the Starving Artist Cliché

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Could your fans pay the bills?

Young cute woman walking on the street with her guitar

Most creatives are commissioned for a piece or a project, making regular work (and payment) more than a little tricky to forecast. But there’s an online alternative quickly gaining speed: like a subscription-style Kickstarter, anyone who publishes work on the creative library that is Patreon doesn’t just get one-off backing from supporters, they can request monthly financial sponsorship from their fans. With a Series B funding round closing at US$30 million at the beginning of last year, it’s safe to say that the platform, founded by Jack Conte and Sam Yam in 2013, is single-handedly destroying the starving artist cliche, one subscription payment at a time.

What it is

A crowdfunding platform that works on a monthly-subscription basis. A modern-day version of the patronage system used hundreds of years ago, it gives creatives a solid income while allowing them to stay in control of their product.

Who uses it

Makers and creatives of every kind use Patreon. There are bloggers, animators, film reviewers and podcasters (the top Patreon podcaster is Last Podcast on the Left, which raises funds from almost 4000 subscribers a month). On the more unusual end of the spectrum lies a ukulele teacher who uploads lessons, cosplay photographers and even a video game documentarian who pulls in almost US$22,000 each month.

How to get started

Once you’ve signed up and built your profile, customised your URL and written your ‘About’ page, it’s time to decide what rewards you’ll offer your followers. Many creatives give bigger incentives the more their subscribers pay – for example, video-maker and podcaster Psychicpebbles offers ‘thanks’ for US$1 a month, for US$25 a month a supporter can ask a question of him on his podcast and, for US$100 each month, a follower will be thanked on every podcast, and will also have a personal message read out during each episode.

Once your platform has been built and your page is ready, it’s time to get some followers. Your followers will commit to a certain amount of money each month in return for whatever rewards you choose. Creators earn 90 per cent of the money, Patreon holds onto five per cent, and the other five is usually taken up with transaction fees. Patreon handles any issues on the financial end – if someone fails to pay, or a follower has a question, they’ll deal with it, giving you the freedom to create away! What’s more, you retain 100 per cent ownership of your work.

How to earn dollars

Some makers earn very little income – if any – through Patreon, while others subsist entirely on what they make, even affording employees. On average, patrons pay more to Patreon each month than they do to watch streaming platforms such as Netflix and Spotify. In 2016, there were 35 creators on the platform that made over US$150,000, while video game streaming group Easy Allies brought in US$30,000 from 4000 patrons within 48 hours of launching their page. Some creators make US$5000 each month, some more than US$30,000 and others rake in dollars in the hundreds. The amount, really, depends on the quality of the work in the eyes of those browsing the site.

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