Cool New Platform For Supporting Artists: Patreon, From Jack Conte

from the nicely-done dept

I’m obviously a big fan of crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter, but I’ve always argued that it’s just one of many models that content creators can use to succeed today. In fact, for a long time, I’ve felt that the biggest thing that was missing from Kickstarter was any sort of ongoing payment system. It’s entirely project based, and thus it’s not the best tool for ongoing revenue. For many years I’ve been interested in ideas for more ongoing revenue streams, and even proposed the idea of “subscribing” to a band’s output nearly a decade ago. So it’s good to see that some folks are exploring some of these ideas in much more detail.

I met Jack Conte a few years ago, after having written about him and his band Pomplamoose a few times. I’d always been impressed by Pomplamoose’s ability to really connect with their fans and to build a way to support themselves via that strong connection. But in my brief interactions with Jack, it quickly became clear that he thinks deeply about different ideas for revenue models, and so it’s little surprise that he’s now built what seems like a pretty cool platform for ongoing support for content creators. It’s basically a platform, like Kickstarter, but rather than backing a project, you back the production of certain types of regular content. So, for example, you could promise that you’ll pay $5 every time Jack releases a new video (and you can put limits on how much you pay, so he doesn’t get away with suddenly releasing 1,000 videos at once). It’s called Patreon, and it’s got a nice, simple video explaining how it works:

I’m sure some will argue that this is just a “paywall,” but it’s actually the opposite of that. People aren’t paying you to get access to the content. The content will be available elsewhere (often for free). They’re paying to support your continued production (i.e., supporting future production, rather than paying to access past productions) and they can get extra benefits (added value) as supporters, such as Google Hangouts with the creators. Some of this is quite like a few of the popular subscription options in our Techdirt Insider Shop, though rather than monthly, the amounts are triggered per creation (I’m not sure that would work for a blog like ours that produces a bunch of content every day, but I could see how it would be quite cool for less frequent types of creative endeavors).

Either way, I’m glad to see some new platforms popping up like this. For a little while, it had been getting kind of annoying to see just how many Kickstarter clones were popping up (including a new one from Donald Trump?!?). You never know, of course, if Patreon will catch on, but conceptually the model makes a lot of sense for many types of content creators. In some ways, it seems like a better model for connecting with “true fans” than something like a Kickstarter. While Kickstarter has the appeal of “this is a big event, join us!” it would be nice to see some more ongoing, sustainable model platforms become popular as well.

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Comments on “Cool New Platform For Supporting Artists: Patreon, From Jack Conte”

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Karl (profile) says:


While I have some minor doubts about the success of this platform in the long-term (mostly for reasons having nothing to do with the platform itself), it’s excellent to see more of these business models actually making it to the marketplace.

Every single attempt is a benefit to artists, even if (God forbid) the attempt is unsuccessful. The worst that will happen is that it will lead to attempts that succeed. The best that will happen is that it will succeed, artists will have a platform that actually benefits them directly, and the public will benefit from artists’ successes without having to sacrifice any of their freedoms.

Whether this particular platform succeeds or fails, it’s a win-win proposition for everyone, artists and the public alike.

horse with no name says:


I’m sure some will argue that this is just a “paywall,” but it’s actually the opposite of that.

It reads more like a failwall to me. It seems to be going against the basic grain, once again hoping a few people will pay to entertain the masses. This one is a little worse, because it appears that those who do pay will be nothing more than those who don’t pay and just pick the content up online for free.

It’s nice to see someone trying to tackle the issues at hand, but I think perhaps Jack Conte confuses his personal success with one that can be rolled out and essentially franchised. He does well personally because he has the secret sauce ingredient in her personality that allows him to connect with people in ways most never can. That is what makes his things work. I don’t know if that ability can be translated into this sort of system. It really requires people to get past certain boundaries to really personally like an artist and basically to pay for others to enjoy them. That is a hard sell.

My feeling is that this will be a short term success (as all the anti-label types around sites like Techdirt) clamber to be patrons, but over time, donor fatigue sets in and the process slowly dies off.

Lurk-a-lot (profile) says:

Re: paywall

Actually, I first heard of patreon via a youtube subscription – get that? An artist that was already producing video content for free that was also asking his subscribers if they wanted to support his efforts.

1. Not a paywall.
2. I personally already like his content.

… which makes you wrong on all of your points.

David Muir (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: paywall

It is not a paywall. It is a crowdpatron system. In the very old days, under patronage, one rich dude would pay an artist to produce works for him. With the Internet, individuals can pay a small amount to support their favorite artist, but add many individuals together and you potentially have an artist making a decent living via ongoing payment for production.

This is better than the current regime in several ways. Most importantly it funds FUTURE work of an ARTIST’s own creation, and does not extort money out of people for the PAST work of OTHERS.

Zakida Paul (profile) says:

I am unsure about this. A ‘subscription’ model for crowd funding ‘ongoing production’ doesn’t sound like the kind of thing I would be interested in. I would much prefer to look at each project on merit and then decide if it is something I want to contribute to and how much I want to contribute.

PledgeMusic works just fine for that.

Crosbie Fitch (profile) says:

Necessity is the mother of invention

I’ve been working in this area for some time:

It’s amazing how these simple, but radical revenue mechanisms aren’t believed as necessary until they are implemented, used, and successful. Only then are they eventually recognised as indispensable, and in hindsight people wonder “Why weren’t these things in existence much sooner?”

out_of_the_blue says:

Yup, the "new business model" is free money!

Mike sez: “I’m obviously a big fan of crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter,” and it’s off-the-top FIVE PERCENT TAKE. That’s the kind of idea Mike likes: LOTS OF MONEY for almost no effort.

Look guys, most music and movies are made with expectation of getting money, and copyright is simply common law recognition of who made it and attempt to see that those persons and no others get the rewards. Copyright IS crowfunding. You wouldn’t need Kickstarter in the absence of commercialized piracy such as Megaupload! “File hosts” break the connection between fans and creators, besides break the law in getting money from works they didn’t produce.

And now supposed “patronage”, eh? This is even less likely to work because breaks the direct connection between product and paying: eventually patrons are going to wonder why they’re paying. — You can’t compete with free when it’s your own product! If you encourage free distribution without some moral hook then most people will take it for free. You might as well just stick to traditional copyright that’s been proven for over a hundred years.

“a blog like ours that produces a bunch of content every day,” — HA! Talk about self-aggrandizing! You re-write from what others did last week! That’s EASY. — Just try offering some real world solutions rather than gushing over the latest scam or your endless complaints.

Take a loopy tour of! You always end up same place!
Mike may sell a few T-shirts with Techdirt logo, but I bet his lunch dates are open.

harknell (profile) says:

Already Long Established By Pete Abrams

Pete Abrams, the creator of the webcomic “Sluggy Freelance” has had a system in place for a very long time called “The Defenders of the Nifty”, which is essentially a subscription system to help him continue to make the comic. While he does have some special extras for these people, and gives them some info in advance, they primarily just want to support his work. If you have a strong enough fanbase this can work well–part of that “1000 True Fans” idea that came out a few years ago.

The Real Michael says:

I’m not convinced. It’s like turning music business into a charity social club. It makes the people using it seem desperate, whereas something like Kickstarter is just “This is my project, you contribute X amount and get Y content.” Done.

It’s not a bad idea but I seriously doubt it will take off.

(BTW, Techdirt keeps freezing at random intervals. The heck is going on?)

Daniel (profile) says:

Not a paywall.

Except when it is.

Brian Brushwood and Tom Merritt did an awesome show on the TWiT Network called Frame Rate about cord cutting, IE ditching your pay TV (Cable, DBS, Etc.) provider in favor of internet TV and OTA antenna. TWiT is an ad supported network and all was well.

Tom Merritt had some sort of contract dispute and left the network, so now the show is freelance and called Cordkillers.

Again all was well via Patreon funding until tonight when I was watching the live stream and Brian said that they were shutting down the stream to record some exclusive stuff for the patrons.

Exclusive stuff for people who paid is a paywall. I would gladly support them if I could afford it, but can’t so obviously as one of the excluded I am a bit miffed about the whole thing. I will still watch whatever is freely available.

Oh and if Brian reads this, say hi to Mr. Happy Pants for me <>.

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