Product News

Patreon Is a Recurring Tip Jar for Fans Who Love Everything You Make

Published on May 7, 2013
by Liz Gannes

Kickstarter funding might be a good fit for an independent artist making a big project like a movie. But on YouTube, there are many creators who dribble out new projects as they make them.

PatreonFor instance: Jack Conte of the band Pomplamoose makes intricate remixes, mashups and original songs where the videos are an integral part of the experience because they depict how it was made. With Pomplamoose or independently, Conte releases about one new item per month. Here’s his latest hit, a mesmerizing Daft Punk-Skrillex remix with about 2.5 million views:

Conte thinks it would be a better model for his superfans to support him by committing to pay for everything he does. Say, $1. This isn’t a recurring monthly subscription; it’s a Jack Conte subscription.

So he’s starting a new site, Patreon, that launches today, for himself and other artists.

Patreon users will be able set the terms of the perks they’ll give to patrons at various payment levels. (They pay a 5 percent cut to the platform, with payments handled via Stripe.)

On the one hand, Patreon is yet another spin on crowdfunding that really only serves one particular form of fan-artist relationship. On the other hand, Conte is exactly that guy, and he thinks there are many more musicians, short filmmakers and bloggers like him.

“On YouTube, there are now tens of thousands of people with hundreds of thousands of followers each,” Conte said in an interview yesterday via phone from Sonoma, Calif., where he is based. “This is the burgeoning artistic middle class. It’s not a Bono or a Zach Braff, but micro-demi-celebrities. So, power and fame, instead of being in the hands of the few, is incredibly distributed.”

But wait a second, isn’t YouTube announcing its own paid subscription plans¬†any day now?

That’s totally different, Conte said, because it’s likely to be for premium networks and channels rather than creators themselves. It’s a way for YouTube to try to cut a deal with a Disney or an HBO, not a Pomplamoose.

Conte argued that for independent artists like himself payments shouldn’t be mandatory; they should be an option. If he were to set up a pay wall, nobody would share his content. “The backlash would be awful. Talk about adding friction,” he said.

And, on the other extreme, Patreon probably isn’t a fit for major stars, Conte agreed. If Lady Gaga or Louis C.K. were to ask fans to pay directly per new release, millions of people might sign up, and the Kickstarter-like transparency of Patreon would show just how much money they were making per new video. And Conte thinks that would turn people off at some high number.

So is Patreon a tech startup? Conte — who built the site with ChompOn and OurSpot founder Sam Yam, who happens to have been his freshman roommate — said he isn’t sure yet.

“I’m not part of Silicon Valley and I don’t intend to be,” Conte said. “Not that I have anything against it. I have a succesful band with one million downloads on iTunes, so I’m approaching this from a fan perspective.”

Here’s a video of Conte explaining the Patreon model, and here is his own Patreon page:

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