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The Artist Advocate
Jack Conte
Cofounder, Patreon

The Right To Be Heard (And Paid)

Breaking from the crowd Where platforms like Kickstarter, YouTube, and Facebook fall short, entrepreneurs are stepping in.

Jack Conte

Cofounder, Patreon

Patreon is a crowdfunding site that enables artists to sell material to their fans (for more on the direct-to-fan movement, see Who Needs The Entertainment Biz). Some 3,000 creators have signed up since its May launch.

The Artist Advocate

In YouTube's early days, my band Pomplamoose was making a living by releasing videos on it, which drove iTunes sales. And because YouTube was small enough, our videos would bubble to the top and new fans could discover us. But now YouTube faces the same problem every large platform has: It relies on complex algorithms to decide what it recommends to viewers, and that can drown out a lot of great talent. Small artists have loyal fans, but it's not like all their fans will watch their videos on repeat. A performer with 200,000 fans, who can't break past the algorithms to pull in new viewers, might make $100 per month from ads.

So now, artists often turn to crowdfunding sites to make money. But that presents yet another problem: Raising money on those platforms requires a new project, like an album or a film. What if you're just trying to support yourself? At Patreon, we're saying, 'Keep doing what you're doing, and earn a hundred times more.' That's because, compared to the tiny per-view ad revenue on YouTube, creators can make much more selling their work to fans, who subscribe to pay a chosen amount every time the artist releases a piece of content. We only take a 5% cut.

Artists deserve more than a check cut in half eight times by publishers. When I created my Patreon page, I knew the fans of my music would support me. I've met them on tour and I've seen their comments on Twitter and Facebook. I'm out there making relationships, so I should benefit the most, right? Our investors are okay with Patreon taking just 5%. This idea will only continue to grow, so that 5% is going to be plenty."

Fast Talk: Breaking from the Crowd

[Photograph by Chloe Aftel]

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  • In setting up my own page I've discovered that it's easier than Kickstarter and that people who want to become patrons find it easier to sign up as well. I don't have a large following on youtube (yet) so it is hard to find patrons but I'm thinking a little offline marketing will solve that temporary problem. I seriously believe this will take a huge bite out of Kickstarter and Indiegogo because you can do the exact same thing they do, rewards and all, and you can do it while you're waiting for the crowd to show up, WITHOUT any deadline. I've also found that the artists I support and connect with on Patreon tend to actually talk with you through their walls, which is not the case on Youtube, Facebook, or Twitter.

  • "A performer with 200,000 fans, who can't break past the algorithms to pull in new viewers, might make $100 per month from ads."

    As a YouTuber with ~190k subscriptions, I can attest to this being so close to right it's scary.

  • Harry Liang

    This is exactly what musicians need. If you think about it... Musicians have played for tips directly with audiences since the beginning of time. How did we ever end up splitting the money with so many middle men? We need to get back to the basics. That 5% is enough to keep the services going.