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Fast Talk

The Right To Be Heard (And Paid)

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

The Artist Advocate
Jack Conte
Cofounder, Patreon

[Photograph by Chloe Aftel]

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

A version of this article appeared in the November 2013 issue of Fast Company magazine.