Patreon wants to help creators turn fan followings into media companies

San Francisco startup Patreon, which lets fans of musicians, artists, and other independent creators pledge money on an ongoing basis to fund creative works, has come up with a powerful idea: More than 1 million patrons are on track to provide $150 million in total funding this year. Now the company is launching a portfolio of tools to help the creators who’ll receive that money to use it to run their businesses like . . . well, businesses.

Among the new offerings, which are being rolled out along with a new logo and general branding refresh:

• “Lens” is a Snapchat Stories-style mobile app that lets creators share behind-the-scenes moments with paying fans.

• A partnership with live-streaming company Crowdcast will allow creators to stream video, also with the ability to limit the audience to patrons.

• Additional functionality will help creators provide early access to their new content, such as “tomorrow’s comic today,” to patrons.

• “Patron Relationship Manager” is a dashboard for tracking fans and monitoring how ongoing interactions with them turn into funding for future projects.

Patreon CEO Jack Conte told me that these launches are a direct reaction to the fact that some users are raising tens of thousands of dollars on the platform: “As the type of creator who’s using Patreon has scaled—as people are using the platform to start and run a full-blown media operation—we’re starting to realize that we’ve got to step up our game a little bit.”