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- Date Established
- San Francisco, CA
- Continuous crowdfunding for creators
- Platform facilitates reward-giving
- Fewer content restrictions than other crowdfunders
- Industry-standard fees
- Limited help section
- No built-in promotional tools
Patreon is a crowdfunding site aimed at a particular audience: artists and online personalities in the business of content creation. As crowdfunding platforms go, Patreon is enjoying a meteoric rise in its public profile. This was initially just my anecdotal observation, but I found some substantiation when I looked at Patreon’s traffic statistics on Alexa. If you’re Patreon, you’ve got to love the direction in which that line is going.
Patreon’s approach to rewards-based crowdfunding is unique, setting it apart from the likes of Kickstarter (see our review) and Indiegogo (see our review). Whereas with the latter two, backers support creators with one-time pledges in exchange for rewards, Patreon’s model is that backers — patrons, as Patreon refers to them — subscribe to the content of the creator, making recurring payments on an ongoing basis in exchange for access to the creator’s content. Patreon declares itself a crowdfunding platform for creators, as its platform allows creators to draw a steady, continuous income from The Crowd. This funding model makes Patreon particularly well-suited to creators of viral videos, online journalists, writers, and musicians.
Let’s peer deeper into Patreon’s pioneering brand of continuous rewards crowdfunding.
Table of Contents
Patreon was founded in San Francisco by musician Jack Conte and developer Sam Yam. Conte’s oeuvre of music videos was getting a million views per month, yet Conte was only making $50/month through ad revenue on Youtube. He started Patreon in 2013 with the intent to give artists a sorely needed means of monetizing their work. Describing the reasoning behind his company, Conte said the following in a 2013 article:
“I’m releasing new things on a monthly basis. I have friends releasing material weekly,” Conte said. “They’d have to almost invent an excuse to raise money after going on Kickstarter once. We’re saying, ‘No, no. Don’t make up a new endeavor. Keep doing what you do best and let people pay you each time you do that.”
When you create an account, you’re asked to self-classify your work into one of the following categories:
- Video & Film
- Drawing & Painting
- Crafts & DIY
- Dance & Theater
While Patreon asks you to classify your work, the category your choose isn’t very consequential, as you can produce whatever you like — if people are willing to pay for it, you can do it. Patreon is for entrepreneurs and creative teams engaged in creating content on a continuous basis. Other kinds of projects in need of crowdfunding — non-creative business projects, medical emergency fundraising, etc. — should instead check out the likes of Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and GoFundMe. Patreon’s appeal is somewhat narrowcasted, but if you’re a content creator (or a business that creates content), their platform enables you to get paid, directly, by the people who consume your content.
Another factor in Patreon’s broad appeal to creators is that Patreon doesn’t have the same content restriction policies many crowdfunding sites have. Some of the most popular Patreon projects have an edge to them, from the “dirtbag left” political podcast Chapo Trap House to musician/provocateur Amanda Palmer to controversial “New Atheist” author Sam Harris.
Terms and Fees
These are the terms and fees for Patreon’s crowdfunding campaigns:
|Funding method:||Per month OR per creation|
|Payment processing fee:||Comes to approximately 5%|
Patreon’s platform fee of 5% is pretty much the industry standard at this point. On top of that, the payment processor (Stripe or PayPal) charges a fee for each donation made, and these fees generally come out to an additional 5% or less. There are also payout fees to consider — the fees payable when you move funds from your creator balance to your bank or PayPal account — but these are minimal. Here’s Patreon’s full explanation of their fee policy.
Once you’ve taken your page live, you can add posts to your page, which can either be viewable by everybody or restricted to your patrons (at a reward level of your choosing). As for funding, you can choose to either get monthly payments from your patrons or “per creation” payments. You can also set up “goals” that will be reached when your funding level hits a certain amount. These goals are non-binding and can be changed at any time.
Like other rewards-based crowdfunding platforms, Patreon lets you offer rewards to your “patrons,” though unlike Kickstarter, they don’t require it. They do recommend it, however, noting in a blog post that successful creators tend to offer more than two reward levels. The company suggests the following when considering what rewards to offer:
- Access to your patron-only feed
- Photos/videos of your process
- A live chat with your patrons via Patreon’s mobile app
- MP3 downloads
- Physical rewards (recommended for higher-tiered patrons only)
Patreon’s application process is a breeze. Just start setting up your account, enter some basic personal information, attach your social media accounts, set up a payment method, and you can start earning money for your creations.
Sales and Advertising Transparency
Patreon is transparent regarding its services — I never got the sense that there was anything they were trying to hide or equivocate about.
Customer Service and Technical Support
Patreon has FAQs for creator issues: one for patron issues, and one for general issues. For direct support, you can submit a question and Patreon will respond via email between 8 am and 5 pm Pacific time. They warn their users that “We’re currently experiencing a high volume of requests. Due to this, we will get back to you within 3-4 business days.” Patreon is still a young company experiencing rapid growth, so they’ll boost their level of customer service with time, one hopes.
You can also try tweeting @PatreonSupport for assistance.
Negative Reviews and Complaints
A review of Patreon by PC Magazine was largely complimentary of the service but noted that the Help section was not as extensive as it could be. I found this to be true as well, and I’d add that they could make it easier for people to see how funding works, exactly what portion of your funds will go towards payment processing fees, and the like. As it is, that information is all there, but it requires a little digging.
PCMag also points out the fact that Patreon lacks built-in promotional tools (apart from the ability to add social media links to your campaign). Indiegogo and Kickstarter are superior in this respect.
Another reviewer noted that it’s difficult to get people to make a recurring financial commitment to you — it’s a harder proposition for many than making a one-time donation.
Positive Reviews and Testimonials
The same PCMag review I referenced above claims that Patreon’s funding model is ideal for artists and other creators who produce content on an ongoing basis. They also note that Patreon’s platform is open to a wider range of creative content than its competitors (especially considering its policy allowing NSFW content.)
Other reviews tend to echo these sentiments. As for user reviews and testimonials, Patreon currently scores an average score of 6.3 out of 10 from users on Trustpilot, though with only five reviews posted, the small sample size makes it difficult to draw conclusions.
Patreon isn’t the crowdfunder for everybody. If you’re looking to raise funds to launch one particular project, like the creation of some cool tech gizmo, look into Kickstarter. If you’re seeking funds to help cover the cost of purchasing new equipment for your business, check out Indiegogo or Fundable (or, alternately, check out online lenders such as LendingClub, Prosper, Accion and Kiva and apply for a crowdfunded loan). And if you’re trying to raise money for your friend’s kidney operation, set up a GoFundMe page.
If, on the other hand, you’re an indie video game company, a cartoonist, an author, a podcast host, a musician, or you’ve inexplicably garnered a huge Youtube following by just recording yourself sitting in an oversized gamer chair playing Call Of Duty while yelling at people, Patreon is perfectly tailored for you. As it can be difficult to get people to make even a small recurring financial commitment to you, it helps enormously if you’ve already built up a large Youtube following and/or a heavy Twitter presence. But if you (or your business) produce creative goods that inspire people, Patreon’s platform is precision-engineered to help you monetize doing what you already love. It’s a boon to creatives everywhere, it’s easy to set up and maintain, and it’s a reason for renewed optimism about the power of the internet to create opportunities for those who lack an institutional platform but deserve to be heard.
I’ll end with this: Through Patreon, “dril” of Weird Twitter fame makes more than $2K a month creating absurd Tweets and bizarre Photoshopped images. Now that is a crowdfunding platform I can get into.