Patreon (//, /-/) is an American membership platform that provides business tools for content creators to run a subscription service. It helps creators and artists earn a monthly income by providing rewards and perks to their subscribers. Patreon charges a commission of 5 to 12 percent of creators' monthly income, in addition to payment processing fees.
Type of site
|Key people||Jack Conte (CEO)|
|Users||3 million monthly active patrons|
|Launched||May 2, 2013|
Patreon is used by YouTube videographers, webcomic artists, writers, podcasters, musicians, adult content creators, and other categories of creators who post regularly online. It allows artists to receive funding directly from their fans, or patrons, on a recurring basis or per work of art. The company, started by musician Jack Conte and developer Sam Yam in 2013, is based in San Francisco.
Patreon was co-founded in May 2013 by Sam Yam and musician Jack Conte, who was looking for a way to make a living from his YouTube videos. Together with Sam Yam he developed a platform that allows 'patrons' to pay a set amount of money every time an artist creates a work of art. The company raised $2.1 million in August 2013 from a group of venture capitalists and angel investors. In June 2014, Patreon raised a further $15 million in a series A round led by Danny Rimer of Index Ventures. In January 2016, the company closed on a fresh round of $30 million in a series B round, led by Thrive Capital, which put the total raised for Patreon at $47.1 million.
In March 2015, Patreon acquired Subbable, a similar voluntary subscription service created by the Green brothers, John and Hank Green, and brought over Subbable creators and contents, including CGP Grey, Destin Sandlin's Smarter Every Day, and the Green brothers' own CrashCourse and SciShow channels. The merger was consequent to an expected migration of payment systems with Amazon Payments that Subbable used.
In October 2015, the site was the target of a large cyber-attack, with almost 15 gigabytes of password data, donation records, and source code taken and published. The breach exposed more than 2.3 million unique e-mail addresses and millions of private messages. Following the attack, some patrons received extortion emails demanding Bitcoin payments in exchange for the protection of their personal information.
In June 2017, Patreon announced a suite of tools for creators to run membership businesses on the Patreon platform. Notable improvements included a CRM system, a mobile app called Lens, and a service to set up exclusive livestreams.
Patreon users are grouped by content type, such as video/films, podcast, comedy, comics, games, and education. These content creators set up a page on the Patreon website, where patrons can choose to pay a fixed amount to a creator on a monthly basis. Alternatively, content creators can configure their page so that patrons pay every time the artist releases a new piece of art. A creator typically displays a goal that the ongoing revenue will go towards, and can set a maximum limit of how much they receive per month. Patrons can cancel their payment at any time. Creators typically provide membership benefits (commonly in the form of exclusive content or behind-the-scenes work) for their patrons, depending on the amount that each patron pays.
Patrons can unlock monetary tiers that increase the content type they see from the user. Several content creators on Patreon are also YouTubers. They can create content on multiple platforms, and while the YouTube videos may be available to the public, the patrons receive private content made exclusively for them in exchange for aiding the Patreon user's goal. Patreon takes a 5% commission on pledges. As of May 2017, the average pledge per patron was around $12, and a new patron pledged to a creator every 5.5 seconds.
As of February 2014, almost half of the artists on Patreon produce YouTube videos, while most of the rest are writers, webcomics artists, musicians, or podcasters. As of December 2016, Patreon's Community Guidelines allow nudity and suggestive imagery as long as they are clearly marked, but prohibit content that may be deemed pornographic or as glorifying sexual violence.
Unlike other online platforms such as YouTube and Facebook, which use trained algorithms to identify potentially inappropriate content, Patreon's trust and safety team monitors users and investigates complaints of Terms of Service violations.
Bans of specific users
In July 2017, conservative YouTube personality Lauren Southern was banned from Patreon over concerns about Génération Identitaire's blocking of NGO ships in the Mediterranean, ferrying migrants to Europe off the Libyan coast. A letter she received from Patreon said she was removed for "raising funds in order to take part in activities that are likely to cause loss of life," referring to an incident in May involving Southern, and the larger Defend Europe mission in July, which she covered on YouTube. Philosopher, writer, and podcast host Sam Harris, who also received contributions from patrons on the website, objected to Patreon's approach and announced that he would be leaving the platform because of it. Shortly thereafter Patreon deleted the account of It's Going Down, a left-wing news website, for allegedly doxing.
In December 2018, Patreon banned activist Milo Yiannopoulos a day after he created an account and also banned Carl Benjamin because he used homophobic and racist slurs in a YouTube interview in February 2018. Benjamin claimed that Patreon had taken his words out of context and that "the video in question should not fall under Patreon’s rules because it was on YouTube."
This ban was criticized by Sam Harris and some American libertarians, who have accused it of being politically motivated. Furthermore, Jordan Peterson announced a plan to launch an alternative service that will be safe from political interference, and jointly announced with Dave Rubin in a January 1, 2019, video that they will be leaving Patreon by January 15, 2019, as a direct response to its treatment of Carl Benjamin.
Changes in content guidelines and terms of service
In December 2017, Patreon announced a service fee starting on December 18, 2017, where some fees would be charged to the patrons rather than all fees being paid by the creator. This caused a backlash from several creators, including some who saw members of their fanbase withdraw small pledges in response. Under the new payment model, a $1 pledge would have cost a patron $1.38, and a $5 pledge would have cost $5.50, representing a 38% and 10% rise respectively. Due to this backlash and the loss of many pledges for creators, Patreon announced that they would not be rolling out these changes, and apologized to their users.
On October 24, 2020, Patreon announced that it would ban all accounts "that advance disinformation promoting the QAnon conspiracy theory".
Regarding adult content
In March 2014, Patreon announced via email that creators of sexual content on their platform would no longer be allowed to use PayPal services through Patreon to fulfill subscription payments. In July 2016, Patreon emailed their content creators announcing that payments through PayPal would resume for adult-oriented creators. Those who worked within the "Not Safe For Work" categories on Patreon could accept payments through PayPal via PayPal's subsidiary Braintree. However, in October 2017, Patreon reverted its stance on NSFW content, introducing new restrictions. They published an expanded version of the community guidelines with a broader definition of sexual content, triggering a backlash from some adult content creators. A petition in protest of the changes gathered 1,800 signatures, which drew a response from Jack Conte.
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