If you’ve done some browsing around the blogosphere lately (this means the last couple of years), you have probably stumbled upon an ever-increasing number of banners encouraging you to support the blogger through Patreon. The system is pretty simple: you donate money to your favorite content creator – bloggers usually create different tiers for their donors, with increasing amounts, and donors usually have the possibility to donate a custom amount, too. This all sounds great on paper, but does it work in practice, too? Does Patreon truly offer content creators a means of raising a decent amount each month?
The creation of Patreon is a pretty interesting story. Back in 2013, YouTube musician Jack Conte created a video that cost him around $10,000 and uploaded it to his channel. It generated almost 2 million views but its ad revenue was far from covering the costs of its creation: $963, far below the amount offered by gaming venues in the form of their best casino bonuses. Enraged by this “devaluing of art and creators” that he saw happening on a global scale (we must agree with him, given the number of incredibly talented individuals making mere dimes on YouTube), he created Patreon as a means for fans to be able to reward their favorite content creators directly. In time, Patreon has raised in popularity – it was, after all, a far more viable means of generating income than relying on various ad networks that pocket the bulk of the revenue. By the end of 2016, Patreon has paid out more than $100 million to its creators.
How does it work? Well, the theory is pretty simple: Patreon is a bit like a social network combined with a payment processor. Creators register an account, set up tiers that their supporters can choose from – these tiers mean a specific amount paid each month into the creators’ accounts – and start creating content. This content can be anything from music to literature, painting, and such. Those who like their work and decide to support it register as their patrons, choosing an amount to donate to them each month, thus supporting their favorite content creators, artists, designers, you name it. Patreon retains a nominal fee of 5% of the donations, and a small part of the money also goes to the payment processing fees. In the end, creators end up pocketing around 90% of all the money their fans donate to their cause.
How much do creators earn? Well, this changes on a case-by-case basis. The Chapo Trap House podcast, for example, earns more than $100k a month, the webcomic Cyanide and Happiness makes over $13k, and the list probably consists of many other content creators in a variety of areas. As a result, I think we can safely say that Patreon is indeed a good platform to help generate passive income – but it won’t do the hard work for you. It’s not a magic wand that will instantly turn you into a rich man – it is a mere platform through which your fans will be able to pay you for your work. How much money you make will depend on you, and you alone.