No one platform is a panacea for D.Y.I. creators, but fan patronage platform Patreon has been consistently touted as a solution for some. Musician and creator Amanda Palmer earns more than $37,000 from her than 10,000 supporters each time that she posts new content. But for many creators, the income received from Patreon is far less, according to new stats and a growing chorus of artists.
Patreon co-founder and musician Jack Conte introduces the patronage platform.
When Patreon launched in 2013, co-founder and musician Jack Conte posted a video of his song “Pedals.” That video cost $10,000, took three months to make, and logged 2 million views, but had earned just $963 from YouTube ads. “This devaluing of art and creators is happening at a global scale,” Conte wrote at the time, “It actually makes my heart sink when I think of the magnitude of the web’s systemic abuse of creative people.”
More than four years and $107 million in funding later, Patreon is helping some creators monetize their fans and creations. Liberal podcasters Chapo Trap House, have almost 20,000 patrons who pay them more than $88,000 each month. Patreon says that overall creator’s incomes “doubled annually.” Recently, Conte's own musical and life partner Nataly Dawn increased her own take on the platform From $1500 to $6000 in 30 days.
But for many artists - in fact, for 98% of creators, according to estimates - earning even the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour is out of reach.
Patreon never sold itself as the solution for ever starving musician or artist. Many don't have an audience large or engaged enough to net profitable patrons. Others aren't willing to do the hard work of attracting and maintaining these relationships. But effort is no guarantee of success.
"A year later my monthly earnings on Patreon have grown from $120 to $163."
"After launching my Patreon, I struggled for months to find work. Patreon filled my downtime, and became a full time job itself. I ’d spend hours combing through photos, looking back on notes I’d taken on the road, researching where I’d been. I’d post on Twitter and Instagram with teasers, free stories, anything to attract my followers to my Patreon page," writes photographer Brent Knepper in a must-read post sharing his experience alongside stats from several sources. "It was a lot of work for little pay, but I was determined. A year later my monthly earnings on Patreon have grown from $120 to $163."
"In 2016, Patreon boasted that 7,960 users were now making over $100 a month," continues Knepper, "which struck me as such an insignificant monthly income to brag about. Around the same time, the company reportedly had 25,000 creators, meaning only 31% of Patreon’s users were making over a hundred bucks."