Saturday 28 March 2015

Filling the YouTube Gap: Ongoing Financial Support for Small Creators Through Crowdfunding

This blog has discussed crowdfunding in many different contexts, including for basic research and large scale video game development.  A relatively new crowdfunding platform brings together the very best of crowdfunding: the ability of people to choose to support what they love through essentially a gift (with benefits); a source of funding for interesting projects, particularly ones that may not get accomplished because of a lack of funding; and bringing people together to support a common venture—with a sense of community.  Crowdfunding and the technology that enables it lowers the barriers that exist for people to join together to support one another financially for what they believe are worthy projects—and now for a potentially long term relationship. 

Enter Patreon (A clever trademark as well.).  In a recent article published March 28, 2015 by CNBC titled, “Starving Artists No More: Meet the Kickstarter for Music, Arts,” Trent Gillies discusses Patreon, a San Francisco startup crowdfunding platform for supporting dance and theater to animation to music to comedy.  The article notes that revenue from a source such as YouTube is insufficient to support “small” creators and Patreon moves in to fill the gap.  How does it do that?  It allows people to pledge ongoing monetary support for creators—another revenue source.  People are able to become “patrons” of specific artists.  Patreon appears to also allow the donation of funds for one-time projects as well, but the promise of funding on a long term basis could allow creators to actually quit that daytime job waiting tables (or at least cut down on some shifts) and spend the majority of their time and energy on their creative work (including promoting it).  A nice silver lining is that the ongoing patronage will not only lead to the works being created, but also to better quality works.  The artist has a nice incentive to keep up the good work and to improve it.  Of course, creators who use other sites such as Kickstarter have a similar incentive even if they are seeking funding project to project.  But, I imagine that the stress may be lower for the beneficiaries of, at least, the pledge of ongoing support and because of the good feelings behind the supporters commitment to their work inure to the benefit of the creator. 
So, how well is Patreon working so far?

Patreon says 250 thousand patrons are donating small amounts of money to 14 thousand active creators. According to the website, it is sending $2 million dollars a month to artists, and the average payment creators are receiving is $9 a month.

And, as the article notes, this is despite the fact that much of the creator’s existing work is already available “for free.”
I think Patreon is a worthwhile endeavor for sure.  I do wonder if ongoing support will create a greater expectation of “control” over a creator’s future work by funders.  What do you think?

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