Patreon has fed a hotbed of homemade art and bootstrap media. Now it’s looking to get more professional.
The crowdfunding platform launched a sleek brand overhaul and a host of new creator tools on Wednesday in a bid to cast itself as a serious business builder for scrappy bedroom artists and established entertainers alike.
Among the new features are Patreon’s own paywalled take on Snapchat’s stories feature (a seeming rite of passage for social tech companies these days), as well as a partnership for gated livestreaming. Creators will also have more measurement options to better understand their subscriber bases.
It’s all wrapped in a minimalist new brand image meant to emphasize Patreon’s role as a comprehensive toolkit for independent artists. The whole push has been in the works for more than a year.
“We hope that it sort of legitimizes professional artistrythe modern version of professional artistry,” CEO and founder Jack Conte said. “It is the future for creators in terms of how they’re going to make money and scale businesses going forward.”
The announcement was punctuated by news that a handful of high-profile performers recently decided to take their talents to Patreon, including surrealist comedian Tim Heidecker, stand-ups Bill Burr, Adam Corolla, and Al Madrigal, and motivational speaker Lewis Homes.
Unlike crowdfunding competitors like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, Patreon lets creators charge a recurring subscription fee and lock content behind tiered paywalls.
It’s proven to be a popular alternative to nickel-and-dime digital ads for enterprising online creators, especially as tensions have mounted between platforms like YouTube and Facebook and their most prolific posters.
“Journalists and podcasters and web comics and photographersanyone who puts creative stuff online is being globally devalued by the economy and how we treat artists and the infrastructure and framework of web that we’ve set up for turning attention into dollars,” Conte said.
Conte, who’s a musician by trade, was himself one of those dissatisfied web artists when he founded Patreon in 2013. After posting a hit music video to YouTube, he was dismayed to find that his millions of views translated into tens of dollars in advertising revenue.
“At the end of that whole thingthat three months of work and effort and energy and robot-building and set-building, 18-hour days and $10,000 and straining my savings accountat the end of all this, I post the video to YouTube and it gets over a million views, and I get super excited,” Conte said.
“Then I log into my YouTube dashboard and my paycheck was $150 in ad earnings.”
Conte wants Patreon to provide the same level of tech as big platforms without forcing creators to strain for a fractional cut of mass-audience pennies.
Whereas Snapchat and Instagram still haven’t offered their users a means to make money through their apps, Patreon’s version of a “stories” feature, an app called Lens, will only be available to paying subscribers of a given account.
While a social media offering might seem like a left-field choice for a company of Patreon’s nature, Conte said there was a lot of demand for it among creators.
“Creators were already trying to do that anyway, and we’ve just removed a lot of the friction and made it way easier for them,” he said.
The company is similarly taking on Facebook Live and Twitter’s Periscope through a new partnership with Crowdcast that will let users stream members-only live video.
For further audience partitioning, a feature called Early Access will add the option of delineating a set period in which a piece of content will be restricted to subscribers before it’s unlocked for the web at large.
New audience gauges will help creators better understand who’s paying for their work and design business models to accommodate them.
Taken together, the suite of new tools is supposed to give users all the building blocks to design a small media business and attract the class of professional artists who already have that business mindset.
“There have been these creators launching in the past year and a half that have really challenged our concept of what Patreon can be,” Conte said. “They’re basically scaling media companies and they’re financing the whole thing through our membership.”
This post has been updated to include the finalized version of Patreon’s app icon.