Concerns with Patreon and Sustainability

Wasn’t totally sure where to put this, but it’s not quite feedback persay as much as it is a bit of concern.

One thing that’s disconcerting is “The reality is Patreon needs to build new businesses and new services and new revenue lines in order to build a sustainable business.” Does this mean the base patreon service isn’t sustainable? What’s meant by sustainable?

I came across this article from a thread over on Twitter and it’s reasonably worrying.

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I think this is worth a healthy discussion and I hope we get it.

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This is the problem with business and capitalism in general. It’s built on constant growth even if that is impossible, when people invest they expect their money back and more. They want profit, and then more profit and then even more profit.

This is concerning because Patreon could very easily lose what it has if it tries to monetise too hard.

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I find this paragraph from the article to be worrisome (and to my knowledge inaccurate)

“The company also revised its content policy in 2017 to eliminate the site’s use for the exchange of adult-themed photos, videos and content.”

Adult-themed content has not been eliminated. It has been decreased mainly through stricter enforcement of the guidelines, but not eliminated.

As an adult/NSFW creator this line is so disheartening. I don’t know if we were downplayed to make the article more “wholesome” or if it was misinformation or what. I really wish there was a way that we could feel like the platform is proud to have us and we could actually be featured more (and searchable). But I understand a lot of that issues sits with the payment processors. I just hope we continue to have a home here.

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I would love to hear more about this

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I wouldn’t be concerned. Every company faces issues all the time. Just because one is mentioned publicly, doesn’t mean disaster is around the corner. The article is already addressing possible solutions (e.g. merch) and I though of the same one even before reading the article. When tens of thousands of Patreon creators sell merch, Patreon can make good money with that as well. And that is just one of many possible examples for additional revenue. And even changes to the 5% cut wouldn’t endanger the platform, especially when there is still potential for growth.

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I do think the option for merch will be a great one for a lot of creators. I’m not sure about using it for my own art (or if I’ll be allowed to), but I can think of lots of creators who definitely would benefit and love it. :slightly_smiling_face:

Hey everyone, thanks for bringing this up and having a discussion about it.

We saw those twitter threads too and really wanted to clear some things up as there’s a fair amount of confusion there. Jack just replied to it with some info I hope you find interesting, full thread linked below:

Please let me know if you have any questions (you can reply to Jack directly or put them in here) and know that we’re in this with you. You can always reach out to me any time you’re feeling concerned or want clarity as Patreon is built for you. It’s yours.

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I know I’m beating a dead horse here but I just cannot get past the frustration that Patreon has no discoverability, no worthwhile search function, and has no desire to ever give those things to its community. For small creators, that IS sustainability. Without those things, we drown.

And instead of delivering those very basic items, we’re told “Patreon wants to focus on being a payment processor”.

But lo, a few months later, here we are, testing new features and rolling out new mechanics and things like merchandise. Things that will pivot Patreon in different directions and things that will, ultimately, cost the creator to use. It’s disappointing. For someone with Patrons who AREN’T in it for merch, who AREN’T concerned with tiers and rewards, it’s also functionally useless to be on a platform that doesn’t offer any exposure.

I’ve been a huge cheerleader for Patreon for a while - it’s changed the way I can live my life - so these things concern me.

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Thank you for sharing this, Mindy. Patreon has meant so much to so many of us, there’s always fear that the party will be over (or is already over), that Patreon will/has sold out, that “no one makes a living on Patreon” so it’s all a sham, etc. That fear is something that seems to flare up on the Interwebs every few months in the circles I float around in.

In general, I think these kind of debates, when people approach them with good will and open ears, can be useful. I certainly hope this will be as well. What Patreon is doing is revolutionary. What Patreon does for creators, how the staff offers value, how to succeed with this platform—these are things that can be difficult to explain to even those creators who use Patreon. And so the more transparency around it, the better.

But regardless of what the future holds, what I do know is that every Patreon staff member I have met has been fully committed to my success, both financially and as a creative. I live in San Francisco, and when I first started, I was invited to lunch with the Patreon team when it was, like, 20 people. Last week, I went to an meet-up hosted by Patreon at the Wicked Grounds cafe where eight staff members showed up for the (no more than) fifteen creators who signed up for it. Every staff member eager to talk to every one of us about how we could have more success doing what we’re doing.

This was a meetup for Adult Creators, mind you. When every other big technology company seems eager to turn their backs on those who aren’t making all-ages art (looking at you Tumblr…), the staff’s commitment to my worth as an artist felt completely heartfelt to me over four years ago, and I don’t see any difference today.

Should we be vigilant and hold Patreon accountable to the high standards it sets for itself? Yes. Does Patreon make mistakes, sometimes goofy mistakes, especially when trying to communicate its plans? Oh, yes.

But a contract is only as good as the people who sign it. Ultimately, the success of any job, any business service, comes down to people. And if there’s one thing I believe, it’s that the staff who work for Patreon and the culture that surrounds them there really care about us as creators and as people. I have felt their sincere passion firsthand in pretty much every direct interaction I’ve had with them.

And that consistent experience goes a long way toward quelling any fear I have about Patreon going over to the dark side. Or, when they stumble, not finding their way to the light again.

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@hackettkate thank you so much for sharing your concerns here - I know that our Wyatt, our Head of Product, is chatting about these thoughts with you directly. The topic of discoverability is one that comes up a fair amount, but at the moment Patreon doesn’t want to decide which creator makes money based on appearances on a homepage or search ranking algorithms. If we mention one creator on our social media channels, I’ve seen it upset countless others who weren’t featured. This is a really tricky thing to manage and something we have blogs on coming very soon. We absolutely know that our search function could be improved, and that creators are hungry for better content organization and search for creators page/posts too.

@alex excuse me if I print this out and frame it on my desk :smiley: thank you for the support and belief. Patreon has 170 staff now and we’re all truly here to help you earn a living from your art.

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I don’t think it’s so much about being featured as it is about being able to be found within Patreon at all. I don’t particularly mind if the more popular creators are higher in the search or featured as it shows Patreon as a valid system to people who are new to the site. I just want to be added in the “explore creators” although it looks like this has changed from the top twenty-ish creators in each category to the top dozen most presentable overall.

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This one line in the CNBC piece stuck out at me:

The company does not currently provide contracts, which allows users to retain 100 percent ownership of their work and full control of their brand.

That line comes from out of nowhere in the article, and isn’t addressed further, and of course prompts the question: is Patreon considering contracts?

If it’s just an oddly-edited line in a random article, fine. But I’d love some clarification around that, if Mindy or anyone else here from Patreon might be able to provide it. Ownership and contracts are a huge red line for a lot of people. Thanks for everything you’re doing, Patreon People. :slightly_smiling_face:

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I think Patreon made a huge mistake seeking outside investor funding, rather than growing more slowly using its own resources, and thus being able to stay true itself, and not be forced to morph into something else.

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Yeah, and I mean, for all I’m hearing “we don’t want to be in the business of who makes more money”…

You click explore and you get a list of people. But I can’t wormhole through creators.

I think this is a huge negative and I’m paying 1800+ bucks a year to the service. That’s fine, but I better get something out of it that I can’t do on my own! The biggest thing I cannot do on my own is attract new fans; I’ve tapped my network pretty seriously. I will probably never understand Patreon’s resistance to this feature.

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@hilljam I can confirm it’s just an oddly-edited line :slight_smile:
@evan_der_millner Jack (Patreon CEO) spoke a bit about our investors here
@hackettkate thank you for that feedback! I know that our Wyatt, our Head of Product, is chatting about these thoughts with you directly but I will continue to pass your suggestions to our team.

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Off topic… Where did you hear about a meetup? I’m SF local too, and didn’t hear about this. Would’ve gone if I did!

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I am deeply concerned about Patreon turning into a capitalist nightmare of gamified, wealth-extracting dark patterns. Jack Conte’s twitter post did nothing to reassure me. In fact, it sounded like the wind-up to someone explaining why they need to squeeze more wealth out of their underlings.

For these new patreon features, I have requested none and I use none. It frightens me that Joshua Kusher, brother to Jared Kushner, is the VC person behind Patreon. Despite Jack’s claims, I don’t think VC firms ever have our best interest in mind. I think Steven Junker said it best, “I love how ‘sustainable’ means infinite growth forever. Capitalism sure is grand.”

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hey @ShannonMorse, that meetup was just for 18+ content creators but we’re hoping to have a general community one very soon :slight_smile:

You know, I don’t get the Joshua Kushner hate. I don’t know much about him but just being Jared’s brother seems like a pretty stupid thing to keep citing as a reason he’s THE WORST PERSON WE COULD HAVE running a VC for Patreon.

I get the other concerns, but that one?

Meh.

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