Is Patreon the future of crowdfunding?

For musicians, artists, techies, writers or any other type of content creator, crowdfunding is a viable and realistic option for new project fundraising and has been for the last couple of years.

The crowdfunding boom started with Kickstarter, which has spawned countless other sites with the same mission including Indiegogo and GoFundMe. The idea was that fans of a project could contribute funds to it based on the idea and explanation from the creator in exchange for future perks to be dolled out after the project’s monetary goal is reached.

But a recent addition to the crowdfunding marketplace takes Kickstarter’s general concept and kicks it up a notch. That addition is Patreon. Patreon is like Kickstarter except projects have no end date, and instead, the site encourages continual fundraising for those who create new and unique content on a regular basis. To get a better idea, check out the Patreon promotional video below:

Writer Sarah McKinney does a great job of explaining Patreon’s business model in an April 2014 article. She writes, “Think Kickstarter for individual pieces of creative digital content, but then scrap that and place Patreon within the sharing economy – a category of businesses that go around current systems, creating a way for people to share and support each other through peer-to-peer transactions, with the businesses taking a percent of each financial exchange.”

As a website, Patreon seems to have its heart in the right place as its cofounder and CEO Jack Conte is a musician in the YouTube-famous electronic duo Pomplamoose. And though Conte did recently catch some bad publicity for his ridiculously expensive touring escapades, just this past summer, Patreon raised over $15 million in funds from investors.

But it’s fair to ask: What about crowdfunding fatigue? Is the market being oversaturated with content creators asking for handouts? Why are a lot of projects not reaching their goals on Kickstarter? It was a valid concern a year or so ago, but since then, crowdfunding fatigue has mostly been written off as not a real issue.

In fact, McKinney writes that Patreon is absolutely seeing no signs of fatigue as 150 new creators are signing up each week and, “Patreon has distributed over $1 million to the artists using their platform, with some of the most popular ones making more than $100,000.”

But speaking as a musician, crowdfunding can be a tricky thing. I’ve seen friend’s bands successfully fund tours or recording time on Kickstarter, while others never quite reached their goal. The line between innovative and selfish is a difficult one to walk.

A 2013 A.V. Club article details how the band Eisley caught a massive amount of flack on social media for trying to raise $100,000 to fund a tour. The band’s explanation for needing that kind of money? Four of their five members now had children, which they planned on bringing with them on the road. The following tweet from Alternative Press managing editor Scott Heisel gives you an idea of the criticism aimed at Eisley’s campaign:

But upon further examination, is this crowdfunding’s fault or the content creator’s? Just because a campaign gets criticized or does not reach it’s goal does not mean crowdfunding isn’t working. There could be a myriad of reasons why a campaign fails to get off the ground including bad perks or overreaching your bounds as a musician, which are some examples outlined in this funny but valid article from Vice titled, “Why Are So Many Musicians So Bad At Crowdfunding?”

While crowdfunding isn’t an end all, at this point, it’s valid means of raising funds for a project. As long as a project or specific content creator does a good job selling the idea of the content he or she will produce and can find those willing to give money to fund them, then crowdfunding will work. And to that point, Patreon seems to be succeeding so far.

To close, here’s a Patreon-funded music video from singer-songwriter Danielle Ate the Sandwich:

*Top photo by Richard Giraldi

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