Creator Patronage Startup Patreon Launches Revamped Membership Platform

Jack Conte

Fans can now pay regular installments for access to exclusive content and sneak peeks from their favorite creators.

Patreon, a startup that allows fans to support their favorite creators, is revamping to offer a more comprehensive membership platform to creatives and their patrons.

The San Francisco company is releasing a suite of tools that will help creators — podcasters, YouTube stars, musicians and others — offer new perks to the fans who support them through regular donations.

Creators will now be able to offer a behind-the-scenes look at their creative process using the new Lens app, which allows them to share digital stories only with people who have paid for access to that content. They can also offer early access to their regular videos or live-stream only to their patrons through a Patreon partnership with Crowdcast. 

Patreon is also giving creators more business tools to help them better manage information about their donors. 

"When we launched Patreon, we were seeing creators making $5,000 a month," says CEO Jack Conte. "We've started to see creators making $1 million a year, and they just need more powerful tools. We want to give them business software that feels really professional." 

Patreon launched in 2013 to create new revenue streams for creatives, many of whom make money from advertising on their YouTube channels or podcasts. At the time, there were fewer options for online stars looking to support their work, though today many creators command lucrative sponsorships, have book deals and star in films and digital series. (Conte is himself a musician who rose to fame on YouTube.) 

Today, Patreon works with 50,000 creators — including new additions Tim Heidecker, Bill Burr and Adam Carolla — who have a total of 1 million active patrons. The company, which takes a 5 percent cut of all donations, is on track to pay $150 million to creators this year. 

While other companies have tried to build businesses off of features such as early access to videos, it has been hard to lure audiences to new platforms. Conte acknowledges that challenge but notes that early access and exclusive content are just some of the perks that Patreon patrons receive for supporting their favorite creators. He adds, "this isn't something we're asking creators to do. This is something creators are trying to do already, and it's hard for them to do."