If you have ears and access to YouTube, you’ve probably seen at least one of Pomplamoose‘s quirky music videos — with years worth of covers, original tunes and hundred of thousands of subscribers, they’re a hard act to miss. Well, now one half of the band — Jack Conte — is hoping to gain some visibility in the music/tech sphere with the launch of a brand-new crowdfunding startup called Patreon.
Patreon — which is set to launch on May 7 — was born out of Conte’s belief that there are some inherent problems with the way YouTubers get paid and how they fund their projects. According the musician, ad revenue doesn’t really amount to too much for YouTubers who don’t have scads of subscribers, and raising cash on Kickstarter doesn’t really work either because they’re not looking to fund a huge project — they’re just aiming to keep creating.
“I just feel like there’s something broken there and there should be a way that someone with 10,000 readers or viewers can be making more money and make a living on what they’re doing,” Conte says.
In an effort to solve this issue, Conte teamed up with his old college roommate, developer Sam Yam, to bootstrap together a new kind of platform that echoes the role of patrons of old.
Patreon works thusly: When you sign up for the service, you will be able to become a patron of a particular artist — for example, Conte himself. Instead of pledging money to a single project — or subscribing to the service on a monthly basis — you pledge to give, say, one dollar to Conte for each video he uploads. The artist then rewards his/her patrons for how much they give. In Conte’s case, if you give $1 per video, you get access to a special stream with Conte where he gives tutorials and whatnot. If you give $5 or more, you get the stream, as well as a monthly Google hangout during which Conte will perform and answer questions. No matter how much you give, however, the initial content will not be exclusive — anyone can watch/read/listen to it.
“The point of this whole thing is that it’s not exclusive,” Conte stresses. “The idea is basically that content is free and we almost have to act as if recorded media isn’t around anymore. Before recorded media was around, how did artists make money? They had these wealthy patrons — the Medici family and Pope Julius. I feel like it can still work that way. Especially now that you can diffuse the patronage over the crowd, instead of it just being one wealthy person.” Patreon, in turn, takes 5% of money given to artists for operational expenses.
At launch, the site will feature a limited number of artists with more being added as the days wear on. (Conte says artists will be handpicked from submissions for the time being.) Conte himself will have an offer up on the site to promote his new EP, which will be free at launch on his page.
In essence, Patreon is not wholly a new idea — the idea that fans can, out of the goodness of their hearts, help artists in exchange for exclusive media and experiences. Kickstarter arguably has the market cornered on that idea, and other services like IndieGoGo and PledgeMusic operate on a similar conceit. In addition, there are tons of “tip jars” popping up around the Web where fans can “tip” bands for their work. Conte, however, is hoping to distinguish his service from the pack by allowing fans to more closely control how much money they dole out and for what.
What do you think of Patreon? Would you take on the role of modern-day patron for your favorite artist?
Image courtesy of Jeffrey Marini