What is this Patreon Thing?

Have you ever experienced an online artist, or piece of artwork in your stream so amazing that you wished you could have given that dollar you gave this morning to the barista who screwed up your coffee to them instead? Do you wish that there was a way to give them a tip for taking the time to do something amazing for you and everyone else for nothing? What if you could help them keep doing the things they love, and which you love too, by donating a very small amount, along with dozens, even thousands of others, every time they produce something amazing? What if that act could help thousands or creators go from being talented hobbyists to full time creators of modern culture? I think that would be cool, too.

For thousands of us who are completely enslaved by a need to make stuff we love it can be a real burden on our lives. We’ll spend years doing this hobby when others are being legitimately productive and making their parents proud with that beautiful thing called income. At some point we get brave enough to share our creations with the world and the few that aren’t beaten down by the constant onslaught of the comments below our babies, those little pieces of art, to improve and grow to the point that we reach a few people out there. Eventually, if you stick with it, you wake up and a good day begins with a message on the network you post to reading:

“I saw what you made last night. It was amazing. Thank you so much!”

But kind words, likes, shares, and upvotes don’t actually often solve the problems real artists have. They don’t pay tuition, feed the kids, fix the roof or keep the lights on. They won’t keep an engine from breaking down, get the dog its shots, or suspend an eviction notice. In fact, they distract artists from doing those things. Basically, there are only two options for artists, live years of a marginal lifestyle themed by self-sacrifice and dedication or live off of patronage from parents or wealthy connections for those years of exploration and creativity until they are introduced to the right people. I’ll say this, I’m not very impressed with the depth of the second option. Life experience is something that feeds great art, not good art, great art. Great art isn’t created by a kid with talent, but who has never experienced real pain. It’s created by aforeign immigrant who makes beautiful images and video games, it’s created bycomic book artist who has struggled with prejudice and injustice her whole life, it’s created by a single mother and nurse finally living her dream, it’s created bya writer who bravely smiles as she faces a reality that she will one day be blind.It’s works by warriors leaving the battlefield, firefighters, janitors and CPA’s that showcase the marvelous untapped cultural wealth that almost exists in the world today.

But these people don’t often get to just make art for you. They’re responsible people with people who need them. More often than not, they’re forced into cubicles and shift work, stocking shelves or fixing pipes, not because they are dimwitted, unimaginative, boring people or even because they don’t have talent, but because people rely on them. They sacrifice what they want to do, for the people that need them. Instead, those who we’ve handed over our cultural legacy are those kids who have some talent and who are funded by wealthy patrons to make cool things. They are the creators of culture most responsible for the images, writings and sounds of today. They will be the people who future generations judge us by. It isn’t that some of this isn’t good, but thousands of years from now, when our ancestors are judging our writings of the wall, which artists do you want to be remembered? What people and what stories do you want remembered? Who are the storytellers you want telling the story of the era in which you lived?


I’m a writer who enjoys writing articles and short stories on this site and I dedicate a lot of my free time to the hobby. I’ve written because I enjoy it, sometimes to the detriment of other pursuits. I’m a Marine, honorably discharged in 2008 after having served in Iraq and now I am a teacher in my hometown’s middle school. I’ve done many other things as well, but still, I think of myself as a writer. Writing though, has never been something that has paid any bills for me. It hasn’t come close. I’ve written thousands of posts, essays, answers and stories over the past several years and collected quite a following in doing so, the whole time, though, knowing that it was probably never going to help me lead the life I want to live for myself or my family. My hobby was sort of my burden.

Then I saw a youtube video from an artist I love and at the end he talked about this new site called Patreon.

I could go to his page on Patreon and donate a dollar for every new piece he put out; no obligation, no real rewards, nothing really in it for me, just a regular donation to something I want to see continue happening. I love this guy so I did. I pledged $1. He puts out about two videos a months, so as yet, I have given him a whole $3. I couldn’t be prouder, especially considering that the other 650 patrons he has now contribute over $4,000 every time he uploads something new. By my estimation, he’s made $13,126 since I watched his video in the first weeks of June.

What Patreon is is a crowdsourcing platform that allows individuals to fund their favorite artists and creators for the creations they produce. It’s a lot like Kickstarter except that it focuses on small regular contributions per piece of artwork or per month, rather than a massive one time contribution. It also allows a monthly cap so that you don’t go over any budgets you set. Kickstarter is great for launching projects like companies, building a massive artistic installation, or writing a whole book, but suffers for people who just create pieces of creative content on a regular on basis and aren’t planning on changing the whole world. People who are newer and aren’t already established with a community aren’t really served by it either. Basically people who didn’t already have a large following, or have a great big massive idea and the social clout to back it up didn’t really have anything before that could help them grow.

That’s what Patreon does. As a patron, you find artists you love, be it in photography, writing, comics, paintings, web videos or whatever and you pledge whatever amount you want per creation. It could be a dollar or more and through the magic of the internet it doesn’t matter what currency you’re using. It automatically gets converted into the currency of the person you’re donating too. It’s completely non-obligation. You aren’t paying for anything. You’re just giving them a tip for creating great artwork.

Basically, for the first time, anyone can show the same appreciation and respect of a great artist that they show to that waitress who screwed up your coffee this morning. So I thought I should give it a try too. I created an account after a few days of debating, and my wife finally telling me to just do it. It took about 20 minutes once I had everything ready. It was super easy.

I uploaded my first work, the first chapter of a present I made for my wife on our 10th anniversary. It is the story of how we started dating when we were still back in highschool that I called I Drew a Monkey in a Math Book and Now I’m Married on one of my blogs The Writer’s Block. From it, I got my first patron, my greatest fan, Kathy Davis. Nothing really happened for a few weeks after that. Then I decided to do something else. I started to upload the answers I wrote here on quora. What are the implications of Kurdish forces having taken over the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk? (June 2014). A few days later I sharedMilitary Intelligence is not an Oxymoron and I Know You From Somewhere…, all three originally popular pieces of content here on Quora.

And then I got a notification that someone became my patron, someone who hadn’t given birth to me! He pledged $2. Over the next few weeks I uploaded a little bit more and gained a few more and few more. One even pledged five whole dollars to support everything that I was doing! It was miraculous. People actually did like my stuff.

Now I’ve been doing it for about a month. I am up six patrons and $13 for a year-to-date total of about $50. I couldn’t be happier. It doesn’t exactly get me very far. At about six to ten hours a work I put out, it is still far less than minimum wage, but it is growing and I am excited about where it is going. But the money isn’t what gets me; it’s the sacrifice. Upvotes, likes, shares, these are all nice, but they are an infinite resource. You could give them out all day with no real burden to yourself, but a dollar is something of real value. It hurts just a little. You had to do something to earn it and it can do anything for you. Letting it go means that you gave something special. It meant that you gave upsomething of real value to yourself to say, “This is something of value and I want this person to keep going,” or at the very least, “This is worth the tip I gave for my cup of coffee.”

I think what Patreon is doing is something so very important and wonderfully executed. It allows and encourages extraordinary everyday people to create and communicate things that will everyone can enjoy without needing to do the most massive. Furthermore it allows people who want to contribute to culture in the ways that they can afford. It really shouldn’t take and endowment, or a foundation, or wealth to create culture. It should just take people who want something to support. Patreon makes that happen in a way that can be of use to so many people.

I don’t work for Patreon. I’ve never met anyone who does. I’m just a user who’s fallen love with a product that has done far more for me than I could do ever in return. If I’ve made you interested in site I really want you to try it out either as a patron or as someone who creates. Check out my site and see how it works here: Support Jon Davis creating Short Stories and Essays in Military, Sci-Fi and Life. Whether you decide to patron me or not I hope you decide to give the site a try. Great things are coming out of this place.

And you want to know what else is so great about it? I just made $13.


Thanks for reading!

Everything I write is completely independent research. I am supported completely by fan and follower assistance. If you enjoyed this post and would like to see more like it, follow my blog Jon’s Deep Thoughts or you could show your support directly by donating at my fan support page here: How you can support Jon Davis’ independent writing.

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