I’ve had a couple of conversations recently about what counts as ‘success’ on Patreon, and something that’s maybe not obvious from the outside is that creators who earn over $1k a month there are pretty rare.
From February 2020, a paper from Tobias Regner in the Journal of Cultural Economics says:
Our data show that the income distribution at Patreon is very skewed. Hundreds of creators crowdfund a sizable income via Patreon—the top 1% of campaigns make at least $2500 monthly—while the majority of all campaigns attract only negligible amounts. […] Only 25% of the active campaigns get more than $120, 5% make more than $750 monthly and 1% more than $2500.Regner, T. Crowdfunding a monthly income: an analysis of the membership platform Patreon.
Similarly, as of February 2019:
By the estimates of Graphtreon creator Tom Boruta, there are currently more than 4,300 creators making at least $1,000 per month (and more than 9,200 creators making $500+ per month). That small subset — 4,300 out of 132,500 active creators or about 3.2 percent of its customers — is Patreon’s core focus nowadays.TechCrunch
If you want to see more up to date data, Graphtreon maintains a Patreon dashboard, which at the time of writing shows that active creators (those with at least one patron) have gone up from 132,500 in Feb 2019 to just under 196,000 in June 2021.
The mean average monthly payout, according to Graphtreon’s data today, is about $126 – but as we know that there will be plenty of creators earning one or two dollars, and a fair few earning significantly upwards of $50k per month, gives a bit more context to that figure. Even those headline high-earning creators aren’t enough to drag the average monthly payout any higher – so, Patreon is not necessarily going to replace your day job any time soon.
What’s the difference between creators with one or two backers, and creators earning 5- or 6-figure monthly Patreon incomes?
Creator churn tightly correlates to creator income on the platform. People don’t walk away from a meaningful source of income, but they will walk away if they have been trying to gain patrons for weeks and only have $10 to show for it. A large number of creators join Patreon before they have a fan base — they see successful creators on Patreon and mistakenly attribute that success to joining Patreon rather than bringing a pre-existing fan base to it. They churn after a few months of gaining little to no financial backing.TechCrunch
In other words: Patreon works brilliantly for established creators who already have an existing fan base. You bring your fans to Patreon, you don’t find them there.
And, as with all crowdfunding, the effort you put in to make a connection with your supporters makes a huge difference.
Indicators of communication quality, like an image upload, the length of texts that describe the campaign, its creator or their goals, or a thank you video, are correlated with funding success.Regner, T. Crowdfunding a monthly income: an analysis of the membership platform Patreon.
Another note: just as Patreon’s own business model, like many subscription models, pays close attention to churn rate (the rate at which customers stop using it), you should be paying close attention to yours.
It takes you a certain amount of effort, energy, work, and perhaps even money to attract each supporter to your Patreon. When they decide to join in, do you want them to pick the $50 tier, or the $2 tier? Surprisingly, you might realise you want them to pick the $2 tier. Backers at those smaller levels tend to churn (cancel their support) at much lower rates, so might remain part of your Patreon for a long time – but the initially-exciting $50 backers may cancel after only a month or two.
Knowing more about your backers, how they find you, why they join your Patreon, and why they leave; this is all information you can use to make sure you’re helping your fans help you as effectively as possible.
Want to make sure you’re keeping your Patreon in good order? Let’s talk about how I can help.