In five years, online membership service Patreon has attracted two million patrons supporting 100,000 ‘creators’ to the tune of $350m – including nearly $1m a year for rightwing psychologist Jordan Peterson. So what’s the secret of its success?
The internet has transformed creative industries. Words, music, video, images and games can be distributed worldwide, instantly and for free, delivering a cornucopia of delights to your screens and mine. The problem is that, historically, it’s not been quite so good at ensuring those same creative industries get paid. Ad-supported media did the job quite well, until a couple of years ago, when it suddenly didn’t. Streaming services seem to be making a lot of money for someone, but that someone is rarely the creators who exist on those platforms.
All of which goes some way to explaining the surprise (and jealousy?) that accompanied the news that Jordan B Peterson, the alt-right’s favourite psychologist and dispenser of such advice as “stand up straight”, is making just under $1m a year online, thanks to the support of some 9,500 fans on the membership service Patreon.