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After Paying Out $1 Billion to Creators, Patreon Sets Its Sights on Europe

Membership services startup Patreon has paid out over $1 billion to creators since its launch in 2013, the company announced Tuesday. Now, Patreon is getting ready for an international expansion, with a particular focus on Europe, Patreon’s senior vice president of product Wyatt Jenkins told Variety.

In addition to the $1 billion payout milestone, Patreon also announced Tuesday that it had surpassed 4 million paying members, or patrons. Patreon previously hit $500 million in payouts in Q4 of 2018, and 3 million patrons in January of this year. “This is growing quickly,” Jenkins said.

Jenkins argued that more and more consumers are warming up to the idea of supporting creatives directly with recurring monthly contributions. “There is a consumer mindset change that is happening,” he said, something that can at least in part be attributed to the growth paid services in general. “Comfort with subscription revenue is obviously helping,” Jenkins admitted.

Patreon is being used by a number of podcasters, musicians, comedians and bloggers. Some of its users include musician Ben Folds, “Insecure” creator and star Issa Rae, and “How to Be Black” author Baratunde Thurston, who recently joined Variety at its Entertainment and technology event to talk about his embrace of Patreon.

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During the conference, Thurston said that Patreon gave him a way to interact more directly with his supporters, and also experiment in a way that wouldn’t be possible if he was signed exclusively to a traditional media company. “This felt like a good place to try new things relatively safely with some financial security, before I had to ask someone else’s permission to give it a shot,” he said.

Creatives like Patreon because it promises stable, recurring income, Jenkins explained. “Most revenue streams are really volatile,” he said. Patreon, on the other hand, “feels a lot like a paycheck,” he argued. “You have these members sign up, and they stay with you for years.”

To better address its growing user base, Patreon tweaked its tiers for creatives earlier this year. The changes included a new entry-level tier that makes it easier to start a basic membership program.

As a next step, Patreon is now looking to further remake its website to offer creatives separate areas for paying members and the general public. The company also plans to introduce new features for different types of media in 2020, including specific support for videos, podcasts, and other audio content.

In addition to these product changes, Patreon is also looking to expand internationally for further growth. Jenkins said that the company already has patrons from all over the world; but to truly cater to creatives abroad, it needs to localize its website, sign up local payment processors, and more.

European countries will be first on the list for these efforts, Jenkins said. “We are moving into Europe in a number of ways.”

Patreon has raised a total of $165 million over several rounds of funding, including a $60 million cash infusion this summer. Founder and CEO Jack Conte told the audience of Variety’s Entertainment and Technology Summit in September that the company would ultimately expand to offer a variety of services to creatives, which could include financial services.

“Patreon is hyper focused on creative people who want to make art for a living,” he said during the event. “Everything from capital to health care to insurance to HR, everything that creative people need as they build their small business media companies is something that Patreon eventually can can help folks with as they’re building sustainable, viable businesses.”

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