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Patreon May Start Providing Loans to Creators, Among Other New Services

Patreon, the subscription-based fan platform, is eyeing a range of new services to support creators — including potentially providing loans at some point, CEO Jack Conte said.

Conte, speaking at Variety’s Entertainment & Technology Summit in L.A., said Patreon is considering ways to provide capital funding and other financial services to artists, as well as services like health insurance and HR support.

“Nobody’s building for creators right now,” Conte said. “Even [platforms] that say they’re building for creators aren’t — advertisers are their customers.”

“It’s so hard for creators to get a loan,” said Conte. He talked about his difficulty getting a home loan when he was an indie musician in the band Pomplamoose with his wife, Nataly Dawn. The lender wanted to see Conte’s pay stubs; “I sent my iTunes sales reports to the bank,” he said.

In 2019, Patreon expects to distribute over $500 million in funds to creators around the world. Creators can make 50-100 times the money on Patreon compared with what they generate via ad-supported services, Conte claimed. “Artists should be compensated fairly for their work,” he said. “It’s a much better economic system to fund people who are making the internet lively and interesting.”

Also on the panel, Baratunde Thurston, the comedian-host-author who helped launch “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah” on Comedy Central, discussed why he launched a membership page on Patreon in May 2019.

Thurston is soliciting donations ranging from $5 to $500 per month. Perks he’s offering include exclusive content including media recommendations as well as “semi-secret past creations”; the biggest donors are promised autographed copies of his book “How to Be Black” and one-on-one phone calls or even an in-person meeting. So far, Thurston said, he’s making about $1,000 per month via the site.

“I wanted to have a more consistent relationship with my fan community,” Thurston explained. He also wanted to have a source of financial support so he didn’t have to rely on “permission from other gatekeepers” to move forward on various projects. “If you make it easy for people to support you, many will,” he said.

For now, Thurston said he doesn’t see Patreon as providing his sole source of income. One of his big goals is to provide a way to preview his work to a small, highly engaged group of people and get feedback on it. “I wanted a laboratory to experiment,” he said.

The session was moderated by Janko Roettgers, Variety senior Silicon Valley correspondent.

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