Earlier this year, YouTube announced plans to add a crowdfunding feature to its service, enabling fans to donate directly to their favourite creators while watching their videos.
It’s now gone live in four countries: the US, Australia, Japan and Mexico, with more to follow in the coming months. Android Police spotted the launch, noting that it currently works in web browsers and the latest versions of YouTube’s Android app.
At first glance, YouTube’s crowdfunding is fairly simple: an icon appears in the corner of videos on channels that have turned the feature on, and when hovered over, it reveals a ’Support’ banner.
When that’s clicked on, people can set their donation – the phrase “tip jar” is used in some of the screenshots, but it’s unclear whether that’s YouTube’s choice or the individual creator – and pay it using Google Wallet.
That’s one restriction at this early stage: there’s no option to use other forms of payment, from credit cards to PayPal. YouTube is taking a 5% cut of donations, plus set fees – $0.21 in the US, ¥22 in Japan and so on.
Let’s be clear: fan funding on YouTube, even if it becomes a widely-used feature, isn’t a threat to dedicated crowdfunding services like Kickstarter, Indiegogo or particularly Patreon, which has the closest identification of the three with YouTube creators.
Patreon can be compared to music service PledgeMusic in its focus on an ongoing relationship (including funding) between fans and creators, rather than just a tip-jar mechanic. YouTube has tried channel subscriptions before, remember, and it wasn’t a huge success.
Where YouTube’s fan funding might be most successful is on Android, though, where Google Wallet access is a given. We’ll be watching to see how many musicians take advantage of the new feature.