Patreon is all about fans paying to become members of their favourite creators’ communities, right? Not any more.
Paid memberships are still the core of the crowdfunding platform, but fans will now also be able to join those communities for free, while creators will be able to sell them standalone digital products and content.
The changes were announced in a blog post yesterday. The pitch for the free memberships is that creators “can grow their communities by welcoming even more of their fans, whether they’re ready to pay or not”.
It positions Patreon squarely in competition with the big social-media platforms. “Share what you want directly to your fans. No algorithms. No ads. When you share it, they see it,” as the company put it.
The second change is a Shopify-style suite of commerce tools focused on a-la-carte sales of videos, podcast episodes and “other downloadable files” including music. One of the examples shown in the blog post is rapper Wreckonize selling his new single for $10, with buyers able to listen to it within Patreon.
Patreon will take a 5% cut of commerce transactions, which is lower than the 8% share it takes of paid memberships. For now there’s a waitlist for access to the new features, but the planned rollout to all creators on the platform is later this year.
The company was co-founded by a musician, Jack Conte, and has attracted a number of artists over the years. You may remember British artist Beardyman’s experiment last year adding a membership tier to his Patreon for fans who wanted to collaborate with him on music. He chatted to us about it for our Music Ally Focus podcast in November.
Free memberships and commerce could attract more artists, although we’ve learned to wait a few days when big creator platforms announce changes or new features, to gauge the response of their communities.
In the meantime, our Sandbox Guide to Patreon from October 2022 offers some more thoughts on how the platform can work for musicians.