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Patreon will help fans pay their favorite artists more than $140 million this year

CEO Jack Conte explains what’s next — and why he really, really hates the term “tip jar” — on the latest Recode Media.

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Patreon CEO Jack Conte
Patreon CEO Jack Conte
Courtesy Patreon

Before he co-founded Patreon in 2013, Jack Conte was a musician making videos on YouTube ... and he was pissed off. The money he was able to get from the ads that ran against his videos was not nearly enough to make a living.

“I’m getting literally a million views per month and I open up my YouTube dashboard: ‘You’re getting paid $166 this month!’” Conte said on the latest episode of Recode Media with Peter Kafka. “And I’m like, ‘Fuck this! That sucks!’

“It’s so demoralizing, as an artist, to feel so successful and have such a discrepancy between the impact you feel you’re having on the world and that paycheck you get at the end of the month,” he added.

Patreon connects creative people — musicians, podcasters, knitting e-zine publishers — with the superfans, “patrons,” who are willing to pay to support them. Between 2013 and 2016, the site processed more than $100 million in “pledges,” monthly donations from those fans; in 2017 alone, it expects to process $150 million, and will take a 5 percent cut of that money.

(Update: A Patreon spokesperson said Conte misspoke on this point and that “more than $150 million” will reach creators this year — meaning the total Patreon expects to process before the company takes its cut is north of $157 million.)

Conte said the current version of the web, where content is mostly free and supported by ads, is not necessarily the “best version.” Instead, he wants Patreon users logging in across the web, seeing bonus content from creators wherever they go.

“The vision for this is, being a member on Patreon should make the web look different to you,” he said. “The whole web should look different to you. You have special experiences everywhere you go on the web.”

You can listen to the new podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts.

On the new podcast, Conte also explained why he hates it when people — such as Recode Media host Peter Kafka — call Patreon a “tip jar.”

“I feel pretty strongly about this,” Conte said. “That would be like saying, ‘Starbucks sells milkshakes at 10 a.m.’ No, Starbucks didn’t come out with a campaign saying, ‘We’re selling milkshakes.’ They said, ‘This is a coffee, this is a Frappuccino,' and then people started buying milkshakes and started drinking them at 10 a.m.”

“Nobody would drink a ‘milkshake’ for breakfast,” he added. “There’s a lot of baggage that comes along with a name, and a name like ‘tip jar’ … gosh, I’m a professional creator! I don’t want tips! I want to be paid for the value that I’m bringing the world, I want a patron.”

Also not kosher with the CEO: “Fan club.”

“Fan clubs are nerdy and I don’t want to be a part of them,” Conte said. “You don’t feel good about yourself, you don’t feel proud, you don’t feel like you’re giving back to the world for being in a fan club. When you are a patron of the arts — patronage is how thousands of years of art creation happened on Earth.”

If you like this show, you should also sample our other podcasts:

  • Recode Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher, is a weekly show featuring in-depth interviews with the movers and shakers in tech and media every Monday. You can subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts.
  • Too Embarrassed to Ask, hosted by Kara Swisher and The Verge’s Lauren Goode, answers all of the tech questions sent in by our readers and listeners. You can hear new episodes every Friday on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts.
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If you like what we’re doing, please write a review on Apple Podcasts — and if you don’t, just tweet-strafe Peter. Tune in next Thursday for another episode of Recode Media!

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