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Why Patreon’s founder doesn’t think his platform is merely a ‘tip jar’

Frappuccinos, milkshakes and content.

Patreon CEO Jack Conte Asa Mathat

Fans paying artists or other content makers in order to support their work? Not a tip jar, according to the head of Patreon.

The company has an interesting business model: People that make their content on Patreon are paid by users. The platform takes a 5 percent cut on that subscription payment — a different approach from other media companies that live and die by advertising dollars.

“It doesn’t feel good to put money in a tip jar. It feels good to be a patron,” Patreon CEO Jack Conte said at Code Media at Huntington Beach, Calif., on Tuesday. “And there’s a big difference in the name. You don’t drink a milkshake in the morning. You drink a Frappuccino. And it’s a different product that serves a different market and resonates with a different audience. I think to call it a tip jar — you can do that, but then I think you’re calling a Frappuccino a milkshake.”

The company is appealing to artists like Susie Meister, a former “MTV Road Rules” contestant who has turned herself into a podcaster. Patreon raised $60 million just a few months ago in a round led by Thrive Global.

Conte says that most creators like Meister do have their content available for free, but use the site to promote secondary content or other member benefits. The Patreon founder said the site appealed to a very human desire to reward artists who provide them with joy.

“People want to pay for it. They can’t wait to pay for it,” Conte said. “Fans really want to support the stuff that they love. I think there’s this age-old thing about humans, where they want to feel like a member of a community. They want to support the arts.”

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