Patreon(/Soundcloud) - the politics/power of the middleman

Yeah, I’ve been subscribing the minimum pledge for a few months now even though I don’t actually use their tools (yet), it’s really all I can give financially at the moment but I think it’s important to support them, and I hope they come up with an alternative sooner rather than later, because the landscape is kind of sad, away from bandcamp, right now.

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Love the discussion here.

I think this twitter thread kinda nails it:

The single biggest piece of advice I have for you: if you have someone’s email address (+ permission) you have an earned relationship. If you have to beg a platform to contact them, the platform owns the relationship. Get the email.

Youtube subscribers, Twitter followers, Facebook fans, and all analogous relationships are not defensible assets in the way that someone expecting mail from you is. They’re dependent on the week-to-week policies and quarter-to-quarter strategic imperatives of the platform.

The platforms offer incredible reach! Incredible! Reach! And the bargain they offer is Faustian. Platforms need their creators to bake the cake; they then propose allocating 60~80%+ to them as an opening bid, do not contractualize that (for smaller creators), and smile.

“What do you mean they do not contractualize that?”

I mean that you have neither a contract nor even an understanding among equals that the terms you currently enjoy are the ones you will have in the future. Businesses sign contracts with vendors important to them.

Do you remember the contract negotiation? No, because doesn’t work at scale but also because You Are Not One Of Their Important Accounts.

Any term you think you’re entitled to is going to be renegotiated by Darth Vader: “I have altered the deal; pray I do not alter it further.”

So back to the question of building your own platform:

  1. You want your own place on the Internet; I think that is, for most people, a website.

  2. You need, need, need an email list. Software for them is cheap to get started with.

  3. Above all things:
    “As an independent creator, I will comport all my conduct on other people’s platforms with the intentional, strategic goal of enticing some portion of the audience to join me on my platform, where the lion’s share of value I produce is, and where I make meaningful money.”


That’s pretty much it, now it would be good for creators to have a place that can generate some sort of access to this “Incredible! Reach!” in a decentralized manner, where you keep the mail, keep your site, keep access to your data and the people supporting you, no matter what happens to the service driving this “Incredible! Reach!” in the future, that’s where people at cashmusic (or eslewhere) have quite a big goal ahead of them.

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I remember seeing a post regarding online newspaper funding models and it basically said until we can flip a dollar/pound (or equivalent) into a virtual jar when we read something we like, it will be hard to get any of this low denomination online funding off the ground.

I think only Paypal have the architecture/userbase to make this work… and god forbid we leave it to Facebook.

Cool that there is political discussion on lines! It’s the first I’ve found since I made an account.

Patreon closed a series C funding round of 60 million in September 2017 from Thrive Capital, which was founded by Joshua Kushner, who is Melania Trump’s son. OMG! Full disclosure, I worked for a Thrive Capital funded company for a short time in 2011.

Middlemen never left. Also plz don’t use the SJW acronym to mic drop, because that is a bad look.


We do it with some frequency:

I probably missed some.


This is factually incorrect. Joshua Kushner is Jared Kusher’s brother. Jared is married to Ivanka Trump.

I’m not sure what you’re implying with the “OMG!”… VCs are all run by rich people, and a lot of them have questionable business and political ties. There are lots of problems with the nature of VC investments, how the firms are setup, and where the money comes from.


thank you so much for this! i don’t think as a content creator I need to be so strongly focussed on the “strategic goal of enticing some portion of the audience to join me on my platform”, but certainly find lots of value in cultivating a more direct relationship, in educating about the blocking power of the middlemen. I’m sure by now everyone has wondered at least once about the “people reached” counter on Facebook.

It looks like Patreon is not rolling out the fee changes after the backlash:


For now… with the kind of investment they took its only a matter of time before they have to do something to meet revenue expectations.

That and they’ve shown their true colours a few times now, enough for me not to do business with them.


Oh I definitely agree, I was more just reporting.

Thanks for the tips. I’m setting up a LiberaPay as an alternative to the Patreon account I set up for Norelco Mori.


( FYI my subscription is live now: :slight_smile: )


interested to see how you find this. i set one up last year but got no takers. also slightly bugged by the fact you can’t charge a monthly or annual sub rate. Surely you’d have more people subscribing if they chose how often they paid.

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I would def like to be able to fine-tune rates.

So far not many subscribers. I’ll check back in here with my experiences later in the year cause I expect there will be more people once the releases progress. I have noticed a big uptick in people following my bc page recently fwiw

FWIW I cancelled my Soundcloud subscription for this year. They recently switched to their new OPUS codec which defaults to 64kbps, which IMO is totally inadequate, no matter how good the codec is. There’s ways around it with different browser plugins and extensions, but you can’t expect or force all listeners to install something like that. All my future music will be on Bandcamp.


I think I’ll continue to use soundcloud to post sketches i just want to share with a couple people.

Bandcamp for finished works, for sure.

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Aye. fwiw a monthly sub option for yours and I would sign up in an instant! But, we’ll see if that is introduced at any point. I’m tempted to try setting one up again on mine to get some kind of forward planning on my releases. It’s all a bit slapdash at the moment.

It was really hard to know which pricing to choose. In the end I opted for the yearly mostly based on what I’d seen others do, but I also decided to do no or few exclusive releases so that someone who didn’t want to subscribe yearly could still garb a track or two that they liked. Seemed like an okay compromise. Plus going full exclusive was never something I was really interested in anyway.

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Didn’t want to make a new thread since it’s fairly relevant to this thread, but “well well well, how the turntables”.

Patreon CEO says the company’s generous business model is not sustainable as it sees rapid growth

So after a bit of a bumpy year with lots of high profile creators leaving the platform (Sam Harris being a big one, but also a big dip in sex work related creators), it looks like Patreon is starting to feel the VC burn.

Interesting for various reasons, but it puts a different light on the whole “middleman” brand of capitalism where (potential) bias is not only a problem, but also (overly) capitalistic sprawl too.

I haven’t followed any of the stuff about Soundcloud (I don’t really use it), but I remember a similar thread on this a while back.

Relevant (short) article:

Interesting twitter thread here too:

I didn’t really use my Patreon very much and deleted it early last year and haven’t looked back. I wonder if a more open/egalitarian alternative will pop up, but for me the big concern is that payment processors are the ones really holding the cards. I remember from the video of Jack Conte initially talking about the problem waay earlier in this thread, he cites the rules from payment processors being a big deciding factor in certain things. In that case, specifically the sex work-related bannings.

Is it even possible to have a platform that isn’t bound by the (fairly arbitrary and normatively bound) rules of payment processors? Subscribestar popped up as an alternative but was quickly shut out by Paypal (I didn’t follow this story really, but only include it as a point of reference). It’s a shame that crypto stuff has turned into wild west speculation/investment/capitalism rather than an open payment processing methodology.

Regardless of how one feels about free speech, “free speech”, sex work, etc… the fact that corporate overlords are the ones making these decisions for us is pretty scary.

In this case, it seems like capitalism is as capitalism does and Patreon is under the thumb of the problem it created for itself, so no tears shed from me, but only by the grace that it was not as greedy or effective as it wanted it be did this problem come up at all.