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


aaaaand Jack’s interview with Dave Rubin:

–spoilers if you want to watch it without knowing what someone else thinks–
Quite damage-control-y, with the terms “content policy” and “manifest observable behavior” being said a ton. I think Dave does a good job of pressing him on some issues (though he doesn’t bust his balls by any means). His metaphor of the ‘blocked ambulance’, and then subsequent side-skirting of what is or isn’t a refugee either demonstrates he either doesn’t understand people’s concerns, or that he’s being wilfully egg-shell-y about it (I think it’s the former), as, regardless of what one thinks about the specific situation, merely interpreting the situation to be a ‘blocked ambulance’ is already making a political decision (regardless of what happens after that point).

Most of his answers to the harder questions seemed to come down to “bro, trust me”, which given the situation isn’t comforting.

Also didn’t know that they didn’t allow porn on there, especially since one of the two people we were supporting on there is a pornographer, and I have seen other ‘adult’ content on there, so curious as to what the distinction they make between art and porn is, but it’s good at some lawyers in SF finally figured it out(!!).

I was holding out to see how this interview went, but based on it I’m deleting my Patreon account, and will support the people we do directly (or via some other platform).

It’s unfortunate that it’s only the capitalist/market mechanism that works in communicating with companies like this, and it’s especially shitty as I think Patreon had(/has) the best interests of people who make creative work in mind, but as it turns out, I value transparency and discourse more than I do an artist-facing revenue generating modality.


:100: to all this.

Going back to the decentralization convo (though much good has come of unpacking and examining the specifics/impact of this situation) and your original ask for my thoughts as a creator using the platform, I have been weighing the historical and continued usefulness of Patreon in the podcast’s development.

I’ve used Patreon as a centralized tool to accomplish centralized tasks – organizing some seed (both funds and energy) to grow a running project. Patreon holds me accountable for meeting goals along the way, which has helped me structure that growth. The podcast always lived outside of the funding, but I needed help taking it to the next stages – better mic, tapes, covering initial website development costs. Circumstances have improved and for the last month, I’ve been thinking about closing the Patreon page and shifting to an independent model – not necessarily because of a worry about centralization, but because the project has outgrown the usefulness of that particular centrality. And that was always the intent of entering into that environment: to one day outgrow it.

And maybe there’s an underlying danger: tethering/limiting creative impulse to a single platform or outcome. @Rodrigo, you and I have talked before about the strange artistic lethargy you’ve witnessed when makers abroad receive government subsidies. Does that have any resonance here?


Somewhat tangential to the idea of middlemen -
I’ve become a bit weirded out by the recent trend of ‘promoters’ in the modular community. At first I was curious, but after talking to other people, I came to the conclusion that there was a lot about the situation that makes me feel a bit off. There will eventually be a lot of cultural power behind these emergent groups, and I’m concerned about the way it might push out against the brilliant fringe of the scene, as small as it is.


That’s interesting to hear the thinking/movement of the podcast “through” these changes, and how it’s being effected by both of these (Patreon/Soundcloud), but not in the ways that initially have to do with this thread.

There is the (related) danger of growing to the size of, and more importantly here, shape of the container in which you inhabit. The conversations we’ve had about this, and my particularly view/stance on a lot of those issues has to do with the latter part of that.

Something that I haven’t explicitly thought of before, but Patreon’s model of creation is unidirectional, as in, there are creators and there are patrons, which is, in a fundamental way, hierarchical. The nuances and specifics of that are worth a discussion into itself, but that is to say, that developing in and around that model which have an impact of minimizing collaboration. That’s only now occurred to me, so I haven’t unpacked that metaphor/example, but I think it illustrates a(/the?) point here.

I’ve never personally considered creating a Patreon, because of my view of money and art, but I think some of the tools you outline can have an impact on things as well. As in, being aware of statistics with regards to the creative things one does. This is getting quite tangential (to this thread, though not this discussion), but I’m really dubious of the effectiveness of ego in the context of creativity in general. And stats(/money(/“popularity”))/etc… can really feed that on. One of the reasons I stopped Facebook a bunch of years ago was that I really disliked (like, physically/viscerally) the feeling of posting something, and then wanting to check to see if anyone liked it. I couldn’t help but be effected by it. I mean, I didn’t engage with Facebook in a meaningful enough way for it to impact the kind of things I DID, but it must have impacted the (smaller) things I would SHARE. That made me refocus on the idea of just ‘blogging into the void’, where I would put something on my page and not really know how many people viewed it. I don’t check my webpage’s stats very often, and either I don’t understand the stats software well, or it’s quite old so it doesn’t get too granular, but I actually don’t know how many views a specific page/post have, I only really see the overall stats/visits (and I prefer it this way!).

Phew, that went off on a tangent there!

All of that is to say, that not only the politics of a platform (as relevant to this thread), but the method of interaction (relevant to this discussion), can have an impact on how we interface through the world, through these platforms.


Also, an interesting, and somewhat related article, about the legality of banning/blocking people on social media platforms:


What do these “promoters” do? Never heard of them before.


It is hard to say exactly, it seems like the people being promoted are doing most of the work… I think it’s part of the race to the top that has been going on with the rising popularity of eurorack, it seems to be about generating views and followers. I’m not going to say I wasn’t interested initially, a lot of people I admire on the weebz have signed on, but when all the details were gathered, I talked it over with a fellow community member, and couldn’t see anything particularly positive for those involved coming out of it.


Sounds suspiciously like SEO or social media “experts” to me? Or maybe not, but either way, I’m glad I have no idea.

This is where MY optimistic/naive underwear may be showing, but I figure, do good work and people will notice. That’s my super complex marketing and distribution strategy. I haven’t done enough good work yet to know if it will work.


This has started to be the way I feel about Instagram, which originally (for me personally) was a community driven by experimentation and sharing. For the longest time, I used my account as a journal of progress, experimenting with finding my voice in the modular world. Thanks to the changes made to the instagram timeline and interface, and the sheer number of people competing for attention, I find it harder and harder to go back to. I think that is why I have moved to the idea of doing more permanent things and participating in a community like lines, I don’t feel like part of the rat race here - but I can engage or disengage with a group of peers without it feeling like a contest of visibility or popularity. I still love the people I interact with via instagram, but I feel dirty for the desire for validation, especially in light of the recent trend towards cliques and promotion. I think throwing things into the void might be a new way of dealing with this digital existential dread…


So is it like Twitter/YouTube/Instagram/etc. accounts that are reposting other people’s (musical) work, and getting the likes/follows on their account rather than the original creator’s?


I’d be interested in hearing more about this as I cant seem to fathom what the race to the top is…

my naive thoughts lead me to think that the diversity in Modular would mean there can never be a single top and for every ‘best’ video, there will be equal interest in vintage serge

if by top. you mean most viewers/ clicks, then that is just the cult of personality, and people are always going to want a rock star, no matter what world you inhabit…


i’m re-reading this on and on. i’m not sure i understand.
what do you mean by ‘active middlemen’ ? (i understand the words but not what they mean here, in the context of this sentence/idea/purpose).
the double negation ‘can’t not’ confuses me. can you explain it to me ?


Yeah this is what I’m talking about, I think it is all pushing towards a youtube channel, which leads me to believe that there will be monetization. From what I have gathered though, there is a lot of work being pushed on to new comers to build the brand by becoming ‘ambassadors’, organising local groups and streaming. I don’t know what the end result will be (paid artists, larger audiences?) but the method of getting there stinks, and I can only see one person benefiting.
And while there is a sizeable cult of personality in eurorack/modular/synthesizer land (and has been since I got started a few years ago) there is something new and funky about the way things are moving now.


By “active”, I mean an overly curatorial hand, in a general sense, and in this case I mean specifically applying TOS policy based on political ideology.

(in the general sense, I tend to dislike “curated” shows in general, like a gallery exhibition that ties together artists on some, often, superficial characteristic or strain, but that’s neither here or there)

And the second part, I mean that if some decentralized solution materializes (like direct peer-to-peer payments via blockchain technology), that something like Patreon (along with many financial institutions) would suffer a massive hit immediately. And other than limitations and biases built into the infrastructure/protocol (which I’m sure there would be), the transparency of that kind of use of technology means that everything would be, by definition, transparent.

Aaah, I wasn’t sure what you meant either. Since getting onto Instagram (mainly after seeing how much cool stuff @Angela comes across), I started following all sorts of people, and I found that I found these kind of aggregate accounts boring, especially since what might have original grabbed my attention wasn’t representative of what was going on, but just a random sample of “cool things”.


i’ve been curious how effective sponsorship and artist promotion really is at this point-- ie roli blocks (sorry to pick on them) with RZA and grimes-- does anyone not immediately wonder how much the artists got paid to shill?

but in this case neither the artist nor manufacturer i’d characterize as a “middleman” re: this thread

but, the youtube suggested next play, however, represents a massive middleman to be reckoned with


@Rodrigo : thanks for the clarifications.

(a reaction to your first post, and

as i see it).
these active middlemen are providing online (and massively) services that were available to the aristocratic people at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century. there are novels (i’m thinking Proust here) were you get a description of services needed to run a house : transportation (Uber, …), food (so many), travels(…), goods (Amazon, …), socialization and social life (Facebook, …), entertainement (…), etc. and regarding Patreon, every house had his ‘protégé’ : musician, painter, etc.
the fact that these services are available to anyone with a decent internet connection is a continuation of a movement emerging from the 2nd WW, where the promise of the peace (and of the victory) aka prosperity, was to bring these services to the middle classes.
that is for who are the ‘active’ middlemen.

what they do. i’ve recently learn how Times Square is operated (well i didn’t even know the place was ‘operated’ and privately managed). during the 1990’s a Business Improvement District (BID) was made to, well, improve the place. the BID operates and manages many things that were once done by elected people : security, real estate, urban waste, tourism and business marketing, social assistance, charity, urban planning, events management, etc. this is how what was once a public place, some sort of common land i guess, is now privately owned and ruled. the active middlemen in charge there run the place. as Jack Conte runs his place (i mean questioning his right to do/say/etc. something is a nonsense.). i also read the recent Zuckerberg manifesto with this in mind. (see also this thread - funnily the lines search engine returned nothing with ‘zuckerberg’ input.)

i see the rise of these middlemen as a loss of democracy, that is : i certainly don’t see the world as ‘increasingly democratized’ with active middlemen ruling more and more aspect of the everyday life. and with VR, AI and IoT coming next, the active middlemen businesses is looking good.
as for the decentralized technologies, it’s not easy to understand how they can empowered/freed the user, it’s not easy to learn how to use these technologies and i don’t think Jack Conte and all the active middlemen (individuals or corp.) would agree to let their juicy market fall. i mean they would fight hard for their financial, cultural and social power (and questioning this power is very important, so thank you for opening this thread).

as far as i’m concern, i have a bandcamp and a twitter account, i pay to rent a Top Level Domain (TLD) name, and i’m not sure i really understand what a blockchain is.
that said, it’s not a good reason to resign, as i would love to see these peer-to-peer/decentralized tech massively used. (i guess i could start to really use them, (for instance Open Root would let me buy a TLD) or work to do it, but that would certainly leave me out of the mob. it’s not that easy.)
massively used : because it would very likely bring anarchy all over the – public – place. (anarchy as its first meaning : without government, hierarchy or command – here : without active middlemen. see Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, Jacques Ellul, etc.).


I think the weird thing about Instagram to me in the whole ‘competing for attention’ thing is the endless hashtag stuff. Hashtags are a pet peeve for me, but it also slots into the whole attention thing from my perspective. I just added some modular manufacturers on Instagram, but honestly, I always have my phone muted completely pretty much so any Instagram music videos are pointless and thankfully dachshund and hedgehog vids are fine without volume :slight_smile:

There’s also this weird micro-community of people posting tiny snippets of work online in these 30-60 second clips but not constructing anything more, which doesn’t make sense to me. I want to see polish and ‘complete’ art because that’s where things get interesting.

I dunno, just my incomplete thoughts on things I haven’t sorted out exactly.


Interesting announcement:


That’s cool!

I’m sure it will suffer from the same issues of other VC-funded middleware BUT they have the benefit of happening after the Patreon stuff (it would be naive of me to think that means there would be some corporate culture lessons learned…).


I found this bit to be a reason for hope:

A key mandate for the design of Drip has been creator independence. The work and relationships that creators build online should belong to them. They shouldn’t feel stuck to a platform because those things aren’t easy to move. With that in mind, creators will be able to export their data and content, and we’ll even help creators securely transfer subscription and payments information to other subscription platforms. We believe creator independence means not being locked into a platform by design.