The promise of Patreon, the membership platform for independent artists and creators, has always been simple: If your fans like your work, they will pay you for it. No need to slough off cash from advertisers, or make shady deals with brands. It’s just you, your fans, and the stuff you make for them.
Patreon has slowly introduced new ways for creators to milk the most out of these fan relationships. They can give subscribers (called “patrons”) a peek into their lives behind-the-scenes with Patreon Lens, a Snapchat dupe specifically for creators. They can host live Q&As with fans on Discord, the voice-and-text chat app. Now, Patreon has another trick up its sleeve: It’s announcing an integration with Reddit, aimed at bringing creators closer than ever to the fan networks that support them.
Many of Patreon’s 100,000 creators and 2 million patrons already have a presence on Reddit. Fans have made subreddits to discuss episodes of the German talk show Kurzgesagt, which relies on funds from fans, or the Patreon-supported podcast Chapo Trap House. The new partnership makes these fan enclaves official, adding a special flair to denote paying patrons and adding a widget to invite fans to give money.
“It seemed like a very natural partnership,” says Alex Riccomini, Reddit’s director of business development and media partnerships. “We are the community specialists. They are the creator specialists.”
By teaming up with Reddit, Patreon hopes it can convert more Redditors into patrons, helping them discover, connect to, and financially support creators on the platform. It also hopes to build up the communities that surround these creators, inviting fans to connect to each other and offering a direct line of communication to artists. For those outside of the creator space, the new integration may seem only r/mildlyinteresting. But for creators, it could be another reason to resist joining the larger platforms, like Facebook and YouTube, and to remain within the creator ecosystem that Patreon hopes to reinvent.
Pay Your Dues
When the integration rolls out later this month, creators with existing communities on Reddit can indicate that they have a Patreon, then add a widget in the sidebar of their community. “That allows them to capture users who may not know they have a Patreon account, so they can start donating,” says Lei Gong, the product manager at Reddit in charge of the Patreon integration. Redditors who have contributed to a creator’s Patreon will see flair—a short bit of text that says “patron”—show up next to their username.
The flair makes it possible to see at a glance which threads or comments come from paying supporters. Later on, these could potentially indicate levels of membership or the length of time someone has been a patron—information that Patreon already makes available to its creators.
Reddit has begun beta testing the new features with a handful of creators, starting with Amanda Palmer, punk artist and lead singer of the Dresden Dolls. In the coming weeks, testing will roll out to other Patreon creators, like Zach Weinersmith, who makes the popular web comic Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal; Destin Wilson Sandlin, the engineer-turned-YouTube star behind Smarter Every Day; the YouTubers behind Cow Chop; and CGP Grey, the podcaster who created Hello Internet. Each of these creators already had subreddits; now, with more hands-on participation from the creators, they hope to see those communities grow.
“It opens up the opportunity for these fans to actually provide feedback directly to that creator,” says Riccomini.
The integration hasn’t been perfect. Some of Patreon’s creators split their content between so many different platforms—posting videos to YouTube and podcasts to Soundcloud—that managing a community on Reddit feels overwhelming. And many of Patreon’s fans and creators are brand new to Reddit, which comes with a notorious learning curve. A few of Amanda Palmer’s fans have complained in r/amandapalmer about the upvote system, which privileges posts and comments based on community votes, while others have raised questions about Reddit’s unique terminology (“flair,” “subreddit,” “OP”).
A few days ago, one Amanda Palmer fan wrote a post offering an extra ticket for Palmer’s concert in Tuscon. Besides the ticket, the Redditor said they’d “love to meet up with anyone attending, especially if you’re also traveling alone.” No one replied.
But there have also been positive outcomes—including interactions that have rarely happened on other platforms, including the rickety web forums that previously existed for Amanda Palmer fans. A few days into the beta test, Palmer posted to the subreddit: “i haven’t had 80 minutes to myself in the three days since the album got mastered to sneak away and approve it. and i gotta approve it before it heads off into the land of Being A Real Record and getting turned into vinyl and all that. who’s here?” The comment thread evolved into a discussion about perfectionism and song creation. One fan even described an abusive relationship, and Palmer responded to commiserate. It’s the kind of one-on-one interaction that can feel uncommon between internet celebrities and their supporters.
“In a lot of cases, [the fans] function as a broader tribe that the creator can lean on,” says Brent Horowitz, Patron’s VP of business and corporate development. “When we think about that dynamic, we always want to encourage that at Patreon.”
As Patreon competes with platforms like YouTube and Facebook, each of which introduced more creator-focused tools and subscription models earlier this year, its partnerships will become increasingly important. Patreon might not have the scale of YouTube, or the ability to offer its creators revenue from ad streams. But it can offer something else: choice.
“A creator should be able to choose where they post their content, where they engage with their community, and how they engage with their community,” says Horowitz.
Earlier this year, Patreon partnered with Discord to make it easy for creators to connect with fans directly. It’s made deals with Vimeo, Snapchat, and other platforms to ease the burden on artists when posting content; Patreon has also acquired membership companies, like Memberful and Subbable, which also cater to creators of various sizes. Reddit—which brings with it 138,000 active communities and 330 million active users—fits squarely into Patreon’s partnership strategy.
“Communities are a key aspect of the creator’s life,” says Horowitz. “So this is an important sign of things to come—not just areas around community, but other toolsets and platforms.”