Patreon Stats Show We’re a Long, Long Way From “YouTube Done Right”

The Makers All framework argues we need to build grassroots power at the heart of the economy

to ensure that everyone, not just a handful of corporations and the wealthy, gets a seat at the table where decisions get made about the legal and de facto rules governing creative works so that both the creative bounty and the profits are widely shared (e.g., “YouTube Done Right”)

Just how far are we from that goal? Here are some sobering stats about the popular site Patreon.

Founded by musician (and former YouTuber) Jack Conte in 2013, the service reached 50,000 monthly active content creators last year. With the support of one million monthly active patrons, the company estimated that creators would earn $150 million last year.

But how many of these creators are really benefiting?

Graphtreon.com has graphed all active Patreon campaigns since March 2015. According to the website, the platform now has 79,420 creators. Yet, only 1,393 creators (under 2%) earned the federal monthly minimum wage of $1,160 a month in October 2017. Even worse, if changed to $15 per hour, only 0.8%, or 635 creators, made that amount.

In addition, Graphtreon found that the vast majority on the platform earned between $1 and $100 a month.

It wouldn’t be surprising if a good chunk of the 50,000 monthly active content creators didn’t earn much money; many might just be dipping their toe in the water. Even so, these numbers are dismal.

The problem isn’t that no one’s making money.

Successful Patreon creators on the channel earn up to five-digit incomes per month.

But the distribution is skewed heavily towards the top.

And that’s the point the Makers All framework is arguing: if we want to have an economy where many people can make much or all of their living from digital creative works, increasing the number of people with the skills to make these creative works is only part of the story. We’ll need to change the rules of the digital road, and that’s going to require large scale community organizing to build grassroots power.

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