Patreon wants to be a one-stop social network for artists to reach fans

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Patreon, the subscription-based funding platform that supports creators like Amanda Palmer and the Kinda Funny team, is getting a major update that includes live-streaming capabilities and a new visual design. Patreon co-founder Jack Conte says the features are intended to give creators more ways to engage directly with their patrons, while also giving them more ways to analyze and keep track of their subscriber base. They’ve been tested with a limited number of people on the platform, but will now be rolling out on a large scale.

One of the additions is a new app called “Lens,” which Conte describes as something like Snapchat or Instagram Stories, but limited to Patreon subscribers. The app “makes it really easy for creators to give patrons a window into their life and share videos and photos,” says Conte. It’s currently in beta, and will be released slowly over the next six months.

In addition to the Lens app, Patreon is partnering with a streaming company called Crowdcast to enable patron-only live videos. And creators will now be able to give subscribers early access to Patreon posts before they go live more widely. On the purely internal side, Patreon will offer creators access to a “patron relationship manager” — basically, a database with detailed information about subscribers. “You can just look at all the patrons who joined in the last two weeks and send them a gift, or look at all your patrons who recently hit their six-month anniversary and invite them to a live stream,” says Conte.

Creators could do all the things above before the update, and many already do. Crowdcast has advertised its services on the Patreon blog, and more generally, patrons pay to get closer access to creators, as well as a look at early or unfinished work. The point of this update, says Conte, is to make the process much easier. The early-access system, for example, will let them create one post and automatically open it after a certain period of time, instead of posting multiple updates or manually changing the access settings. Similarly, the patron relationship manager will replace the process of downloading and sorting through spreadsheets with subscriber info.

Things like the live-streaming system aren’t meant to substitute for a service like Twitch, and Conte says that Patreon isn’t meant to become a place where creators will host their main artistic output. But the company is trying to handle all the interactions between artists and fans, not just the money that passes between them.

Along with the updates, Patreon is announcing several new high-profile creators joining the platform, including McSweeney’s Internet Tendency and comedian Bill Burr. According to recently released statistics, the platform hosts 50,000 active creators and recently passed one million active patrons, who pay an average of $12 monthly. It’s currently on track to deliver creators $150 million in 2017, compared to $100 million total between its launch in mid-2013 and the end of 2016, and Conte says the site revamp is meant to provide a more professional feel. “It feels much more like, you know, a place to run a business — a place to actually make money and get paid and run a membership platform,” he says.

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