Bobos & Wojaks

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Crypto Payments Coming To Patreon, Says Patreon CEO

Patreon CEO and co-founder Jack Conte and Chief Product Officer Julian Gutman spoke yesterday on a panel at The Information’s 2021 Creator Economy Summit, where they were asked about the membership platform’s ambitions for cryptocurrency.

“Clearly, there’s a lot of innovation going on in the crypto and NFT arena,” Gutman remarked. “Of course, there’s the art market and precious goods sector, which are evolving with insane pricing.” It’s uncertain whether that is sustainable throughout the entire creative economy, but there are some fundamental technological components to NFTs as a method to offer value to your audience and then acquire value from secondary sales as what you do becomes more and more relevant to the world.”

Patreon pitched the notion of creator currencies to its creator community last month, ahead of a quarterly Creator Policy Engagement Program livestream that allows creators to weigh in on platform policy changes. However, the proposal was suggested in the midst of a more immediate problem with Mastercard’s new adult content regulations, which prohibited the firm from engaging in a more in-depth conversation with creators about the topic.

“We’re right now not talking about creating any type of initial coin offering, which is specifically not allowed under Patreon’s current guidelines,” Laurent Crenshaw, Patreon’s head of Policy, had said on the Patreon Connect livestream. “But we’ve heard from a number of creators who have been interested in the opportunity to offer exclusive memberships and benefits to their patrons through a coin or token, a digital item that they can hold onto that shows that they are part of your fan club. And so we thought that at the very least, we could explore the opportunity of making that type of offering allowable under our guidelines.”

While Patreon enables creators to share personal investing tales or advice, its current guidelines ban coins offered for direct financial gain to a creator or patron, coins offered as part of an investment plan, or any explicit incentives to purchase or obtain cryptocurrencies. However, if creators indicate an interest in offering creator currencies, Patreon may reconsider modifying these regulations.

A creator coin is a type of crypto-based social currency – firms such as BitClout, Roll, and Rally have worked on developing specific tokens that allow fans to invest in the success of artists. So, if you buy a creator’s token early on and they go on to become a celebrity, you benefit as well.

“One thing that I think Patreon has always been committed to at its core is making sure that we’re creating a sustainable, long-term path for creators, right? It’s not just a burst of monetization,” Gutman said at The Information’s summit. “So I think we’re certainly interested in evaluating and understanding how NFTs or some of the underlying technologies help us create sustainable long-term earnings for creators. But I think when it comes to the hype around sales of individual assets and what not… not that we wouldn’t offer that if we felt it was really valuable to creators, as part of the broader portfolio of what they can offer… but I think for us, really thinking through how we’re continuing to ensure we’re creating a sustainable recurring future for creators is why we’re evaluating the crypto space more broadly.”

Some crypto projects are aimed at giving creators more control over their work – for example, an artist will continue to receive royalties on an NFT every time it is sold, but this is not normally the case for more traditional fine artists.

“What I will say about crypto and NFTs in general is I really love the idea of creators owning their media and owning their content. I love the idea of creators having leverage and control. I love the idea of creators owning their audience data instead of platforms. I love the idea of a lot of this underlying infrastructure empowering creators for independence. I love the idea of shifting power away from institutions and toward individual creative people,” Conte said during yesterday’s event. “I think that’s what a lot of this technology is getting at, and what I think is really deeply exciting about it.”

Nonetheless, when the concept of Patreon introducing the opportunity for creators to dabble in cryptocurrency was mooted last month, many creators cringed, primarily owing to the environmental cost.

“The idea of adding crypto worries me, because the reputation of crypto in artist communities is absolutely destroyed, even if it is beneficial at face value. I worry I would lose patrons due to them not agreeing with Patreon’s use of adding crypto to the platform,” a creator wrote in a public chat on the livestream.

Laura Mandaro of The Information, who hosted the session, asked Conte if Patreon has any full-time workers working on cryptocurrency.

“No comment is what I will say about that, but we’re thinking about it,” Conte said.