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Recently, a YouTube channel I’ve been following for a little while announced its new Patreon page. This is pretty normal for YouTube, but what was a little unusual was that this was the creator’s second channel, and he already has a Patreon for his main channel. This bothered me a little, and I’d like to share my thoughts on why.

First, if you don’t know what Patreon is, you can probably stop here. I’m not going to explain it. Frankly, I’d prefer anyone reading this already be familiar with and have their own opinions on Patreon, rather than learn it from me and be coloured by my own opinions.  There are too many echo chambers on the Internet already.

Second, while it was a particular channel which brought this to my attention and which I’m using as an example, I don’t intend this to be at all accusatory. While I take some issue with the practice of having multiple Patreons, I don’t beleive this person was acting cynically and I think they are doing it the right way, having Patreon funds paid per video rather than per month.

Now, I don’t have an issue with Patreon per se. I don’t have cable and I barely use Netflix. I can’t tolerate Cruchyroll’s broken video player or excessive and repetitive ads, and what the hell’s a book? YouTube is my preferred entertainment and I understand how important Patreon has become for creators. While there is some abuse, I generally don’t begrudge it.

However, typically the point of Patreon is to give content creators the economic stability to focus on their chosen project, without the distraction of a part-time job or having their Internet cut off. It’s about making content creation their job and their primary focus.

So what do we make of someone splitting their focus between two channels and two Patreons? My concern is that each side only gets half of the attention that they, in principle, should. Particularly in a case where the two channels produce very different content and attract different audiences.

It seems to me that this could generate a funding war. A situation where the creator can say to one side, “Sorry guys, no new video this month. The other side is paying better. You’re all going to step it up with the funding.” (Well, maybe not in those words; that would be a pretty quick way to lose both audiences.)

With a little subtle coercion, the whole thing can be used to artificially convince funders to give more than they normally would; not more that the content is with to them (I’m not going to try to refute the basic premises of capitalism in this rambling aside), but more than has been expected as the Patreon standard. It creates a situation where scummy creators can further milk their audience. And it’ll undermines the general organizing principle of fan funding that people give because they want to support creators, not necessarily because they want to buy more content.

This isn’t some sort of industry-ending break in the system. It’s not even something that I see becoming a widely abused trick. But it is a little troubling.

I see a lot of content creators branching out now. Whether it’s changes in the website or viewership, popular topics, or just the creators wanting to explore new things, a lot of people are making second channels. I expect we’ll see more creators with multiple Patreons, too. It will be an interesting development, and I just hope it doesn’t damage the good faith and cordiality this fan funding economy is based on.

 

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