COVID-19 and the Creative Economy: Takeaways from Patreon’s Data Science Team



Right now is a stressful time to be a creator. In a time when so many around the world are deeply affected, creative professionals face special challenges: live shows are being cancelled, events and conferences are being postponed, and many revenue streams for creative people are disappearing. Patreon’s mission to get creators paid has never been more important, and we know that creators across the globe are looking for ways to continue making art sustainably amid the COVID-19 crisis and the resulting economic uncertainty.

As a patron of over a dozen creators on Patreon, I’ve seen my favorite creators this past week sharing stories of the impact COVID-19 is already having on their art and on their lives. In my role on Patreon’s data science team, I’ve spent every workday diving into the data of what makes creators successful, what encourages their patrons to subscribe, and how Patreon grows. I’m grateful that the message I can share with creators is that membership works. Digital monetization continues to offer a reliable source of income for creators, even in a time when the rest of the creative economy is struggling. More than 150,000 artists use Patreon to generate income by offering exclusive content and communities to more than 4 million patrons in over 180 countries (and they’ve earned well over $1B in the process). Given this expansive and global reach of membership, we’ve closely examined the impacts of COVID-19 on the Patreon network. Today, I’m sharing what we’ve seen so far.

Here are the main trends we’ve seen:

  • A large number of creators are launching on Patreon. More than 30,000 creators launched in the first 3 weeks of March 2020 alone, and these new creators are acquiring patrons faster than usual.
  • Creators have expanded their earnings on Patreon during this time period. This is driven by two factors:
    • Patron acquisition: An unusually large number of fans are subscribing to creators on Patreon.
    • Patron retention: We’ve seen slightly more pledge deletion, but not nearly enough to offset the increasing numbers of new pledges.

We began to see platform-wide behavior change on Friday, March 13th. Average new patron growth across the US, UK, Canada, Germany, Australia, and Italy is up 36.2% compared to February – an indication that fans are turning to Patreon to support creators during this tough time.

2020-03-22 COVID-19 Data Blog Post visualizations

In the past week, an unprecedented number of fans are choosing to become patrons, and that number is strong enough to offset a slight increase in pledge deletion, resulting in net earnings expansion for creators on Patreon.

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This chart compares daily volume of new patrons for March February and January

And for creators, we’ve seen a large increase in creator launches since March 13th. Creators are launching on Patreon faster than at any point in the company’s history.

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The proportion of creators who acquire their first patron within 10 days of launching has also increased, meaning that the newest creators launching are unusually successful at acquiring patrons.

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Note that given that it’s been fewer than 10 days for the right-most data points, those numbers can only continue to rise as more creators get their first patrons

In short, this moment in time is one of the strongest influxes of memberships that we’ve ever seen. And the message from the data is clear: membership works.

A good data scientist paints the full picture, so I won’t just highlight the bright spots from the past week. Since that time, we have seen slightly higher patron deletion, but not nearly at the rate that other businesses are experiencing. Our deletion exhibits both monthly and weekly seasonality, but overall churn rates look stable so far. Some patrons have reported COVID-19 as the reason they’ve recently deleted their subscription, and it’s likely that some patrons will need to end their membership due to the hardships of this crisis. But overall, membership retention has held steady across Patreon, and we’ll continue to monitor it closely as the situation develops.

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Patreon exists to provide a stable, reliable source of income for creators, and that’s especially important in this time of global uncertainty. If you’re a creator, know that Patreon is here is help. Artists change lives by providing the much-needed work that uplifts us, inspires us, and gives us hope, and fans are rushing to support that. Art is needed now more than ever, and making sure creators are fairly compensated for the art they make is vital. If you’re thinking of launching on Patreon in this time, know that we have a host of resources and are committed to helping creators build sustainable income from the fans who love them most. And if you’re a patron, consider supporting your favorite creators during this turbulent time.

Update Friday, April 3rd:

We’ve continued to see these strong trends hold since mid-March. Over 50,000 creators launched in March, and those creators are acquiring patrons faster than usual. The number of creators launching remains strong through the first few days on April.

We’re also still seeing upwards of 25% average daily new patron growth in key regions compared to baselines in February. Site-wide patron retention rates are stable and monthly payments processed on April 1st with pledge decline rates in-line with historical values.

The trends we saw in March show that amid uncertainty, creators are using Patreon to connect with their fans and earn an income directly from the folks who love their work.

Maura Church is the Head of Data Science at Patreon