We gathered some of the biggest names in film, podcasting, art, activism, music, and media for Patreon Assembly, an afternoon of storytelling and performances. As part of our live event, we hosted panels in select cities with some of our favorite creators.
In Brooklyn, New York, our very own Laura Benson, Creator Success Lead at Patreon, led a panel with Hayley Rosenblum, Patreon Manager & Creative Project Producer for Amanda Palmer, Patrick Hinds, Podcaster, Producer of True Crime Obsessed, Jacob Shao, Comedian, Producer and Co-host of Pretty Much It, Austin Walker, Game Journalist, Critic, Co-creator and Host of Friends at the Table.
The group discussed a wide range of topics facing creators today, from valuing their work to building a strong relationship with your community. Here are some of the key takeaways we learned.
On the meaning of independence as a creator: For Patrick, it’s meant not having to work anymore “jobs that [he] didn’t love. At 5:50, he says, “Learning that [my co-producer Gillian and I] could work hard and make this piece of creativity together and that could be a job that supported both of our families has been this really incredible journey.”
For Hayley, it means leaning into their community. She shares at 7:05, “we’re able to literally do whatever inspiration strikes, whatever our community wants.”. “Sometimes we’ll make mistakes but that’s part of the process and so the independence, it literally means everything.”
Jacob enjoys having more creative control. At 9:54, he shares, “It’s been really cool for us to not have any sort of middle-man or red tape within our business. If we wanna try something new, we do it and that day, it’s in effect.”
Austin has been able to quit his job to work on Friends at the Table full-time and not have to worry about winning over a mass audience or creating work that’s scalable. At 9:23, he says, “[Independence] isn’t just about someone saying, ‘No, you can’t do that.’ It’s about all of those little unwritten or the invisible curricula of what good art looks like. And being able to say, ‘Actually, we have a different idea of what good art looks like and we’re gonna make that.’”
How they navigating asking for what they’re worth and valuing their creative work: Patrick says that what’s worked for him and his team is being totally transparent and authentic and having an “honest dialogue with [their] listeners.” At 12:10, he says, “We learned that if we could just unabashedly be who we were, then we could succeed and part of that became wanting to make this our job. And that meant telling our audience we wanted to make this our job and unabashedly asking people to join our Patreon… because we want to make more of what you like.”
Hayley, quoting Amanda Palmer’s TED Talk at 14:11, says: “It’s not about how you make people pay for music, it’s how you let them.” When it comes to promoting your Patreon page, she says at 15:32: “You’re not begging for money, you’re letting people help you create your work and they’re happy for it. It’s a two-way street.” At 15:48, Jacob says, “At the end of the day, we can’t sleep outside. ‘Cause if it was up to just me and my co-host, the creative guys, we’d just be out in the street telling jokes all day and that’s it.” He adds at 16:01: “We all have to eat, and you can price things accordingly and that’s okay.”
Austin encourages creators to not shy away from high-priced tiers. At 17:41, he says, “Give your patrons the opportunity to back you at levels and support you at tiers that you yourself wouldn’t feel comfortable spending in a month. We have a $100 tier that has a handful of people that support us every month.”
How they balance authenticity and openness with boundaries and personal well-being Patrick shares that this has been an ongoing struggle for him and his team and they’re still figuring it out. At 20:18, he says, “It is a challenge because as our listenership has grown, we do live shows, we do national tours… and we want to meet everybody and it’s hard to figure out how to give back the personal connection that the patrons and the listeners really want as the community grows. So its an ongoing learning experience for us that we’re not perfect at, but we try really hard.” He adds at 20:47: “As long as we show our work, people will see that we’re really trying to learn how to figure this out.”
Hayley advises creators to set expectations – the earlier, the better. She says at 21:33, “I think we tend to want to give everyone everything all the time, but if you be like, ‘We’re gonna send you something in the mail a few times a year,’ that’s much more manageable then saying ‘every single month’ because we don’t know if we could do every single month.” She sums up at 22:23: “Transparency and setting expectations can help keep you and your team sane and help you not feel the pressure so much hard.”
Jacob finds it helpful to segment the brand from his personal life. At 22:46, he explains: “We found that under the brand of Pretty Much It, we love to talk to people and accept DMs and say thank you to people, and all that kind of stuff, and then once work hours are over… I’m just me and I don’t have to interact with people and answer everybody’s questions.”
At 23:10, Austin explains that what works for his team is, “identifying ways of interaction that are generalizable,” such as polls or Q&As.
On fostering collaboration with other artists Justin has found it helpful to set clear expectations. At 32:38, he says: “I like to tell people exactly how much time we need them for… so they show up at our studio or wherever we’re recording, we already have everything set up, they sit down, record, and they’re out. That’s really been huge for us for collaborations.”
“It’s very important to Amanda and the team that we highlight up and coming artists or we highlight the collaborators that we’re working with,” says Hayley at 33:42. She adds at 34:42: “If we can lift up other people, or show people new artists to support or a new artist that is gonna rock their world, hell yeah, we’re gonna do that.”
At 36:24, Patrick says that he feels, “a big responsibility to give back in that way, to connect up-and-coming podcasters with whoever they need to meet to learn, to know better.”
Austin says he and his team make a point of playing games from creators with diverse experiences and backgrounds. At 37:49, he says: “We play small games, from independent creators, from creators of colour, from non-American creators. We do our best to incorporate works that come out of our community. This week, we played a game from somebody who got into making games from listening to our podcast.”
His advice for collaborating with other creators? At 38:46, Austin says, “Look for marginalized creators. Pay attention to the margins, pay attention to where independent creators are… and incorporate their work if you can, even if it means sometimes reaching a smaller audience while doing it. I don’t just think it’s a responsibility, I think it leads to better work.”
The advice they would give to themselves when they were just getting started “I would say to myself, ‘Working this hard really is going to pay off,” says Patrick at 40:08.
Justin’s advice at 40:35 is: “Oftentimes, 90% of it is confidence and you can always fake that.”
Hayley’s advice at 41:05 is to, “be open to your community and take them with you wherever you go, online and offline.”
And last but not least, Austin, wishes he knew that President Trump would be elected, as it led him to create content that might not have been what his audience needed at the time. At 43:21, he says, “I think if I were aware of the Trump Presidency, I think the art I would’ve made would’ve been better.”