Finally, ”starving” and “artist” no longer need to be joined at the hip.
Patreon is, hands down, the best place for creators to get paid. In 2016 alone, we celebrated thousands of artists and creators who earned life-changing income. It’s (insert expletive) awesome that 35 of those creators earned more than $150,000 each on Patreon, including science nerds, sailboat captains, and serial procrastinators. They span every creative category on the internet — podcasts, music, videos, illustration, and more, and every single one of them makes the world a little bit better with their work.
Damn. That. Is. Awesome. Creators are getting paid. Art is being made. The world of making things, following your passion, and crafting the career you want is alive and thriving, and we couldn’t be more excited about rolling into 2017 with this momentum.
As we kick off 2017, we wanted to pause and celebrate some of our most successful creators. The cool just keep getting cooler. Because fans pay creators every month, these artists will probably make the same bank (and more) in 2017.
Meet some of Patreon’s top earners from 2016:
Videos and podcasts – 16,230 patrons
A couple years ago, Greg Miller, Colin Moriarty, Nick Scarpino, and Tim Gettys quit their comfy jobs at IGN to branch out on their own and pursue their beloved side-gig, Kinda Funny. Fast-forward to the end of 2016 — these guys have two booming Patreon pages with over 16,000 patrons, a full-time employee, and a decked out San Francisco studio where they record all the shenanigans.
“2016 was an insane year for us,” Greg says. “We moved from a spare bedroom to a real studio, launched an animated series, and sold out a 1,000-seat venue for Kinda Funny Live 2. All of this is thanks to the overwhelming and unending support we receive on Patreon. We’re a 2-year-old business that could never achieve the dreams with achieve if we didn’t have an army of Best Friends supporting us each and every day.”
Educational videos – 7,215 patrons
The Crash Course team doesn’t just create free educational videos; they create smarter people. Founded by the Green brothers of VlogBrothers fame, the Crash Course channel has over 5M YouTube subscribers and has become a one-stop-shop to learn anything and everything: physics, gaming, U.S. government, psychology, and way, way more.
“We do this because we are huge nerds,” says John — half of VlogBrothers and New York Times best-selling author — “but also because we believe that high-quality educational videos should be available to everyone for free.” Making it possible isn’t easy, so they turn to their patrons on Patreon to make it happen. “You are by far our largest source of revenue.”
Art – **8,731 patrons
Amanda Palmer — or, Amanda F*cking Palmer, as she calls herself — is a doer of all things. “I hate timelines, deadlines… basically I hate all lines. I just want to make all the things.” And that, she does. Her TED talk has almost 9 million views and her book was a New York Times best-seller. Aside from that, she makes music, films, performance art, essays, babies (she’s a new mom!) and, most importantly, community. Amanda has nearly 9,000 devout patrons, to whom she connects deeply with often.
“It’s revolutionary,” Amanda starts. “I’ve gone through every iteration of content distribution in the last decade, from fighting my way off a major label to successfully using Kickstarter, and I think having a base of committed paying subscribers is the final, practical frontier for people like me who just want to get on with the business of creation. As artists, our freedom and ability to put out digital content-for-all on the internet has been a blessing and curse, since we can achieve endless distribution, yet monetizing that reach has been a fraught mystery. This sort of system really gives you freedom from the middleman: in the last year I’ve put out albums, singles, music videos, webcasts, performance art, animation and all without any marketing meetings, without having to work on someone else’s release schedule, and all with my own budget from my own fans. As a new mother it’s a blessing beyond belief, because I want to stay in control and work at my own pace, with my own hands on the gears of content and timing. As an artist it’s incredibly rewarding to make art for the people, directly. And as a patron myself, I know it’s also really rewarding to know that my money is going straight into the pockets of the artist and creators instead of to the middlemen, who aren’t interested in the sustained career of an artist as much as making a quick buck. This revolution is going to change the way musicians make music, there’s going to be a lot more creative freedom, and I think that’s a beautiful thing given the challenging political times ahead us.”
Video game streams – 5,537 patrons
Within 48 hours of their launch on Patreon, Easy Allies had over $30,000 and 4,000 patrons. If that wasn’t crazy enough, this was shortly after all nine members had lost their jobs at GameTrailers.com, the longstanding game review site that had ended their 13 year run.
Fast forward to today; they’ve almost hit their 1-year-anniversary on Patreon and are stronger than ever. “Patreon has not only given us the financial stability to continue doing what we love, but also provided us with ways to get closer to our audience than ever before,” says Brandon, 1/9th of the Easy Allies crew. “The response has been overwhelming.”
Science videos – 5,509 patrons
“Here at SciShow, we hate not knowing things,” says Hank Green, a host of the increasingly popular YouTube channel. For lifelong learners and wondering minds, SciShow sheds light on the curiosities of life, like “can you get too much sleep?” or “should I wear sunscreen in the winter?”
The goal for the SciShow team is to “capture the awesomeness of this bizarre universe and make it easy for everyone to understand and enjoy.” With over 500 million views and almost 6,000 paying patrons, I think it’s safe to say they are crushing their goal.
A cappella music videos – 3,722 patrons
To say that Peter Hollens makes music is already too far of an understatement. As an a capella pop singer, every song Peter releases is crafted by his voice (and some claps), with no instruments in sight. As much as he loves music, one minute spent with him will tell you that he loves his “Hollensfam” more. And wow, do they love him back: his social profiles combined house over 2.5 million members of the Hollensfam.
“Patreon has allowed me to grow my business and company so I can create more content, invest in my amazing team, and begin to help educate and inspire others to do what I do. 2017 will be my pivot year to begin giving back to my community and fellow creators,” said Peter.
Travel videos – 1,276 patrons
Without any knowledge of sailing, Australian couple Elayna and Riley set out on a journey to travel the world on a 43 foot yacht — all while documenting the whole adventure. Since setting sail, they’ve taken their 250,000 YouTube subscribers on trips of a lifetime, through the Mediterranean, Caribbean, Atlantic, Pacific and more.
“We started making movies to share our adventure with friends and family back in Australia. Now, we continue to share our adventure with the world.” The money they receive from their patrons helps them buy new equipment, repair the boat, and “feed ourselves when we can’t catch a fish. It is YOU who make these movies possible. We hope you enjoy the series.”
Talk show- 3,007 patrons
“Joining Patreon was the single best career move I’ve ever made,” says Dave Rubin, host of The Rubin Report, a talk show with authors, influencers, and comedians to talk politics and current events. Dave is unafraid of conflict, welcoming honest conversation, big ideas, and free speech. From its previous home on Ora TV, The Rubin Report has gone fully independent with its move to Patreon.
“There’s a huge risk in going fan-funded, but my audience heard my message and has come through for us. We started a production company, got new equipment and built a home studio all in the last six months, and this is just the beginning. It’s also been incredible to more intimately connect with the fans who are truly funding the operation, either in the Patreon chat App, through Google Hangouts and more. I’m truly beholden to nobody, well except my dog, and that’s really the greatest gift you can get as a content creator.”
Science animation videos – 6,072 patrons
Three years ago, Kurzgesagt, a science animation YouTube channel, was born by a small group of artists straight out of college. In 2016, that same team grew to 10 people, made up of designers, journalists, and musicians. With a goal to make science look beautiful — “because it is beautiful” — Kurzgesagt boasts nearly 3.5 million YouTube subscribers and 6,000 patrons.
While the members still have “real jobs,” they were able to use their support on Patreon to level up their work. In 2016, they “invested way more time in scripts, design and animation. We worked on longer videos than before, we talked with experts for almost every video, and on top of that, 2016 was our most productive year ever! All of this was possible because of support on Patreon.”
Tech podcasts – 4,563 patrons
Hosted by podcasting pro Tom Merritt, the Daily Tech News Show has offered listeners their daily dose of technology news since 2005. Although Tom just hosted his 2,940th episode, he doesn’t do it alone; he runs a crew of award-winning independent tech podcasters who solicit audience response to make the podcast as good as it can be.
“There would be no show without our audience and Patreon has made it possible for them to keep us going,” Tom says of his 4.5k patrons. “I still can’t believe how many people are willing to support our show and I work harder everyday to deserve their faith in us!”
Weekly podcasts and videos – 5,059 patrons
The comedian hosts of The Comedy Button podcast and video series have released an episode to their devoted listeners every Friday since 2011. What’s the podcast about, you might ask? Their website will tell you that it’s “the best podcast ever created by human beings on planet earth,” which their 500,000 monthly listeners can vouch for.
“Thanks to our success on Patreon, we’ve launched a slew of weird original series on our YouTube channel.” Although they call their own videos “dumb,” the guys knows that at the end of the day, what they create for their fans really does matter. “Comedy is the most important thing in the world in these dark and distracting times.”
Gaming and history videos – 3,718 patrons
I’m thinking Extra Credits should get some major extra credit for their awesome move in 2016; while their main gig is producing high-quality videos about the art, industry, and community of video games, the EC team used their patronage to relaunch an old fan-favorite series, Extra History.
“We created the first Extra History series in September of 2013, and we were blown away by the response. The series got over 600,000 views and not a month went by when we didn’t get a comment or an email asking, ‘Will Extra History ever come back?’ But much as we wanted to, we couldn’t afford it. Until Patreon. Patreon allows us to make Extra Credits a reality, with your help.”
High-quality blog posts – 4,436 patrons
Tim Urban, the writer and illustrator behind Wait But Why, wants to rebuild your attention span with long-form, thought-provoking content. He’ll think through anything, from how to pick your life partner to how (and why) SpaceX will colonize Mars. He’ll even give a TED talk about his procrastinating mind and why you should spend more time thinking about yours (which 9.7 million people have seen, by the way).
Since joining Patreon, Wait But Why has passed a lot of milestones, including making a full-time hire. “It’s been a total game-changer. Patreon now supports both me and our new, full-time manager of Lots of Things, Alicia. Alicia is amazing and has already done a ton to make Wait But Why much better and free me up to focus on writing. We’d be happy to keep doing things exactly how we’re doing them for a long time, and now we can. We’d also love to do even more if it becomes possible,” speaking of their upcoming stretch goal that would enable them to start a weekly podcast, hire a second teammate, and more.
Videos and films – 3,286 patrons
Want weird videos? They’ve got plenty! The guys behind Red Letter Media have been “very fortunate to be able to create snarky, weird videos that people actually watch.” And watch, they do — their YouTube videos have a collective 168M views and counting, from feature films to Star Wars reviews.
Although RLM employs a small team, they use every bit of income from patrons to continue leveling up their production, like upgrading equipment, renting film locations, or hiring actors.
Podcasts and news – 3,149 patrons
“We had another great year as journalists and podcasters, fuelled by our Patreon supporters,” says Jesse Brown, host of CANADALAND. Paid for in full by it’s audience, the weekly podcast and news site is primarily focused on media criticism and reporting, but makes time for fun along the way. Brown’s guide to Canada (made complete by a sensitive, moose-snuggling Drake) is highly-anticipated for it’s mid-2017 release.
“Direct support from our listeners keeps us accountable and lets us focus on our content and coverage. Thanks to Patreon for existing, and thanks, always, to the people who keep us working with their generous monthly support.”
Videos, podcasts, streams – 1,830 patrons
The comedy troupe behind LoadingReadyRun has one goal and one goal only: “we want to make you laugh!” Hailing from Victoria, BC, Canada, the LRR crew has been releasing comedy shorts since 2003, gaining and maintaining a strong following of joke lovers.
“The idea that we can support ourselves directly from our viewers, without having to charge a fee, without having to chase contracts…is amazing!”
Sailing videos – 1,121 patrons
Like our friends at LaVagabonde, the adventurous trio behind SV Delos are sailing around the world, inviting friends and family for the ride. “This is our story, a story of three souls sailing around the world. It is a story about sailing and travel and adventure. But it’s also a story about meeting amazing people and making life long friends. It’s a story of people living their lives in an alternate way, in close connection with the beautiful people and amazing planet that we call home.”
“Delos didn’t get this far by accident, or by any type of magic. We got there because of all the amazing patrons in the world. Because of you, we are now full-time sailors and home movie editors. We no longer have to roll burritos, work in offices, or write code all day. Thank you, so much.”
Documentary series – 2,995 patrons
Ever think about what life was like exactly 100 years ago? Indy Neidell, host of The Great War, takes you (and 490k other history lovers) back week by week for an immersive look at the First World War. Aside from Indy, TGW boasts a team of 5 Berlin-based employees, working full-time to deliver compelling, educational content.
“The support we get on Patreon makes our show possible; we would be long gone without our patrons,” says Flo, a producer for the show. “2016 was by far our best year and we were able to greatly improve the show based on feedback we got from the community. And one of the best weeks of this incredible year was our trip to Poland, where we visited historical locations and produced some very unique episodes. That trip was actually one of our milestones on Patreon and we are looking forward to 2017.”
Wow. Hugs and high-fives (maybe even a few f*** yeahs) to all artists and creators whose art was properly valued in 2016 — not only the ones listed above. The tides are changing and we couldn’t be more excited to play a part in giving you back the credit and control you deserve with your work. Cheers to another incredible year for makers ahead.