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:


Kinda Funny / Kinda Funny Games

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.”

 

• • •

Crash Course

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.”

• • •

Amanda Palmer

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.”

 

• • •

Easy Allies

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.”

 

• • •

SciShow

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.

 

• • •

Peter Hollens

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.

 

• • •

LaVagabonde

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.”

 

 

• • •

The Rubin Report

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.”

Joining Patreon was the single best career move I've ever made. @RubinReport Click To Tweet

 

• • •

Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell

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.”

 

• • •

Daily Tech News Show

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!”

 

• • •

The Comedy Button

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.”

 

• • •

Extra Credits

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.”

 

• • •

Wait But Why

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.

 

• • •

Red Letter Media

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.  

 

• • •

Canadaland

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.”

 

• • •

LoadingReadyRun

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!”

 

• • •

SV Delos

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.”

Because of you, we are now full-time sailors and home movie editors. @svdelossailing Click To Tweet

 

• • •

The Great War

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.

About The Author

Associate Marketing Manager at Patreon. Interests include: sushi, pizza, Smart Water, ice cream, iced coffee. Actually, brb. Exploring possible interests beyond food.

  • KB

    Great list! A little bummed to see so few ladies in the top ranks, but hopefully next year. What a feat for these creators!

  • Max

    this is amazing, such a cool list!

    • Taryn Arnold

      Thanks Max!

      • Amanda Palmer… she had a huge following before Patreon. So it was a given that her page would blow up! It would be nice to see, not-so-popular musicians journeys too please. Is there anywhere to view this? How they did it?

      • What’s your favourite team taryn?

  • Wow. So many life goals on one page! I’m still stuck at the $5 mark here (I made it up to $10 in 2016 but the last monthly payment got declined for one of my patrons). I need a bit of that magic, I follow all the guides but it’s not happening for me yet!

    • daffy72

      good luck to you in 2017

      • Did you change your comment? I was going to reply to the notification I got saying that the link to my Patreon page is right in my Discus profile as the main website link.

        • daffy72

          i did. i found it eventually 🙂

    • Taryn Arnold

      Thanks so much for sharing. #lifegoals indeed! Totally hear you on needing some guidance (and magic). If you haven’t already, make sure to subscribe to this blog — we are always sending out (what I hope are) helpful resources for creators at many steps of their journey. Hopefully some of the tips can help turn your audience into paying patrons in 2017!

  • Chad Townsend

    sad. not one webcomic. It’ll happen in 2017… I can feel it. 😛

    • Yes, I agree. Power to the Webcomic!

    • Ankur Sarkhel

      I and my wife will start it soon.

    • Esma R Kurbegović

      Weeeell, this indie comic book self-publisher, whose team Im part of will make a patreon for our project pretty soon!! The writting is amazing and the art- well Im one of the 3 artists! My username here is ArtLone, you might wanna check it out 😉

  • Hertz Nazaire

    I wish Patreon would start featuring a creator’s list that is attainable like the vast many with 100 patrons. that’s a goal. Even 50 patrons is a real challenge! Posting these over 1,000 patrons creators is like looking at news conference for the new Powerball Winners after you spent $50 on Mega Millions XD, you are not even playing the same game dude! Still fun lol. going to cry in the corner don’t mind me… T_T

    • Taryn Arnold

      Oh no, don’t cry, hahah! Especially not in a corner… that’s ultra sad. Totally hear you on this. Seeing examples of creators at your patron level really helps understand where you can go! One thing I liked thinking about when writing this was that each of these creators started at 0 patrons, then 50, then 100, then more. The (not so secret) secret that these creators have mastered is continuing to tell their fans about Patreon, and always staying up to date with your rewards. Reminding your current audience, fans, readers, viewers, etc. that you have a Patreon page is super important (here are some prompts to get you started: https://blog.patreon.com/get-patrons/). After that, always revisiting your rewards and what you’re offering on Patreon can be really helpful when you see your patron count level off. Also, we are continually mentioning creators at all earning levels in our blog posts, so make sure to check out the examples we use there and see what they’re doing to rock their Patreon pages.

      Phew! Lot’s of info — hope that helps in some way. 🙂 Happy 2017!

      • ExhaustedSquid

        But what about the rest of us who keep doing that and still get nothing? The rest of us who keep re-writing our intros, lowering our goals, and everything to get noticed but no one cares? Even if I lowered my goals to 50 cents no one would come.

        • Shorrock Technology

          As Kevin O’Leary (from Shark Tank Fame) would suggest: (I’m paraphrasing here…) “As sad as it might seem… you cant keep sinking money (in this case time & effort( into a sinking ship, I think it’s time to take it round to the back of the barn and put a metaphorical bullet in its head…”

          Perhaps pivot to slightly different content but that you still have passion in!

          Because @ the end of the day the dictionary definition of insanity is:
          “repeating the same actions again & again, yet expecting different results…”

          Sorry to hear your frustration! 🙁

    • I support Crash Course!

  • So much inspiration here!

    • Taryn Arnold

      <3 all the inspo!

  • Interesting article! I think these examples are a lifetime goal for me as I’d love to do my music full time. Can’t help but be a little envious of people living their dream! For me with these sums of money the world tour would be achievable! 😉 For the moment I’ll have to be a bit more realistic… but at least there is hope!

    • Taryn Arnold

      Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts, Fil! AMEN on pursuing your life dream — cheers to you in 2017!

  • Carl Sagan

    ATHEISM-IS-UNSTOPPABLE!

  • Amanda Palmer… she had a huge following before Patreon. So it was a given that her page would blow up! It would be nice to see, not-so-popular musicians journeys too please. Is there anywhere to view this? How they did it? etc etc..

    • Taryn Arnold

      Hey Alani! Thanks so much for reading — hope it was a good read 🙂 To your point, yep — most of these creators had huge followings prior to coming to Patreon, which of course would translate into high-earnings over the year. While there are definitely some creators on Patreon who have made new fans and patrons on Patreon, Patreon currently works best for creators who bring their existing audiences over to the platform. Those audiences don’t have to be millions large though — there are a few creators in this list who have just over 1k patrons, which is 1/8th of what others on this list have. We are definitely working on creating case studies for creators at tons of different earning-levels, as well as offering tips and tricks to help get your biggest fans over to Patreon to become your paying patrons. Look out for those! 🙂 Happy 2017 Alani!

      • Alf Holm

        A data driven infographics insights page on all patreon activity would be tasty really:)

  • This is a great list… a few I’m very familiar with.

    I’ve seen a bunch of artist/illustrator peers of mine join Patreon. Some have an existing fan-base that migrated with them, while others have a harder time. Surprisingly, they’re keeping with Patreon because they believe in what it offers. I’ve been on Patreon 2 years now and it’s been a slow grow… but it’s growing.

    I wish new creators to Patreon would stop thinking it’s a cash grab. The focus is the creation and building an audience. The money MAY follow if the product/message is good enough.

    • ExhaustedSquid

      I wish i had the luck you did. This is my second go on Patreon and no matter how many times I ‘advertise’ as told, I don’t ‘grow’; just get told ‘Oh, I’m sorry. I can’t do it.’ before getting bombard by people who want me to do 100 drawings for free. I guess I just suck.

  • guitarfan29

    Care to talk about how you have now enabled all of these high earners to now hide how much they are making, seems pretty slimy to me. Sure enough, some of the ones who have gotten a lot of public flack for how much they make have done just that.

  • Truthfully, I’m just a little lost when it comes to Patreon. I feel like I’ve done something fundamentally wrong in setting mine up. I have the audience, I offered exclusive incentive content, but it isn’t sticking. The audience supported dream just seems to get further and further.

    • Your Guided Journal

      I can relate. I feel really discouraged reading these examples above. At the moment, I’m staying on Patreon to keep up a couple of pledges to some causes I found here after setting up my page. In all honesty though, I feel embarassed and disheartened. Something about wanting effectiveness and also a sense of progress for the effort involved. The upside is I have a great reason to practice some self-empathy, cultivating self-worth regardless of “the numbers”. Still, I want to name that I’ve been surprised by how vulnerable and lonely it’s felt and I’m guessing that others might have had the same experience.

      • ExhaustedSquid

        https://www.patreon.com/ink

        It’s a lonely feeling on the bottom when everything you try to do to get ‘noticed’ is met with deaf ears.

  • Your Guided Journal

    I’d love to read examples of creators who don’t necessarily have a large number of pledges, however they’re contributing to bringing more of what they love to the world. I’ve been happy to find a couple of other creators on Patreon with an interest in cultivating peace and nonviolence. I’d love to read about others. Here’s one in particular that, right now, is the only reason I’m still on Patreon. I’d love to see more pledges for them: https://www.patreon.com/communitymediation

  • Kaitlin McClellan

    Are there any plans to feature artists who aren’t already hugely successful? The Explore section on Patreon only has successful artists. Even in the “Discover New Creators” section it’s all successful projects that have been on Patreon quite a while.
    Maybe someday there could be a way to see all new public submissions.

  • So much inspiration here! thanks patreon!

  • Nishi Hundan

    Most of the people using Patreon are just beggars who offer nothing worthwhile.

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