Lately, Patreon has seen a bit of controversy regarding how it handles the accounts of people using its service. Lauren Southern, a Canadian alt-right journalist and activist, had her Patreon account suspended because they decided that her content was likely to “cause loss of life.” I won’t get into the details of her specific case here, but she made a video about it if you’re curious. Patreon has since been forced to respond to the issue, stating that they will implement a warning system and an appeals process, among other things that really should have been in place to begin with if they were hoping to purport themselves to be a legitimate business.
I have long advocated against using Patreon as a content gatekeeper. While I like the idea of people getting paid for the content they create online, I dislike the idea of having a gatekeeper for those payments; one that skims part of the profit and can ban a user at will. It’s unnecessary and leaves the creator vulnerable to the whims of the gatekeeper. It was widely argued that the Southern banning was politically motivated, since other political groups on the other side of the left/right spectrum that were using Patreon to fund actually violent activity were left unmolested until Southern’s case went viral.
A Case Study
Several years ago, my friend Adam Black wanted to start charging money for the webcomic content he was creating. Patreon looked like a possible solution to him. However, Adam’s content frequently features bare-chested women, and he has long published under the tagline “Boobs, Blood, and Bad Language.” Any fan of the film and magazine Heavy Metal will instantly love what he’s creating. At the time that he was looking into using Patreon, their policy regarding nudity was very shaky. I have no idea what it’s like now, but a few years ago it was clear that they didn’t have a solid policy at all. This caused Adam to wisely shy away from using their service.
We spoke about it together, and I convinced Adam that it was not only possible, but preferable to bypass Patreon altogether. Not only would he avoid the possibility of being banned, but he would also keep 100% of what people paid to subscribe to his content. He could use the difference to fund advertising so that he would offset the loss of networking that Patreon provides. Together, we built him a stand-alone site using WordPress and this WMPU plugin to handle the subscriptions. I use the same system on this site.
Adam was able to successfully fund his Locus: Godslayer comic for the three years it was running, and he has now started Tears Of The Dragon, another webcomic, using the same subscription model. It has since become his primary source of income, allowing him to concentrate on producing more of his art, which was the whole point.
Had Adam gone with Patreon, he would have had a reduced income, and also would have had to worry about getting kicked off the platform, something that could have affected how he presented his story. Getting your source of funding switched off is a powerful incentive to self-censor!
Go It Alone!
With the Membership plugin, and other plugins like it, content creators are free to create whatever they want and still have the infrastructure needed to acquire funding for the project. Lauren Southern would never have had to deal with having her funding interrupted (as of the time of this writing, her account is still suspended). For the price of a website and a bit of set-up time, anyone can fund their dreams without having to worry about anything other than the laws of their country.
The strength of the internet is its ability to provide people with a decentralized method of communication. Take the initiative and take advantage of the immensely powerful tool at your disposal! Bypass gatekeepers at every opportunity, especially the consummately unprofessional company Patreon.