To Patreon or Not to Patreon, That is the Question


Within the last 12 months, more and more YouTubers have been using the service Patreon in order to help grow and expand their channels.  I can only speak for those in the video game community, but I have seen YouTubers of all kinds join the service and talk about it on their channels.  Lately, I have found people to be very one-sided on the issue: they either hate it, or they love it.  Let’s discuss what Patreon is a little bit more before we delve into what is going on in the gaming community on YouTube.

Patreon is a service similar to Kickstarter that allows people to support the creators they love by donation.  This isn’t a service exclusive to YouTubers, but a lot of YouTubers choose to use it to help grow their channel.  Basically how it works is the person with the Patreon account sets financial goals and when those goals are met, they will do something.  For example, someone might say that if they reach $500.00 a month in donations, they will buy a new computer or upload several videos a week.  Goals vary from person to person, but they are obviously focused on improving their channel / business.  As an incentive to donate, sometimes the Patreon user will say that if you donate say $20.00 per month to their channel, you will get a perk.  These vary from merchandise to personal emails to shoutouts to whatever.  This can be whatever the Patreon user wants them to be.  Usually the higher the donation, the better the incentive.  Makes sense, doesn’t it?

Here is what is going on with THE WAR ON PATREON as I like to refer to it (with regards to the YouTube gaming community).  Some people are extremely pro Patreon and claim that content creators put their videos up for free and by donating money to these channels, it is an excellent way to support them to keep producing awesome content, etc, etc.  By donating to these channels, the chances of these channels getting better (improved video/audio quality, more content more often, overall better production value) is high considering most of the people in the YouTube gaming community who have Patreon accounts aren’t Pewdiepie level (aka earning millions off of YouTube) and do not profit from YouTube itself (let’s face it, you earn next to nothing from ad revenue unless you are getting millions of views).  I monetize my videos because I figure, hey, I am not asking for money, it just means I earn a few bucks now and then, and maybe one day I will earn enough from it to buy a new console or something!  Not really hurting anyone.  On the other side of the spectrum, we have the people who downright hate the idea of gaming channels on YouTube having Patreon accounts.  The reason many people don’t like it is because it seems like e-begging.  Instead of earning money from ads or partnerships, they are straight up asking their fans for money and this turns off a lot of people.  Some people also don’t see the value in someone asking for money just to sit in front of their games shelf and talk about games or unbox games in front of a camera.  There are several reasons for why people don’t like it, but that seems to be the general consensus of why the people who don’t like Patreon don’t like it.  Let’s discuss my feelings towards the subject.

I use to be one of those people who was incredibly hostile towards the gamers on YouTube who chose to start up a Patreon.  What turned me around (to be less hostile) was the fact that who am I to say how much a product is worth and if it worth anything at all?  Sure, there are channels that have a Patreon account and I feel like it doesn’t deserve any money because my initial thoughts were, “Are you kidding me?  You sit in front of a shitty webcam talking about your childhood memories and you expect people to donate to this?”  People think they are Hollywood.  There are a lot of movies that I don’t think deserve the money they get, or restaurants that make bad food and then charge the same as a place with higher quality – but when it comes down to it, those are just my opinions.  The fact that I think a chair is ugly and people still pay for it isn’t my call.  It doesn’t mean the chair should be free, I just won’t personally choose to buy it.  This goes for the YouTubers who are asking for donations for their channel through Patreon.  Clearly those who are making money from it have a product that others are willing to pay for.  My problem with it is that it is selective: “donate $5.00, donate $50.00”.  It’s donation based and it’s wishy washy to me.  If prices were set and content was only viewable to those who paid for it, it would be similar to Netflix or Cable TV.  For example, you can’t watch Orange is the New Black without having Netflix or purchasing the DVDs/Blu-Rays.  It is a product that is being sold.  When donations are involved, it’s tough.  Sure there will be those who donate, but many will not, and of course, if YouTubers had locked channels that only Patrons could access, all Hell would break loose.  It’s a touchy subject and very hard to decipher whether or not it is a greedy thing or just plain smart business.  Just because I personally don’t think it’s a product worthy of money doesn’t mean it isn’t still a product that others will pay for.  People can do almost anything these days to earn money, and if people will pay, well, I suppose that is none of my business.  When it comes down to it, clearly people are willing to pay for this, so who am I to judge?  I have to admit that I haven’t agreed with some of the goals I have seen on YouTubers’ Patreons saying that when they reach a certain amount of money, they will do a specific thing.  For some, it’s buying new equipment, for others it’s creating new content.  I have seen pretty much everything when it comes to Patreon users’ goals and some of them are extremely greedy and dishonest, which is another reason I have been rubbed the wrong way when it comes to Patreon.

All in all though, it doesn’t mean I have to like it.  It would be wrong of me to say that I wouldn’t love to earn lots of money from my YouTube channel, but I would never ask my supporters and fans to help me on that journey.  That is just me and it doesn’t mean that the people using Patreon are in the wrong for doing so.  I love what I do on YouTube and the incredible people I have met though that platform have been some of the best friends I have ever had.  Those of you know who you are.  When it comes to my channel, I have a full-time job elsewhere and buy all of my games with the money I make from said job.  If a game is too expensive, well, it means I don’t buy it.  I would never ask my fans to help me out financially.  Sometimes in order to start a business, you have to put some of your own money on the line and take risks.  Life isn’t like American Idol or America’s Got Talent.  When it comes down to it, if you want to start a Patreon account and you can actually earn money from it, excellent.  More power to you.  I’m all for more money for gaming; however, it is something I choose not to do.  The notion that people who don’t like Patreon are just jealous of those making money is also not true.  I choose not to have a Patreon for ethical reasons.  I’m sure if I opened one, I would get something.  Mathematically speaking, I have enough followers that I would certainly get something out of it.  It really isn’t my business to tell other people how to run their business though, which is my final point.  Patreon or no Patreon, the YouTube gaming community is simply one of the best.  This tension between hating Patreon and those hating people for hating Patreon is foolish.  In regards to my title question, to Patreon or not to Patreon – do what you want and may your YouTube journey be the best it can be.

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3 thoughts on “To Patreon or Not to Patreon, That is the Question

  1. The Console Samurai says:

    Great article! It’s a subject I’ve kind of been on the fence about myself. I too have a YouTube channel and I love what I do, but a part of me does think taking donations from Patreon could give me the ability to focus more on my channel and Twitch stream, instead of my full time job, and provide new and better content. But, at the same time, I do agree that the vague goals on Patreon are a bit wishy washy

  2. lur0ck says:

    I was waiting for this excellent article! =D

    You’re right in that it’s a really divided subject at the moment. I’m personally a bit torn (but not really). You can’t argue the fact that it’s basically a case of personal choice. Either you donate or you don’t. No one’s forcing you to nor is the Youtuber deciding to only show videos to his/her patrons. But at the same time, it’s like…really? You have a lot of big name Youtubers who already have good quality videos/audio and get hundreds of thousands of views in order to generate profit by monetizing their videos.

    In the case of Pete Dorr, who I’ve been watching for more than six years now, the guy obviously doesn’t need cash for games or consoles or even equipment for recording. He has been doing really well with his channel (albeit with small absences here and there, which were either obvious as to why or explained). He recently made some really great news report style videos that were far more original than anything other users have been posting and some extra donations for more content like that I suppose makes sense. But generally these are not the videos we see from users. It’s mostly as you mentioned, unboxing videos, showing pickups, reviewing something, giving their opinions on some recent news or just playing talking about something for nostalgia reasons. This type of content, I’m sorry, but doesn’t require any extra money in my humble opinion.

    People sometimes forget what drove them to making videos in the first place. It was more often than not a passion that they felt they wanted to share with people around the world. I’m not saying the passion for games shouldn’t be profited from (because it’s not for me to judge), but let’s be real here. =/

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