Patreon Needs Data Scientists

Jack Conte
Apr 28, 2015 · 5 min read

My name is Jack Conte. I’m half of the band Pomplamoose and cofounder & CEO at Patreon.

And I’m no data scientist. I’m more the artsy type….

But as an artsy fartsy creator making my living from my artsy fartsy music and videos, I rely on simple, digestible data to help me understand what the heck is going on with my art and the internets.

Being an artist is relatively simple. You have one job:

  1. Make great stuff

It just requires some mania. Spend years honing your craft, learning, listening, watching, building your muscle as a creator. “Practice” can be methodical and it’s operational in nature. This is why you hear phrases like “99% perspiration, 1% inspiration.” Hard work works.

However: being a professional artist is not as simple. There’s an added component, which complicates things and requires balance:

  1. Make great stuff
  2. Make money from your stuff so that you can keep making great stuff

Before I dive more into money and data, it’s important to note that the reason I even mention money is because for me, art is the meaning of life.

I mean that. ART is the meaning of my life.

A lot of people don’t know what they’re passionate about, so I consider myself lucky to know that I am obsessed with art and artists. I love music with a violence and a fury that feels unqualified. It is this restlessness and awe that keeps my eyes wide at 4 in the morning. “Love” doesn’t begin to describe the depth of my compulsion!

I want to make art for the rest of my life. And I want to help other people make art, too. Why? Because it’s the meaning of life. If that doesn’t resonate, you should probably stop reading this post!

Money is just a means to art. Without adequate financing, my current art project will be my last art project. And that is unacceptable. In conclusion: I will learn to make money from my art… so that I can keep making art.

Like many other artists, my attention to finance stems not from greed, but from a deep yearning for sustainability. My mania is not for fame or for riches, but for the process of creation.

So, as a professional artist, I often think about the IDEAL form of my creation business, and it looks something like this:

This is a machine. I put my art into it. And money comes out. Your 7th grade math teacher would say it like this:

f(Art) = Money

OK, so it looks like “Fart = Money,” but you get the idea…

Is there a professional or aspiring artist who would deny the perfect utility of such a machine?

I wish this machine were simple, but it’s not. It turns out to be an incredibly dynamic system that requires guts and grease… and just as much mania to build and maintain as the creative process, itself.

DATA, beautiful, sweet data, keeps this machine operating efficiently. The more data, the more efficiency, the closer an artist gets to sustainability. But enough with the metaphors.

For those folks unfamiliar with Patreon, below is Pomplamoose’s Patreon page.

It’s basically subscription patronage for creators. Fans (the most generous, awesome people on the planet) pay $1, $5, $10 or whatever they can afford, per month or per artwork, becoming a literal patron of the arts and helping creators make more stuff.

In the above example, Pomplamoose, my band, has about 1900 patrons, collectively paying a little over $6800, per video that we release. AWESOME. (Side note: Dear Pomplamoose patrons, you are our sustainability. Thank you…)

As a creator, I want data about my Patreon page. How many of our patrons have dropped out over the last year? Why? Is there anything we can do about it?

And as I waltz further into CEO land, I’m learning that as a creator, I’m behind the curve. Other companies have entire teams devoted to growth and retention.

AWESOME. Our creators need that.

Some more questions: as a creator, where are my new patrons coming from? Is there anything I can offer my current fans that would persuade more of them to become patrons? What?! Tell me! I want to be sustainable!

Here’s the deal:

Patreon owes our creators data. Clear, actionable data.

What can we do to help our creators? And what can they do to help themselves? We need to start answering these questions, and we need to package the answers into digestible, actionable products for our creators.

Over 14,000 creators, to be specific! Earning over $2 million per month from their awesome patrons on Patreon.

Over the last 12 months, payouts to creators on Patreon grew 598%. And that money came from over a quarter million patrons with active subscription pledges.

These creative entrepreneurs and their fans, I think, are a lot like me. They love art with a fiery wonder. And they’re dying to create, for the sheer sake of creation.

Patreon wants them to be sustainable. Together, with their patrons, we want to be their machine:

Our mission, as an organization, is to fund and empower this new generation of creators. And because Patreon only takes 5% of processed pledges, we have to make this machine as efficient as possible, which requires deep visibility into what’s working and what’s not — and doubling down on the things that are.

We want to tackle that complexity and distill it into elegant information and tools for creators so they can focus on what they do best — making great stuff.

And we need people! Data-driven, maniacal animals who deeply understand the beauty and virtue of creative sustainability.

If you love art as much as you love data, then we love you. Visit our jobs page for more deets:

    Jack Conte

    Written by

    CEO @ Patreon & Half of Pomplamoose

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