Digital patronage is an emergent revenue model in which fans provide recurring financial support to a content creator, as exemplified through platforms like Twitch and Patreon. Whereas previous research has investigated creator-supporter relationships, the current study investigates creators’ multi-platform practices through in-depth interviews. We build on trends in creative labor studies and communication to examine how creators perceive Patreon and integrate it into their existing workflow. This study’s findings contribute to a better understanding of the role of digital patronage within the broader ecosystem of creative labor platforms.
Beyond fans: The relational labor and communication practices of creators on Patreon
The digital patronage model provides content creators the opportunity to receive sustained financial support directly from their fans. Patreon is a popular digital patronage platform that represents a prime site for the study of creators’ relational labor with their fans. Through in-depth interviews with 21 Patreon creators, this study investigated different types of creator–patron relationships and the perceived benefits and challenges of carrying out relational labor. We found that creators construct a variety of relationships with patrons, ranging from purely transactional to intimately familial. Creators benefit from relational labor in that it encourages patrons to treat the creator as a person rather than a product, resulting in both financial and emotional support. However, creators face difficulties in maintaining appropriate relational boundaries with patrons, some of whom control a substantial part of a creator’s income.
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- New Media & Society
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- National Science Foundation
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