Patreon – a US platform that allows fans to directly reward their favorite content creators with donations and gifts – has recently launched ‘Social Tokens’ and is evaluating how cryptocurrency and NFTs could be used to pay creators.
The topics were discussed at a recent tech event attended by the platform’s chiefs, whilst social tokens or ‘Creator Coins’ – a type of crypto-based social currency that allows fans to invest in their idols’ success – were recently announced on Patreon’s site.
The fan membership site is the latest in a long line of companies to explore cryptocurrency options, from banks to social media sites, with some offering the ability to purchase cryptocurrency through their services whilst others have created a currency themselves.
Why Patreon is Considering Crypto and NFTs
Patreon CEO Jack Conte and Chief Product Officer Julian Gutman took questions from the crowd at The Information’s Creator Economy Summit last week, an event that also featured talks from representatives at YouTube, VSCO, and Pinterest.
This gave them the opportunity to speak candidly on whether the platform had considered permitting the use of cryptocurrencies and NFTs – a tradeable digital ‘souvenir’ verified by blockchain technology – as a means of payment.
“There’s clearly enormous innovation happening in the crypto and NFT space…Obviously, there’s the art market and precious goods market that we’re seeing, with crazy pricing, evolve” – Julian Gutman, Chief Product Officer, Patreon.
Gutman continued “there’s some fundamental technological components to NFTs as a way to sell value to your audience and sort of continue to gain value from that from secondary sales as what you do becomes more and more important to the world”.
The Chief Product Officer was careful to qualify his enthusiasm by clarifying that Patreon was simply ‘evaluating’ how NFTs or similar technologies could be used to create “sustainable long-term earnings for creators”.
Creator Coins Have Arrived
Creator Coins, a type of crypto-based social currency that appreciates in value the more famous a given creator gets – gained traction this year. Creator Coins effectively allow fans to bet on (or invest in) the success of creators, rather than currencies themselves, and their coins will appreciate in value the more famous an influencer becomes.
The topic was discussed in September’s Creator Policy Engagement Livestream, a quarterly event Patreon hosts to give creators the opportunity to vocalize their thoughts on platform changes.
Laurent Crenshaw, Patreon’s policy chief, said in the livestream that the company’s decision to evaluate this new method of payment sprung out of influencers showing interest in some sort of coin or asset that their fans could purchase, but that “We’re right now not talking about creating any type of initial coin offering”.
Indeed, Patreon’s Benefit Guidelines currently state that “Patreon was not designed to launch an Initial Coin Offering (ICO) or create an investment scheme”, and that platform users cannot offer “Coins as part of a benefit or making your patrons an investor.”
However, a recent post on Patreon’s Benefits & Tiers page seems to confirm a change of heart. It explains that ‘Social Tokens’ or ‘Creator Coins’ can be offered by creators:
“As of October 2021, creators on Patreon can offer tokens or creator coins, as a membership benefit for their patrons” – Patreon
However, the page also states that “Patreon is not the developer, issuer, or distributor of the coins, and cannot change the supply of the coins” and advises creators interested in creating a coin for themselves to explore third-party that exist to issue them. It also confirms that cryptocurrency is still not available as a means of donating to or paying creators.
Were Creator Coins Inevitable?
The eerily dystopian idea of a coin with a value tracked against an individual’s fame feels like something you'd find inside an episode of Black Mirror.
But it’s actually pretty unsurprising this sort of idea – as well as things like NFTs – have followed on so directly from the crypto boom. Millions of people under the age of thirty spent large chunks of their childhood trading various types of digital items with fluctuating values – from FIFA cards to Habbo Hotel furniture – both in-game and on forums and market pages.
With Social Tokens seemingly up and running, where Patreon’s foray into the digital currency space will end remains to be seen – but it’s unlikely we’ll see the option for crypto payments any time soon. However, plenty of other businesses have adopted crypto-currency, and with mainstream payment portals and point of sales applications making it easier than ever to accept the likes of Bitcoin and Ethereum, we wouldn't rule it our entirely.