Quantifying the Creator Economy: A Large-Scale Analysis of Patreon


  • Lana El Sanyoura University of Toronto
  • Ashton Anderson University of Toronto




Qualitative and quantitative studies of social media, New social media applications; interfaces; interaction techniques


In recent years, the “creator economy” has emerged as a disruptive force in creative industries. Independent creators can now reach large and diverse audiences through online platforms, and membership platforms have emerged to connect these creators with fans who are willing to financially support them. However, the structure and dynamics of how membership platforms function on a large scale remain poorly understood. In this work, we develop an analysis framework for the study of membership platforms and apply it to the complete set of Patreon pledges exceeding $2 billion since its inception in 2013 until the end of 2020. We analyze Patreon activity through three perspectives: patrons (demand), creators (supply), and the platform as a whole. We find several important phenomena that help explain how membership platforms operate. Patrons who pledge to a narrow set of creators are more loyal, but churn off the platform more often. High-earning creators attract large audiences, but these audiences are less likely to pledge to other creators. Over its history, Patreon diversified into many topics and launched higher-earning creators over time. Our analysis framework and results shed light on the functioning of membership platforms and have implications for the creator economy.




How to Cite

Sanyoura, L. E., & Anderson, A. (2022). Quantifying the Creator Economy: A Large-Scale Analysis of Patreon. Proceedings of the International AAAI Conference on Web and Social Media, 16(1), 829-840. https://doi.org/10.1609/icwsm.v16i1.19338