Does subscription crowdfunding offer new employment opportunities in the creative industries?

Research on crowdwork has tended to focus on low-skilled workers and micro-tasking. However, a new type of crowdwork is emerging that allows creators to sustain a recurring income stream through monthly payments from the crowd. In this type of subscription crowdfunding, digital platforms, such as Patreon, match creators to patrons who pay a monthly subscription in exchange for access to creators’ exclusive content.

This Round 3 Innovation Fund project investigated the employment opportunities that subscription crowdfunding provides and how funds are generated and distributed. It also explored the perceptions of key players – creators, platform representatives and patrons – on work quality, relations and autonomy on the platform.

Research questions

  1. How can subscription crowdfunding platforms create formal income streams for artists and creators in the digital economy?
  2. What are the experiences of artists of this type of crowdwork?
  3. Why do artists decide to create crowdfunding campaigns and get ‘employed’ by the crowd on digital platforms, what benefits do they gain and what implications does this have for their work?
  4. What are the ethical implications of subscription crowdfunding as a new type of crowdwork for artists?

Method

  • Semi-structured interviews with creators and artists.
  • Digital ethnography to examine campaign sites as dynamic and interactive spaces in which creators, patrons and platform participate in the development of a new type of crowdwork for creative industries.

Key findings

  • Subscription crowdfunding platforms offer a new type of crowdwork that generates financial benefits and security for creators, whilst improving the creative process and offering creators the opportunity to collaborate with other artists.
  • To sustain their work, creators need to create and maintain a community of patrons and develop a clientelist mentality that often intervenes with their decisions about their art (i.e., what to create and with what pace).

Researchers

Principle Investigator: Krystallia Moysidou, University of Sussex

Digit Member: Dimitra Petrakaki