Important Changes - [P] Patreon Supporter Permissions

Hi everyone,

As many of you know, my funding is running out soon. Once it has run out, I will no longer be able to work on, maintain or support Sonic Pi - which includes all the time it takes to answer questions here in this forum.

One of the many approaches I’ve taken to try and fix this issue is to start a Patreon account:

This is working, but nowhere near enough to support me and my family at this stage. In an attempt to try and get more people to consider supporting me there, I created the Patreon group here in this forum. This has helped a little to raise awareness but still it hasn’t quite been enough.

However, despite having over one million users, I still have fewer than 300 (very kind and generous) individuals supporting me via Patreon. This really needs to increase in order for my work to be sustainable whilst keeping Sonic Pi free for everyone.

Also, this site isn’t free to run - there’s the hosting fee, the time to keep it maintained and also the looming email fee from the email provider (which is free for the first X emails) which will start to kick in once the site grows a little bit more.

I am therefore proposing to only allow Patreon supporters to create content on here (e.g. asking new questions and discussing existing ones) whilst keeping it free for everyone to read.

If anyone has any strong opinions on this (in favour or against) - now is the time to discuss them. I plan on changing the site permissions in the next few days.

Please, let me hear your thoughts, they are really important to me :slight_smile:


Just bumping this up - please do let me know what you think about this.

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Sad to hear it doesn’t work out. If the average user would drop in a dime a year you’ll be close to independent. Unfortunately the average goes in millicents.
Let us think of some more serious action.


It is a pity that not many people donate. That’s why I’ve raised my donation at Patreon by one level. You and Sonic Pi deserve it.


@Denuath - thank-you, that’s really very kind. However, I really see a path to sustainability through finding more people to donate a small amount rather than asking the existing generous supporters to increase their donation amounts.

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I’ve started making these changes as a trial.

Patreon supporters now have the ability to read and write all the categories that start with [P]. Standard users still have the ability to read and search through all existing content.

I have kept the Educator category open for all as well as Site Feedback and Events/Workshops.

As this discussion is under Site Feedback, it’s still free for everyone to comment on and share your thoughts. I’m still very interested in hearing them :slight_smile:

Patreon is supposedly an ‘opt-in’ system where people give if they can or want to.

Using Patreon in this way is like a hard filter, forcing people to donate.

Whats next? $10 minium Patreon to download new versions/features? If you are going
that route, at least be honest about it, and put a license code into SP that disables midi
or other features.

Make a pro version, that costs, and a non-Midi crippleware version to pull people in.

If this change sticks, I’m afraid the expression ‘The Live Coding Synth for Everyone’
will have to be removed from the splash screen.


Correct me if I’m wrong but I have the impression that Sam wants to keep Sonic-Pi free.
The limitations mentioned are only for the (some) use of this in-thread forum

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Hi @Eli,

this change is just for the official community site which takes me time and money to maintain.

The software is still and always has been free - and the splash screen refers to that alone.

Moving to having a pro version of the app always has been and continues to be an option and is something I’ve discussed on and off for a long while now. I’m trying my best to avoid it, but in the absence of a hard revenue from software sales, it’s impossible to continue as I am without funding of some kind.

As we have seen from the recent Facebook debacle - free things are not really free. Revenue has to be raised somehow - perhaps by selling your data, or perhaps by selling related services. In many ways, I see this website as a related service for the community. If the community wants it, the community has to pay for it somehow. I’m proposing Patreon as the vehicle for this.

i’m happy to support the effort, thanks for making it all available for free thus far

i do think that maybe there could be some thought to how the support makes sense wrt the nature of the effort. as a piece of software, with its own gui, it is definitively in a different category than other live-coding efforts. as a packaged up product, that looks more like photoshop than a software library, it wouldn’t seem odd to have to pay some amount for it, or for a full-featured unlocked version. it would seem more odd to have to pay for something with a long list of setup instructions, that has to be linked and compiled. so maybe a distinction where the language is free, but the packaged up product is not might help to keep that type of distinction

as far as access to the forum, i joined patreon for the dan shiffman p5.js/coding rainbow videos. for joining, he gives access to the slack. that seemed to make sense, since people would watch the weekly videos and then discuss them on slack (downloading p5.js is free). but it doesn’t seem like quite as natural a fit for this circumstance, where there might be a lot more of people doing their own thing with the software than there are people on the forum

i support nevertheless, but just in terms of how the support is formulated to fit in with the rest of the effort, that’s what i thought of

@ds604 in general I’m in complete agreement for you (thank-you also for your generous support).

Let me make it clear - my goal is to lower the barrier to entry for creative experiences with code for as many people as possible.

Cost of software is one tangible barrier for many. Making the software free helps me achieve my goal by removing cost barriers for those that couldn’t otherwise pay.

I initially wanted to remove as many barriers as possible and raise money from people that chose to donate via Patreon. However, that’s been running for almost 2 years now and I have nowhere near as much income as I need to survive. It’s clear that on its own, at this stage for me, it’s not a solution.

Something has to give.

Charging for the pre-packaged bundle is definitely something I have considered and is very much on the table. However, that would most certainly raise barriers to entry.

There is a balance to be found.

Participation in this forum is not an essential dependency for using Sonic Pi creatively. It can be a great help, however. For those who are actively using Sonic Pi to educate and work with non-coders, I’m trying to keep things as low-barrier as possible.

For everyone else, $1 a month seems like a very small price to pay to get more deeply involved in the community. It will also help ensure Sonic Pi stays free.

I also think that actively creating new content (podcasts, videos, etc.) will be an important part of the Patreon strategy going forwards. I want people to feel like the work I do empowers them and be happy to support it if they can - and for those that choose to support it be appropriately rewarded.

Hi Sam,

Awww… I had a nice long rant lined up, and you’ve closed down all my arguements pretty much. :slight_smile:

Personally I’ve got no big deal about throwing you a couple of quid per month but I want to know where it
stops before I sign up. (NHS you know… no pay rise in 8 years now, and being old and single, all my bills are mine to pay).

I do however have a problem with modern social media, and Patreon. Having had my life stolen once and
my bank accounts cleared out… twice shy, you know? I’ve got no trust in people who keep my financial details online. Hence no FB, Twit, et al. Even Soundcloud and Dropbox have been difficult for me to justify
after the event. And forget online banking, mobile or PC. You would have to live that 8 months of
struggle to undestand my position, pethaps.

The thing is Sam… I -like- helping out on the forums… but charging me to be ‘tech support’ and helping others?

Still… show me a way to pay you without putting my day-to-day at risk and we’re in business… but dont be
suprised if I’m very very cautious putting my feet in the water.



having had doubts myself (not about supporting Sam but about using PayPal) I do think that Patreon and the ways you can (not) pay actually prevent a substantial number of people to join. Though I of course have no proof of that, but, @samaaron, as you are mentioning Facebook yourself, the mistrust of thirdparty institutions involved could be a serious factor preventing the crowdfunding via Patreon from growing.

Nevertheless you could also say, that Patreon encourages people to join, because it is comparatively easy to send small amounts of money. Probably true for people who do have not any problems with social media & co.

IMHO it would be best to have more options suitable also for those who just don’t want to use online payment.

@eli: I do agree, that you are helping a lot, but you wil (at least I hope so) get a lot in return. So I think in this respect it is a zero-sum game. Doesn’t it?

Very true Martin, very true. Lets say win-win rather than zero-sum. :slight_smile:


Yes. You are totally right! That’s the term I was actually looking for :wink: .


I understand that you’re not necessarily in a position to support via Patreon and don’t want to exclude you from the site on the basis of this.

I’ve now created a group called ‘members’ which currently has the same rights as Patreon and added you to it. You should now have full access to the site again.

Membership to this group is on a per-request basis for others. If people would like to have Patreon-like access but are unable to financially contribute then I’d be happy to add them to this group as well.

I have now added all current members of the forum to the members group. This means full access has been returned to all existing users.

Only new users will be affected by the new Patreon restrictions.

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I think whatever you choose to do is more than fair. Sonic Pi has reached this level of popularity and accessibility as a result of the tireless work you have put into it and have done your best to keep it aligned with your principals as to what it is meant to be. It is unfortunate that with over a million users, there is such a small percentage of patrons.

I appreciate you keeping the educators forum open to the public as I am often referring people there. It has been a great place for me to document my experiences as a teacher using this platform and being able to share it with others. It is something I most likely would not have done if this forum did not exist.


Hi Sam…

So I actually got a lunch break yesterday, usually I’m driving to my next call, so I dont get thinking time… and
I decided there must be a way to play this out without getting paranoid about someone taking my id over again.

Let the thought mull for a while, then remembered an old account I used to pay my car insurance through some years back. It doesn’t go anywhere near my main bill paying / monthly pay account, different bank too.

Popped into my main bank, told them to set up a £5 month bank transfer… and here we are. I’m now a Patreon. Yay me.

More to the point, maybe it’s a small step towards not being totally paranoid about the Internet and what
people can do to you. I’m never going to be on Fb or whatever, but I think this is a justifiable risk, I’ve set
up a ‘cut-out’ if you like, all they can ever get is a couple of quid.

I’ll stay $1 till I get comfortable with this, then we’ll see how things go.