“We Messed Up” — Patreon Backing Off Its Awful Payment Policy Changes

It may already be too late. People have bled patrons by the dozens and the trust may all be gone.

I think a good indication will be subscriber counts ~ February, after people have paid off potential holiday expenses. I’m sure plenty of people halt giving to Patreon in December due to that, so the impact might be more complicated than it looks.

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If you’ve been following creators on Twitter, it’s extremely clear that the drop off was in response to Patreon’s fee changes, and not some imagined Christmas season cancellation. We know this, because creators have been pasting screenshot after screenshot of the cancellation feedback they’ve gotten, and all of it has been angry complaints about the new fees.

February will be interesting, but not for the reasons you mention. Nobody knows if those patrons are coming back, and even if they do, creators might have moved on to a different service by then. There are already creators who have implemented their own subscription options on their site using PayPal or Stripe (even though micropayments are expensive either way), and Drip will probably be open to the public soon.


The language about still needing to make changes makes me wonder how much truth there is to the speculation that Patreon was skirting financial regulations by aggregating pledges.


As a creator, I’m going to try to eat the costs on my end if they give me the option. I’m used to only getting 75 percent of anything I make online anyway. I know everyone can’t do that and a lot of people came to Patreon because the money you actually get is so close to the money shown, so I hope whatever they come up with is more flexible.

The part about this whole thing that made me the most angry was not that Patreon wants to make more money. That’s totally fine, their site provides a great service and I want it to continue being a thing.

It’s that they tried to do it in the most soulless, horrible way possible–trying to ingratiate us onto their side against our own patrons, the people making this WHOLE thing work. It’s clear Patreon was trying to wink at us and say “hey, we screw over these low pledgers we all win eh? eh?”

At this point getting money from creating things on the Internet is so hard that you’re pretty much forced to work with services and social networks that you know are awful. I look the other way so freaking much. All I ask is that they don’t fuck with my patrons’ money.


The sudden and severe nature of both these changes is very alarming, honestly. It makes me concerned that Patreon will disappear within months.
I’m guilty of idealizing Patreon, because I love what it represents: an actual semi-democratization of money. It’s still through a big org, and hinges on Credit Cards and Telcos. But hearing about it initially was so exciting. I can pay for these things people give me for free! And if I pay for some things, others will pay for the other things! Ethical Content.
If anything, this past week proved Ethical Content really is always a lie. There’s always a loser, always someone exploited. It was supposed to be small creators this week, a group of people who are already attacked on every other angle, facing hostility on an interface that’s supposed to connect them to their most ardent supporters. And if it’s not them now, it will be them eventually.


No. Chance The Rapper will save Patreon.


My guess is that it’s that, and/or the credit card companies got really angry at them. With minimal regulation, big CC companies mostly write the rules for themselves. For example, banks and payment processors are allowed to do things like refuse payment to creators of adult content and freeze their accounts, even though there’s no legal basis for it. PayPal does so many bizarre and arbitrary bans without recourse that I don’t consider them a safe place for anyone to keep money.

One of the big undercurrents of this story that isn’t discussed as much is that payment processing fee structures (credit cards in particular) make micropayments too expensive to be practical in many (most?) circumstances. I’m starting to wonder if Patreon making them affordable through batch processing was an accident.

It’s not discussed a lot, because businesses deliberately hide those costs so as not to panic the consumer. (Patreon not hiding them has led some to conclude that the people running the show have never run a business before.) In practice, the closest thing you’ll see to an acknowledgement of this in the real world are small businesses who post signs prohibiting credit card transactions below a certain dollar amount.

If you’re wondering why artists would ask for $1-5 pledges even though they know a good chunk will be eaten by fees: they have no choice. A small percentage of $1 is still better than $0 – and the vast majority of pledges on Patreon (and probably elsewhere) are in that range.

Unless you can find a way to have a service with less fees on small dollar transactions, which is sustainable, passes legal muster, AND doesn’t piss off credit card companies and payment processors (while low-key competing against them), you can’t have affordable micropayments. And that’s without acknowledging that said service wouldn’t be owned by the people using it, and could change its fee structure at any time. It’s not a great situation!

I’m not personally convinced that a service which actually did this would be successful on those merits, because most patrons simply weren’t aware of the issue until Patreon rubbed their faces in it. (I know I wasn’t.) Now that they’ve backed off, it’s not clear how much of that lesson will stick.


I’ll be the first to admit that I am not too up to speed on Patreon, but after reading all of this hullabaloo, I’m wondering if there is some sort of alternative in which people are considering moving towards? It seems like a ripe time for people to get out but I don’t know if there are any viable alternatives.

My friend wrote up a short thread on some alternatives and why none of them are really ready for Patreon creators to flee to.

The most hopeful among the ones named here is the Kickstarter-backed Drip. Everybody’s kind of waiting for Drip or ko-fi to become a Patreon-like. Right now, Drip is invite-only and not a lot of people with invites have been reporting back about it, it seems. ko-fi is meant to be a way to donate small one-time payments to creators, I think.

Also, it’s very hard to get out. It’s like moving an ecosystem. I would probably lose 80% of my support if I was asking them to sign up and connect their payment info to a different website just to continue paying me money. Many creators would never recover from a platform move, which is why the business with Patreon is so scary. A lot of people depend on it for very real and urgent bills that come like clockwork.


Ah, I understand. I sorta thought there were going to be smaller alternatives like you mentioned. I just hoped that there would be at least one which would be gaining some speed (à la Lyft jumping all over Uber [although this may not be the best comparison as Lyft was already pretty big]).

I’m sure d.rip at least is overjoyed about this, and I know they’re actively preparing to eat its lunch. A Patreon-like service that has been able to watch Patreon and see what has happened with it over time is hopefully going to be better built.


They already showed their asses and I do not trust them.

I feel like this is the biggest current issue. Patreon reversing course temporarily does not help if you already know they’re dropping that shoe again down the road. You can’t get people to pledge if the means to pledge are uncertain and keep changing.

This is the thing people miss when they tell creators to “diversify” their income. Doing so is not always possible or practical, and the people who most need to do it have the least resources to.

Anyway, there’s two more important bits of context about why people are angry at Patreon, which haven’t been mentioned yet.

First: the VC thing.


You’ll want to read the follow-up to the 2nd thread to get the whole picture. tl;dr: Patreon has probably burned, or is in the process of burning through, a ton of VC money just to stay afloat, and are way overvalued at the moment.

(For the record, Jack has repeatedly denied that the new fees had anything to with VC funding. That doesn’t change any of those numbers, though.)

Second, this article:

Or as Spike put it:

So. That article came out in June, well before any of the current nonsense happened.

The “hilarious” part of that article is that it doesn’t specify when any of those growth experiments took place. If they happened, say, during this spring’s Youtube Adpocalypse, then pretty much all of their conclusions are moot.

It also doesn’t specify what their internal threshold is for a “financially successful creator”. My guess is it’s likely to be whatever number they think they can make a profit on … and not likely to be the majority of creators actually on Patreon. The fact that they explicitly state that they focus on FSCs to the exclusion of everything else is just the cherry on top of a giant shit cake.

Here’s a quick chaser to (not) help all that go down:


Patreon should also ditch that stupid new logo while they’re pulling a 180.

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I cancelled my account yesterday, so am claiming all the credit for this.

I am not sure about coming back though. From the message I got when I deleted it, I can’t get it back anyway, I would need to start from scratch, and I spoke to the creators that I stopped pledging to they all said they would look at other ways I could support them directly.

Though, interestingly, each one I spoke to said they had had little drop off. Maybe their pledgers didn’t care/didn’t read the email.

Edit - Actually, did they send emails out? I haven’t had one saying they have reversed this decision and it makes me wonder if I found out about it on Twitter first and then Waypoint rather than getting an email from Patreon?

They sent out emails to patrons announcing the original change, the day after they’d sent it to creators saying “here’s how you sell this to your patrons.” If they do the same timing, maybe we’ll get a takeback email today, but I haven’t seen one yet.

As a patron, I also have not received any emails and found out about this update through a (different) forum thread.

Yeah I have gone back through my emails and don’t see anything from them last week. Weird.

If you’re going to spin it like it’s to benefit the creators why not just put a little check box that says “I would like to cover the processing fees of this pledge.”