Patreon has become an important tool for independent creators over the last few years, giving fans a largely painless way to support the artists that they love. Like anything touching the murky world of finance, though, it has its problems, problems that were exacerbated when the company announced last week that it was instituting changes to its fee structure for donors, adding a $0.35 (plus 2.9 percent) charge to each individual donation.
Patrons and creators alike promptly flipped their shit, deluging the company with complaints about the new plan. For a while, Patreon politely fired back, offering up in-depth explanations for the ways third-party transaction fees add unwanted unpredictability to its system, and explaining that their efforts were intended to reduce that variance and give creators more of their money. (An argument that failed to impress people watching their donations count plummet in advance of the new fees.)
Ultimately, the company relented, sending out a message today stating, “We messed up. We’re sorry, and we’re not rolling out the fees change.” As the note acknowledges, the pricing changes missed a major way people enjoy using the service: tossing small donations of a dollar or two at multiple creators as a show of support for lots of different projects. Under the new model, each of those contributions would have been hit with its own separate $0.35-plus fee, meaning the changes would disproportionately affect smaller donors.
Patreon says it’s still committed to finding a new solution for the transaction fee problem, as well as the struggles to combat donors who pledge for a month, reap the rewards, and then pull their money out before the bill comes due. Meanwhile, at least some of the damage is already done; a number of Patreon creators have noted a large downturn in pledges over the last few weeks as people fled the new fees; it remains to be seen how many will return now that this audible has been called.