(Crossposted between here and But I’m A Cat Person.)
If you’re supporting anyone on Patreon, you’ve seen the recent email about a change in the fee structure. And maybe looked at some of the official admin posts about it too. And probably seen a lot of general outrage.
Well, it looks like there may be factors in play here that Patreon isn’t talking about — but you might want to know.
The biggest one is that, under the previous fee setup, Patreon was most likely losing money on all $1 pledges. And all $5 pledges. And, in fact, any pledge lower than $14.29.
So for a creator like me — I’ve never gotten an individual pledge higher than $10. My account has always been losing them money. They’ve been using venture-capitalist dollars to subsidize my work for years now.
Frankly, I’m surprised and grateful they kept that up as long as they did.
The second factor is about legal issues, so it’s not as inflexible as the math, but also not likely to change any time soon. Basically, Patreon’s previous setup arguably put them in a legal category that involved regulations they haven’t been following and fees they haven’t been paying. The new setup definitively puts them not in that category.
No amount of user backlash is going to change any of the above. If Patreon has to choose between “fewer, crankier users, but you actually make a profit” over “everyone stays happy for the next 12 months and then you go bankrupt”…well, what would you do?
I’ve seen some people talk about looking for alternate ways to support their favorite creators, but the details are always vague. Or maybe they’ll mention Paypal. Here’s the problem: I’ve had Paypal for a decade longer than Patreon has even existed. Anyone can click the buttons on my webcomic sites and send me a donation every month, if they feel like it. Guess how many people have felt like it?
Zero. The answer is zero.
And, look, you can turn the question around and get the same thing. If I cancel either of my $1 pledges, the likelihood that I’ll bother to go to the creators’ websites and send them Paypal donations every month is also zero. The technology is there; human nature is not.
I know some patrons are canceling pledges because they can’t afford to keep giving at the same level under the new system. That’s completely legitimate and understandable. You do what you gotta do. No reasonable creator would or should give you grief over it.
But if you’re canceling pledges because you want to put financial pressure on Patreon to switch back to the old system — please know that it doesn’t work that way! Unless you were pledging more than $14.29 per creator, even if they get $0 from you under the new system, that’s still more money than they were making from you before.
I do wish Patreon had rolled this out differently. I wish they had led with “we’ve been subsidizing you out of our own pockets, and we can’t afford to keep it up,” instead of going with “we’re doing this because it will make everyone happier!”, because, uh, that clearly did not land well.
But I’m not mad about the underlying decision. And I’m going to keep using the site, both as a creator and as a patron.
(One more link, for anyone who’s not a patron of mine but would like to be.)