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Patreon gets slammed for new service fees that effectively kill $1 pledges

Some artists say they'll be forced to shut down their accounts.


Phillip Tracy


Posted on Dec 7, 2017   Updated on May 22, 2021, 8:46 am CDT

Patreon is introducing a new service fee designed to benefit creators, but many users worry it will make patrons more reluctant to pledge.

For those who aren’t familiar, Patreon is a subscription-based crowdfunding platform where “patrons” pay either per post or a monthly fee to artists, musicians, writers—anyone who falls under the term “creator.”

The site previously charged creators a flat 5 percent fee for every payment they received. The fee, on top of the charges from payment processors like Stripe or PayPal, meant artists would lose 7 to 15 percent of their earnings right off the bat. A new payment scheme hopes to reduce those losses, giving creators exactly 95 percent of each pledge they receive.

“Creators often take home a lower percentage of their Patreon income than patrons may realize,” the company wrote on its site. “Standardizing our fees across the board provides consistent expectations and more money for creators on Patreon.”

Starting Dec. 18, patrons will be charged 2.9 percent plus 35 cents per transaction, regardless of the amount. At first glance, that may not seem too bad. A single $20 pledge would cost a patron just $20.88.

But that seemingly innocuous charge could have a huge impact on those who pledge small amounts to many users. Consider a user who pays 30 creators a monthly $1.00 subscription. Now, that patron will be charged roughly 1.38 per charge per creator for a total of $41.40.

The new payment system is already being criticized by creators and patrons alike, who fear the higher returns will be offset by a substantial decrease in the number of patrons making pledges, particularly those who typically pledge a few dollars. Comic writer and Patreon creator Gibson Twist posted to Twitter to say the changes will likely result in him shutting down his account, “I’m not interested in gouging my audience in something I don’t believe benefits me or them at all,” he writes.

Many creators say their shows rely on small payments to stay afloat. In fact, several creators wrote that they would prefer to take the charges on their end than have them applied to patrons.

Both creators and patrons worry this will discourage people who only have a few dollars to spare from pledging altogether.

The changes to the service fee come at a risky time for Patreon. Last month, Kickstarter announced Drip, its subscription-based crowdfunding service and direct competitor to Patreon. The two services are similar, except Drip projects start with “Founding Members,” a 30-day period where creators offer their first subscribers rewards or offers. Many Patreon users are now threatening to move to the new platform.

We have reached out to Patreon and will update this article if we hear back.

This article has been updated for context and clarity. 

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*First Published: Dec 7, 2017, 9:22 am CST