On December 6, 2017, Patreon sent an email to creators, explaining their new fee structure, which places the burden of the credit card processing fees on the patrons (with a “service fee” of 2.9% + $0.35 per transaction). Patrons were informed on this change the following day. We, as creators, are strongly opposed to this change, and the following is the letter that we sent to Patreon’s support team.
We believe strongly in the power of creation. Art is a mirror. It forces us to examine ourselves in a way nothing else does, to think deeply about humanity and what we value. Art changes the world every day, and not just through the act of creation but also in the way that people interact with art as critics and fans. Art is at its heart a conversation between creator and consumer.
We also believe strongly in paying people for their work as artists and creators. The harmful narrative of the “struggling artist” has romanticized poverty for people striving to impact the world through their work. Our podcast, Women at Warp, first started using your service to help fund the work that we do. It has allowed to to improve the shows we produce by way of upgraded hardware and software; to provide transcriptions of our episodes to make our content more accessible; and to start a blog and highlight additional and diverse voices, while being able to pay our writers in turn.
Perhaps even more valuably, it has given us and our patrons a venue to interact. Our patrons impact our lives and our work in countless ways. First, financially. It is not hyperbolic to say that our patrons entirely fund our show and allow us to continue to release. Things are hard right now for a lot of people, including our hosts. What we bring in on Patreon allows us to not have to worry about covering the cost of websites, hosting, blog writers, and so much more, when we are individually dealing with the pressures of things like rent increases and rising costs of living. We are incredibly humbled and beyond grateful that so many people care enough to help take the edge off in a tough world.
The support also makes a world of difference mentally. It’s someone saying to you, “I think what you do is valid and important and valuable and I want to support you.” The gratitude we feel for that encouragement is indescribable. In exchange, we try and create things that make their day a little better, a laugh here or there, a new way to look at something in a way they had never considered.
Your changes to the fee system skew that relationship unhealthily. As creators, we are paying for access to your website infrastructure, fundraising tools, and for you to process the fees related to donations. The patrons are not paying you for that service, they are paying us for the things we create for them.
When we signed up for your service as a creator, we understood and accepted and indeed thought it was more than fair to pay you for how your service allows us to connect with our patrons. It is ludicrously unfair to shift the fee burden from the creator to the patron. Although you “ran experiments to understand patrons’ potential reactions and found that many patrons were happy knowing that this change will send more money to creators,” we believe that this will also impact smaller creators and pledges disproportionately. Often people will support a multitude of projects with small monthly pledges, spreading their money to as many people as possible so they can show their support to a wide range of creators.
A lot of creators rely almost entirely on $1 or $2 pledges. When people are forced to start cutting off projects and prioritizing their support, because a $1 donation will now cost that individual $1.38, a lot of those small pledges are going to go away. We are going to lose patrons, and therefore lose money. Patrons are going to be paying more money to support fewer projects. Not to mention the guilt patrons will feel when forced to cut their support to creators they care about. Everyone loses, except, of course, Patreon, who will be collecting fees from both creators and their patrons.
We will be seriously looking at this and deciding whether or not to keep your service. We aren’t sure if we can morally justify forcing our patrons to pay more to support our show. In the end, you might want to consider the fact that you are truly a middle man. There are other services for what you do – indeed, we have been getting sent suggestions for other fundraising sites since your news broke. We could also cut out the middle man entirely and simply add a PayPal “Donate” button to our website. You are not essential to the creator/consumer relationship.
You sent out an e-mail that justified your fee changes as a “creator-first” approach. We don’t want a creator-first approach, especially if it means placing an additional burden on our patrons. We will always support a patron-first approach, because they are the ones we create for and we could not do what we do without their help. But we can do it without yours.
Andi, Grace, Jarrah, and Sue
Women at Warp: A Roddenberry Star Trek Podcast