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Patreon backtracks on service fee after community uproar

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‘We messed up. We’re sorry’

Patreon - stack of money art Patreon

Patreon will not roll out a controversial change to its service fees after facing backlash from its community, the company announced today.

Jack Conte, Patreon’s CEO, acknowledged in a statement that the executive team screwed up with the decision to implement a service fee, most of which impacted patrons pledging $1 or $5 subscriptions to creators. The fee was supposed to go into effect on Dec. 18, and was arranged so creators would pay 5 percent of a payment processing fee, rather than the 7-15 percent they currently pay. To do this, Patreon told patrons that they would have to pay an additional 2.9 percent, plus a 35 cent fee with each pledge, as a way to help cover those remaining costs.

Conte added that while Patreon still needs to figure out a way to fix the problems that the new service fee was meant to address, the company will take a different approach.

“We still have to fix the problems that those changes addressed, but we’re going to fix them in a different way, and we’re going to work with you to come up with the specifics, as we should have done the first time around,” said Conte (emphasis original). “Many of you lost patrons, and you lost income. No apology will make up for that, but nevertheless, I’m sorry. It is our core belief that you should own the relationships with your fans. These are your businesses, and they are your fans.”

Conte said the Patreon team recognized that by not talking to its base of creators and subscribers, and making decisions without being informed of how creators view their business models, the company wasn’t including creators in important decisions.

“I know it will take a long time for us to earn back your trust,” Conte wrote. “But we are utterly devoted to your success and to getting you sustainable, reliable income for being a creator.”

After Patreon made its initial announcement on Dec. 7 about the service fee changes, the community began to tweet its frustrations with the platform. One podcast writer, Phoebe Seiders, who uses Patreon to help fund the work she and her team produces, told Polygon that Patreon’s decision to introduce this fee was essentially a gamble for the company.

“This is really where it’s going to hurt the most,” Seiders said. “Of the projects I’ve seen people back over the years, as they grow from $100 or less to over $1,000, they have absolutely been built on the backs of these $1 to $5 pledges. To penalize people who want to pledge at that basic level ... you are gambling on enough high rollers coming in and then growing and sustaining on that pledge base.

“You’re basing this decision on a gamble that may not pay off.”

Patreon users started posting screenshots of patrons unsubscribing in droves following the announcement. The company initially responded to complaints by doubling down on the decision, reiterating that it was for the benefit of creators. To help combat the decision, creators announced they would look into offering $0.50 and $4 tier levels as a way to convince their patrons to stay.

“We are nothing without you,” Conte said at the end of his statement, “and we know that.”