After outcry from artists, Patreon ends new fee plan

Patreon is backing away from a proposed fee that prompted a wave of criticism from writers, artists and other creative types who said it was scaring away their supporters. 

The fundraising service works by allowing patrons to donate money to their favorite artists or creators on a recurring basis, creating a flow of income that has helped many arts workers keep afloat. Earlier this month, Patreon said it planned to add a new service fee of 2.9 percent of each pledge plus 35 cents, which the patrons would pay. 

That might not seem like a lot, but many patrons pledge $1 per month to their favorite artists, which means the new fee would have represented a roughly 38 percent increase in their costs. Some artists, including musician Amanda Palmer, said they lost many smaller donors soon after the fee structure was announced.

"We've heard you loud and clear," wrote Patreon co-founder Jack Conte, a musician who created the service when he was trying out how to support his band, in a blog post. "We're not going to roll out the changes to our payments system that we announced last week."

He added, "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."

Writers, publishers and artists praised the decision, although some expressed concern for the supporters they lost after Patreon announced the fee change. 

Conte said he learned after talking with artists that the scrapped fee had largely affected $1 to $2 donors. Before Patreon said it would back away from the fee, artists were urging their supporters to switch to PayPal or other donation services. 

Patreon had framed the new fee as allowing "creators to take home a greater portion of their earnings, which is core to our mission of getting creators paid." 

But it appeared to underestimate the backlash against what was essentially a regressive fee structure: The donors with the least to give would have been hurt the most. For instance, while supporters with only $1 a month to pledge to their favorite artists would have paid 38 percent more, those donating $10 a month would have paid just a 6.4 percent increase.