Apologies for the radio silence here. The past few weeks have been super busy/stressful, and with Patreon stepping back from their proposed fee restructuring, I've taken most of my spare time over the past few days off to unwind and relax a bunch (though, you'll be happy to hear that I also had time to find a couple of Winter's Wake/Icicle bugs that I'd identified at PAX, and that I've been working with kednar and flesk on improvements for The Farrier).
Here's the thing: we messed up and we're sorry. We are not moving forward with the service fees as originally proposed.
To recap, earlier this month, Patreon announced some upcoming changes to how fees would be handled that would shift most fees away from creators and append them to supporters' individual pledges to cover the new overhead of charging them individually. The rationale that Patreon gave for this was that it would improve creators' ability to reliably estimate how much they'd receive by not having the fluctuating part of fees come out of their revenue. When they received a negative response to this, Patreon updated their blog post to say that the change was actually to facilitate up-front monthly-anniversary based charging. When this still didn't do anything to abate the discontent with the proposed changes, Patreon's response to myself and many others expressing concern was to say that it was going to happen regardless and that we should explain to our supporters that everything was great.
At this point, I decided and communicated to Patreon that if the proposed changes went ahead, I'd be refunding December pledges and eventually closing my account. It seems that I wasn't the only one, and two days ago, Patreon announced that they wouldn't be implementing the proposed fee changes.
I'm a big believer in pursuing positive outcomes and giving second chances. That Patreon have listened to us, and appear to be making a commitment to respect and more closely represent the needs of their users is definitely a good step. I am personally feeling cautiously optimistic and hope that future changes will be made with better consultation and better priorities.
That said, I do also acknowledge and respect that platforms like these require a certain amount of trust and faith, and that that has been broken or at the very least eroded by the events of the past few weeks. In my opinion, the problems of the proposed fee changes pale in comparison to the blatant disregard for the confidence and wellbeing of the platform's users. By effectively saying that if you don't like these changes, too bad, they're happening anyway, Patreon were expressing that there should not be any hope for discourse, and that they had no reason to feel accountable for any negative outcomes.
Perhaps posting to your patrons that the new fee is not, in fact, additional money that Patreon is collecting, but is in fact, a consolidation of pre-existing fees that are no longer taken out of your earnings every month, they will understand a bit better. The new structure ensures that more of each patron's pledge goes to you and your creative projects.
By saying that creators expressing concerns on behalf of their supporters should just tell supporters that everything is fine, Patreon were not only showing a disregard for those concerns, they were asking creators to be complicit in that and all that it would yield.
When a company says that they refuse to listen to the people they are servicing, something fundamentally broken. When Patreon representatives say stuff like "We absolutely fucked up that rollout," that reveals a certain kind of perspective - one that's reinforced by statements like, "We need to move our payments system to treat your pledges like any other subscription service." Statements like these are made by people who don't recognise that Patreon isn't just another subscription service, and who, in the face of earnest and real expressions of distress, see poor process execution instead of hurt people.
The apology that Patreon has provided doesn't do anything to address those sentiments or the things that they reveal, and they don't do anything to address the people whose livelihoods have been put at risk by the company's inability to communicate respectfully with their audience (this isn't me - I'm lucky to be in a position where I'm not relying on Patreon funds to stay alive). These things weigh heavily on me, but I still hope for positive change in the future.
Regardless, Patreon will have to work hard to regain the trust they've lost, and for all of us (even those of you who are uncomfortable coming back to the platform at this time), I hope that they do put in that hard work.
With the proposed changes now scuttled, I'll be continuing to use Patreon for the foreseeable future. In my eyes, it was Patreon's unwillingness to consult, discuss or negotiate that drove people away from the platform, and for those who have left, I have nothing but empathy and respect.
In the new year, I'll also be working towards providing alternative ways for people to support me and get access to the kind of content I publish here. This stuff has always been on my long term todo list, but if there's anything to learn from recent events, it's that dependence on any one platform is a risk, and a risk that creates a lot of stress and pressure should things come to a head.
If you've got any additional thoughts, I'd love to hear them. I plan to continue corresponding with Patreon about their handling of the past few weeks, and I'd like to make sure that I'm continuing to represent your needs and interests.
I'd also like to recommend that anybody who felt concerns over how Patreon handled things over the past couple of weeks take the time to fill out the feedback form linked in this post.
Thanks to you all for your support, feedback, and patience during this time!
However, it needs to be said: I am not loyal to Patreon -- I'm loyal to you. I know that's cheesy, but I mean it. You're the ones who support me, financially and creatively and emotionally. Patreon's just a platform to gather on.
And people > platforms, always.