For a company making transformative changes to services and fees, Patreon's main message to its current creators seems counterintuitive: Almost nothing is changing for you.
Tuesday, membership site Patreon announced a major revamping of the services it offers creators who use its platform to build their own subscription membership businesses -- as well as the commissions it takes from every sale. But people who already use Patreon will pay the same 5 percent cut they always have, with options for more perks, as the company grandfathers in existing users.
Founded by a YouTuber, Patreon feeds off a internet-fandom trend, where people open their wallets for their favorite creators in return for a diversity of rewards. Patreon has 3 million fan "patrons" supporting more than 100,000 creators, and the company expects this year to surpass $1 billion total paid out to creators. The latest changes, in theory, are supposed to make it easier for that podcaster or artist you love to build a business, while putting Patreon on track to make more money itself.
Patreon said it has done all it can to ensure it's being fair, but it expects some people to be unhappy.
"There's always somebody who has an allergic reaction to anything that changes the prices. Some of it is this natural tension between art and capitalism," Wyatt Jenkins, Patreon's senior vice president of product, said in an interview last week. "My aspiration is that a creator can...see that there is a path for them from 'Hey, I have some fans' to 'Hey, I have a business' to 'Hey, I have a company.'"
Patreon is introducing three levels of service for creators, after operating with only one -- a single one-size-fits-all model -- for years.
Its coming Lite and Pro tiers will continue all the features creators already have on Patreon (plus a few more in the case of Pro), and current creators will be charged the same 5 percent cut from their monthly sales, which is the current standard. In two months, anyone who opens a new Patreon account and wants the more robust tier will be charged an 8 percent fee. New Patreon creators will also have the option of a bare-bones service with the entry-level 5-percent fee with Lite.
(Upshot: If you've been meaning to open a Patreon account, now would be the time to do it if you want to lock in the 5 percent fee rate for the more robust level of service.)
For current creators, Patreon's intention is to maintain the grandfathered rates for as long as this service structure exists.
A new Premium tier will introduce a higher fee than Patreon has exacted before: an 9 percent charge for existing creators and a 12 percent rate for anyone who signs up after May, with a $300 minimum fee monthly. This is a new a high-touch level of service that is designed for people who earn $5,000 a month on Patreon.
Patreon is also standardizing its payment processing fee, which was the source of a backlash in 2017. Essentially, the new fees are designed so that creators with really low-priced memberships don't see as much of that money get siphoned off to cover things like credit-card processing.
Right now, Patreon users give up a slice of their sales to cover credit-card process and other costs, but the rate that is charged varies. Under the new scheme, any subscriptions priced at $3 or below will have a 5% plus 10 cent fee -- so if a fan signs up for $1 membership, each month the creator hands over 15 cents of it to cover payment processing. Any memberships that are price above $3 will be charged 2.9 percent plus 30 cents.
"At the end of the day, I'm not ashamed of the fact that Patreon will be a better business because of these moves," Jenkins said. "It means Patreon will be around for a while."
Originally published at 9 a.m. PT.
Updated at 9:49 a.m. PT: with more details and quotes.