Well, hell. Patreon is currently in the midst of shooting itself in the foot.

Brief background for those of you who need it: Patreon is a crowdfunding site optimized for creators. Unlike Kickstarter, which focuses on specific projects, Patreon focuses on the creators themselves. Backers commit to funding individuals on an ongoing basis (either a set amount per month or a set amount per work of art*). In exchange, they receive benefits defined by the creator: early access to comics, patron-only poems, commissioned art, online meet-and-greets, etc., etc., etc., limited only by the creators’ imagination and the supporters’ pockets.

* “Art” being loosely defined here. It could be a drawing, a song, a mechanical object, or anything else the creator produces.

Patreon itself takes a 5% cut of the donations, and up until now, the creators have absorbed the cost of the contribution–the credit card processing fees, money transfer fees, and so forth. To grossly oversimplify, creators received about 75 cents of every dollar donated. More if they had a few large contributions, less if they had a lot of small ones, but somewhere around 75%, if the comments I’ve been seeing are representative. And, of course, the amount the artist receives varies from month to month, as the proportion of small to large contributions changes.

Effective December 18–unless Patreon changes its mind–supporters are going to be charged a fee for each contribution to offset the credit card and other processing charges. Patreon is promoting this as wonderful for the creators, who will now receive 95 of every dollar.

Well, yeah, except that a large portion of the contributions are currently at the $1 level. Those will now cost the supporters $1.38. Supporting somebody at the $5 level? That’ll now be $5.50.

Mind you, Patreon hasn’t officially notified supporters of this change yet, despite the fact that it’ll take effect in a little more than a week.

But they have notified creators and many of them are unhappy.

Seanan McGuire explains why in a Twitter thread.

In brief, she expects many smaller contributions to disappear, leaving her with a small number of larger ones. That’ll turn a reasonably solid support into a classic “rickety stool”: if even one of those larger supporters drops out somewhere down the road, the support is gone and Seanan falls on her ass.

And she’s right.

I’m not one of her supporters, much to my chagrin, because she’s one of my favorite writers, whether I’m reading for pleasure or professional development. But I have a limited amount of money I can afford to spend through Patreon, and so I’ve had to leave out many authors and artists I’d love to support.

With this change, I’m going to have to cut back. Most of my contributions are $1 a month. If that becomes $1.38 a month, it means I’ll have to stop my contributions to a third of the creators. That doesn’t only hurt the artists and writers I’m no longer supporting, but it hurts me as well, because I’m not getting the benefits of supporting all of them anymore.

And I’m sure I’m not the only one.

Patreon needs to rethink this plan and quickly. Granted, complaints are always louder than compliments–but I’m not hearing any compliments about Patreon’s plan. Not from patrons, not from artists.

If the only people who approve are Patreon’s staff, that doesn’t bode well.

Let’s be blunt here. In most businesses, credit card processing fees are part of the cost of doing business. You factor that in when you’re setting your prices. That’s why some businesses don’t take credit cards or offer a discount for cash purchases.

So here’s a thought: Patreon could smooth out the monthly variation–which they’re touting as a major benefit of their planned change–by taking a slightly larger cut from artists and using the money to cover the processing fees. And on the other end, treat patron contributions in bulk to minimize the fees*.

* Again speaking bluntly, they’re already doing this. If I make ten $1 contributions, they charge my credit card for $10, which would make the processing fee 64 cents (2.9% + $0.35). They’re not making ten separate charges with an aggregate $3.80 fee, and claiming they are is damn insulting when I can look at my credit card bill and see otherwise.

I can’t speak for all the creators, of course, but I’d be willing to bet that the majority of them would rather get 90 cents of every dollar from their current supporters than either 95 cents from a much smaller group, or the current 65 to 85 cents.

I’m sure there are other ways to solve whatever funding crisis Patreon has. But pissing off your customers is a less-than-optimal approach in any business.

I Can Fund That Tune In…

It’s been a while since I poked fun at something over at Kickstarter.

I don’t believe I’ve ever seriously looked at their “Music” category. I suspect there’s plenty there to laugh about. Please join me in checking it out.

Let’s see. The first eleven projects are from people seeking funds to produce an album. When I wrote this, one of the eleven had made its funding goal: David Liebe Hart has raised 102% of his target $5,000 to fund his new album about “…the benefits of exercise and eating vegetables…The Pickle Man and Mr. Moose…teleportation, James Quall being on crack,…[and] David’s long-lasting quest to find a girlfriend.” David, just a suggestion on the last, but a little less time in the recording studio might help there.

Seriously, though, kudos to David for setting a realistic goal (the money will be used to finance his co-conspirator’scollaborator’s travel expenses so they can work together) and on the forthcoming disc.

Other projects might hit their goals. Tacoma Narrows, a “former middle-school English teacher and band” are more than three-quarters of the way to the $15,000 they need to record their first folk-rock album. They actually seem to have their act together (sorry), aside from their unfortunate choice of names–do you really want to back a band that will collapse in the face of the first applause-driven breeze that strikes them? Still, it could be worse: they could have named themselves “Bay Bridge East Span”.

Chris Dorman is almost three-quarters of the way to the $15,000 he needs to create “a children’s album to be shared in homes all across the country.”

Not trying to tell you how to run your career, Chris, but you might do better if people bought copies of the album instead of sharing it. Oh, I see you have a plan: releasing the album will allow you to apply “for awards like the Parents Choice Awards, submitting to the Grammys for Best Children’s Album, and reaching out with a focused publicity campaign to parenting and music publications, blogs, and radio all over the country.” So if I understand the plan, you’ll release an album, promote it heavily, and that will automatically result in profit? Apparently, yes. Says Chris, “…no matter how far and wide we can share our project we know that this piece of musical art can live on for generations as our kiddos grow and have kiddos of their own.”

OK, I can totally get behind art for the sake of art. All joking aside, best of luck–and I hope your kiddos love your music as much as you do.

For counterpoint (sorry), consider Landers, “a husband and wife duo with a vision to bring faith back to marriage and family thru music.” They’re about 40% of the way to their $15,000 target. If they make it, they’ll produce and album

With roots that go in so many directions musically, this first project has been an amazing journey as we find our identity. Being raised in, and working in full-time ministry, has majorly influenced to worship-centered passion promulgated in the lyrics of every song in this project. We also believe you will hear our southern heritage in the cadence and structure that “good ole boy” upbringing creates. “Stand” is more than artistic expression of chords and lyrics; it is the bold message of who we want to be and what we believe.

I hope God and Jesus understand what the heck they’re talking about, because I sure don’t. I assume that God understands because they take pains to mention “how clear He has been in the process.” Folks, if God is that deeply involved, have you considered asking him to chip in the remaining $8,700? He can afford it, and the best part is that you won’t need to come up with a backer reward for Him: the album itself is his reward!

Moving on.

Peri Smilow has fully funded her project to create an anthology of her music in printed form. Good to see someone not looking for money for an album. Ms. Smilow has four CDs out already; the sheet music anthology includes all of the songs from the CDs.

Oh, look! Here’s someone else who isn’t looking for funds to produce an album. Lucy Stearns wants you to finance her trip to Italy to study and sing opera. Good luck, Lucy.

Continuing down the list of projects… Album, album, album…vinyl…album… Man, there are a lot of people who want to cut an album.

Here’s one that’s at least worth considering: Paul Sawtelle is a Grammy-winning saxophonist who wants to put together a CD to benefit the Ted Brown Outreach Program. The Program, it seems, provides musical instruments to kids who can’t afford them. A worthy project, IMNSHO. Do your due diligence on Paul and the Ted Brown Outreach Program, and if you’re satisfied they’re legit, toss ’em a couple of bucks.

Here’s another nice one: “Great Job!” is looking to rent a space for live music in Palmerston North. If you support live music in New Zealand–and who doesn’t?–this is the project to back.

I’m surprised, actually. Yes, there are a hell of a lot of projects in Kickstarter’s Music category that demand to be laughed at. Hundreds of people and groups nobody has ever heard of are trying to use other people’s money to produce the CDs that will be their tickets to fame and fortune. But there are far more worthwhile projects than I expected: people who want to help others, people who have an artistic vision to share, and even people who are just looking for a little help in doing something they love.

Good on all y’all–even Landers and Lucy–for following your dreams.