The Final Word on the Patreon Changes

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NONE OF THIS MATTERS! THE MORONS AT PATREON CHANGED THEIR MINDS! GO READ THIS INSTEAD!

Wow, what a weekend.

Once again, this is Scott, not Angry talking. And this is more to do with the whole Patreon business. I’m going to make this one quick.

First, if you support me on Patreon and haven’t yet read the update that I posted last week, read it. Patreon is changing the way you are being billed. Fees that used to be deducted from your pledge on the back end are now being added to the amount you’re being charged. That starts on December 18th. Make sure you know it’s coming.

Now… let’s talk about how this change is going to affect me going forward and how things have shaken down over the weekend. No. Don’t worry. This crap isn’t replacing a post this week. You still get a shiny article some time tomorrow. It might be later in the day, but it will be there. Unfortunately, this shift in Patreon has had a lot of fall out. And I want this to really be the last word on the Patreon bulls$&%. But I’ve received a lot of contact and I want to address it all.

Overwhelmed

Since I announced this last week, I have been inundated. My phone’s notifications have not stopped bwinking and bwonking and making all sorts of noises. I’ve had e-mails, private messages, comments on every social media forum, comments on my website, and lots and lots of notifications from Patreon. Yes, I’ve lost supporters. Or had people drop their support. And I expect to lose more after people who haven’t read these updates notice the charges starting on December 18th through the middle of January when people check their banks accounts and things. And I don’t know how much that’s going to be.

But, there has also been an absolutely massive outpouring of support. Like, so much. A lot if it just simple thanks and apologies and prayers and thoughts. And I can’t express how much it that means to me. It’s amazing to see how many lives I have impacted by giving sweary advice about how to play games about pretend elves. That support alone has made everything worth doing. Many people have also given me one-time donations in lieu of continuing with Patreon. And those have been extremely helpful as well. But what has been most surprising are the number of people who have either promised to stick with Patreon despite the change and, even more surprising, the number of people who have increased their support. I can’t even think of words to say how thankful I am. I mean, there aren’t words. I’d need to invent a new word. And I’m not going to try to do that.

Things are uncertain. I still don’t know quite how everything is going to shake out. I’m stable now, but I’m not sure how it’s all going to shake out when the rubber hits the road and the new fits hit the accounts. But I can say pretty categorically that I am now will insulated against even a pretty substantial drop. Enough so that I’m just going to stop worrying and see how everything plays out.

It seems like such a small thing to say, but “thank you.” This had me truly worried about the future. Now, I’m a lot less worried. And, I’m just too grateful for the fantastic community around me to really get into serious worry territory.

You who support me – either financially or just with kind words and encouragement and friendship – you have changed my life so much. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Now…

Getting Around the Fees

If you want to continue to support me at the level you’ve been supporting, but you want to avoid the brunt of the Patreon fees, there is a way you can do it. It’s actually pretty easy. You can support me with a one-time, monthly pledge simply by setting a limit on your pledge. For example, suppose you support me at $1 per article. That’s $4 a month because I write four articles. Just set your pledge up to $4 and set a maximum of $4 per month. You’ll get charged once, only get hit with one fee, and your level of support won’t change.

A few people have asked me if that’s going to affect their access to the Secret Stash, Discord, or make my bookkeeping crazy. Well, I’ll let you in on a secret: I’ve actually ALREADY been keeping my books on my own, away from Patreon. And I dole out Secret Stash access based on aggregate monthly pledges. So, if you switch from $4 per article to $15 per article, limit $15, you’ll STILL have Stash access. I’m a damned accountant. My spreadsheets are sound. And if Patreon does screw with your Discord access, e-mail me at TheAngryGameMaster@gmail.com and I’ll fix it.

Seriously. If you want to avoid the fees, do the monthly thing. It won’t break anything. Do whatever works for you. And because I have already dropped my reward levels to help offset the fees and am not changing them back, that’ll actually work out to be cheaper for you. Secret Stash access used to run you $16 a month. Now it will cost you $15.79 with the Patreon fee. You get to keep two shiny dimes every month that would have gone to me and I still come out okay.

Please. If you’re sensitive to the fees, adjust your pledge and your monthly maximum accordingly to get charged once a month. It won’t hurt anything.

Why Don’t I Change to a Monthly Structure?

A lot of people have asked me to change to a monthly support model instead of a per creation support model. If you don’t know what that means, let me explain. Patreon lets you choose whether you want to collect pledges for specific creations or whether you just want a monthly pledge amount. When I set this thing up, I chose the former. And I did so for the reasons I’ve already explained. Integrity, trust, and a concrete agreement between my Patrons and me. And my attitude toward that hasn’t changed. When Patreon was charging one monthly fee on the back end, it didn’t change anything one way or the other. Now that they are charging an up-front fee per pledge, it does affect how expensive it is to support me.

Now, apart from my own personal reasons of integrity and so on, there is a very concrete reason why I cannot change my support structure now. The moment I flick that switch, I will lose 75% of the pledges from everyone who hasn’t adjusted their pledges to account for the monthly structure. I now have about 400 Patrons and most of them still support me with a small amount on a “per creation” basis. That means, come January, I will suddenly see a huge amount of money evaporate. On January 1st, if I flick that switch, my take home will plummet by a very huge amount. I’m not going to lie: I can’t afford that. I will go out of business on January 1st if I flip that switch.

However, I am watching my pledges very closely. If the vast majority of people do change to a monthly pledge as I described above simply by adjusting their pledge and setting a maximum monthly amount, that will greatly decrease the impact of switching to a monthly model. And once that impact gets small enough, I will flip that switch. I just can’t flip it preemptively. I’m sorry. I can’t.

Moreover, I cannot afford to make any big changes until the dust settles from these current changes. I have to take things very carefully right now.

That said, if you follow the instructions above, you’ll be supporting me on a monthly basis and you won’t get charged excessive fees. Otherwise, you can just stick things out.

Why Don’t I Move to Another Platform

More than a few people have suggested that I move to another platform. Or, at least, that I set up an alternative account on another platform. Several platforms do exist. They have their strengths and weaknesses. And they are all advertising very heavily right now on the back on Patreon’s changes. In addition, a few new platforms are entering the marking in the next three months. I am paying very careful attention to this.

At some point in the first quarter of 2018, I will probably add a new platform to my website. But I want to be very cautious. Having my transactions divided even between two different platforms is going to drastically increase the amount of record keeping and accounting. I am no longer a small operation. Having more than two platforms would be a management nightmare, especially when it comes to communicating with supporters and offering rewards.

Right now, though, there is a risk in adopting a new platform. And that risk is that these platforms are smaller and not as well tested as Patreon. And if they attract a lot of former Patreon creators, they are going to experience a lot of growing pains. There is the potential for disaster if a lot of my supporters migrate to a new platform that then suffers problems or becomes unreliable because of it’s sudden growth from lots of new creators abandoning Patreon. A hasty decision here could be a dangerous one.

I am also looking at the possibility of simply cutting out the middlemen and implementing my own solution for monthly or per creation support. That’s not something I could do fast. But it is more than likely within my reach as long as I don’t have to whether a huge financial disaster in the next month.

On the Futility of Anger

I’m mad at Patreon. This is a terrible decision and they’ve handled it very badly. Rather than explain further, I’m just going to share an e-mail I sent to one correspondent who asked me whether I thought the change was good or bad.

I am extremely upset by the news and have spent the last two days explaining what is happening to my almost 400 generous supporters and reassuring them. And Patreon has not made that easier with it’s unclear information, poor explanations, and the fact that they keep adding more “clarification.” Any business owner knows there are fees involved in doing business. And they pay those fees. That’s the price of being in business. Any business owner also knows that no good comes of suddenly surprising their customers by increasing prices with no notice, limited explanation, and two weeks shy of a major holiday.

The thing is, it is now more expensive for Patrons to support creators. The fee might be small, but it is still a price increase. And some Patrons are literally donating their pocket change and coffee money. Those Patrons are very price sensitive. Beyond that, though, the new fee structure makes it much more expensive to support multiple creators and to support any creator who uses the PER CREATION model.

The ability of Patrons to support many creators with small amounts is integral to Patreon. The idea behind community support is that a large community can pool their individually small amounts to support their favorite creators. And the Patreon community supports cross promotion and creators supporting creators. The new fee structure makes all of that much more expensive.

Meanwhile, PER CREATION support is actually better for the consumer – the Patron – when it’s possible. It ensures that the Patrons know exactly what value they are getting for their money and it requires the creator to keep putting out new content if they want to get paid. That’s why I chose that model. Patrons know the minimum amount of content they are getting, I know what I owe to them in return for their support, and if I fail to live up to that, I don’t get paid.

The new PER PLEDGE fee structure that includes a fixed $0.35 PER INDIVIDUAL PLEDGE shoots both of those in the foot. Patrons are better off supporting only a small number of creators with a single, larger, per month pledge. This system literally punishes the best Patrons – those who spread their support among many creators at small amounts – and the best Creators – those whose pledges are tangibly and directly tied to their output.

Consider the history of Patreon users like The Spoony One, who coasted for a long time on monthly donations and empty promises to his community before his very dedicated fan based decided enough was enough and his money trickled to nothing. PER CREATION pledges make that impossible.

In the end, the variable fees and the risk of lost pledges due to dwindled output, those are risks and costs associated with using Patreon. And, as in any business venture, it is the person who is earning the PROFIT who should bear the brunt of the costs and risks and uncertainty. This move shifts the costs and risks to the supporters, to the creators. From a business standpoint, it’s a terrible way to do business, and it is not the way I would ever treat my consumers. Except that I’m being forced to.

So no, this was not good news. This was terrible news.

From a personal standpoint, that’s where I’m at. I’m angry. And I understand all of you are probably angry too. But now comes the part where I say something unpopular…

You cannot make business decisions with your emotions. And this is, for me, a business decision. This is the vast majority of my livelihood now. I can stand on anger and principle and that means there will be a just, righteous space on the Internet where my website used to be and I’ll be back in a cubicle preparing tax returns instead of creating gaming content and building toward the publication of a role-playing game.

The truth is, Patreon’s decision hurts a lot of people. It hurts me. It hurts supporters. And it hurts a lot of good creators besides me who aren’t as well supported and well insulated. In the end, it might also hurt Patreon a lot. Or it might balance out and Patreon might come out ahead. Patreon has made a business decision. And their decision has increased the cost of my doing business and the cost of your doing business with me. That happens all the time. That’s part of what business is. The environment changes. Companies make decisions. Other companies and customers are affected. Prices rise or fall. And everyone adjusts as things stabilize again. That’s the way it works. And if you want to earn a profit by running a business, that’s part of the risk. That’s why there’s a profit in running a business. Because there’s risks and changes and you have to weather those storms.

Am I mad at Patreon? Yes. I’m mad because they made a decision that’s out of my control that has made things more expensive for my customers and consequently affected the way I run my business. Do I think it was a bad decision? Yes. But I don’t have the information they have. Maybe it will work out for them and strengthen the platform. Maybe it will hurt them and they’ll have to figure out how to adjust to the new reality they created. But that’s the beginning and end of my emotional investment. This is just business. And sometimes business sucks.

Right now, I’m proud of how I’ve handled things. I’ve been transparent and open. I’ve reduced my own prices to account for the fees and offered an alternative pricing scheme to help reduce the burden on my customers. And I’m still going to lose support in the end. I know I am. I just don’t know how much yet. But as it stands right now, staying with Patreon is the best option for me. It’ll cost me the least, even after absorbing the losses from the changes and the reduced support.

I understand if you see things differently. If you want to walk away from Patreon or boycott it or walk away from me because of my decision to stay with this platform, I understand. I don’t blame you. You have to make your own decisions and set your own priorities. And, in the end, I know I’m losing some support because of people’s righteous anger at Patreon.

And that is just one more risk of doing business.

Looking Forward

And that’s where I stand right now. I’ve now literally said everything I have to say – pretty much everything I can even think of to say – about the “Patreon debacle.” Apart from thanking each and every one of you one more time, all I can do now is move forward. Keep creating, keep being worthy of your support, and work to be even worthier of your support in the coming year.

Now, I’m putting the Angry mask back on. Come back tomorrow and we’ll talk about plot threads in campaigns or some s$&% like that, okay? But for now, get the f$%& out of here. I’ve got work to do.

17 thoughts on “The Final Word on the Patreon Changes

  1. Thanks for being so swift and clear with your explanations on the changes. You did the work that Patreon should have. I am sure you did not only help us, your supporters and yourself, but probably other creators (who your supporters support) as well by explaining these things.

    Also I do not want to be indiscreet, so feel free to not answer, but I started to wonder how your personal patreon and the one for GMWOTW are connected. I mean how much money you get from that one. Like what if I removed my pledge from yours and donated a bit more to the GMWOTW one stuff like that. I am not saying I am going to do this, I was just wondering. I guess there are probably several good reasons why you prefer to keep those separated tho.

    • They are completely separate. And I don’t own any stake in the GMWotW project. It is entirely managed by Fiddleback and the money he collects through Patreon is used to offset the fees for hosting and producing the show and paying him for his work. As it stands, I’m not receiving anything from GMWotW. If GMWotW starts showing a substantial profit, Fiddleback and I will renegotiate and I will be paid as a contractor. But that’s the extent of my involvement.

  2. Ditto to what Galen said.

    You’re a smart guy, so you may have already thought of this; but would it be feasible to use PayPal for support, assuming of course the fees there aren’t prohibitive?

    Anyway, I was going to increase my support already, and this just gives me another reason to do so.

  3. I am sadly at the moment not in a position to support you yet. I hope this changes in 2018 though i can not guarantee it. Up until this piece on Patren i was silent because i wasn’t a supporter and had nothing to give to you in terms off one-time donations.
    But right now i feel that i can say what i said to myself silently:
    I am a very new GM and your advice helped me greatly (mostly in encouraging me to think about my approaches to different stuff). I am reading through your old stuff and not nearly done yet, but at the moment i take in as much as i can. I have yet to understand everything especially with regard to pacing and decision points, but i think i will in time.

    So a big f$&%ing thank you from the bottom of my heart, good sir. You are fighting the good fight.

  4. I have no comment about Patreon (though I am a creator who uses Patreon, feel free to check me out and support my work!), I just want to say how interesting it is to see “On the Futility of Anger” as a document heading on theangrygm.com.

  5. Once again, your transparency and willingness to help your readers are a breath of fresh air. Thanks for the tip on increasing my pledge and setting a monthly limit. I will definitely do that. In fact, I’ll even take it one step further and increase my pledge amount by a couple dollars while setting a monthly limit. I dont know if there’s a better way to stick it up to Patreon, but Im definitely willing to pay you more while paying them less.

  6. Dammit Angry,

    Thanks for being upfront and explaining the process. It means a lot to us that you’re willing to be open and transparent with your customers. Now, I have to run off and open a Patreon account so I can support my favorite F*$(!^# website. Plus, I’d hate for you to go back to a cubicle and prepare tax returns (among other accounting related Shiite), that’s what I do and it sucks. I’d rather be gaming.

  7. I’m reminded of a couple of other creative endeavours I follow which picked up on the optional subscription model before Patreon, on a per-month basis. One switched over to Patreon when it arose, while the other one had put enough investment into their system that they stuck with it when transitioning to a per-creation model (under the not-stupid method of batching payments to once a month). The latter probably lost out on quite a bit over time from not being part of the Patreon network, but at least they’re insulated from this move.

    The short timeframe is the most mind-boggling thing. I did see one theory that there might be legal reasons involved, that the singular payment per user (patron and patree) might qualify Patreon as a money handler itself; that’s made the most sense to me.

    Plus side, I’m glad that the website is more likely to still be here. A campaign that crossed 2 of the last 4 years on and off has come to an end, and the campaign building series is giving me some great mental structures to be a bit more intentional in planning the next campaign.

  8. I’ve been following you for at least two years now, and I’ve greatly enjoyed and appreciated all of the advice and sharing of concepts for tabletop RPGs. You’ve settled a number of frustrating situations and made DMing feel a whole lot less intimidating and more like a joyful art of design, planning, and creativity. I definitely appreciate it and am very glad that Patreon changing does not signal the end of all of this.

    I’m frustrated to hear it as well, honestly. I’ve a couple of artist friends who are going to be hit hard by this too, and it’s tough to not be able to do anything about it other than give my own support.

    I wish you luck with all of this, and I’m looking forward to the next article! I’m starting a new campaign setting and game system, so I’ve been eating all of this up!

  9. Hello.
    I just wanted to say thank you. I actually was not aware of the whole Patreon mess, and now I just wish you luck. You help me suck less at my favourite hobby, and perhaps, something more in future.

  10. Hope your around for a long time man. Love your content, always send new DM’s to this site. Ive pledged before, I backed out because I wasn’t playing alot of D&D at the time, but plan on pledging again next payday (finally got a group rolling). Hope everything works out for you, id be a damn shame if this content wasnt available.

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