Are there alternatives to Patreon?

Update December 13, 2017: Patreon is sorry and will not roll out the fee changes.

Services provided by Patreon

Patreon is an intermediary between content creators and consumers (“Patrons”). The value-added functions provided by Patreon are:

  1. Payment processing and management (subscription / per creation).
  2. VAT handling.
  3. Low fees for micropayments (through payment aggregation).
  4. Content hosting and access regulation.
  5. Social networking.

Patreon has recently announced changes to their fee structure which will make it significantly more expensive to support a large number of creators with small amounts, effectively eliminating the third point. For further information, read this discussion on Reddit, this blog post or head over to Twitter to witness the shitstorm. There’s also an interesting theory that financial regulations might be the true reason why Patreon suddenly shot themselves in the foot .

Patreon alternatives

The only alternative providing all of the 5 functions listed above appears to be Drip (by Kickstarter). However, Drip is currently “invite-only” and not yet open to all creators.

All other alternatives I found may fulfill some of the functions, but not all of them. Nevertheless, they often charge higher fees than Patreon.

Snowdrift.coop maintains an excellent overview of crowdfunding and fundraising services  (there are several lists on that page, be sure to scroll all the way down). However, many of them won’t solve the micropayment problem (notable exceptions are Flattr and Liberapay).

You could also have a look at marketplaces for digital goods, particularly if your supporters expect to get something in return for their payments. Here are two lists to get you started:
12 Platforms to Sell Digital Downloads
Sell Product Online

The majority of creators I used to support on Patreon offer direct donations through PayPal or via bank transfer. Obviously, this only satisfies the first point on my list, but it might still be an acceptable solution to many small donors who removed their pledges on Patreon in protest against the new fee structure.

Updates (chronological order):

Where to get a UPC or EAN for Amazon?

When listing a new product on Amazon, you’ll be required to enter a product name, manufacturer and a UPC or EAN. Unfortunately, not all manufacturers assign these codes to their products. So where can you get them?

The official place is the GS1 (Global Standards 1) organization in your country (use country selector here or simply enter “GS1” and the name of your country in your favourite search engine). However, nothing prevents you from registering in another country if this is cheaper or easier. For me, registering with GS1 UK GS1 France would be significantly cheaper and faster than registering with GS1 Belgium & Luxembourg.

If even the cheapest package from GS1 is too expensive for you, you might feel tempted to buy from a reseller. I strongly advise against this. This may be an option if you know what you’re doing. Due to a class action settlement (PDF), some numbers can be legally resold and do not require yearly payments to ensure that they remain valid. There are risks, of course: What’s to prevent the reseller from selling the same GTIN multiple times or from selling a number that’s completely made up? Going through a reseller also means that your company would not show up in the GEPIR (Global Electronic Party Information Registry) when an end user or business partner checks “your” GTIN. This directory might be helpful when looking for a trustworthy reseller.

Update May 5. 2016: This article claims that “Amazon has started cross checking listing UPC’s against the GS1 database”, which would make it impossible to use codes bought from resellers.

Further information:


This post was updated on October 24, 2015 and May 5, 2016. Changes are marked as follows: deleted and inserted.

Bye bye, Moneybookers (Skrill)

I had such high hopes for you, thought you might grow up to challenge PayPal. I soon realized that you were special. Your special SMS verification lead to a number of complaints from customers who claimed they’d never received your message. Those special “ISO” country codes you used in your merchant gateway forced me to write a function with the sole purpose of converting actual ISO 3166 codes to your system. There’s also the special way you treat refunds by keeping the original transaction fees.

Then came Christmas 2004 and it seemed like everyone suddenly wanted a digital scale. Our business took off, but you were skeptical and refused a large number of transactions. Our customers sent us angry emails asking why their credit card worked everywhere else but not with us. I apologized and asked them to use PayPal instead. Almost all transactions went through just fine and none turned out to be fraudulent.

After this disappointing experience I quickly signed up with Worldpay but still kept you around as a payment option for customers who already had a Moneybookers account. Very few did. This year, only one customer used your service.

Eventually, you decided you had to change. You gave yourself a new name (Skrill). You informed me about a new inactivity fee for merchant accounts and started charging a monthly gateway usage fee. Your new name suddenly made sense: Like a whale filtering krill out of the ocean, you wanted to become incredibly fat by feeding on millions of users.

Thankfully, you made it easy to close my account. Best of luck in your future endeavours.