Just occurred to me. Who owns the creator-patron relationship? If patrons are customers, whose customers are they?
If Patreon does, then it makes sense for it to paternalistically roll out changes to maximize revenue (for itself, and potentially for creators if their models turn out to be basically correct). Patreon could legitimately expect creators to toe the line and help explain changes, however unpopular, because Patreon’s in control.
What all this backlash reveals, however, is that (shocking!) it’s actually creators that feel they own the relationship with their patrons. They’re our customers.
Initially, creators set the prices. The value proposition was in our control: if you pay this, I’ll give you that. Creators did all the legwork to drum up the patrons outside of Patreon. (I get a few referrals from inside Patreon, but it’s a small percent. I know, because I ask.)
Patreon’s latest move signals something crucial: it think it’s in charge of the creator-patreon relationship. This isn’t about revenue maximization, it’s about the fact that Patreon is willing to reach in and set your prices for you, and change when your customers pay you.
Maybe it’s for the best in the long term in some strictly numerical sense, but the problem is one of trust and autonomy. Imagine if the maker of your retail signage changed your business hours without asking you?
“But these hours are better! You’ll make more money, trust us!”
You’d be stunned. We’re stunned.
I’ve asked a question over in another thread. (“When will Per-Thing charges go through after unbundling?”) Now that I’m looking at my question through this lens, it’s a completely different question. I’m asking Patreon what my business model will be.
When I see it for what it is, this question is completely nuts. I’m asking my payment processor what my business model will be? Why should I ever have to ask this?
Patreon is a hammer. I had a problem, Patreon solved it. Now my hammer is morphing into some other kind of tool. That doesn’t make Patreon more awesome, it makes it an unreliable hammer.