Who owns the creator-patreon relationship?

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.

8 Likes

Well said. I don’t want Patreon interfering with my relationship with our patrons. They have made sweeping changes to that and many creators business models with NO WARNING. It is absurd.

4 Likes

Plenty of creators whose patrons have decided to stop pledging have said they’d gladly support in other ways. Mine have not stopped pledging yet, but have told me they’re willing to go wherever I go. Patreon and any business like it is a means to an end. Patrons are not primarily the customers of Patreon but of the creators they wish to support. Sure, Patreon makes it easier, but so do things like online bank accounts and credit cards. It’s a tool, a framework. Patreon is acting entirely out of line by dictating new terms so entirely different from those we originally agreed to use them under.

6 Likes

Patreon used to be better than print-on-demand sites who pretend like your customers aren’t yours by refusing to tell you who’s buying your art. But with this change Patreon just joined the ranks of dumb businesses that are trying to leverage creators’ relationships without treating creators like partners.

It’s astonishing how little regard Patreon has for us considering that they’re nothing without us.

4 Likes

I have to whole-heartedly agree here>

My audience, and paying Patrons/Customers do not come from Patreon.
I have a blog for that. A YouTube channel. Social media sites. Forums. Etc.
The fact is, I have to build my audience, and paying customers without any help from Patreon.
So, why are my fans now expected to pay more, when Patreon has done nothing to bring them to me, or my page?

What I really want from Patreon is a way to use the platform for marketing - allow us to actually gather more Patrons from within the platform. But, since this isn’t the case, and it’s up to me to bring my audience here, then why exactly do those people that I personally bring here (because they are MY fans, not Patreons) to expect them to pay the fees that by all rights be paid by the business owner incurring them?

This is exactly the same as any retailer asking you to pay extra on top of the retail price, for the fees associated with using a credit card, Interac, ApplePay or other payment service.

That’s not what people paying for a service or product with a CC do. That’s up to the retailer, or service provider to cover. Not the customer.

If perhaps there was an actual browse function on this site, it would allow a more robust community to grow from within Patreon itself. But this doesn’t seem to be on the docket. This seems to be about corporate branding, and the elite, boutique-type service to increase the brand image of life-changing success stories and not just small income, but massive. This stinks of corporate branding, period.

3 Likes

90% of my patrons are people who have been receiving emails from me for years, and have supported me on other platforms. I’ve gone from site to site, using what works, and discarding whatever stops working, and where I go, they follow. I brought them to Patreon, and I will take them with me to the next stop on the journey, whatever that may be.

5 Likes

This is the argument I keep hearing from my community, too. They’re platform agnostic and so am I.

2 Likes

I just want to say we heard this loud and clear. From the blog post out today:

Fundamentally, creators should own the business decisions with their fans, not Patreon. We overstepped our bounds and injected ourselves into that relationship, against our core belief as a business.

Full blog post here: https://blog.patreon.com/not-rolling-out-fees-change/