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How to earn money from your podcast with memberships

If you’re looking to monetise your show, here’s why you might want to consider building a membership!

This is a guest post by membership platform Steady, who enable podcasters to fund their work through paying members. Here, they're going to show you how to make memberships work for you and your podcast.

What are memberships?

Memberships enable you to make money from your podcast each month, while building a closer relationship with your audience.

Members are happy to support the projects they love by making regular financial contributions, usually in the form of monthly or annual payments. These payments allow you to plan your work, knowing you have income you can count on, rather than relying on the randomness of donations and ad revenue. 

Memberships can help strengthen your listener community. They take your members’ passion for your project, and put it to good use. Some podcasts give their members a say in future content, by sending out surveys or hosting member events. These let members meet the team face-to-face. 

Members can become excellent podcast guests, be called upon to provide expert opinion, or connect you with people who can help you reach new heights. Members want to see you and your podcast thrive.

Memberships are more sustainable than donations, more personal than subscriptions, and allow podcasters to remain independent of advertising and large corporations.

Offering memberships means allowing your listeners to support you wholeheartedly. You’ll deepen your connection to them, gain independence, and receive a sustainable income in the process.

Could memberships work for my podcast?

If you have a dedicated audience, and regularly produce content your listeners love, then the short answer is: yes, memberships will work for you.

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Still at the ‘how to start a podcast' stage? No worries. Knowing that memberships will be there for you, can help you make plans for the long term.

To help gauge your podcast’s suitability for memberships, ask yourself:

How big is my community?

At Steady, we’ve found that at least five percent of your community is ready and willing to support you, if you make it easy and offer an appealing membership plan. Five percent is all you need to build a successful membership programme.

Measuring the size of your community will help you estimate your potential membership earnings. Your community includes all the people who follow your project. This means podcast subscribers, irregular listeners, social media followers and newsletter subscribers.

The Pod success on Steady
German gaming podcast The Pod has been a runaway success on Steady, earning more than €17,000 EUR from memberships each month. This has allowed them to produce more than 20 podcasts each month, pay their team of five and work free from advertising, something that was always important to them.

What is my revenue goal?

The average monthly membership payment on Steady is 5 euros. So if it’s your goal to earn €500 per month from memberships, you will need to gather 100 paying members.

Which benefits can I offer in return?

In our experience, benefits can be great, but they’re not always necessary. Our research shows that the key motivation for becoming a member isn’t extra rewards, but the opportunity to support the longevity of a project you care about. In fact, 37% of Steady's top 50 publishers don’t offer any additional benefits. Their community simply wants to support them. Anything extra is a bonus.

But, if you are keen to offer something in return for membership payments, there are many great options that don’t involve a lot of extra work. A personal shoutout to new members on your podcast can be a great way to welcome them in. A  small “thank you” in the form of a handwritten postcard or note is great, too. 

Some podcasts host member events, offering members the chance to get a behind-the-scenes look at the podcast and get to know the team. Others arrange member meetings that operate like editorial brainstorms. This has the added benefit of having all their members’ hands on deck to provide fresh ideas and input.

Just how much you want to bring your members into your process is up to you. But, if your members are already paying to show their love for your work, they’re quite likely to be happy to offer you other kinds of support, too. Don’t underestimate the non-financial benefits of having a group of loved-up members on your side.

What will I be able to do with this income?

Earning regular income could help you to save up for better audio equipment, hire additional hosts, or a graphic designer to spruce up your brand. Make sure you mention your goal when you talk about your membership programme. This way, your community can get on board and support you to reach it.

Some podcasts earn enough via memberships to be able to increase their content output, offering exclusive members-only episodes of their shows. Steady offers a customisable Audio RSS Feed for this exact purpose – more on how that works below.

Can memberships be combined with other funding streams?

Memberships allow you to remain independent from advertisers, if that’s important to you and your community.

Or, you can combine memberships with other monetisation methods when necessary. If you are already working with advertising revenue and would like to keep that running, you might like to offer ad-free versions of your episodes as a membership benefit. Steady’s Audio RSS Feed makes this really easy (see below).

If you’ve been making money off hosting events like live podcasts up till now, you could continue this revenue stream, but offer free event access to your members. 

How to set up your podcast membership programme

Launching your membership programme doesn’t need to be a lot of work. Using a membership platform like Steady means the technology and payment processing are taken care of. This leaves you more time to do what you love. 

Here are some tools you can use to ensure your membership programme gets off to a roaring start:

Use tier pricing and varied plans to entice potential members

Plans are right at the heart of your membership program. They’re how you make offers to your community in exchange for financial support.

Each plan has a certain price that is paid regularly (usually monthly) by members who select this plan.

Payment plans on the Steady membership platform
Public History Weekly offers two types of plans on Steady – the top tier enables membership access for multiple users.

How many plans you offer is up to you. The default is one plan. In the beginning, or if you have a smaller podcast, it probably makes sense to start with one plan. Then there is a greater chance that your potential members will choose to jump on board.

Many established podcasters offer several plans and make it work really well, offering a range of different benefits tailored to each plan and price point.

Published plans on Steady
Give your plans catchy headlines and offer a generous price range to draw in your listeners

You can:

  • add rewards to specific plans
  • set a goal, eg. reaching 100 members, to motivate potential members
  • write enticing descriptions about what each plan includes and thank members for their support
  • decide whether a plan should be offered on a monthly or annual basis, or both – you might like to offer a discount to those who pay for 12 months up front.

Offer exclusive podcast episodes with Steady’s Audio RSS Feed

With Steady, you can offer your members exclusive and/or early access to podcast episodes, using our Audio RSS Feed.

The feed is personal to each member. This means it can be specific to the plan they select when they sign up, tailoring what they hear specifically to them. 

Usually, you would provide your listeners with a URL where they can subscribe to your podcast. But this means your podcast is accessible to anyone who gets hold of the link – including people who haven’t paid to be members.

Our Audio RSS Feed solves this problem, offering a simple solution that makes sure only the right people hear your exclusive content. 

All you need is a link to your latest episode from your podcast host, keep it secret, and put it into Steady’s simple backend. Then, paying members will be notified of the new episode on their feed. This also works great for any audio extras you might want to offer them as benefits.

Keep listeners on your website and get paid in your own currency

There are so many benefits to hosting your membership program on a platform like Steady.

If you have your own website, Steady can help make it even easier to recruit members with website integrations like Adblock Detection (which prompts users to become paying members) and an easy checkout process that keeps users where you want them: on your website, not somebody else’s. 

Steady offers a broad range of currencies, including British Pound, US Dollar and EUR, plus a number of other European currencies. Your members pay what it says on the box, and there are no surprises later.

A special offer for The Podcast Host readers

Steady takes just a 10% cut from your membership fees, but only once your first member signs up. There are no setup fees or hidden costs.

What’s more, Steady has a special offer for all readers of The Podcast Host readers: if you create your Steady project through The Podcast Host, Steady will waive their 10% cut for the first 3 months.

Steady’s technology is simple and easy to use, and customisable for those who need it. Our support team is always available if you have any problems, or need help walking through your setup.

If you want to learn more about how to set up a membership program for your podcast, or have any questions, we’re all ears.

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Written by:

Guest Podcaster

January 14th 2020