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Patreon for Podcasters: Best Practices & Who’s Doing it Well

Considering Patreon for podcast monetisation? These tips & examples will show you how to make the platform work for you.

Want to make money with your podcast? Patreon helps you do this, and more. 

Patreon builds community around your content. Like other crowdfunding platforms, it helps your audience “pre-order” merchandise. Patreon helps you create an RSS feed, exclusively for your supporters.

Patreon’s creative community is varied and dense enough that its app could be a competitor to most entertainment streaming services. 

Most importantly, Patreon is self-aware. The company knows that it’s growing, learns from its mistakes, and provides good creator resources.  Patreon has membership tiers (Lite, Pro and Premium) tailored to the needs of different kinds of creators. 

Let’s look at some helpful tips to make the most of Patreon, and some examples of interesting uses of this persuasive (and sometimes controversial) crowdfunding platform.

Best Practices 

As we said, Patreon provides a lot of resources for creators. Patreon updates its blog and learning modules to reflect changing trends in crowdfunding.  

Some crowdfunding campaigns, like Kickstarter, or Indiegogo, are finite. Patreon is for the long haul.

Bearing this in mind, you should think about how sustainable Patreon is for you. 

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What’s In It For Me? Supporter Benefits

An honest thanks is a big motivator in this day and age. Patreon lets you set up an automatic reply to all new backers. This can include video, which they recommend. Send a personal thank you message as well.

Delivering content to podcast backers is simple, with Patreon’s built-in RSS feed. This makes your podcast episodes available exclusively to supporters. It's a good way to publish audio extras. Producers could (and some do) publish their work solely on Patreon.

In terms of the competition for audience attention, Patreon is a small slice of the pie though. Spread the news about your work far and wide, not just on one platform.

Tiers

The benefits offered in the support tiers are the hook that catches supporters. Think about how much supplies, time and effort it takes to deliver benefits to your patrons. Consider what people will appreciate, as well.

A hand-written postcard is a popular reward. Podcasting is about connecting with other people. Why not take the time to write and send cards appreciating your listeners? 

In contrast, let's say your backer pledges $2 a month. If you send them a t-shirt costing $14, then it will take months for that gift to balance out your accounting. Some creators indicate that for higher tiers, the backer gift ships after a certain number of months of support. Don't promise more than you can deliver. 

Plan tie-ins in the early stages, when you create scripts. What is it about your podcast that you really want to highlight? How can you make those elements tangible? Let's say that your podcast is about cooking. You can send handwritten recipe cards. If your podcast is about business or life coaching, and you’ve read our article about Canva, consider making inspirational wallpapers for your backers to download.  You’re recording already. Why not make ringtones or audio extras to share?

Take some time to browse through Patreon. Look at benefits for different levels of support. The most successful creators on Patreon support other creators. Think about what kind of gifts you would like to receive in exchange for support. Think about what kind of time and effort those gifts take.

Transparency

How do you want to display your support on your overview page? You can choose to display, or keep private, how many supporters you have, and how much you earn per creation, or per month. Displaying earnings is a controversial topic. 

Some feel that it's wise to hide how much money you make. It the amount is too high, potential backers may think, “this creator doesn’t really need my help.” If it's too low, they may think, “this creator must not be very good.”  

Some feel that earning amounts should be visible. This can make potential backers feel like they're joining “the next big thing.” Film studios brag about the cost of feature films. Auction houses publicize the cost of rare paintings. Other professions compete for salaries. Why not artists?

Whichever you choose, show and explain how you use the money earned. Let's say that you truly need a new mic. Use Patreon funding to buy it. Post a thank you message to your supporters. Post sound samples displaying the difference in sound. Show your supporters that the money goes to something specific. 

Goals are the clearest way to show the specificity of your funding. Celebrate reaching goals with your backers. 

Clear Visual Bridges

You want to keep your brand imaging consistent. Patreon does, too. They have brand assets and guidelines to keep visuals consistent. This gives you credibility. There’s plenty of room in your Patreon page to link to your other social media platforms. 

Patreon for Podcasters

Case Studies of Patreon Creators 

Here are three creators with very different approaches to Patreon’s features. You’ll see here that the effectiveness of Patreon doesn’t have only one recipe. 

The Queen of Asking 

To start off, we’ll talk about someone who isn’t a podcaster. She has a reputation as a pioneer in crowdfunding. Amanda Palmer has a Patreon page you should look at. 

Mainly a musician, Ms. Palmer flirts with visual and performance art as well. Patreon’s ability to use RSS feeds, video, images and text lets her try out different media on a whim.

She built her empire on face to face contact. Patreon’s intimacy and community meshes well with other social media platforms. This gives her the flexibility to share as much, or as little, of herself as she desires. 

Ms. Palmer’s overview page shows how many supporters she has. It doesn't show financial earnings. The images for tier donations and rewards are hand-drawn. Higher tiers of support come with hand-drawn art and patron-only web chats. With the public posts, these push her illustration of intimacy.

She knows that she's a case study for crowdfunding.. Her overview page includes a manifesto about crowdfunding and art. Her overview page includes links to Patreon’s creator resources, a list of projects that she funded with Patreon, and an FAQ document. This is one you should view for an example of breadth and depth.

The Golden Ticket

Chapo Trap House’s Patreon is as no-frills as their approach to politics and current events. Their overview page shows how many patrons support them, and how much they make per month. This transparency is pretty good. It’s hard to pay attention to their honesty, however, when you notice how much money they're making.

They have one support tier, a $5 per month pledge. You can hear some of their episodes on Soundcloud or Stitcher. The only way to hear all of their content is to support them via Patreon.To hear their show, everyone pays the same price.

The only community here is like Fight Club. You don’t talk about it, you just commit. 

An Invitation To Be Smart

The Amelia Project’s Patreon experience is as much fun as this audio drama podcast itself. They put as much detail into the Patreon benefits as into each podcast episode. The Patreon page itself is a visual storytelling experience. 

Patrons can view case files for each of the Amelia Project’s clients, in visual adventures that complement each episode. The PDFs make use of handwriting and typefaces that require a tiny bit of extra focus on the part of the beholder. At higher levels, there are opportunities to meet the creators in web chats.

They sum up the experience best with, “Amelia is all about secrets.”  Creators Philip Thorne and Oystein Brager don't give everything away, making the reader feel smart for understanding their visual and legible gameplay. In each episode, the announcer reminds you that you can find more details about that episode’s story at Patreon. The two media have a symbiotic relationship. 

The Amelia Project's Patreon feels like an invitation to a secret club, one that rewards you for paying attention and cleverness.

What else can Patreon do? 

More interesting backer benefit ideas:

  • Fool & Scholar Productions throw web-based launch parties via Google Hangouts or Facebook Live. Fun for introverts and extroverts alike!
  • Spirits delivers printable recipe cards with custom cocktails for each episode.
  • Stickers and enamel pins are extremely popular as backer gifts. There's no getting away from it. They're the social currency of the podcasting world right now.

What's the recipe for the perfect Patreon?

It’s the same as the recipe for the perfect podcast: plan ahead, know what you’re passionate about, know who you want to reach. 

If there could be a community clubhouse for your podcast, what would it be like? What means would it use for the club members to communicate? What would be the club’s benefits?  Think about what super-fans of your show would want to see, know, and do. Give it to your fans in manageable doses. Make it easy for them to support you. 

Need More Help?

Want to find out more about how to make your podcast sustainable? Join us at the Podcast Host Academy. With our courses, downloadable resources, community forums and live Q&A web chats, we can help you avoid un-productive revenue models. Not only that, we can help you take what you love most, and share it with others, in a rewarding, focused way.

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Written by:

Lindsay Harris Friel

July 5th 2019