Have you ever wanted to know what top podcasters do to incentivize and reward their loyal fans? This article pulls together 19 of the most lucrative rewards that podcasters can offer through a membership-based business model. Each reward has multiple examples and tips on when it works well.
As you read, remember that not every reward type fits every creator.These rewards drive the bulk of top Patreon podcasters’ pledges (not in order), but that doesn’t mean that each one will be right for you and your audience. If you need help deciding which ones are the best fit for your business, try reading this article about the five major reward categories and the advantages/disadvantages of each.
Want to offer these rewards to your audience? Sign up for Patreon here.
One of the most straightforward rewards you can offer is access to more. The good thing about offering bonus episodes is that it appeals to your entire fanbase: if people like your regular podcast, they’ll like your bonus episodes, too.
Chapo Traphouse became one of the highest-earning podcasts on Patreon by offering a single $5 tier. Their patrons get access to all episodes; non-paying fans only hear half of their podcasts.
How many bonus episodes you offer is entirely up to you. It’s worth weighing how much you could earn from those episodes with how much time in your schedule you can spare to make them.If you decide that bonus episodes are for you, it’s easy to distribute them using Patreon’s private RSS feed feature that gives a unique feed to each patron, or by granting access through the Patreon app.
Podcasting naturally lends itself to Q&A sessions, which is why many podcasters on Patreon offer Q&A sessions (also called AMAs, or “Ask Me Anything” sessions). Some creators make bonus episodes around Q&A, and others add it to their main episodes. You could answer on a forum, in a patron-only post, in a Discord channel, or anywhere you want.
Some creators even offer priority to higher-paying patrons. For example, The Yaron Brook Show offers a tier for which $50/mo patrons’ questions have priority.
The important thing is that your fans have questions, and they’re willing to pay for answers.
While a live chat and a Q&A session could be one and the same, they don’t have to be. It’s hard to overestimate the value of having a deeper relationship with your patrons. Sometimes, your fans just want to get to know you better and feel like they’re a more important part of your life.
One of the ways to meet that desire is to offer live chats or hangouts: a chance to spend time with you, the creator. You could prep a topic for discussion, announce new and exciting things, or just chat about life.
CYBERGARBAGE offers a monthly hangout that drives $1300/mo in pledges from patrons because they make it an exclusive experience for high-dollar patrons. Other creators go for large hangouts and low $ entry; it’s all about getting to know your audience and gauging whether a high-dollar, more exclusive offering or a low-dollar, less exclusive experience would be better.
‘Behind the Scenes’ rewards generally fall into two categories: informative and personal. Each caters to a different element in your audience.
Informative behind the scenes content explores your creative process, the technical aspects of producing your show, and other useful information. It could be paired with instructional episodes or items to help patrons who want to learn from your methods. If part of your audience listens to you in the hopes of creating their own show one day, this is a good reward to try.
Personal behind the scenes content is all about giving fans a peek into your life off the mic. What do you do when you’re not recording? Are there funny moments on set you could capture and show fans? Is Patreon Lens a tool you could use effectively?
If you’re willing to share more about your life outside recording and your fans are eager to learn more about you, behind-the-scenes-content is an easy and effective reward to offer. Most podcasters combine behind the scenes content with additional rewards to strengthen the value of a certain tier. DIS Unplugged, for example, combines behind the scenes content with early access.
It’s not “premium.” But it’s also not more of the same. If you have the bandwidth (or could hire help with the support of your Patreon audience), then access to an exclusive show is a powerful motivator for fans to pitch in.
Sword & Scale, Easy Allies, and Second Captains all use some variation of this reward. For Second Captains, patronage grants access to a slew of related podcasts they produce. For Sword & Scale, it means access to their exclusive Patreon show, Sword & Scale Plus. Easy Allies, on the other hand, offer at least three Patreon-exclusive shows accessible to any patrons paying $1/mo or more.
New shows are a strong incentive for patrons because they gain access to a quality offering that no one else gets. If you don’t have the resources to offer a new show yet, it’s something you could put as a goal on your Patreon campaign. That can also motivate your fanbase to “make it happen” and help you kick off a new show.
Many creators are hesitant to add physical merchandise to their reward offerings: fulfillment is time-consuming and difficult. At the same time, it can be worth it for the right price, especially if you already have a store/merchandise of some kind.
- Wrote a book? Send a (signed) copy to higher-tier patrons.
- Have a merch store? Give supporters discount coupons to use at your store.
- Don’t have any merch, but want to put something in the mail for new users? Promise a handwritten thank-you card.
- Think merch is a great way to pick up new patrons? Promise a welcome box to new patrons with a high enough pledge.
And remember, you control when the merch goes out. You could have a recurring schedule (monthly, bi-monthly, yearly…); a one-time release upon sign-up; or time-release merch packages based on how long a patron sticks around.
Something about your show brings your listeners together every week. Often, it’s a shared interest in the topics you cover. So, why not give those listeners a place to interact and enrich each other’s lives?
As the host of your own podcast, you’re in a unique position to bring your listeners together in a common space. Some listeners will come for a chance to interact more with you, but many will stay for the community they find with other listeners.
You might set up a private forum on your website, use the community tab on Patreon, run a Discord channel, or something else entirely. Some creators even run book clubs (more work, but a lot to be gained).
Sometimes, your patrons just want to be recognized as donors. You can do shout-outs during episodes or put up lists of patrons’ names on your website. KindaFunny even offers a one-time Tweet mentioning the patron (and the patron gets to pick what it says).
Some creators also offer credentials. The Daily Tech News Show even gives $10/mo patrons a business card listing them as an “executive co-producer” of the show (and promise to back up their claim if anyone challenges them on it).
Ultimately, ‘recognition’ rewards give patrons a well-deserved pat on the back for being your supporter, while encouraging sign-ups without taking all your time. It’s a reward that works well for many creators, large and small!
Sometimes, you can make it easier for patrons to enjoy your existing podcasts. Some creators do this by offering an ad-free experience to patrons. Others provide patrons with a link that allows them to listen on their platform of choice, rather than being restricted to a specific platform like Apple or Podbean. And some, like the Tumble Science Podcast for Kids, do both. Easy Allies has a great explanation of how to do this on their forum.
Is there a way you could enhance your fans’ listening experience as a reward?
There are so many ways you can reward your patrons with digital content! In addition to behind the scenes rewards, you can offer project updates, exclusive news, patron-only posts, miscellaneous materials that go with your episodes/genre, and more.
Maybe your patrons would enjoy uncut footage? Cosmic Shambles, for example, offers uncut episodes, bonus features, exclusive news, and a few other perks to their $1/podcast supporters. There’s no limit to what you could offer except your time and ingenuity.
For dedicated supporters, you might offer one of the most exciting rewards a fan could receive: the chance to appear on your show—or at least to be featured in someway on your show. For example, Easy Allies has a once-per-month, livestreamed community showcase.
Other creators, like the Tesla Motors Unofficial Podcast, make a bonus episode that features patrons’ call-in questions and comments (in this case, for $10/mo supporters and up). The great thing about running a podcast is that your guests don’t have to be in the same location as you to be on the show, so the logistics are easier than if you were, say, filming videos.
This reward is as much a boon to your business as it is an exciting perk for patrons. Knowing what your patrons want and support will help you channel your creative endeavors and continue growing your fanbase. By offering voting as a reward, you can get the opinion of paying patrons who care what you do.
That isn’t to say you should turn over the reigns to your fans’ every whim, but strategic polls and question-asking can help you when you’re deciding what to do next. Some creators, like The Valleyfolk, even brand this reward as a focus group of sorts—a cadre of trusted advisor-patrons who are happy to put down cash to make your work become a reality. That said, they’ve also used it for business items like deciding which shirt to produce:
Polling in Patreon is simple (and you can make the post public or restrict by tier, your choice).
Some creators offer premium content to patrons only. In essence, your free stuff is good enough for people to enjoy. But you also produce content that’s higher quality in some way. Perhaps it’s an extended cut or a deep dive into special topics. But, it’s good enough to warrant a paywall, and that’s what brings patrons knocking.
For example, dating coach Alan Roger Currie uses Patreon to gate access to his premium podcast content. Free listeners get access to some of his posts, $5/month listeners get access to all non-premium posts, and $10/mo get access to all premium podcast he creates.
Ever popular, early access rewards give your patrons a chance to see things before anyone else. It could mean sneak peaks and snippets,or it could mean that they listen to an episode several days in advance. Some creators also use early release for things like live-event ticket sales. Patrons love knowing that they’ll have first dibs on the new, exciting things you’re producing.
Since early access doesn’t in itself take that much effort (and doesn’t give anything tangibly extra to patrons), it’s often paired with other rewards in the same tier. But, if you have a dedicated fan base and exceptional content, you might get away with offering it as a stand-alone reward.
If you’ve been podcasting for a while, you could leave all those episodes up for free. Or, you could start gating the old ones while keeping the new ones free. It depends on whether your content will hold up over time.
For example, Alice Isn’t Dead offers access to an archive of live video chats, along with an ad-free archive of the first and second part of the story.
It goes to show that you can archive more than just your main podcast if you produce other content as well.
If you’re an expert in something, you can leverage your experience and teaching ability to offer coaching and consulting. From gamers to nutritionists, personalized services can make sense as a high-value reward.
Creators frequently push value to $50/mo and $100/mo tiers with personalized services, although some charge less (such as Brülosophy, which offers brewing advice consultations for $15/mo supporters) depending on what’s offered.
Depending on your niche, action alerts could be an exciting reward for patrons. For example, Snipers’ Tube is a cryptocurrency podcast that puts out daily trade recommendations—and since their followers want to know what’s happening on the market without doing all the research themselves, those alerts are highly valuable.
But action alerts don’t have to be limited to cryptocurrency: you could also send breaking news updates, sale alerts, or “gameday alerts” (courtesy of the Fantasy Footballers).
If you’re down with going to the dark side (nothing wrong with that!), you can offer sponsorship and advertisement tiers for businesses looking to support you while spreading the word about your services.
Podcasts like the Radio War Nerd Podcast hand them out at $100 a pop, whereas Opening Arguments lets businesses link to their websites from the Opening Argument website for $5/mo. How you run ads and sponsorships—and what you charge for them—is entirely up to you.
These 19 rewards are some of the most popular rewards that podcasters offer on Patreon, but that’s not to say they’re the only ones. We’ve also seen creators offering unique experiences, D&D sessions, and a host of other rewards tailor-made for their podcast and audience.
And as far as pricing is concerned, it depends on a lot of factors. How large/well off is your audience? How valuable or time-consuming is the reward? Do you want a few, low-dollar rewards that appeal to the majority of your audience, or a buffet that attracts high and low dollar donations from different subgroups?
Given what you know about your business and audience, which of these rewards would be most lucrative for you?
Know what you want to offer to your fans in exchange for monthly membership? Sign up for Patreon here.