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A Letter From Patreon's Head of Podcasts

It’s safe to say that what we’re collectively experiencing at the moment is unprecedented and will likely have ramifications on the way we live for months, if not years, to come. But if history has taught us anything, it’s that people are resilient and need stories, beauty, and art to rally in challenging times.

As the novel coronavirus sweeps the nation, it’s still too soon to tell how the podcast industry will be impacted. We see podcasters innovating and adapting already—Ira Glass and so many other producers are getting scrappy and recording content from their closets. Still, productions are being put on pause indefinitely, and advertisers are beginning to pull back spending, especially for travel and tourism-related shows. As for shows that rely on live touring as a significant revenue source? They’re moving from live show to livestream.

Independent podcasters and small businesses are the most vulnerable to the pandemic’s impact as payments are delayed, and projects put on hold. But this recent article on podcast listener habits in Italy and Spain during their COVID-19 lockdown gave me hope for two reasons. First, it shows that listenership isn’t dramatically dipping, in fact, some companies are seeing an increase in listeners. Second, while we’ve seen an influx of COVID-19 podcasts, it appears that consumers in both countries are seeking to escape the daily humdrum of the news cycle in exchange for stories that entertain, educate, and uplift. We've seen that uptick in listenership at Patreon as well. Podcasters received 12% more money from new patrons in March than they did in February and we saw a 25% increase of podcasters launching on Patreon in March compared to February.

With that, I wanted to offer some suggestions to help podcasters navigate the new normal of shelter-in-place orders and a wholly digital presence.

  1. Keep it scrappy: Many of us likely don’t have access to a podcast recording studio. This article from NPR offers really great tips on creating makeshift recording booths in your home.
  2. Connect with your fans: If your live podcast shows have been canceled, or production is put on pause, find creative ways to connect with your fans. That could mean doing weekly hangouts, Q&As or taking your live shows online.
  3. Create a pay-what-you-want option: Whether you are already on Patreon or thinking about starting one, it’s likely that some of your fans are feeling the economic strains of COVID-19 as well. Consider creating a “pay what you want” option, that allows fans to participate as patrons no matter their financial situation.
  4. Sell merch: If you have merch offerings, it’s a great way to make additional revenue and for fans to continue to support you.
  5. Keep creating: COVID-19 or not, creators need to create, and the world needs to hear your story. There’s a lot of us who are seeking inspiration and escapism - consider going off script and use this time to experiment with new storytelling formats.**

If there’s one movie that really moved me growing up, it was the Dead Poet’s Society. Call me cliche, but I find this particular clip relevant for creators during these trying times:

Embedded content: https://youtu.be/omveFR-2hmg?t=41

That powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse…”

It’s a stressful and scary time for creators around the globe, but your creativity doesn’t have to stop. For more resources to keep your creativity flowing, Patreon’s Co-Founder and CEO, Jack Conte shared his tips in this article. Give it a read, and then convert that closet into a recording booth. Your story has value and deserves to be heard, COVID-19 be damned. We can’t wait to hear from you.

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