Patrick Hinds and Gillian Pensavalle started a podcast to satisfy their obsession with true crime, and as it turns out, there were a lot of people out there who wanted to hear what they had to say (or scream). They instantly started building a community of fans who tune in to get their true crime fix from their favorite comedy duo. A strange mash-up of genres? Yes. But an effective one.
Patrick and Gillian never could’ve imagined that their small, independent podcast would change their lives in a matter of months. With a growing demand for more content, the two hosts launched on Patreon to see if they could turn this thing into a career (spoiler alert: they did). Here’s how they turned True Crime Obsessed into one of the most popular podcasts on Patreon.
The Obsession Begins
Back in 2017, Patrick and Gillian were just a couple of Broadway podcasters who wanted to start a true crime show — one where they solved the infamous case of the Zodiac Killer. They did their research, sat down to record, and what came out wasn’t what they’d expected. They realized they weren’t cut out to solve the decades-old mystery, but instead found their true (crime) calling — recapping crime documentaries with humor, heart, and sass. It was risky to branch out from the traditional format, but with hundreds of other true crime podcasts crowding the space, this was their best shot at standing out.
Honing in on their niche paid off quickly. The podcast was growing through word of mouth, online discussion groups, and Facebook ads, and soon enough their fans were begging for more content. It hit them that they needed another place to give people more of what they wanted and to start making enough money to make the whole podcast worth doing. “Patreon was the answer,” says Patrick.
From 500 to 5,000
In January 2018, Gillian and Patrick made the move to Patreon. A lot of other podcasters were offering a single bonus episode a month, but Patrick wanted True Crime Obsessed to be a big part of their listeners’ lives, not just something people listened to for 45 minutes and then forgot about for the rest of the week. They decided to offer one full-length bonus episode per week. It was a gamble, especially after how much work they were already putting into their regular weekly episodes, but it was worth it. Patrick and Gillian saw an immediate response from their fans. They gained 500 patrons in their first month and by the end of that year, they already had over 5,000 listeners in their Patreon family.
Becoming Full-Time Podcasters
The podcast has been consistently gaining patrons for over three years now. By offering their patrons the bonus content they were craving, Patrick and Gillian have been able to gain over 45,000 members. Constantly sharing about their personal lives, teasing their exclusive content, and listening to what their fans want has helped them form a tight bond with their existing patrons and attract new ones at a remarkably steady rate. The majority of their members join at their “Non-Garbage Person” tier for $5 a month where they get weekly bonus episodes, pre-sale access to shows, and live show recordings. Patrick and Gillian also offer three other tiers: $7 for twice monthly “After Party” episodes, $10 for ad-free episodes, and $20 for special monthly surprises and access to VIP meet-and-greets.
With support from their Patreon fam, Patrick and Gillian have been able to grow True Crime Obsessed into a podcasting phenomenon:
- By 2018, Patrick and Gillian were both able to quit their jobs and become full-time podcasters.
- They’ve hired a handful of full-time staff members, including Patrick’s husband Steve who’s now their business manager.
- In March 2020, they moved into a new office with a state-of-the-art studio.
- True Crime Obsessed will be the first podcast ever to hit Broadway.
Building an Independent Network
Patrick created and co-hosts two more Obsessed shows: Obsessed with Disappeared and Obsessed with Abducted in Plain Sight. Obsessed with Disappeared has its own Patreon, which independently has over 11,000 patrons.
All three Obsessed podcasts are part of the Obsessed Network, which Patrick started in 2020 in part with the support they received from their Patreon members. Patrick was able to bring in hosts like Daisy Eagan, Maggie Freleng, and Amber Hunt to produce four other podcasts exploring more unjust, unexplained, and unsolved cases of the world.
With an ever-growing community of supporters behind them, a membership model offered Patrick and Gillian the best perk they could ask for: freedom.
Working for yourself: Patrick knows what it’s like to create for someone else and hold down a job on the side to support the creative hustle. Even though he works longer hours as a full-time podcaster, he gets to work for himself doing something he loves.
Helping others: One of the best parts of his job is elevating other voices. Patrick can answer questions, give advice, and help other people find their footing in the industry.
Doing it their way: Patrick and Gillian get to be their own bosses. There might be a more popular approach to true crime, but they’d rather do things their way.
Advice for Other Podcasters
Find your people: “One of the best things any podcaster can do is really build a community around their show,” Patrick says. “The podcast should not be the only time during the week they’re hearing from you.” Create a discussion group, go live, take questions — do whatever you can to stay engaged with your fans and remind people that you’re there.
Bonus content is key: “People just want more of what you’re already doing,” says Patrick. “Creating bonus episodes behind a paywall is just a way of giving people an opportunity to buy more of what they’re already getting for free.”
You don’t need that many listeners: Don’t get caught up in the big numbers. Focus on moving just a small percentage of your listeners over to Patreon, and it will continue to grow from there.
There’s no secret to Patrick and Gillian’s success. All they did was find their obsession — the thing they loved to do more than anything in the world — and record it for everyone to hear. Their passion for podcasting, commitment to their community, and hilarious commentary is what turned them into a true crime mainstay. As they grow, they continue to find new ways to share these stories so they can keep on feeding their fans’ never-ending obsession.