When Do You Dump Patreon?


(By Dave Jackson) There are some podcasters who are making a lot of money on Patreon and, consequently, this is inspiring many people to start a podcast thinking they can make some fast cash.

In the same way that ice skaters, musicians, comedians, and athletes make their craft look easy, so do these podcasters. You talk into a mic, ask people for money, and watch the cash roll in. 

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Patreon is a crowdfunding site. It is reminiscent of the days of Bach and Beethoven when patrons would pay them for their art. 

We’ve seen pledge drives on PBS on TV. If you pay $20 you get the James Taylor CD. For $40 you get the DVD of the performance you are watching, etc. That is what Patreon is: an ongoing pledge program. 

Without a relationship with PBS, pledge drives make you want to change the channel (at least it does for me). 

Should I start my podcast with a Patreon account?
For 40 years I was a musician. When you start a band you need 40 songs that people want to hear, that make them want to dance, and that you sound good playing. You think you’re in the music business but you’re in the “selling beer” business, and dancing people are thirsty people. You are also in the entertainment business. If you stand there and look at your shoes, nobody wants to watch that. 

When you first start a band it may take months to learn that much music and “launch” your band. We practiced in someone’s basement for hours. We would get better with each practice. We weren’t good enough to get paid. We didn’t deliver enough value. In fact, in our first gigs were often free. When we were ready to market the band, we started with the smaller venues. 

After three years of consistent gigging, we had developed a relationship with our audience. We had perfected our stage moves, song selection, and were fun to watch. We were headlining outdoor events. We delivered value in an entertaining fashion.

While launching with a Patreon campaign allows you to practice your “Become a Patron” pitch, and gets your audience used to hearing your pledge drives in episodes, there are a few things to consider:

You may find yourself focusing more on your Patreon rewards instead of focusing on making great content that inspires your audience to tell a friend. It is crowdfunding – not fundcrowding.

You don’t have a relationship with these your people and yet you’re asking for a favor.
Unless you organized a focus group, you may not be delivering value (and yet you are asking for value in return). Your Mom is not a focus group.

If you are doing great you can expect 3% of your audience to join your campaign. If you have 100 listeners this means you MIGHT get 3. According to Patreon, The most popular tier for Patrons is $2-$5.

The lack of patrons can damage your attitude and make you want to quit your podcast. If your sole reason for starting your podcast was for quickly getting money, you should quit.
As for “You get to practice your Patreon pitch?” you can practice your pledge drive pitch in the basement.

When Should I Dump My Patreon Campaign?
If you launched with a Patreon campaign and nobody is signing up I would recommend the attitude adjustment of comedian Kevin Hart. In his book, I Can’t Make This Up: Life Lessons each time Hart was rejected he committed himself to go back and work on his comedy until he was too funny to ignore. He worked on being good, not on getting paid. He focused on the crowd, not the funding.

So when do you dump your Patreon? I would say if after three years of:
– delivering content you can’t get any place else,
– making people laugh, cry, think, groan, in an entertaining fashion,
– interacting with your audience to ensure you are delivering value.

Three years is also a number Valerie Geller quotes in her book Beyond Powerful Radio on how long it takes to build an audience. If you don’t have patrons after three years, then hang it up. Like I said at the beginning of this article, people are getting into podcasting for fast money, and that is a mistake.

Dave Jackson is a Hall of Fame podcaster and consultant. He started the School of Podcasting in 2005 and has helped more podcasters with their podcast than any other human on the planet. Find him at www.schoolofpodcasting.com 



  1. Great advice Dave – thanks. I just started using Patreon after 71 episodes of a very homegrown podcast.
    Great to have that 3% number in mind going forward. I’d be happy just to have the annual expenses covered.


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