Launching subscriptions for your podcast may feel like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. With the right app and a little creativity, you can turn active followers into financial supporters that help you produce the content they love.
Here, the creators behind two successful podcasts share how they used Spotify for Podcasters’ podcast subscriptions feature, some creative promotional ideas, and a whole lot of audience empathy to grow a revenue stream from podcast subscriptions.
Sarah Carter-Hayes is half of the husband/wife team behind “Monsters Among Us.” Along with ad placements, the financial support they receive from subscribers lets them focus full-time on creating an irresistibly intriguing podcast.
Quincy Brown and Kevin Bianchi turned their love of musical theater, particularly the show Wicked, into the successful podcast “Sentimental Men.” The two theater-philes prove that when you’re passionate about a niche topic, you’ll find plenty of listeners eager to subscribe.
Both shows use podcast subscriptions to quickly share gated content with their audience. Together, their experiences read like a practical how-to manual for creating and promoting a podcast that loyal listeners love to support.
Build a community through empathy
- Focus on building a community first, and listeners will jump at the chance to become subscribers.
- Create a welcoming space for your listeners to share their stories, feedback, and episode ideas.
It happened at a drag show. Quincy Brown, co-host of “Sentimental Men,” had just finished watching a performance. Suddenly, a guy sitting in the audience turns toward Quincy and says, “I’m in the Green Circle.”
The Green Circle is the club listeners join when they subscribe to the Wicked-themed podcast. While supporters get benefits for subscribing—like extra and early access to content—what they’re often most interested in is the community Quincy and co-host Kevin Bianchi have created.
The duo behind “Monsters Among Us” also owes a lot of their success to the community they build. Not only is it the foundation for the podcast’s content, but it’s also a safe space for those who experienced a life-changing event to connect with one another.
Quincy and Kevin foster a sense of belonging with the Green Circle
“We once had somebody join Instagram just so they could be in our Close Friends [the IG feature that restricts some posts to a select few followers],” Quincy says. “I thought it so funny, him getting an Instagram account for our little podcast.”
Even before they offered a paid-subscriber tier, Quincy says “Sentimental Men” fans proactively asked how they could help the show. “We started to get a lot of questions like, ‘How can we support the pod?’ Or ‘Do you have a donation play set up’?’”
What Kevin and Quincy have done with the Green Circle is transcend the somewhat transactional relationship of listener and podcaster. They’ve created a space for people who share a similar passion. “Sentimental Men” subscribers aren’t paying for a service—they’re supporting their community.
How do Kevin and Quincy foster such a strong feeling of belonging? They do something that’s not always intuitive for a medium that’s considered one way: they listen to their listeners. “Our subscribers get a big kick out of giving their input on things. I think they like to feel like they're part of the team since they're contributing to it.”
Feedback can come from several places. Social media is an easy way to request viewer comments. Placing questions on a show’s website is also helpful. To get listener input right on the Spotify app, Spotify for Podcasters’ Q&A and polls features are also a great option.
No matter where it comes from, Quincy says there’s a very practical benefit to seeking listener feedback: It confirms the show is delivering what fans care about. “The listeners will dictate your content if you just listen to them,” he explains. “To me, it's like they tell you exactly what you should be doing if you pay attention.”
Fan stories keep the “Monsters Among Us” content engine going
For the creators of “Monsters Among Us,” creating a safe, supportive place for fans to share their stories is critical to the show’s success. Each episode is built around a listener-provided account of alien abduction, ghost interactions, or an encounter with Bigfoot.
But it’s not always easy for someone to share such stories. “A lot of our listeners who call in have experienced something they can’t explain,” says the co-creator. “They tell someone they know, and that person is like, ‘you’re crazy.’ But when they come to ‘Monsters Among Us,’ they know our community and us, and we will never judge them.”
Empathy is one reason why there are now plenty of voicemails from listeners eager to share their experiences. Derek and Sarah’s work to build their community is the other.
“In the beginning, [Derek] struggled for stories,” Sarah says of the show’s early days. “He reached out to people he knows or friends of friends.” Then the team grew a following on the “MAU” Instagram page, which is now one of the show’s most active communities, Sarah says. But it was a Facebook feature that really got people involved early on.
“Derek started a private Facebook group with the help of a fan volunteer and grew it really well,” Sarah explains. “That group has like 10,000 people in it now, and we’re still growing it every day.” Even though Sarah says other parts of Facebook have become “kind of stagnant,” private groups are a place podcasters can still grow.”
Choose a subscription platform that’s easy for both you and your subscribers
- Place subscriber-only content on Spotify, so it’s in the same place listeners find your free episodes.
- Use Spotify for Podcasters to make content subscription-only with a single click.
The producers of both podcasts put in a lot of effort to create bonus content that attracts and delights subscribers. So they chose to publish their paid subscription content on Spotify to make that part of the process quick and easy.
“The way we do it is we make two versions of the show: the ad-free version and the regular version,” Sarah says about posting new content to Spotify for Podcasters: “So when I'm publishing a subscriber only episode I make sure to label it ad-free. But it's all extremely easy.”
With Spotify for Podcasters, Sarah can make any content available only to paying supporters by clicking the “Subscriber” checkmark next to the episode.
It’s also important to make it easy for fans to subscribe, Sarah says. One way to do that is to place your subscriber-only content on the same app where people find your free content. “If you listen to your podcast on Spotify, that's where you're going to subscribe, and that makes it very easy. So that’s extremely helpful.”
Sarah says another subscription platform she and Derek use “has a lot of bugs,” leading to listeners reporting glitches when they try to access “MAU” bonus content. Luckily, that’s something she hasn’t experienced with Spotify for Podcasters. “I haven't had any complaints or any questions from anybody using the Spotify for Podcasters subscription platform,” she says.
When it was time to offer subscriber-only content from “Sentimental Men,” Quincy said using a platform he was already familiar with made sense. “Spotify for Podcasters released the subscription option, and it just felt like the easiest way for us to test the waters,” he says. “Having our subscription situation wrapped into Spotify for Podcasters just made everything so much easier.”
Since creating great content should be the focus of podcasting, especially for people willing to support a show financially, a platform that’s easy to use is important to save time. “I feel like the mechanics of Spotify for Podcasters are really easy to grasp,” Quincy says. “I felt very taken care of while learning that process.”
Gate a variety of content types
- Experiment with multiple types of bonus content to see which motivates new subscriptions.
- Provide a variety of content—ad free, extended episodes, etc.—to add value for subscribers.
Once Kevin and Quincy decided to give listeners the chance to support their show through subscriptions, they had to decide what type of content to place behind a paid subscription gate. “It was like, what feels like a good value,” Quincy recalls. “But that’s also not going to create a world of extra work for us to keep up with.”
The balance they landed on was to offer a 15- to 20-minute bonus episode each month, plus early access to the rest of their content. The bonus episodes give subscribers something more personal than other listeners get. “We'll talk there a little bit more directly with them,” Quincy says. “We'll do Q&As there. It’s a little bit of a sneak peek behind the curtain—like they’ll find out who the next guests are early.”
Sarah says that a willingness to experiment with a variety of bonus content types can be a successful tactic for “MAU.” “The first [subscriber-only] episodes that we did were a different format than the show, and we weren’t seeing too much growth.” Then “MAU” started releasing a monthly bonus episode for subscribers that was the same format as the current show, and that took off.
The experiment taught Sarah and Derek that listeners wanted more of what they were used to. Besides bonus content, “MAU” gates ad-free versions of their standard episodes. More recently, they’ve begun adding 30 to 45 minutes of extended content onto their free episodes and offering those to subscribers, too. Since they don’t take as much effort as creating entirely new installments, they can publish those weekly.
Plug subscriber-only content creatively and consistently
- Your show may have multiple audiences, so find which social media platforms each uses and promote your paid subscription there often.
- Trade in-show ads and guest appearances with other podcasters to tap into ready-made audiences.
- Use your own podcast to promote by mentioning your paid subscription option in each episode
In the early days of releasing subscription content, Kevin said much of the “Sentimental Men” supporter growth came from an announcement message they added to the end of their regular episodes. Since then, Kevin and Quincy have built a vibrant funnel of new listeners from social media. It wasn’t as easy as throwing up a few posts about bonus content, though.
“Sentimental Men” may have a singular theme—the musical Wicked—but it has more than one type of listener. “We always kind of joke that our audience is really split in half, where it's millennials or high schoolers,” Quincy says.
Those distinct audiences often spend time on different social media platforms—so the podcasters do, too. Quincy says Instagram tends to be their main social hub, but many new listeners report learning about the show from two other apps.
“We have a really strong presence of drama club kids who listen to the podcast,” he explains. “So that's probably what pushes TikTok to be so prominent for us. But then, I think we do really well with a snarky audience that lives on Twitter.”
Knowing where your audience hangs out is important if you hope to successfully promote your show. So is knowing what you’ll post on those apps. Quincy and Kevin dialed that in through a little introspection. “Our audience is like us essentially, they trust our sensibilities,” Kevin says. “So whatever we think we like, it’s cool.”
The result is a mix of promotional posts: some are clips from performances they love, while others are related news stories. Many are just sound bites from the show itself, and the team has gotten really good at knowing which to pick. “Sometimes we’ll hang up with a guest we’re interviewing, and we’ll be like, ‘Oh, that moment when he said blah, blah, blah…that’s going to be huge on social,’” Kevin says.
Sarah and Derek use a similar strategy to promote “Monsters Among Us” on Instagram, where they have over 13,000 followers. They’ve also created a partnership with fellow podcasters to tap into new audiences. “[Derek] started becoming friendly with other paranormal podcasters he looked up to, and he would go on their shows,” Sarah says. They also do promo swaps with podcasts that have a similarly sized audience.
Even with the success of their other promotional efforts, it’s something creative they do in their free content that delivered many of their new subscriptions. At the end of each standard episode, they let a little bit of the extended, subscriber-only version play and then fade that out. Listeners not already subscribed get a little taste of what they’re missing, and if they want more, they subscribe.
Launch a podcast subscription with Spotify for Podcasters
Sarah’s advice for beginners is to offer episodes without host read ads for lower price that’s easy for listeners to afford “because a lot of loyal listeners want to support you, and they feel good supporting you.”
If you’re already publishing content on Spotify for Podcasters, take Sarah’s advice and create a paid subscription that offers an ad-free version of your show. Best of all, you’ll also get a list of subscriber emails, making it easy to engage with them and create the kind of community that leaves them happy to continue their support.
Offering a paid subscription is just one of the ways to monetize your podcast on Spotify for Podcasters while also enriching your listeners’ experience. You can become a Spotify for Podcasters ambassador and tell your audience what you love about the platform. You can tap into the Spotify Audience Network and include Automated ads to your show. And as your show gains a large listener base, we can pair you with brands that want to become a premium sponsor of your podcast. You keep creating amazing content and we’ll help you with the rest.