Hands up who has heard of Patreon? Keep them up if you have a few Patreon subscription accounts? If Patreon is something new to you then think back to when you first heard about Spotfiy and how much of a part of your life it is now. Patreon is essentially the new digital subscription model that an increasing number of businesses and individuals are using to raise money by building up a community of ‘users’ who are happy to pay them a small chunk of money a month for the content or services they are providing. It is also the model that Richard Hemming and Olly Smith are now using for their successful ‘A Glass With’ podcast series. Here Hemming explains why Patreon could be the breakthrough business model of our times.
Subscriptions have long been the bed rock on which so many businesses rely on, but new digital models, like Patreon, are opening up the subscription world to anyone who has something to say that people want to listen to or watch.
Seventy-nine trillion dollars is up for grabs. That’s what the godfather of the subscription economy reckons, and he should know.
Bikes, film, music, software, cars – it has now become routine to pay a monthly fee to access a whole range of goods and services. Rather than owning things outright, we are increasingly accustomed to effectively renting them via subscription models.
For some wine retailers and producers, taking monthly payments in return for regular deliveries or first access to new-release bottles is nothing new. Furthermore, in the olden days people used to pay subscriptions to receive printed material about wine called ‘magazines’ delivered through something called the ‘postal service’.
Nowadays, services such as Patreon are opening the subscription economy to everyone – and this time, I should know.
Podcasting, Patreon, profit (and plugs)
Since 2017, I have produced a podcast in which host Olly Smith interviews a celebrity guest about their love of wine. Since you ask, it’s called A Glass With … and yes, it is absolutely free to listen.
Just over 50% of episodes are funded by sponsorship deals which bring in enough money to cover costs and keep the show going. But there’s an alternative model: a platform enabling exclusive, ad-free content to subscribers in return for a fixed monthly payment.
Patreon is the best-known example, and it has proved especially popular with musicians (such as Lloyd Cole featured on The Buyer here), who can connect directly to their fans and generate regular, reliable income at a time when live, in-person performances are impossible.
Can the same thing work for wine communicators?
Setting up a Patreon page is free (the platform takes a percentage of all incoming subscriptions), so there’s zero risk involved. There are dozens of wine-related podcasts on the platform, although the vast majority have fewer than 10 subscribers to their name. Long-running podcast, Wine For Normal People, seems to be leading the way with 576 patrons, generating somewhere between £650 and £1,500 a month, by my calculation.
What do you get in return?
Persuading patrons to sign-up requires offering something in return. Sometimes that can just be as simple as a message of thanks, but sustaining subscriptions at more than a few quid each month calls for greater rewards. Our answer to that is a fortnightly, in-depth conversation about wine issues aimed at professionals and engaged wine lovers, exclusively for subscribers.
However, conversion rates remain low. Patreon themselves estimate that for every 2,000 fans, you will only gain between one and 15 subscribers. Because the internet offers so much for free, we’ve become hugely reluctant to pay for anything – in wine communication as in all things.
Financial sustainability is, quite rightly, something that the whole wine industry is concerned about. Patreon offers an easy way for wine communicators to generate regular income and claim their portion of that 79 trillion dollars – in theory, at least.
- You can sign up to Richard Hemming MW and Olly Smith’s A Glass With Patreon subscription here.
- If you are using Patreon, or similar subscription model that is working for you and you would like to share your story to benefit others than contact Richard Siddle at firstname.lastname@example.org.