Now you can ask your loyal fans to support your podcast by charging monthly fees through Spotify and Apple. And you can even receive 100% of the subscriber revenue for the first two years.

Here are three ways you might use this:

  • Keep your free podcast but also offer bonus subscriber-only content to paid subscribers. Want even more? Upgrade here and join our inner circle.
  • Launch an ad-free version of your show for paid subscribers. Want an ad-free experience? Sign up here.
  • Give paid subscribers earlier access to your podcasts. Want stock tips the moment I know about them instead of waiting until the next podcast? Sign up here.

Of course, you could also do a paid-only podcast without a free version. If you already have a name and reputation online, this might be a good choice. But if people don’t know you, you might want to offer a free version to introduce your show to people.

Here’s how these paid-subscription programs for podcast creators work:

Spotify is shaping up to be (almost) a podcaster’s dream: For the first two years, you will pay no creator fees on your paid subscribers. This means you get to keep 100% of the subscriber revenue minus the payment-transaction fees. In 2023, Spotify plans on taking a modest 5% cut of subscription revenue.

There’s also no exclusivity, meaning you’re not locked into terms. Spotify offers three subscription price tiers: $2.99, $4.99, and $7.99 per month.

Imagine if you have 1000 subscribers at just the first tier… it’s like publishing a paid newsletter or membership site without the hassle of creating a newsletter or membership site. Jump on your podcast, talk to your listeners and interview your guests… for many marketers, this is light years easier than most residual income models.

Now here’s what Apple is offering: Just like other App Store subscription purchases, Apple is keeping 30% of podcast subscription fees in the first year. Year two and beyond sees a drop to 15%.

And Apple also charges a $20 annual fee to use its podcast-subscription tools.

And unlike Spotify, Apple Podcast Subscriptions will be available only on Apple’s own podcast-listening apps.

More Stuff You Need to Know about…

…Spotify’s Paid Subscription Program

  • Last we checked, Spotify has a waitlist for producers to join the podcast subscription model.
  • Spotify’s subscription partner is Stripe, and podcasters will need to cover Stripe’s transactions fees.
  • Paid content on Spotify will be noted with a lock icon where you would normally see the play button.
  • To unlock the show, potential subscribers must navigate to the program’s dedicated Anchor landing webpage. Yup. Spotify will not have a big subscribe button at the top of each podcast page, and listeners cannot subscribe directly within the app. Obviously, this could make it more difficult for podcasters to sign up new subscribers (you knew there would be a catch, right?) There is a reason for this: Spotify doesn’t want to pay Apple for any subscriptions sold under its App Store terms.
  • Anchor hosting is free, and the plan is to keep it that way.
  • Podcasters can point listeners to the sign-up link from wherever they want – show notes, episode descriptions, bio, etc.
  • Subscribers can listen to paid podcasts inside Spotify and inside third-party apps through a private RSS feed.
  • IMPORTANT: Podcasters will NOT receive the names and email addresses of their paid subscribers. We’re told there is a strong possibility this will change in the future as Spotify wants to strengthen bonds between podcasters and listeners – we’ll see.
  • Content does NOT need to be exclusive to Spotify.
  • Having paid content built into Spotify will likely improve the odds of being found on Spotify. For example, if someone searches for a particular topic, Spotify has indicated they will prefer paid shows in the search results.
  • Spotify plans to eventually add an option for podcasters who already run a subscription business outside of Spotify to bring it into the app, but for now, they’re hush-hush on how it might work.

…Apple’s Paid Subscription Program

  • Apple’s subscription podcasts will allow listeners to subscribe right from within its app.
  • Content creators will have to pay Apple $19.99 per year to offer subscriptions. Apple will take 30% of revenue from each subscriber for the first year and 15% for the years following. Apple claims this is to incentivize podcasters to keep their subscribers around longer, although I don’t know of anyone trying to lose paid subscribers purposely.
  • Podcasters must upload subscription content through Apple, not through RSS and their hosting provider. Their regular feed can still operate through RSS.
  • Podcasters won’t receive the names, email addresses, or contact info of their paying subscribers because Apple owns this information. As far as I can tell, unlike Spotify, there are no plans to rectify this.
  • Apple has created a “Smart Play” button that allows listeners to automatically start shows from the newest episode or the beginning of the series. Listeners can also save and download individual episodes for offline playback.

Both Spotify and Apple could be seen as competition for Patreon. However, since Patreon charges up to 12% of subscription revenue, it’s unlikely Patreon users will switch over to Apple Podcasts exclusively.

For years Apple Podcasts was the king of podcast apps, mainly because it came preinstalled on iPhones. Then in 2019, Spotify set its sight on Apple’s market share, and now they are neck and neck, with 28.2 million people in the US listening to podcasts on Spotify compared to Apple Podcasts’ 28 million.

If these new offerings are any indication, I suspect the 0-5% fee on paid content will win over the 30/15% + $20 a year, but we’ll see what happens.

If you already have a podcast, I encourage you to explore the possibility of offering a paid version through either Spotify or Apple. Treat it as an experiment, and in six months, evaluate if it’s working for you.

Then again, if the main purpose of your podcast is to promote products and services, a paid version may not be what you need to reach as wide an audience as possible.

One last thought: 10,000 paid subscribers times $2.99 each, or even just 1000 subscribers times $4.99 or $7.99 is the kind of math I love.

How about you?


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