The podcasting industry’s growth has been well-documented, from audience to advertiser to creator reports showing us the changes year over year and how, undeniably, podcasts have become a new go-to medium of entertainment and education. And still have lots of room to grow! As noted in SXM Media Group’s 2022 Podcast Trends report, “An estimated 177M people in the US will have ever listened to a podcast in 2022… That’s millions of potential consumers that have yet to fall in love with podcasts like we have."
In the oncoming new growth of podcasting comes the question of how to support your favorite independent podcast. Like in many entertainment mediums, the indie creator is going to struggle more with securing funding in order to make their art in a supportive and feasible manner. So, this Giving Tuesday, we’re here to help you find ways to support your favorite podcasts.
If you're having trouble figuring out where to put your money, you can reach out to creators to ask them “hey, I’d love to support you [in X fashion] – is there a way for me to do that?” As always, be polite and don’t create a burden out of your question; if they don’t currently have a way for you to do that, don’t pressure them into making one. Just shift to non-financial modes of support! Non-financial support can often indirectly lead to financial support from other sectors, and we’ll include some of those here too for whatever situation you may find yourself in.
Patreon, Ko-Fi, and other subscription-based funding
These are the most common ways to support a podcast: signing up to their Patreon. Some podcasts have started using Ko-Fi Gold, which enables people to set up membership fees (which act like a regular donation), sell commissions and shop items, and create exclusive posts and awards to folks who sign up there. For instance, Tin Can Audio, the producers behind The Tower which we reviewed earlier this year, has a $1 a month membership option via Ko-Fi. Some podcasts and studios also have membership models that are hosted via their own websites, usually using another service they’ve joined or a company that has partnered with them.
A one-time donation means more than you know! For independent podcasts, every little bit counts. Even if you can only give five dollars every couple of months, it adds up if more and more people are doing it (and is why indie artists are quick to defend the crucial $1 a month members on their Patreons!). It also can be a great complement to a supportive message: “Hey, I have heard what you are doing and I think it’s great. Here’s $25 I want you to have, so that I can help you keep doing it, even a little.” This is a great option to ask podcasters to include on their support pages on their website via a PayPal, Ko-Fi, or similar if at all possible.
Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and Seed & Spark
Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and Seed & Spark – and other similar one-time crowdfunding events – are an important cornerstone of the indie artist arena. Blessedly, the market isn’t monopolized by Kickstarter anymore, giving creators a lot more options as to audience, fee structures, all-or-nothing or flexible funding, and more. In fact, Seed & Spark are growing rapidly in the podcast crowdfunding arena – the Re: Dracula podcast crowdfund recently had an incredibly successful event for their 2023 project, raising over $25,000. At Seed & Spark, you can even earmark your donation to go towards a specific item on a podcaster’s “wishlist”. Learn about all the different places to support podcast crowdfunds so that you can track where creators are going.
Direct creator contributions
Sometimes a podcast won’t have a donation method because it’s a hobby or a passion project by a solo creator or a very small number of people, but the creator(s) might have things like a personal PayPal or Venmo that they use publicly to ask for donations, or even a public wishlist. See if your favorite indie podcaster has those options – buying an item or paying part of the cost of an item off their wishlist is a great way to make sure they’re using the quality tech and materials that they need, and sending contributions directly helps them do things like pay rent, buy groceries, and keep the heat on. Those are all necessary things for continuing to create art! Often, society forgets that artists are a crucial part of our existence, that they help us express ourselves and explore our emotional and mental landscapes (which capitalism likes to pretend don’t exist). Your indie podcasters are people too, and for them to make the content you love, they need to pay the bills.
Regularly check who your money is supporting
Artist crowdfunding and memberships that are run by people of color, especially Black and Indigenous folks, often get the least amount of funding and support from the industry at large. (This is true across mediums!) If you care about supporting the growth of an equitably diverse industry, do regular, honest audits about where your money is going. Don’t be scared to look at it and realize “for someone who says they want more Black podcasters, I sure don’t give a lot of financial support to any.” It’s just a place where you can switch gears and improve your habits so that they align with your ethics. I’ve done it, my friends and colleagues have done it, and you can do it too.
Don’t get mad about ads
What happens if you don’t have the money to spare? At the very least, don’t complain about the ads – advertising is one of the major reliable methods for independent podcasters to make the money they need to do the aforementioned buying groceries, paying rent, and keeping the heat on. If you complain about the existence of ads, you’re complaining about an artist getting paid to make the content you’re (likely, with few exceptions) consuming for free. Artists need to eat!
If you do have the money to spare and you’re on the hunt for something a podcast you listen to has had ads for, check to see if they have an active code or link that tracks back to them. You can get a discount, and podcasters get better pay, renewed advertising contracts, and potential options for different forms of funding depending on their success rate.
(It is entirely different to provide reasonable critique to a podcast about what ads they’re choosing to run; that’s about ethical financial spending and partnerships! Additionally, with dynamic ad insertion and how ad categories work in several places, podcasters may not even know what ads get included in the category batches they’ve approved until after the episode publishes. Letting a podcaster know "hey, did you mean to have this ad for an oil company in your environmentalist podcast?" helps podcasters!)
Sign up for the podcast or podcaster’s newsletter so you can get insight into their work, updates about the podcast, announcements for future events, and who knows what else – people stick all kinds of interesting tidbits into their newsletters. This money-free option helps podcasters too – they can use this to offer supportive audience numbers and a different format to potential funders or advertisers. Securing future funding depends heavily on the data and statistics that independent podcasters can bring with them in their pitch decks. Some podcasters may even offer a lead magnet, a special freebie you can only get by signing up like a short story, a cookbook, a lore dump, RPG modules, or a relevant essay.
Ratings & Reviews
If you’re strapped for cash and also for inbox space, the most important thing you can do is tell a podcaster you love their podcast. Artists need to keep the heat on financially and also emotionally; making art when you’re depressed, isolated, or stressed gets harder when you don’t have a positive feedback loop. Leaving ratings and reviews on places like Apple Podcasts does not impact a podcaster’s placement in the charts, as Apple has stated, but it helps do other important things: bolster creators to keep making their art, encourage potential listeners to press play, and provide positive commentary to show potential funders.
Never underestimate the power of an accidentally well-timed compliment and five-star rating – even if you listen to this podcaster every day in your ears, you have very little idea of what their life is like and what stressors they’re dealing with at the moment, and just maybe your little review will shine a light they desperately need. Additionally, your review in a podcast app, on social media, or in a quick email with no expectation of a reply can help flesh out a podcaster’s pitch deck or website, to demonstrate “here’s why audiences like the show and want to continue to engage with it” when seeking funding. It can all come together in the end that way!
There are so many things audience members can give to independent podcasters this Giving Tuesday – make a pledge to one of them, and let us know what it is by tagging @Simplecast on Twitter and using the #GivingTuesday tag!
Independent podcasters made this industry – we wouldn’t have it without them. Let’s make sure they can not just keep the lights on, but thrive as we witness another period of growth.