It’s never been easier to start a podcast. More people are switched on to them than they’ve ever been, audiences are growing exponentially, and the barriers to entry are low and easily overcome. But what if you’re looking to make a living from podcasting? Perhaps you’ve been operating one for a little while, and fancy making a hobby into a career. How do you do that?
In this article, we’ve put together eight great tips on how to make money from podcasting. From basic tips like making sure you sound as good as you can, through to some of the avenues open to you when you’re looking to monetize an existing show.
It’s important to recognise building an audience, and then making money from it, isn’t an easy or quick process. If you have a fresh concept and are willing to put the time in, then it can absolutely be done. Here are some tips to get you started.
1. Gear up to sound great
As a music technology platform you’d expect us to focus on the gear you’ll need, but with podcasting the ‘rules’ are a bit different. It’s entirely possible - and in some cases desirable - to launch your empire using little more than a laptop and a podcasting microphone. Modern USB mics like the Shure MV7 deliver exceptional results and automate the technical process to a point where you don’t even need to worry about it. Pair the mic with a decent set of studio headphones, like the Sennheiser HD 25, and maybe a dedicated podcast mixer, and you’re in business.
For publishing, there are plenty of great services which enable you to upload your finished pods and get them out to the world. We’ve had great results using Cleanfeed, where everything is taken care of within a familiar browser environment, and the audio quality is fantastic. There’s even a free version for anyone starting out.
2. Get good
In the same way as you practice an instrument, or hone your production and mixing abilities, spend the time mastering your craft. There are always techniques you can improve on, whether it’s recording audio from multiple sources, cleaning sub-optimal recordings or creating and integrating extra audio like jingles or music beds into your setup. The more you do it, the better you’ll get. Listeners can tell when a producer and/or host has skill, and it’s those podcasts that tend to perform better in the long run. Listen to some of our favourite music podcasts for some inspiration.
3. Build an audience
We’ve included this as a tip, even though there are no hard and fast rules on how exactly you do this. For the vast majority, time and consistency will be the biggest factors in audience growth. Releasing new episodes with a degree of regularity, and ensuring the content meets the needs of your audience and gives them a reason to continue listening will help you grow organically. We all wish there was a more scientific way to grow an audience, but there’s no substitute for quality, consistency and a great idea. Get those elements nailed down and you give yourself the best chance of growing as a channel.
4. Seek out sponsorship
Assuming your pod is up and running, and you’ve settled into a nice rhythm of releasing new episodes, and you’ve even started growing an audience, the question is how do you start making money? Sponsorships are among the most common ways a podcast will earn its money. From simple pre-agreed mentions of a product or service to pre and post-roll adverts, there are lots of ways you can work creatively with an advertiser to earn cash. The trick is to find advertisers who match your theme, and who your audience may find interesting.
Realistically, you’ll need a certain level of audience before sponsors will consider using you to promote their services, although it’s not uncommon for niche podcasts to partner with similarly niche brands in order to find a solution that works for both parties.
In terms of the revenues you could make, these tend to operate on a ‘cost per mille’ basis which equates to an amount of money per thousands subscribers you have. The larger the audience, the more you’ll earn.
5. Work with affiliate partners
In the online world today, affiliate marketing is an established method of earning cash for promoting an advertiser’s wares. In basic terms, affiliate marketing means you, as the publisher, directing listeners towards a place where they can buy a product or service. If the users then complete the purchase, the podcaster will earn a small percentage of the amount paid. You’ve probably heard it; often there will be a special code or direct URL to take you to the store front. Audible, owned by Amazon, operate one of the largest affiliate networks and its program is simple to sign up for.
6. Create merch
Merchandise is one of the more traditional extra revenue streams to consider but does require a certain level of audience to make it viable. It’s a well-trodden path and can be cost-effective, with lots of scope for creativity. We’ve seen the usual merch staples, like t-shirts, stickers and mugs work well, but for musicians there are plenty of other interesting options, including guitar picks, drumsticks and basically any other peripheral you can stick a logo on. The beauty of merch is that it helps strengthen your individual brand and turns the wearer/user of said merch into an unofficial ambassador, spreading the word and helping you grow.
7. Learn to diversify
Relying on one thing as a source of income can be a dangerous path; all it would take would be for the platform on which you publish to issue you a ban - for whatever reason - and your main stream of income would disappear. To mitigate this, it’s worth looking for ways to spread your eggs across many baskets. One popular method involves offering your expertise or knowledge in the form of online learning. Lots of music YouTubers, like Andrew Huang and Rachel K Collier, offer online courses to help people level up their production game, and the process isn’t a million miles away from creating a vlog or a podcast. Think of the podcast as the mainstay of your growing empire, but always look for ways in which you can supplement your income without straying too far from the main theme.
8. Direct support
The final tip on how to make money from a podcast covers the emerging platform of receiving direct support from your fans. As record sales drop and streaming incomes continue to verge on the laughable, many content creators are now using sites like Patreon to create a direct link between themselves and their supporters. The typical model involves a fan signing up as a ‘member’, for a low monthly fee, and in return receiving unique access to certain content and other perks. This could be extended versions of podcasts, or the ability to hear them before they’re published to the wider world.
If you take away anything from this article, it should be the lesson that there are many, many ways you can make money from podcasting that go alongside the podcast itself. If you’re at the start of your journey, consider first what you’ll need to do to build an audience because without one, your chances of earning a living from it are pretty low. For more established pod owners, keep in mind that the podcast itself is just one part of your brand and it’s worth mapping out the ways in which you can grow it - and yourself - to take that next step.