Recently I heard D. Grant Smith interview Kevin Kelly on episode 27 of the DIY Artist Route Podcast. Kevin Kelly is the person who wrote the article for Wired that inspired the much-repeated idea that you need 1000 True Fans to make a living with your work. D. Grant mentioned that Patreon was the personification – or siteification – of this principle. It was a place where people could give you a monthly income just because they were true fans.

1000 fans x $100/year = $100,000 income.

–The 1000 True Fans Formula

This got me thinking.

Which is the mark of a good podcast, so go subscribe to DIY Artist Route Podcast, especially if you are a musician.

Kevin actually said on the podcast that he didn’t come up with 1000 based on any experience, but rather by doing the math. What is a true fan? Someone willing to buy everything you produce or at least wants to support you so much they give you at $100 per year.

Let’s go do a little math of our own, shall we?

Patreon Podcasters Math

Since Patreon is what was mentioned, I decided to go see how well podcasters are doing on Patreon.

The truth is you should be doing multiple things to earn money from your podcast and not just Patreon. I’ve created a quick 1 page PDF that will give 9 Ways to Make Money with Your Podcast.

There is a really cool site called Graphtreon that provides a list of the top earners from Patreon. Go to their web page, and things look pretty good.

Top Patreon Creators January 3, 2017.

Top Patreon Creators January 3, 2017.

Right there at #1 is Kinda Funny and it says they are podcasters earning $378,552 a year. Not bad money in anyone’s book. They are also at #3 with another $300,000+ a year. Of course, if you dig a little deeper, you’ll see they are primarily video makers and game streamers, not audio podcasters.

But there is a “true” podcaster in the top 10, #5 the Chapo Trap House pulling in $372,930 a year.

Big Winners Vs The Common Man

These are the big winners, and if you’ve got a certain Rainman-like mind, you’ll see a problem with the 1000 True Fans idea. I’ll explain in a minute, but first follow me down a rabbit hole.

I support a podcast on Patreon. $10/month to the Tea & Jeopardy podcast. It’s an interesting interview podcast with a twist from Emma and Peter Newman. It’s been nominated for a Hugo twice, which is the highest award in literary Science Fiction fandom.

How much are they making a month? They should have lots of fans.

$429 per month. $5,148 a year.

Mmmm not exactly a living wage there. T&J is also way more labor intensive than mine or Aaron’s interview podcasts.

Here’s where I went into a freefall down the rabbit hole. Unfortunately, there’s no way on Graphtreon to search by category, so the only way to find podcasts was to search for “podcast”. But over the course a few hours one night I “randomly” picked 29 podcasts and gathered their stats into a spreadsheet. Then I did some calculations and such. I even color coded my work.

1000 True Fans on Patreon Calculations

1000 True Fans on Patreon Calculations

This ain’t data science, but the results were interesting.

Now back to you Rainman.

What Is A Patron Really Worth?

The big problem is how much a “True Fan” is really worth on Patreon.

They aren’t worth anywhere near $100/year.

My average was $4.88/month or $58.56 a year. If you had 1000 of them – which the vast majority of Patreon creators don’t – you’d only make about $58,000 a year.

I also wondered if the donations numbers were higher or lower depending on how many Patrons you had. Maybe you got more per Patron when your numbers were lower. Those making less than $100/month did make slightly more per Patron, but I’m not sure that is statistically significant at their subscriber levels. The $1,000-$10,000 group made the most per Patron, but not by much.

The age of the Patreon account – how many days it has existed – didn’t have much to do with it either. There were podcasts that had been around for years and still earned little and brand new creators earning thousands.

Using Graphtreon’s very cool stats page, the overall average payout is $5.62 per Patron per month. Also, there are only 207 creators of any type that have over 1000 true fans on Patreon.

The two big flaws in the Patron as True Fan theory are:

#1 A fan ain’t worth $100/year

#2 A 1000 Patrons is a very rare thing.

A couple of things to be said in conclusion.

Ron’s Take On 1000 True Fans

Kevin Kelly himself admits his theory isn’t based on experience or data. It’s a theory based on some quick math. My first thought was if you wanted to do the math it would be easier in my book to flip the numbers. A True Fan is someone willing to pay you $1000, or $83/month, and you only need 100 of them to make a six-figure income.

The updated 1000 True Fans article does consider all three values to be variables. Do you need to make $100,000/year? Can you get $100/year from your fans? Do you produce that much stuff? Do you need 1000 fans? Your situation varies and so should the formula.

The point of this article is this: You don’t need millions of fans. That view is out of a world where record companies, book publishers, radio syndicates and television networks get in the middle. Cutting out the middlemen means you need fewer fans.

Lastly there a lot of ways to make money with your podcast. Heck, money may not even be your goal, but if it is Patreon may not be the best place to pin all your hopes.

Patreon Podcaster Hack: You can set your Patreon up to pay “per creation”. I think this might increase monthly income because people might give less per item, but end up with a higher monthly total – assuming you deliver content multiple times a month.

Launch A Pod wants to help you build a podcast that lasts and reaches an audience. If you want to make money off it, we can show you how as well. You should sign up for one of our free webinars on Finding Your Audience. They are just 30 minutes long, and as always, we’ll give you action steps to make your podcast a reality.