With advertisers charting a course through uncertain times and podcast listeners longing for a sense of community, starting a Patreon page can help foster that togetherness while also generating some useful income. Marc Haynes, host of Stakhanov’s Wrestle Me! podcast, discusses their recent decision to set up a Patreon page of their own, and how they’re connecting with their listenership.
Mainstream advertisers HATE wrestling. The King of Sports is a murky world full of death, drug abuse, sexual rivalry, dishonesty and men pretending to be undertakers. Ironically, a podcast about any one of those topics would immediately find sponsorship, but as soon as you introduce spandex to the mix, advertisers look the other way. That’s something you only discover when you’ve spent two years of your life doing a podcast about wrestling.
Wrestle Me! has always done decent numbers – we topped the iTunes Sports chart, GQ celebrated us, our live shows always sell out and our merchandise flies out the door. But Pete and I have never made any money from the podcast, largely because sophisticated advertisers place us in a similar category to podcasts about cock-fighting or dogging. They don’t want their precious products placed in our foul and disgusting wrestling-loving mouths.
After two years of producing weekly shows for a dedicated following and zero requests to voice anything for a bank, we decided the time was right to start a Patreon. Of course, the timing couldn’t have been any more wrong – it launched in the first week of an international pandemic, so people understandably had more on their minds than listening to us laughing at obscure wrestling from 30 years ago.
We made the decision to keep the regular weekly podcast free. We didn’t want to force people’s hands and wallets: if you didn’t sign up, you still got the usual show. I know, it’s basically like something Jesus would do if he had a podcast. But if you wanted another full-length show every week, then you could become one of our Pat Pattreonsons (it’s a pathetic pun on the long-retired grappler Pat Patterson, who happens to be one of the openly gay wrestlers in American history.)
Starting a Patreon is the ultimate test of whether people actually like your podcast enough to pay for it (let’s face it, Twitter praise is the equivalent of smiling sadly when you walk past a homeless man). Like stage-diving at a concert, Patreons end in one of two ways – either (a) people stretch their hands out, catch you and you ride a wave of communal enjoyment and love and joy, or (b) you jump, everyone quickly takes two steps back, and you land face-first on a hard floor, breaking your jaw in two, before the bouncers drag you out because you won’t stop screaming.
Happily, we didn’t break our jaws. On the first day, people signed up in their hundreds. By the second month, the number of Pat Patreonssons was even bigger than the month before and it grows day by day. While people enjoyed the extra shows, a lot of our listeners just wanted to show their support for a show they’d enjoyed since it started. And for us, it means the show’s future is now secure.
One of the reasons it’s succeeded is because Pete and I wanted our subscribers to feel they get more than we’d promised. We regularly chuck out surprise episodes, have a monthly newsletter (which is an actual magazine full of all-new stuff), and build proper relationships with our listeners. Everyone with a Patreon reels this line out, but we wanted to make it feel like a club. Our upcoming Patreon shows cover an event requested by the Patreonsons – the future of Wrestle Me! is being dictated by them as much as us.
The success of the Patreon means Wrestle Me! isn’t going to suddenly die any time soon. In that respect, we couldn’t be less like most of the wrestlers we love. Wrestle Me, Pod Bible!
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