An Indie Audio Maker’s Manifesto

We’re living through an era of social and political tumult, when civic discourse is breaking down and the founding notions of democracy are being challenged. In times like these, it’s more important than ever that citizens have access to a rich media sphere filled with independent voices who can remind us what democracy is for. […]

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

Commercial success is not the only kind of success. Sometimes art is so good it deserves to exist in the world, whether or not there’s a buyer for it in the traditional marketplace. Erica Heilman, the creator and host of the Hub & Spoke show Rumble Strip, spent eight months reporting and editing “Finn and the Bell,” a 34-minute episode showing how the suicide of 17-year-old Vermont native Finn Rooney affected his family and his community. That’s the kind of time investment—not to mention emotional investment—that Erica would never have been allowed to make if she’d been working for a public media station or a commercial podcasting studio. […] But even artists need to eat. Independent audio makers have grocery bills and kids and cars and rent and mortgages like everyone else. To keep making and marketing our shows, we need to get creative—both in the paying work we do, and in the company we keep.

I really enjoyed this article as it’s an honest discussion of something we all find important: [Nearly?] everyone here in PodComm is measuring success not by revenue, and yet we do need to pay bills.

Eric Nuzum has pointed out that at the average podcast advertising rate of about $23 per thousand impressions, a show needs to hit the 200,000-downloads-per-month threshold to cover the cost of one salaried producer. Just one. And let’s be honest: in a world where 99 percent of all podcasts have fewer than5,000 listeners, even that level counts as massive success.

That’s a good summary of why I’ve fully given up on the idea of monetizing any my podcasts. To be clear, I’m talking about specifically monetizing the audio—the podcast itself. All three of my current shows are free-to-listen and I do not say (in them, or in the episodes’ notes) “please support this show.” Because there’s no way it’s going to pay enough.

Instead, I’m focused on making my podcast shows be a piece of something else. For example:

  • My daily quotes podcast is part of a larger effort; I collect quotes, publish them on my blog, and for-pay people can get the quotes as a daily email.
  • For Movers Mindset I’ve begun moving all the transcripts and the large, deep, not-free-to-create, episode-notes behind a Patreon pay-wall.
  • For the Podcaster Community show it’s paid for by the @supporters who pay for everything that makes this community possible (including the small overhead to record and host the show.)

The obvious problem though is that all those other things take more of my time above and beyond creating the podcasts. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ I simply do my best to keep things organized, and systematic, so that I can keep everything going… to enable me to create the podcasts I love creating.



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