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Models for Structuring Paid Membership Communities

A lot of people are finding creative ways to monetize their communities these days. One common method is using a membership/subscription model with various tiers. Let's take a look at a few examples and how they're doing it.

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Mr. and Mrs. Adventure

This couple spent years traveling around in a van and making YouTube videos.

Now they're building a house and a life in Portugal.

They have a Patreon community that they rely on for some support.

Here's what their subscription model looks like:

So, their Patreon model involves charging per video.

I just took a look, and they posted 10 videos in the past 30 days.

So a Level 1 member paid $30 for the past month, a Level 2 member $50, and a Level 3 member $200.

It appears that they posted about the same number of videos on Youtube in that time period, and they don't appear to be the same videos used on Patreon.

Patreon reports that they have 70 paid members.

So, at a minimum they are earning $2100/mo. from their Patreon (minus the 8-12% fees that Patreon takes out).

Incentives Offered:

  • prioritized response to comments & questions
  • gratitude
  • personalized postcard
  • exclusive stickers

(See their remarkable writeup about Hurricane Ian's devastating impact on their family home in Ft. Myer's Beach, Florida.)

Jeff Tweedy

Let's look at another example.

Jeff Tweedy, lead singer of the popular band Wilco, has a Substack account with various musings and exclusive recordings.

Here's his pricing model:

I don't know how many paid subscribers he has, but Substack reports that he has 99,000+ followers.

Incentives Offered:

  • new music
  • audio check-ins
  • access to full archive
  • annual discount
  • surprise physical mailings

Casey Newton

Here's another example.

Casey Newton, host of the podcast Hard Fork, has a Substack newsletter called Platformer that has 171,000+ followers.

Here's how he does his pricing for that:

Incentives Offered:

  • free accounts only get one weekly article
  • paid subscribers get three articles per week, plus archive access
  • access to Discord channel
  • annual discount
  • sponsoring of additional subscriptions for those in need

P.J. Vogt

The host of one of my favorite podcasts, Search Engine, P.J. Vogt has over 18,000 subscribers to his Substack newsletter.

Here's what his subscription model looks like:

Incentives Offered:

  • satisfaction that you are supporting fun and strange experiments
  • invitations to quarterly Zoom meetings
  • annual discount
  • voice memo recordings

Sailing SV Delos

These guys sail around the world and document their adventures.

I'm not sure how many paid Patreon members they have, but here is their subscription model:

Incentives Offered:

  • ad-free content
  • direct messages with crew
  • live stream access
  • early access to episodes
  • Facebook group membership
  • free gear
  • limited edition gear and discounts
  • patron-only meetups

Bram Adams

It's no secret I'm a big fan of Bram Adams.

His site was extremely influential on me as I was beginning this blog, and in fact it inherited a lot from the look and structure of his site.

I think his blog is brilliant, and he's been very kind and generous with my questions.

Here's how he's approaching his subscription tiers:

Incentives Offered:

  • weekly newsletter
  • satisfaction of supporting the site
  • archive access
  • additional invocations on the Discord bot

Chad Crouch

Incentives Offered:

  • subscriber-only posts and full archive
  • post comments
  • annual discount

Matt and Shane's Secret Podcast

I'm including these guys because they are known to be one of the top earners on Patreon.

They have 76,232 paid members (!) and it's estimated that they are making between $215-513k per month on Patreon according to graphtreon.

I'd never heard of them before, but they have 367,000 subscribers to their YouTube channel.

Apparently they are two Philadelphia-based comedians and they have banter that people love.

Here's how they approach their membership tiers:


Incentives Offered:

  • access to "secret teachings", which seems to be tongue-in-cheek
  • I don't even see anything else!
  • These guys are clearly doing something right, but it's not immediately evident what that is

Note to self: their podcast appears to be hosted on

Chances with Wolves

Here's a real interesting case.

These guys do a radio show and have built a Patreon and a business model around that.

I'll have to do a more in-depth writeup about Chances with Wolves.

Incentives offered:

  • radio show with downloads (question: are these available otherwise?)
  • access to additional private podcast
  • additional music mixes
  • bonus content
  • custom cassette mix mailed to you each month

Sarma Melngailis

The subject of a Netflix series called Bad Vegan, Sarma Melngailis has cultivated a following on social media and is monetizing it via a Patreon community.

Incentives offered:

  • regular emails
  • patron-only q&a's
  • handwritten thank you card
  • live Zoom meet ups
  • book draft excerpts
  • extra YouTube content
  • stickers

The Small Bow

A Substack newsletter with over 12,000 subscribers that publishes essays about sobriety and recovery.

Incentives Offered:

  • Tuesday and Friday newsletter (free)
  • Sunday essay
  • access to full archive
  • breakdown of personal recovery journal
  • post comments and join the community
  • recommendations on daily readers, poems, discounted merch, and illustrations
  • a personalized letter at the end of the year

I'll keep adding examples as I come across them.

I think it's interesting to see the different ways people are finding to structure these.

monetizing subscribersmr and mrs adventurepatreonsubstackjeff tweedycasey newtonpj vogtsailing sv delosbram adamschad crouchmatt and shanes secret podcast


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