Five months after walking away from his exclusive podcast deal with Spotify, Joe Budden is launching a membership business in partnership with Patreon.
The media personality is bringing his Joe Budden Network to the Patreon platform, giving fans of his show the option of becoming members for between $5 and $25 each month. People who support the network with a membership will receive exclusive bonus episodes of The Joe Budden Podcast, access to new content franchises, behind-the-scenes clips and the ability to tap into a members-only Discord community.
Budden is also forging a deeper relationship with Patreon, signing on to become the company’s head of creator equity, an advisory role that will see him help to develop new programs and initiatives to help compensate creators for their work.
Budden says the decision to launch a Patreon hinges on his belief that the creator-fan dynamic is moving into a model where people pay for the content that they want. “I don’t think I was in a place to request that of my audience sooner than today,” he tells THR. “Now that we’re able to provide more really worthwhile compelling content, now is the time to offer that to your audience and partner with a platform like Patreon to get that done.”
The relationship began last year as Budden’s partnership with Spotify was coming to an end. That when Patreon CEO Jack Conte says he reached out to Budden and his team last year as Budden’s partnership with Spotify was coming to an end. Over an hourlong call, Conte — a musician and former YouTube creator — realized that he and Budden both approached the experience of being artists in a similar way. “It felt like we were telling each other the same stories,” he says. “It became very clear over the course of that conversation that there was a system-level alignment there and we had a connection.”
It was because of that connection that Conte asked Budden to take on an advisory role within the company in exchange for equity. Both Conte and Budden say the exact framework of that role is still being worked out. “What does my job entail? I can’t really tell you today because the whole system is broken,” Budden says. “But I have a company that feels the same way, so when we think tank and come up with some things, I expect action plans to come of that.”
Budden has been hosting The Joe Budden Podcast since 2015, talking about everything from music to sports to pop culture with his friends. In 2018, he became one of the first creators to bring his show exclusively to Spotify, helping to drive his audience to begin using the service not just for music streaming but also podcast streaming.
But when his deal came up for renewal in 2020, Budden began to express dissatisfaction with the relationship. In an August podcast episode, one month before his contract was set to expire, he told his fans that the show would be leaving Spotify.
At issue, per Budden, was the size of his original deal. “I won’t get into numbers; I have NDAs everywhere,” Budden said in the Aug. 27 episode, adding that he was being “paid the least in my most valuable asset.” In a statement at the time, a Spotify spokesman said the company hoped to work out a deal with Budden. “As Joe referenced on his show, we made him a considerable offer — one that was significantly larger and many times the value of the existing agreement and reflective of the current market and size of his audience,” the reads the company’s statement. “Unfortunately, we could not come to terms and we respect his wishes to find a new home for his show.”
Five months removed, Budden says he learned a lot from that experience, including that he should do more to help mentor and develop up-and-coming podcasters. Through the Joe Budden Network, he now works with the shows See, The Thing Is… with hosts Bridget Kelly, Mandii B and Olivia Dope and Girl, I Guess with hosts Karen Civil and Ming Lee.
Today, The Joe Budden Podcast is the No. 1 music show on Apple’s podcast charts. “I’ve been independent for five months and it’s gone really well,” he says, adding that he makes sure he and his team are compensated well for their work.
Through Patreon, he will turn on another monetization engine. The company says over 200,000 creators are making money on its platform from over 6 million patrons, earning cumulatively more than $2 billion. (Patreon takes between 5 percent and 12 percent of a creator’s monthly income, depending on the partnership.) Other podcasts that already use Patreon to offer memberships to their fans include Crime Junkie, True Crime Obsessed and Dungeons and Daddies.
Conte says that many creators who use Patreon are able to build businesses from the funds they receive through memberships. Budden says his goal is to continue to grow the network thoughtfully over time. “I don’t want to just start mass producing things,” he says, hinting that he’s in talks to bring a few other shows on board. “It’s just an owner creating more owners, changing the way business is done, changing the way business is done, changing the way contracts look, changing the way that the business feels. That’s what my network is about.”