A membership model exists when customers make a commitment to a business in exchange for access or value. One example is subscriptions, which require individuals to pay a recurring fee to receive unlimited content or regular deliveries of product. Another case is loyalty programs, where the more purchases you make at a given brand, the more benefits you win. Bottle offers another kind of membership model: by allowing customers to sign up for regular communication from makers, they can then determine what goods they want to purchase, and when, in a more flexible capacity.

There are myriad ways in which a membership model can benefit creative individuals and small businesses, as well as the consumers that they serve. Most notably, memberships make it easy for professionals to develop recurring revenue streams while also building community.

Patreon is a platform that empowers all types of creators to offer a subscription service to their followers. From tailored access to community tiers that power fan engagement at various levels and exclusive content, here’s how Patreon uses memberships to power and monetize the creator-fan relationship.

Tailored Access

Sarah Owens is a professional baker, fermenter, and gardener based in California. She’s published three cookbooks: the James Beard award-winning Sourdough, Toast and Jam, and Heirloom. She’s also a creator on Patreon.

That means fans of her writing and recipes can support her work by becoming a patron. In turn, a $10 monthly membership grants them exclusive recipes—think emmer, flax, and coffee fudge brownies and spelt custard hearth loaves—short video tutorials, newsletter updates, and early access to workshops, plus personalized Zoom consultations and access to full-length video content for those who level up to $60 or $100/month.

Being on Patreon allows Sarah to supplement her income from cookbook sales, stay engaged in her work, and build a deeper connection with her audience, all while providing value through her rich knowledge of ancient ingredients, traditional preparations, and sustainable farming practices.

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Community Tiers

Food folks like Sarah aren’t the only types of creators using Patreon. The platform is home to podcasters, musicians, gamers, meme-makers, writers, non-profits, and more. Take Dead End Hip Hop, a multi-faceted media company that uses Patreon to strengthen their fanbase, for example.

While patrons who pay monthly membership fees of $1 or $2 receive rewards ranging from early-access album reviews to private playlists, those who invest the most are added to Dead End Hip Hop’s invite-only Facebook group and can participate in AMAs (read: Ask Me Anything) hosted on Patreon. This top-tier community is called “The DEHH Crew Level” and costs $5/month.

Dead End Hip Hop uses its membership profits towards production and recording costs. The recurring revenue also grants the DEHH team the financial flexibility to explore new projects, all aimed towards fueling their fanbase’s excitement for hip-hop content and culture.

Exclusive Content

Unless you’re supported by a network, it’s tough to make money on podcasts, since most podcast streaming platforms (Apple, Spotify, etc) are free. That’s why indie podcasters like Patreon; it allows them to fund their work and pay themselves by collecting membership fees from their most devoted listeners.

True Crime Obsessed, a comedy podcast that recaps true crime documentaries, is one of the most popular podcasts on Patreon. While regular episodes are free to listen to on all podcast streaming platforms, their truest fans become patrons so they can listen to bonus episodes.

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$5 a month grants listeners three-to-four full-length bonus episodes plus pre-sale access to live shows, $7 adds on two special “After Party” episodes and a set of TCO ringtones, and $10 delivers all of that plus a completely add-free listening experience.

Conclusion

Whether you’re a creator in need of a way to fund your work, an organization looking to expand your horizons, or a project that wants to go deeper, capitalizing on your most engaged followers is a surefire way to earn revenue while cultivating a more robust fanbase.

That’s why we think of Bottle as a membership platform. We want makers to be able to connect directly with their customers, sell to them on a personalized level, and create long-term relationships that benefit both parties.