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After Nixing Spotify Pact, Joe Budden Launches Patreon Subscriptions and Joins as ‘Creator Equity’ Adviser

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Todd Spangler
·5 min read
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Joe Budden thinks he got shafted by Spotify on his podcast. Now he’s throwing in with Patreon, the platform built to let artists and creators support themselves through fan subscriptions — and Budden, a top podcaster and a prominent voice in the hip-hop community, has signed on to work with Patreon to promote its mission of fostering creative independence.

Looking to expand his media brand, Budden has launched the Joe Budden Network on Patreon, offering a range of bonus content and perks to subscribers on three different tiers (priced at $5, $10 and $25 per month). Budden also has joined Patreon in an advisory role as “head of creator equity,” a paid position in which he’ll collaborate with the company on pro-creator programs and policies.

After his acrimonious split with Spotify last year, “I spoke to everybody under the sun. I spoke to a lot of companies about the true value of things,” Budden told Variety.

Budden landed a phone call with Jack Conte, CEO of Patreon — and the two clicked. “We were aligned in our ideology and our view of things,” said Budden. “I walked away from those conversations with a good feeling. Having a platform like Patreon actually wanting to do right for creators, that was such an abnormal feeling — but it shouldn’t be.”

Conte, who cofounded Patreon in 2013 after he grew frustrated trying to eke out a living on YouTube as an indie musician, said he established the company precisely to give creators like Budden financial and creative freedom. “Tech companies pay creators the minimum they can get away with,” Conte said. “It’s not just Spotify, it’s YouTube, Google, Facebook and others. These platforms are paying creators a fraction of what they’re worth.”

Added Conte, “Joe and I share an anger and an unwillingness to put up with the BS of these distributors and the current infrastructure.”

Patreon offers three different packages for creators, with additional features and benefits at higher levels: Lite (with the company taking 5% of earnings), Pro (8%) and Premium (12%). Each of those is lower than the revenue-sharing splits virtually all other platforms take.

Members who join the new Joe Budden Network on Patreon (patreon.com/joebudden) will have access to a range of exclusive benefits. The entry-level Homies tier ($5/month) includes one bonus video podcast per month, priority notice on live events and access to a members-only chat community on Discord. Family ($10/month) steps that up to two bonus video podcasts per month plus merch discounts, patron-only polls and live event pre-sale codes. Friend of the Show ($25/month) includes all that plus new Joe Budden Network franchise content including behind-the-scenes content and episodes of a new show, “Journey.”

“We have so much more to say with the state of the world,” Budden said, beyond the regular twice-weekly podcasts with his friends Jamil “Mal” Clay and Rory Farrell. “This is for the fans who want more access.” Budden said he never considered putting everything behind a paywall: “I don’t believe you step off the porch and start asking for something from your audience.”

Budden, 40, took his podcast off Spotify last fall when his two-year contract was up; his last episode on the service was Sept. 19, 2020. Since then, he’s distributed “The Joe Budden Podcast with Rory & Mal” on Apple Podcasts, SoundCloud, Google and YouTube.

For its part, Spotify has said that the audio streamer made Budden “a considerable offer” that was “many times the value of the existing agreement and reflective of the current market and size of his audience.” In the end, Budden walked away, calling Spotify’s proposal a “bum-ass deal.”

More than three months later, Budden called his original Spotify exclusive pact “a great deal at the time” but that “the market changed.” “The relationship had run its course, if I’m being honest,” he said. “We were no longer aligned in our paths and interests. We weren’t valuing things the same way.”

Patreon is hoping that by recruiting Budden, it will attract more creators. More than 200,000 creators earn income on Patreon from a total of more than 6 million patrons, and the company has paid more than $2 billion to creators since its formation, according to Conte. Last September, the company announced $90 million in new funding, giving it a valuation of $1.2 billion.

“The financial model in the first 20 years of the web was turning it into a billboard,” said Conte. “That worked and it exploded. That was awesome for distribution. The trouble is, hundreds of years of payment models got left by the wayside and were forgotten.” The ad-supported internet content model, he argued, “comes with horrible tradeoffs around data, privacy, misinformation and human psychology.” Companies like Patreon, Netflix, Cameo and Substack are pushing the next phase “about solving the financials for creators. I am so pumped for that.”

In Budden’s role as an adviser, Conte said, “He’s going to help us be a megaphone for us about the gap between creator worth and value.” Besides acting as an ambassador for Patreon, Budden will provide input on what kinds of programs the company should launch.

Budden said he’s working with Patreon to address “everything that’s wrong with the monetization system for creators.” It’s an issue, he said, that’s “bigger than me, bigger than Jack, bigger than Patreon.”