Monetization comes for us all as Discord adds paywalls

Discord's server subscription feature is getting an update that makes it easier to monetize on the site. Is it a good thing?
23 June 2023

• Discord to launch server subscriptions.
• Paywalls will monetize certain parts of the service.
• Discord’s brand of subverting the norm in peril.

Discord is introducing new monetization features by expanding server subscriptions, a Patreon-like subscription button that’s been available on large servers since 2022. The site is introducing tiered subscriptions and longer-term plans to effectively turn servers into storefronts.

“Effectively storefronts” Discord server subscriptions. Via:

In December 2022, server subscriptions launched as a way for community leaders to make money directly on Discord “by providing exclusive experiences, available only for their paying subscribers.”

In a blog post titled “Server subscriptions just got super powered,” Derek Yang wrote that “To date, we’ve paid out millions of dollars to thousands of creators and communities, and we’re seeing more creators and communities earning on their Discord servers every day… Today we’re excited to share new tools that help you get started earning money faster.”

Discord server subscriptions – super powered?

This week, “media channels,” designed to host subscriber-only content, was launched in beta. The suggestion is that the feature could be used for “exclusive memes and wallpapers,” or that artists could monetize their work by putting it behind a paywall. This might sound familiar – it’s how Patreon functions already.

Yang says paywalled media channels are a way to “give your subscribers lavish insider content” in addition to what the server already offers for free.

Other monetization opportunitites on offer are:

  • Tier Templates: Formalized subscription tiers with prices set by Discord ($3.99, $4.99, $7.99, and $9.99)
  • Downloadables: One-time purchasable digital products or subscriptions sold by server owners, which will be accessed via…
  • Server Shops: “A single home for server owners to sell Server Subscriptions, Downloadables and Premium Roles.”


In the announcement, there’s a reminder that “not every opportunity to generate revenue needs to become a get-rich-quick” scheme. The emphasis is very much on “a little extra money to put back into making your community even better.”

Which is ironic, given Discord plans to take a 10% cut of server subscriptions which – call us pessimistic and cynical – is unlikely to go back into the community. By encouraging users to lock conversations behind paywalls, Discord is sharing tips to “convert people into paying customers.”

For PC Gamer, Morgan Park writes that the changes make him “miss the days when it felt like Discord was making Discord for [users].”

An exercise in pandering?

Discord is at heart a chat platform for groups to discuss common interests. It provides an easy way to talk with friends online, and servers are often used in a similar way to a group chat. However, Discord is increasingly pandering to large communities with the introduction of features like live stages and forum channels.

The issue is that the transition from user to consumer is tricky, especially in terms of what it means for a moderator. They’ll be given free rein to paywall individual functions of a server, as Discord doesn’t plan to police what server owners charge.

Yang draws attention to Valorant streamer Woohoojin’s Club Banana server as a successful Discord community funded by subscriptions.

Woohoojin, who makes over $16,000 every month from Discord subscriptions, hands out free subscriptions to regular viewers and only asks viewers to give him money if “they have lots of it.”

The story isn’t new: over the last decade, tech companies have begun revoking the subsidized products that garnered enough attention to gain a monopoly before slamming user fees up and cashing out (see Netflix clampdowns on password sharing or the whole thing with Twitter Blue).

What’s different here is that Discord has built a userbase by subverting the norm. It didn’t inundate users with ads or add a feature trying to replicate the success of other platforms (Instagram Reels will never be TikTok!), but everyone’s got to make money somehow.

Some of them will now use Discord to do it.