My name is Gavin, and this is the part where I get all introspective-y about what I spend a lot of my week doing: podcasting.
Flash back to 2013(ish). I’m still living with my parents and it’s our second year living in a house with about an acre’s worth of mow-able lawn. Due to the decisions of some asshole in 1890 who wanted to put a house with a front lawn that sharply descended down to a main thoroughfare at a 45 degree angle, some fat kid 123 years later would have to precariously push a future-machine back and forth across it to make sure the grass wasn’t an inch too high to be socially acceptable.
I spent a lot of time out there. So much so I made one of the best purchasing decisions of my life and picked up an iPod nano from a shady Facebook seller and got into listening to podcasts. The Alton Browncast, Judge John Hodgman, The Thrilling Adventure Hour, Welcome to Night Vale, I was practically drowning in this new medium I’d never experienced before. By the time I moved out in 2017 I’d accrued 60+ podcast subscriptions and an addiction to Audible (which I unfortunately signed up for using an offer code for a podcast I now find aggressively dull).
Around that time I was getting used to owning a somewhat decently powered computer I’d built using money the government gave me for 1: being from a poor family and 2: keeping a GPA high enough they assumed I was going to take more than 4 classes a semester. In those salad days I adopted the same delusion a lot of privileged young adults had at the time: “People say I’m funny… I should record and upload video game footage to YouTube!”
It’s not that I necessarily regret the YouTube phase, I met a lot of fun people and got to feed my odd love of editing. There are a handful of videos on my old channel that I’m genuinely proud of and occasionally re-watch to bathe in a flood of nostalgia. Then I remember how I wasted hours trawling Reddit trying to find the next hot indie game dev and politely solicit them for review copies just in case their game was the next Minecraft and I was the first person to put out a stupid highly-edited Let’s Play of their content. While I wasn’t trying to be come the next [insert YouTuber who hasn’t been outed as a piece of shit yet], I wish I’d spent more time engaging with others, more collaborative projects.
From the ashes of that eventually abandoned YouTube experiment I was left with one important thing: A condenser microphone that didn’t suck, and a subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud that I’d been tricked into by a graphic design class that I ended up learning nothing from besides where to legally get stock photos for free (worth the price of admission). With a decent microphone and a $40 monthly commitment to Adobe, I decided to finally try and make a podcast I wanted to hear.
Balancing a $60 microphone on a piece of wood sat on my office chair as a makeshift table, a roommate and I recorded the first episode of what would become The Red Light Library, a sex-positive yet irreverent podcast reviewing sub-100 page erotica we found for sale online. The first episode featured us discussing a 12 page erotica titled Snowballin: I Fucked Frosty, a rip-roaring tale about a woman with an asshole jock boyfriend (who also is really into marathoning Star Trek: Deep Space Nine?) who talks her into boinking on the front lawn, then leaving her unfulfilled next to an anatomically correct snowman.
Given the title, I’m guessing you can figure out where things go from there.
This is probably my biggest mistake as a podcaster. I dearly love producing the RLL, I really do. When we launched I even had such high hopes I had us meld audio drama and non-fiction podcasting into one fluid entity. We reviewed real-world stories but Jackie and I were librarians in a wacky erotica-only library just off main street of your town. We exploited a loophole in the city council’s funding to stay afloat for years. I had the beginnings of a long-term plot sketched out.
I did between-episode segments that were basically stupid library jokes/puns put through a radio filter to sound like they were announcements over the library’s PA system (“The expansion/inflation fetish seminar has been re-located to the annex due to an unforseen need for more space”). Patreon supporters got a weekly in-fiction newsletter about goings-on in our insane pornographic library, including a running gag in which my hatred of 50 Shades of Grey was expressed with my solving various simple problems around the library by “accidentally” destroying copies of the god-awful trilogy (fashioning door stops, kindling for the furnace, papier-mâché to repair a hole in a wall).
I was having fun, my immediate friend group were supportive, if not eager to get involved. Unfortunately there’s one big overarching problem with the entire concept of the Red Light Library: it’s an erotica review series. As interested as people can get when told the concept, it’s incredibly difficult to get people hearing that concept. Who wants to openly share on their “real” Twitter or Facebook account “hey, I listen to this show that reviews porn.”
No self-respecting social media platform outside of Reddit would take my money for ads. The majority of my advertising campaign was casually mentioning the show on /r/podcasts whenever relevant to the conversation and attempting to establish some Twitter street cred.
Despite steadily growing download statistics and the occasional thankful tweet from authors happy we’d reviewed some of their more obscure works, things started to drag. I slowly lost interest in putting weekly effort into writing the fictional sides of the RLL if nobody seemed to care, so I stopped. Nobody cared about the Patreon-exclusive show where Jackie and I played adult text adventure games while drunk, so I stopped making that. After a year of producing the show I had a moment when I looked up to hear my significant other say “It looks like you’re not enjoying this anymore.”
And… she was right. It still felt good to get an episode of the RLL uploaded, but in a “well that’s that bill paid off” way. I had a period of two-ish weeks where every episode had something wrong with it (sub-par audio, unenthusiastic hosts, nothing of any real comedic value said). A scary number of my social interactions with close friends had boiled down to “How’s it going? Wanna do the podcast again soon?” I reached a point where producing my show felt like a job that I was paying for the privilege of working.
Two important things can be attributed to my second wind: the MBMBAMino podcasters group on Facebook and meeting Wil Williams.
The former is a congregation of fans of My Brother, My Brother, and Me who also happen to be podcasters looking to engaging in fun collaborative projects with fellow MBMBAM nerds. The latter is an incredibly talented person writing about podcasts and fighting the good fight on social media promoting good series and good business strategies for growing shows (press kits, actual websites, creative show concepts).
Because of the MBMBAMino group I’ve discovered several awesome podcasts like Magic Folk and made a new group of similarly podcast-obsessed friends. By virtue of an almost one-off post I met the amazing Beth Lindly of the podcast Buffy Speak and we now produce a goofy little podcast going through each episode of Gravity Falls called The Fourth Journal.
Shortly following the formation of Beth’s show, Wil and I began making progress on producing a podcast about podcasts I pitched back in January, an idea that would eventually blossom into Tuned In, Dialed Up.
Oh, and for mental health and budgetary reasons (e.g: I ran out of government funding and refuse to take out loans for a relatively worthless degree I started when I was 4 years younger and far more pie-in-the-sky than I am now) I dropped out of college. Well, dropped out is a strong word. One has to fill out a specific form to completely drop during a semester and talk to the head of a certain department, which in my case is the teacher of the class I was still in that, when asked if I was having any problems, I said “I’m perfectly fine.”
Stress is fun!
Now I find myself at an interesting moment in my life. I’m living with the person I’m pretty sure I’m going to spend my life with, I’m surrounding myself with a group of friends (both physical and digital) that I love, and I have a… unique employment setup.
You see, I work for a company that requires me to do two things: drive a lot and work weekends. Except for the occasional bonus shift I work two or three days a week for more per-hour pay then I’ve ever made in my life. It’s nothing insane in the end, I pull down enough ours to pay the bills and take the beloved out to a fancy dinner or two every month. But, what’s insane is with no school and a relatively stable work environment I have 3-4 days a week free to just do… whatever. This isn’t a situation most people are afforded and I want to take full advantage of this while it lasts.
So, here I am. This is my summer to make or break it, I’m putting my all into podcasting and seeing what comes out the other side. Perhaps it won’t work, perhaps branching out and being more a part of the community isn’t enough, it’s very likely I’ll be walking into a local grocery store come winter to apply for something that will take up all of those four free days and return the favor with a paycheck.
But something deep down inside me wants to believe that there’s a chance, however small, that this becomes more than just a hobby. As a sensible adult I know it’d be foolish to hang my hat on that, and as “a creative” I know that even if I hang my cans up at the end of 2018 it’ll have been a hell of a ride… but… maybe. Just maybe?
Thanks for sticking with me through 1700 words of self-reflection. If you wanna find me online, I’m @ThePodReport on Twitter. If you’d like to support what I do financially we have a TIDU merch store on TeePublic and you can shoot me a few bucks over Ko-fi. I have a Patreon but it’s quite vague in its setup currently 😦
Now, if you’ll excuse me, my SO is finishing up an episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race in the other room and I’m going to go bug her.