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Music has always been a major part of my life. I feel like nobody ever stood still, they were always dancing or singing. My parents introduced me to the vast world of music at an early age. The Beatles. The Eagles. Peter Tosh. The Grateful Dead. Bruce Springstein. My brothers opened my eyes to early Rap music. KRS One. NWA. Ice T and Grandmaster Flash, and later they brought me into the Punk Rock scene. Face to Face. Flogging Molly. Dashboard Confessional and Alkaline Trio.
While in high school, I learned how to make digital music in programs like Reason and Sonar. Between my Junior and Senior year, I hung out with some older kids, producing beats and meekly rapping over them under the nickname “Elvis Freshley.” I saved up money to buy a new laptop and a mixer. I built a recording studio in my bedroom out of drywall and plexiglass, and for my senior exhibition, our year long research project, I examined the music industry and started my own record label: Prolific Records, the basis for what would later become KMD Music.
I earned my Bachelors of Art in Music at St. Lawrence University. More specifically, I really should have gotten a B.A. in Ethnomusicology or Music Production because I can’t play an actual instrument. I can do a little sight singing, but in order to graduate, I was required to participate in two performance bands: so I played the “conga” in the Rhythm & Roots band and smashed on a trash can with a toilet plunger in a “Stomp”esque ensemble. Maybe they were embarrassed for me?
In one my music production classes, I was the lead on a class project to record and present a radio show to play on the school radio network. We could do anything we wanted, as long as we demonstrated our newfound knowledge of the recording arts. I went searching and discovered an old radio-play from the 1930s about an expedition to find and capture Bigfoot. Our class would read the parts, do all the foley and supporting music, then air it on the campus radio station. I haven’t been able to locate the original file, but when I do, I’ll share it, because it was pretty fucking cool.
My first exposure to podcasts was in law school, only as a way of supplementing what I learned in class (I hate you UCC 2-207!). I didn’t really listen podcasts recreationally until the fall of 2011. I’d been writing screenplays at night and I was beginning the negotiations of a paid writing gig for the following spring. I mentioned this opportunity to a filmmaker friend in Los Angeles, to which he recommended I listen to the Scriptnotes podcast with John August and Craig Mazin,
“A podcast about screenwriting and things that interesting to screenwriters.”
My hunger for podcasts, as a new venue for learning and entertainment, began to rapidly expand.
In the last two years, I found myself in situations involving a TON of driving. Frequent trips up and down the 101 freeway to visit my long-distance girlfriend. A daily commute of nearly two and a half hours. I spent a lot of time in the car, so I erased all my music and loaded up on Podcasts.
The popular ones. This American Life. Nerdist. Serial. WTF. Some less popular ones. I slowly uncovered the elements of a successful podcast and found a slender fbunch of podcasts that I felt were produced in a fun, enjoyable way. They were delivering valuable content in a palettable, entertaining way. It was a new breed of on demand storytelling and I want in.
I wanted to do a podcast, but I didn’t think I had anything important enough to say. Part of me thinks I still don’t, but that may not be just my problem. First, I just wanted to produce a podcast for somebody else. I wanted to apply my knowledge of music production to podcasting. So I researched starting my own podcast, how? By listening to podcasts, of course. That’s when I came across Dan Benjamin and the 5×5 network, who framed the idea of a podcast network like a record label.
A podcast network could be run like a record label. I completely understand. This network, the Mystery Tin Podcast Network, was my modernization of KMD Music. But now I’m 10 years older, knowing what I know now, and having experienced what I’ve experienced. I could apply all of these skills to producing podcasts, helping my friends who were on the precipice of choosing to incorporate podcasting into their image or not. I would be “the unseen partner,” handling everything except generating the content. I knew that meant I’d be doing a lot of work, but I had no idea what that really meant.
“You handle the content, I’ll do everything else.” I’d say to my friends, almost begging for the opportunity.
A wonderful silver lining to a life spent hopping and skipping from place to place and profession to profession, is the wide variety of friendships you build along the way. I am proud of my eclectic group of my friends. I also believe that everybody, every single person, has a unique story to tell and a message to share with others. I wanted to help people spread their message… through podcasting.
So I started asking around, seeing if anybody was interested in podcasting.
Ben Mehl and I agreed to start MAD Potential (with Ben Mehl), a podcast discussing the role of motivation, accountability, and desire in achieving your goals. It would be the first show on the podcast network, the trial run before an onslaught of new shows. Ben’s was the first.
The first month was difficult, to say the least. I stayed up all night the Sunday before we launched the first episode. I had to make sure that everything was perfect. The artwork had the be right size. The episode had to be mixed and have the metadata added. I was working through WordPress, which is only structured to host one podcast at a time, so I had to figure out a backdoor approach to distribution. I had to make sure the RSS stream was properly maintained so it could be listed in the iTunes Podcast database. I need links for the show notes.
The first episode of MAD Potential posted on Monday, June 1, 2015. And every Monday after that, we posted an interview or long form discussion that helped Ben spread his message.
For a short time, I became obsessed. I was glued to Feedburner, frantically refreshing our page to see the downloads, clicks and subscribers to our podcast. Everyday I’d watch the fluctuations, and make judgment calls based on how I thought we could keep those numbers climbing.
Then, I saw our podcast, MAD Potential on the “Self-Help” charts. That changed everything for me.
Listen to the full episode, complete with audio interviews from Ben Mehl and Matthew Rachamkin, here.