My response to someone who is angry Feral Audio asked for a $5 donation during this weeks Harmontown:
I didn’t get these messages, I don’t know where they were left or who left them.
In Madison, WI, I volunteered at 89.9 FM WORT Community Radio. For years I had been listening to Rockin’ John Mcdonald and his show on Saturday nights “the best rock ‘n roll of the 50’s, 60’s and beyond.”
While in college full-time and working two jobs, I volunteered during his show on Saturday’s because I wanted to get into broadcasting and help him any way I could. My dream was to be a DJ and play music. John didn’t own a car. He is one of America’s last DJ’s. He’s been on the air for 37 years and takes his rare vinyl collection on the bus to the tiny dilapidated radio station off of W. Washington St and puts on a human encyclopedia radio program of rock ‘n roll that is listened to now around the world. He’s never made a cent from his show and has raised more money for the radio station than anyone there.
That radio station is run completely on volunteers and donations from the community of Madison, WI since the 1970s. One night, in a 3 hour show, John raised 25,000 dollars for the station and it’s 3-5 actually paid employees. Fundraising drives, which they did 4 times a year, allowed them to stay on the air and bring a free service to the community. Those shows only use local advertisements for small business and services. They still had to adhere to FCC regulations.
WORT was even able to pay the musicians the nickel and dimes they get from music rights. That’s what I helped with. Logging in the data so those artists would get paid. The community supports John because they like his taste, trust in him, are passionate about his program and some of us had grown up with him.
I do Feral Audio for free. I work 80-100+ hours a week on over 20 fully produced shows; not to mention a handful of volunteers and artists who donate their time and talents for this 80/20 split of revenue. It was a wild and scary move to make but we have survived over a year now. All of my shows have accepted donations from the beginning, but not Harmontown.
This is potentially how we sustain. And those artists who’s creative contribution I value over production, see 80% of the donations. I get $150 out of every $1,000 dollars, minus a large percentage that PayPal takes. So more like $115. Feral on average, raises $1,200 in donations across all the shows in a single month. Meaning I see around $200 if I’m lucky. And for that, I’m incredibly thankful.
I helped found Harmontown with Dan and Jeff, originally outside of Feral. It wasn’t a running podcast until I came on board. Dan didn’t want to do donations, or Adam and Eve ads, or join a network. He was asked to join Nerdist and didn’t. He loves nothing more than give it away for free and to do it the way he envisions. He has always paid me beyond fairly for my time. Building a show up that at one time, was as big as my entire network, helped me understand the art form and business. Harmontown is my rock; my family, my home base. It changed my life! It’s the highlight of my week!
After touring the country, the day I got back, the deal I had running my studio out of another Artist Collective called PUNY, who selflessly paid me a salary to run Feral Audio out of their offices, expired. When that deal ended, Dan was generous enough to finance and open up his home and studio to Feral Audio this entire year. There would be no Feral Audio this year without his support, and maybe there would be a Harmontown, but not of the scale and quality I dedicate to it week after week.
Harmontown will have advertising, that was a plan from our initial meeting. But using new media with old school style live reads, we want to bring in the biggest sponsorship podcasting has ever seen. And make a lot of money for them. The Feral Audio plugs and guest spots, were Dan’s idea and his vision for us to feel more like a network. My job was to keep growing, and Harmontown would help us build up other Feral shows. These breaks to plug Feral happen in every other one of our podcasts. Within Harmontown, they are a great introduction to the type of advertising we want to do. Organic, smart live reads. (Listen to the first 30 minutes of The Duncan Trussell Family Hour.)
Because Feral exists month to month and downloads with donations drop dramatically in the summer then return back in the school year (this was the same when I was at Earwolf), I am asking for donations to Feral Audio this September so we can continue through the year. Dan, who co-created Channel 101 and has never asked for a dime for it, is nice enough to lend his support to Feral and the donation model and gets the spirit of it.
But here is my message to this person. It’s more about their attitude.
Live a life of service and gratitude, not entitlement. I grew up on the Internet. I was on Napster, and BearShare, and downloaded tons of artists work. I helped bring down the music industry. It was radical and exciting and subversive. The music industry had to bend to the Internet in order to sustain. But if an artist was good, I wanted to own and support them. I now have a massive record collection back home in Wisconsin because of it. It was always a priority to support the artists I like, so they could keep making the stuff I liked. In a way, maybe that’s selfish. If a band started making bad records, I stopped buying them.
You think you have ownership over Harmontown. That it’s yours. But it belongs to everybody. You feel entitled that it arrives in your subscription feed every week. This is limiting your ability to properly enjoy it. This isn’t limited to Harmontown. Wake up and say THANK YOU out loud for the clean water you have, the people in your life, and the experiences you get to have. Before you go to bed, say THANK YOU that it all happened.
Podcasting is not normal. It is incredibly subversive and on paper, shouldn’t exist. It exploded like a fractal and no one could stop it. People will try too, and are trying. There is no promise Feral Audio will be here forever, so maybe you’ll get your wish. I think about getting a real job all the time, but even a part-time job would mean half of my shows wouldn’t be able to broadcast.
Christ, I worked at McDonalds until I was 23. I was a bookkeeper at a gas station at 4 in the morning and stocked frozen food at night. I was a janitor at a medical clinic, cleaning up shit and bloody pus filled vomit. I worked on low income Section 8 apartment buildings, and got bedbugs while being paid 8 dollars an hour. My temp agency loved me! I’d do anything. When I got more skilled, I built defribulators and those AED machines for heart attack victims and then temperate control wall units in a factory while I got my degree for Electronics Engineering. The only thing that got me by was listening to podcasts. I became obsessed and was already volunteering for Earwolf in anyway I could. I really like doing podcasts a lot better than all my old jobs, but it’s more physical and mental work than anything I’ve taken on in my life.
I’ve had “real work” and I’ve always loved doing it. God, going into a place and knowing you are getting a paycheck is a lot safer than what I and comics do.
When you go out and create work, there is no safety net or promise of returns. As Duncan Trussell says, in modern society there are hunters and gatherers. Some of us go out hungry to find our money by our own means, creatively and in business. There are people in cubicles who gather; collecting what the hunters, CEO’s and leaders of that organization bring in. You trade your time, energy and life force for comfort and promise of pay. This is all neutral by the way, nothing wrong with either of them. They are two ways of life. Freedom or Comfort. I chose freedom over comfort.
“Real work” would mean I couldn’t pursue my creative goals and aspirations. That’s the trade I made. And you should do it too. My biggest fear is my own mediocrity. I’m not afraid of people or embarrassing myself or failure, I’m afraid of not living up to my own potential. Chasing my dreams is really scary. Not knowing when money is coming in, or if what I’m doing even matters.
I wanted to be a musician and DJ. I failed. I accidentally discovered I am really good at making podcasts and working with comedians. I’ve worked hard to have a REALLY good life, while other pressures build up around me, I’m in the best place I’ve ever been. I’ve lived all of my childhood dreams in two years. Met and have worked with all my idols, toured the country in a rock ‘n roll tour bus. Because I wasn’t afraid, I threw everything I had at it. And you should too! Doors will open up for you like you won’t even believe.
People confuse my detachment with confidence. I don’t particularly feel like I deserve anything. I live on very little. Money is a means for me to keep doing what I love doing, and to take it as far as it can go. My relationship with money is to have experiences, not accumulate material possessions.
Thankfully, most of the audience feels different from you. The flood of support from Harmenians has already granted me the luxury of paying my rent next month and I can start PAYING the volunteers of Feral for their work.
If you like podcasts and what we are doing, we have removed the middleman. No one pays us to put on these shows, like a studio would pay a television show or movie. The reason most television and movies don’t get made, is because there is no money to back it because of a faulty studio system. I like this because it’s a small start to what we can do with media.
It is the audiences and the consumers responsibility to vote with their dollar. I’ve released thousands of hours of entertainment, art, radical ideas and dialog onto the internet. If people want something like that to continue, it means not buying the Xbox game or that cup of coffee and pitching to Artists you want to keep creating.
I don’t torrent files. I don’t steal media anymore. Steal gas, not art. I worked at a gas station, people did it everyday and got away with it. Be angry at the people who use your money for evil, not towards the things you like. You can hate me, that’s fine. I kind of hate me too, but I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished and that overrides it. But try to find it in your heart to hate me for the right reasons! If you follow me on Twitter, I’m sure you can find dozens.
If anyone should be judging me right now it’s Harmon, but Dan doesn’t judge me. He lets me make mistakes, lets me work hard and has fathered hundreds of artists and creatives through Channel 101; Starburns and Community. That’s his legacy. That’s what he does. I’m fortunate he recognizes the quality of work and believes in its potential. Now I just want to take this thing as far it can go. And it looks like, we’re going to colonize the moon.