RW98 - Where Songs Come From

This week, Dan and John talk about:

  • Dan’s new cold remedy (Dan Benjamin)
  • (Inside Baseball), 100th episode coming up (Podcasting)
  • Listeners complaining about the ads (Monetization)
  • The different eras of music monetization (Music)
  • The spotted owl controversy vs the lumberjacks (Stories)
  • Selling merchandize and new business models for musicians (Music)
  • Monetizing podcasts (Monetization)
  • John’s non-existent retirement plan (Personal Development)

The show title refers to John ironically telling the story that all songs come from Jesus and it is really easy to be a musician, because anybody could have thought about these songs.

Draft version
The segments below are drafts that will be incorporated into the rest of the Wiki as time permits.

Dan’s new cold remedy (RW98)

Dan has tried a new cold remedy from Gaia that is supposed to shorten the amount of time you are sick and make the cold way less intense. He doesn’t want to jinx anything because he is superstitious of jinxing things, but he took this for two days when he had a full-on cold coming on and he woke up this morning being fine. John is typically less interested in what the claims of the product are than he is in what the product is. It is mainly Echinacea with Elderberry and some Ginger. The reviews were all 5 stars, Dan was willing to stake $15 and it seems to have paid off. Even if this did absolutely nothing and it was just his own mind that made him get better faster, he will pay $15 for that!

(Inside Baseball), 100th episode coming up (RW98)

The 100th episode of the podcast was coming up and Dan was wondering if they should do something special for it. They should have a thing where, instead of everyone being quiet for a minute on 11/11 at 11:11, everyone who listens to the program just rejoices for a minute at the same moment and does the Boogaloo. The only other show where John is past 100 episodes is the venerable Roderick on the Line podcast and he is not sure whether they even made a notation of it on the 100th episode. It was called Tertiary Lobster Fork with the problem ”John had a mind to”. The show art shows ED-209 from RoboCop.

Whenever Dan does custom artwork for the show, which is 1/2 to 2/3 of the time, he does them in Photoshop where he is very talented. Whenever he will tweet about it, people using Overcast would reply that they don’t see the artwork, so Dan asked Marco Arment about it and he said that he had written his own parser to look for the artwork that wasn’t finding Dan’s artwork, but the next version of Overcast will have this fixed. Last week for example, Dan had used the image with the ages of the Traveling Wilburys as the artwork, but some people didn’t see that.

Listeners complaining about the ads (RW98)

Dan periodically receives emails from people who don’t like ads, because ads are upsetting to them and they hurt them deeply. Dan’s first response is that every time you hear an ad you should be thankful, because the ads will make it possible for them to do the show. Without the ads, there would be no show! His second response is that listeners can support the show directly on Patreon.

It should remain private how many listeners the show has, but Dan can say that they have tens of thousands of listeners, not hundreds of thousands. Now that John really is in the podcasting game and he has podcasts coming out his exhaust pipe, he is confused that apparently nobody knows how many listeners anybody has and there doesn’t even seem to be an agreed upon way to measuring it. Some people talk about weekly episode listens and some people talk about monthly downloads. Dan, having done this since 2006, says that there is actually such an agreed upon way, which is the number of downloads that an episode receives in its first week and its first month. This is the one that is used to sell the ads. It is not the total number of downloads across all episodes, it is not the number of subscribers, no-one cares about that! It all comes down to how many downloads one episode got in 30 days and you want to be sure to use smart methods to not count things too many times etc etc. You are trying to find out how many times an episode was downloaded by a single individual. That is not possible exactly, because if you use Overcast on your phone and iTunes on your desktop computer, it is still just one person listening to it in two places and should just count as one, but in reality that counts as two.

For this podcast, the rough numbers are pretty good. As of right now, 532 people out of 20.000-40.000 downloads are donating a dollar or more per month on Patreon), totaling at $1578 per month. If you don’t want to hear ads anymore, more people need to sign up and make this a listener-supported show. The podcast provides about 5 hours of entertainment a month on average, but the question is how much those 5 hours are worth? Dan would pay $5 for 5 hours of entertainments! When he goes to the movies he will pay $15 and also buy popcorn and most of the time he will not even like the movie. If you go to the Alamo like Dan does, you get sucked into having a burger, too! The Alamo is the best place to see a movie, but John has never been there and he initially confused it with the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas. When John is in Texas, he is not going to the movies, but he is doing exciting things with Lasso and Steers.

Dan did get a new cowboy hat! John disagrees that Dan’s new hat is a cowboy hat, but it is the hat that Richie Sambora wears in Bon Jovi. They are only taking in $1578 on Patreon, but there are 30.000 more people listening who don’t feel bad about it and turn around and complain about the ads. Maybe they should do a Jesse Thorn style fundraiser where Dan is just going to talk about how they would raise the money in every episode.

The different eras of music monetization (RW98)

Era 1: Commercialization is a betrayal of your own output

When John first started making Rock music, any commercialization of your art was thought of as a betrayal of what you had made and as a disgusting exploitation of your own output. During the early 1990s, the idea that you would profit from your music by any method other than a direct connection with the record buying public was not just frowned upon, but it was unthinkable. This was at a time when CDs were $18 and the record companies were exploiting people because a CD costs $0.01 to make. You didn’t want to appear that you wanted anything either. You didn’t want fame and Kurt Cobain tried to make it look like he didn’t even want fans. A lot of it was horseshit, but it was the logical extension of the ethic that had came out of the authenticity wars of Punk Rock.

Punk Rockers weren’t these aging dinosaurs with 17 keyboards on stage. The extension of that was that they didn’t believe in capitalism at all and in order for your music to have any authority you had to live a life of relative squalor. Henry Rollins’ book about this is just horseshit! He was talking about sleeping in a piss-filled 50 gallon drum because they couldn’t afford anywhere to stay, but on the same page he says that they sold out the Metro in Chicago for three nights. If you are bragging about selling out the Metro even at a $5 ticket, you have enough money to get a hotel room. It just doesn’t pass the smell test! It went so far as Sunny Day Real Estate refusing to do magazine interviews because they felt that talking about their music was a corruption of it and they just wanted the music to speak for itself. Nick Harmor of Death Cab for Cutie put a piece of tape over the Fender logo of his Fender P-bass because he didn’t want to give free advertising to the Fender company, although a P-bass is a P-bass and nobody who knows anything would ever recognize it as anything else!

Era 2: Selling your music to advertising companies

Famously in 2002, at least in Indie Rock circles, The Shins had their song New Slang in an McDonalds ad out of nowhere! Not only did they accept an advertisement, but an advertisement with a company that was completely antithetical to every single ethical tentpole that Indie Rock would have ever erected. Everybody was aghast, but it was so bold and they were unapologetic. This was before the Super-Internet and there was just Newsgroup-Internet stuff, but The Shins didn’t comment on it. All of a sudden everybody said that The Shins were a great band and they are one of us, so over night bands were taking money for ads. The Postal Service made as much money putting their song ”Such Great Heights” in those ads for United Parcel Service or Federal Express as they did from selling records. Also The Long Winters made money by having their music used in The OC and various usages back when you could make money doing that.

Era 3: File sharing

Then file sharing arrived on the scene. Prior to that era, there wasn’t enough bandwidth for people to download a song, it would have taken all week, but all of a sudden MP3 and Napster allowed people to just take your music. There was all this moral righteousness from young people who believed that they should have the right to steal your music. John heard people say ”Music should be free” a lot! No-one in 2002 who was making a record was making it with the idea of it being free. That was not anyone's intention and nobody ever asked on the file-sharing site what the intention of the musicians was. The music scene was just unlucky that this technology arrived before anyone even realized what was happening. It was a fait accompli. Hollywood saw it while there still wasn’t enough bandwidth to stream or download a movie and before that technology arrived, they had secured all the rights to their product. Eventually they made it available through streaming, but they had already laid out all the contracts and Hollywood did not lose a generation of their products.

The reaction among the music community was really split. There were a lot of musicians who didn’t want to look uncool and who came out and said that you could download their music for free, but make sure to come out to the show and buy a T-shirt. People were asking why musicians were so upset, because they sell so many T-shirts on tour and they sell all these concert tickets, which is where musicians should make their money instead of charging for their work.

iTunes and the devaluation of albums

Then iTunes came out and decided that a song was worth $0.99. They didn’t consult anybody and the idea that a song was worth $0.99 was ”Okay, shit… I guess so?” A lot of labels tried to price their songs at $1.29 and nobody bought them because a song was established at $0.99. This changed the nature of making albums because up to that point, if you wanted to hear a song you bought an album. Therefore, what musicians, and certainly John, did was to make an album.

If people knew how much time John spent at the mastering house with the mastering engineer deciding how many seconds of silence they were going to put in between tracks on the record! They would listen to it, go by and adding another 1/4 of a second, trying to create the perfect amount of silence between tracks. You would have more between some of them and almost no silence between others as a way of building a whole thing. Often you would have a song that you wanted to blend seamlessly into another song. The problem with the introduction of CDs was that if you delineated those two things as separate songs, the CD technology would often just insert silence for a second, which was fucking annoying! On iTunes you get them separately and you can’t listen to them as a whole.

John's deal with his Indie Rock record label was that rather than going through the enormous complication of figuring out how to pay mechanical royalties, which is not to say like the royalties of the other half, they would give the band free CDs that they would take and sell on tour. These CDs were not just a portion of the income, but they were the profits that the label was giving them in lieu of paying them mechanical royalties and then charging them for CDs.

At the start of John’s own 10 years of touring life, they would make $200 a night from people who would line up after the show to buy CDs. They would put $65 worth of gas into the van, drive to the Motel Six at the edge of town and pay $80 for a room. A few years later, John was sitting at his merch table and see people come up, look across the table, lean over and tell him that they downloaded all his music, but they just wanted to tell him that his music means a lot to them and they just wanted to shake John’s hand and pat him on the head. They didn’t really wear band T-shirts either and off they lope. Great! I’m glad my music means a lot to you!

The spotted owl controversy vs the lumberjacks (RW98)

Business changed during the years of the spotted owl controversy in the North West. The spotted owl was a canary in a coal-mine species indicating that they had cut down so many forests in the North West that the wildlife wasn’t going to survive. We weren’t just worried about this little owl, but it was a symbol of the fact that if it died, it wouldn’t be long before all the other stuff died as well. It wasn’t dying because it didn’t have big fluffy trees, but it was dying because it couldn’t find food. A generation of lumberjacks lost their jobs and were furious. It was one of those cause célèbre where lumberjacks were super-mad at environmentalists and there was this whole division between these two groups: The tree hugging Granola-crunching hippies and the working class backbone of America lumberjacks.

What the lumberjacks failed to understand was that the spotted owl was not what was killing them, but the lumberjack was the mechanization of timber harvesting. They were shipping whole logs overseas to Japan and ultimately to China, milled them there and shipping milled lumber back to America. That was part of globalization at the time and it was more cost-effective than just keeping mills open and milling our own lumber. We made more money doing it that way. The controversy between the lumberjacks and the hippies was just a typical distraction that we see all the time where people vote against their own interest or they argue against their own interest, either because they don’t fully understand what is happening or because they don’t have the power to argue against the globalization of the timber trade and so they just yell at the hippies that are the most vocal.

During the time of the controversy, the lumberjacks would write ”These are timberdollars!” on all the dollar bills that went through the bars in Packwood, Washington. Once in a while you would see one of those and you would know that this dollar had come as a result of a timber economy. John’s attitude then was ”Look man, times are changing and the waves are always crashing. Losing the economy of Packwood because the way we harvest lumber has changed is a small price to pay compared to losing the entire population of raptors in the mountains of the West”

Selling merchandize and new business models for musicians (RW98)

When the sea-change in the way music was sold happened, John had to be conscious about the argument he had made 10 years before. There was that stop-gap when The OC used The Long Winters music in their season finale which wouldn’t have happened 10 years before. This meant that John was making money that didn’t exist prior, while at the same time he was losing money that used to exist, because he wasn’t able to sell records in the same way. He was selling more records than he had, but he was making the equivalent or less, or ultimately much less. The argument about selling T-shirts is just Go Fuck Yourself! Why don’t you try to make a living off of selling T-shirts and tell me how it goes?

One day during that period, John set up the merch table at the Irving Plaza in New York City and a guy came down with a piece of paper and told John that they would take 20% of the money he earned from merchandize. He would count all the merch John brought into the building now while John is going to sit there and watch him count all the T-shirts. At the end of the night, he is going to count them again and John is going to owe him 20% of what is missing. Back then you paid $6.50 for printing a 3-color T-shirt. Then you schlepped it across the country and carried it into the club every night and back out if you didn’t sell it. You were selling it for $10 if you are really Punk Rock and you are making $3.50 on it. If you were really bold, you could sell it for $12. If you wanted to communicate to people that you didn’t give a shit about anything, you would sell it for $15. Then this person was going to take $2.50 per shirt when they were making $5.50? They were not taking 20% of their sales, but half of their profit! That’s the cost of doing business! They are providing the table, the space in the club and the light that shines on your merch table. For that, you rent the space.

What happened was that bands would have to charge $20 for a shirt because it was the only way it made sense at all, but then you owed the venue $4 a shirt. John was like ”Well, then fuck you forever!” This guy had to do this every night, so he had a locked jaw dead-eyed stare while he had to tell the band this thing they never heard of before. After a very short amount of time, all the big clubs did it and it became the standard. That’s when you started to see $25 tour T-shirts from little bands. The big stadium shows were always charging a ton of money, but they went from $30 for a shirt to $60 for a shirt. John doesn’t even know what a band T-shirt costs now.

A lot of relationships suffered during that time. One established old school artist on John’s record label was giving interviews during his record release saying that music should be free, as long as people made sure to come to the shows. The owner of the record label was like ”What? Why are you saying that? We are doing all this work for you and the only way we can make money is by selling records!” They got into a big argument because the artist didn’t want to alienate his fans and be on the wrong side of history, the side of greedy musicians who wanted people to pay for their songs. He wanted to be Mr. Friendlyguy, but the label told him that they can’t have him on the label if he would advocate for not buying albums.

Eventually he left the label and thought he was going to have more success elsewhere. He sold 1/5 of the records he used to sell and transitioned out of making music. Variations of that theme happened a lot! Radiohead put out a record for ”pay what you want!”, but it was Radiohead at the peak of their powers. There were people who gave them $1000, but there were also people who just took it like the Hamburglar. Radiohead presumable didn’t make less and probably made more, but this is not a business model. You can’t ask a band that is selling 80.000 records to think that they are going to be like Radiohead.

If you sign a record deal with a label as a young band now, they will give you a 360 deal, meaning that they get a cut of every cent you make from your music: Every penny from the money you make at your concerts, at T-shirts, or at crowdfunding. Because the labels don’t make money selling records anymore, they make money selling bands. Obviously there are still bands, so it does work. Bands didn’t stop existing. Record labels still exist. John doesn’t know how the math pencils out for people. He knows the cheques he gets and he knows how much he gets paid by Spotify. He still makes money on music, but it is very complicated. He makes money on music by getting 15 really small cheques every quarter, but it all kind of ends up glomming together. John is an established musician who was making records 15 years ago. He does not know how it works for some small startup band of 4 people who were trying to practice in a space that costs as much as your apartment costs. Also, buying a van is hard when you are just starting out!

John’s non-existent retirement plan (RW98)

John is starting to get asked this a lot and he thinks it is because there is so much gray in his beard, but people have started asking him what his retirement plan is. They are not asking it sarcastically, but they are generally curious. It never occurred to John to have a retirement plan. That is not how he has lived his life! There is a difference in thinking about your work as something you do in order to pay for what you really want to do, the stuff that is your real life and your hobbies, the life you have when you get home from work. John never thought of his work this way. He didn’t go to work in order to pay for his freedom, but he just sort of decided somewhere along the line that his work was going to maintain his freedom, however he could pull it off.

It never occurred to John to retire from his work. He is still not sure what it is that he does and how he even could retire from it. When he is 80 years old, he is still going to be restless and he will still be trying to earn a living. By that, he doesn’t mean that he will ever have to go be a Walmart greeter, but he will still try and make a living like he does now, which is by his wits and with luck. Although, just as the guys who thought they were going to make a living as a lumberjack forever, the ones who were in that generation all of a sudden couldn’t do it anymore. It is entirely possible that a day may come when something significant changes in the world such that John can no longer make a living from his wits. It may be that people decide that they really have no interest in hearing from wits, even. It may be that the world changes entirely and everyone is interested only in 3-dimensional entertainment.

Monetizing podcasts (RW98)

John didn't know what a podcast was when Merlin came him and wanted to start one. It didn’t occur to him that it was a money-earning thing. It seemed like a blog and John didn’t remember blogs being things that made money. In a world where everything was monetized and the question of monetizing things was the number one question, blogs weren't included yet. Now we do live in that world! There is not a thing that you make that you don’t try to find a way to get money from. John doesn’t look askance at it, because although there are a lot more ways to make money, they are not ways to make a stable life.

Even if you work a 9-5 job, you have stock options, you think that you have tremendous loyalty to the company and you want to work there for 30 years, you will get laid off at the drop of a hat. Your job can be sent overseas and there is no such thing anymore like working for a company for 30 years and then retiring at 50 with a full pension. The only way to get that is to be in the military or work for the government. Most tech workers live with a core instability that they might not even recognize, but compared to their parents or grandparents, the labor-laws of the 20th century created a world where there was quite a bit of security and a lot of economic equity. There was more money in the hands of the middle class by a large margin than there is now. You try to make money in an environment where nobody got any security.

When Merlin started selling advertising on Roderick on the Line, they got a lot of shit from people because they had put that thing out there initially as ”Well, what we are doing is free, I guess?", but over time it became clear that you can make a dollar from it. That was right at the moment when John’s mom sat him down in a chair and said ”You haven’t put out a record in 4 years, you are not making money anymore and you are living like you don’t have to get a job because you are an artist, but you are completely out of money! You don’t have any money coming in and you don’t have any money left! You need to find a way to make money or you are going to lose your house or you are going to have to go to Amazon and get a job in their music supervision department” Right about that time, Roderick on the Line started making a little bit of money and John also tried to play little shows and so on. He started to earn a living by hook or by crook. For the last 4-5 years, John cobbled together a living. To the amazement of everybody, by the end of each year, by December 31st, that last little spate of 3 or 4 cheques arrives that makes John solvent.

Podcasting has made a huge impact for John. It has not made him more money than he used to have, but it has allowed him to continue to make the same amount of money while the money he makes as a musician started to decline. Podcasting has filled that hole. When they started doing Roadwork, there was never a time when they weren’t putting advertising on the show. That was the premise of it. When John started his two new podcasts Omnibus and Friendly Fire, they were talking about money before the podcasts ever came out.

It is not like they pander in order to get money. If you were going to accuse John of making a slick product in order to appeal to the widest audience possible in order to rake in those big podcast dollars, he doesn’t know what you think people’s tastes are! It is not like the monetization affects the content, but they are conscious of the fact that you can make money from it and there are a few people, like Marc Maron or Joe Rogan who got. Obviously Dan Benjamin is rich from it, just look at that expensive new cowboy hat!

Dan knows that most of his users on Fireside, his podcast hosting and analytics platform, do podcasting as a hobby and they are mostly doing it for fun. There are very few people who do this for a living like Dan and John do. When Dan goes into work, it is always about podcasting. He has been a full-time podcaster since 2009 and doing this show is his job! If Dan wouldn’t be doing this show with John, he would be doing another show with the goal to make money because if he doesn’t make a show, he doesn’t make money and he can’t pay any bills. People complain about the ads, but doing the ads is Dan’s job! The whole point of this podcast for John is to do the things that nobody likes, but people keep saying they like it and John doesn’t understand it. Want to hear a middle-aged guy talk about all the things that make him sad? Sign up! It is a good show that helps people.

Podcasts have always been a thing that is consumed for free. There have been companies and people who have tried to sandbox their podcasts, like only making them available in their app that costs $8 upfront or by having you pay a subscription fee. The response to that was ”Screw you! We will listen to another podcast instead!”

The compromise for Dan and John was to set up a Patreon, but because they feel so guilty about the fact that they maybe made a living from it and want their listeners to pay for it, they are so horrible that the podcast will still be free, but they would create additional behind-the-scenes content for you or a magic after-dark episode. They don’t do that very much and people are complaining why they should give them any money because there is no bonus content and there is not anything special for being a supporter and the podcast is still free!

There are examples like the show No Agenda by Adam Curry and John Dvorak that has always been listener-supported. They both make their full-time salaries essentially from the donations they get for that one show. It is not for the bonus-content, but that is how they do the show. They have never taken any ads, but they have also started 1000 years ago before people had the attitude of wanting things for free. If you would only support John and Dan for getting that bonus content that they never do, then screw you! It is surprising to Dan, because he supports lots of shows on Patreon or PayPal or by buying merchandize.

When Dan was in High School and Early College, the best job he ever had was being a Domino’s pizza delivery driver. He did that for several years and it was always amazing to him that the best tips he got were from people from the other side of the tracks, the working class people and the middle class people, the ones who had Fords and Hondas and not Mercedes and BMWs. The rich people would give you lose change as a tip, but the lower income people who had less money would give you phenomenal tips every time! It was a known thing among the drivers. If you saw an address coming up from the lower income people, you tried to grab that one because you knew you would get a better tip. Back then you could get two pizzas with everything for $17-18. If you would deliver a pizza for $12.50, they would give you $15 and tell you to keep the change. $2.50 is not a lot, but it is something! They might give you $5 sometimes. The rich people on the other hand would let you keep the change of $0.14.

People are expecting a podcast to be free and John and Dan are doing it for free, but they still have to count on their listeners to support the show. Dan would love to not have any ads on the show, never interrupt their conversation with anything and give the people who support the show the best experience, but he can’t do that! People are saying ”Wait a minute, you said it is free! Why should I have to pay?” and you reply that you are so sorry for asking your listeners for support. You will do more work and listeners can pay you for the more work, since what you are doing already has no value. Dan and John want your dollar a month, but then they are supposed to do extra work that you can pay for, because they can’t ask for money on the main thing? That doesn’t make sense to Dan! John stops Dan at this point because he is starting to hyperventilate.

When YouTube came up, people kept predicting that nobody would listen to albums anymore when you can watch them instead, but of course people still do listen to music! Podcasts have become bigger and bigger the closer we have become to being able to watch things in realtime. When Augmented Reality comes up, will people still listen to podcasts? Maybe, but maybe not! John can’t predict what he is going to do to make a living 20 or 30 years from now, but he doesn’t have any savings. It is not that he is not frugal and savings-oriented, because he is! He just doesn’t make enough to save. John is not extravagant! His riches are not measured in possessions or security, but they are measured in his freedom, which he recognizes as a form of wealth. Maybe it is a form of wealth that will support him into old age, but maybe it will all dry up.

The idea of saying that they will stop selling advertising if they get enough Patreon supporters is an interesting self-limitation. You would set an amount and if you reach it, you will be fine and everybody is cool. Listeners who didn’t contribute any money will still get the show with no ads without having to pay anything for it, which is what they will call bleed.

There are surely a lot of people who want to make money by their wits and by their own ingenuity instead of working for someone else. John has a good friend his age who just got laid off and who is tired of working for people. He wants to start his own thing. It feels like a gold rush town all around him and he is currently working for the hotel or the pimp, but instead he wants to be the guy selling shovels. He doesn’t want to be anything fancy, but everybody at this gold rush needs a shovel and he wants to be the one selling shovels. He has got a plan and he is working toward a thing.

When people pay $15 for a movie, they justify it because the movie costs a lot of money to make. Everybody is aware of that because it floods the news. People's perception of a podcast is that it doesn’t cost anything to make. You pay $15 to watch an 1,5 hour movie and feel that that was a reasonable expense given that the movie costs $80 million to make. Maybe you should look at getting 5 hours of enjoyment from a podcasts this month and compare it to this move that gave you 1,5 hours of enjoyment. You might think about the movie after you saw it, but you might think about the podcast more and it might affect your life more. Try and think about what it is worth based on what it gives you rather than what it costs to make! Of course this is a self-justifying argument coming from a podcaster.

Within our culture we do not pay as much for things of subtle beauty as we do for spectacle. We don’t pay professors as much as a we pay football coaches. We don’t spend money to see plays, but we spend money to see stock car races. It is always a challenge to argue that something subtle is worth more. John keeps coming back to the fact that the fuckers who made Angry Birds sold their company for $1 billion. Based on the attention economy and from a standpoint of how much time people devote to playing Angry Birds it makes sense. They have millions of people watching it and now they just need to slip ads into it and it is worth a billion dollars! But what has Angry Birds contributed to the world? It has contributed absolutely zilch! People play Angry Birds to come down. When they are anxious or excited at the end of the day, they play Angry Birds because it is relaxing and meditative. That does have value! John sits and plays fucking Brick Breaker for two hours a day and who knows why? Who knows what it is doing? It is just occupying his mind and his thumb, but if you take it away from him, it would be like taking away his woobie.

Making a podcast is not hard. You just get a microphone and talk. You hit a button, it is out there and a billion people listen to it. It is easy! It sure seems easy! It also seems easy to get up on stage and play some music, how hard can that be? It is an easy life! Why is that hard? Why should I pay them any money? They thought of a song that I could have thought of if I had thought of it before they did, but they thought of it and now I am just listening to it and I don’t want to pay for it! Songs all come from Jesus, we all know that! You sit there and wait for the stork to drop them off. The thing about these podcasts is that nobody realizes how many motorcycle crashes John had to get into when he was young in order to be an effective podcaster. It is more than zero motorcycle crashes.

The whole point of starting this discussion at the beginning of this episode is obvious to John: They want to encourage people to support the show directly and this is why Dan is resounding to a spade of letters from some Youth. A 40-year old would not make that argument! On YouTube, John sometimes needs to sit through a 30 second ad when he is only watching a 30 second thing. It didn’t used to be that way and everybody hates that. There is not a soul alive who enjoys watching those ads, but you just roll over and take it because that is the way that monetizing things works.

John doesn’t listen to podcasts and he has no idea! Obviously, if Dan is selling so many ads on his podcasts, he should send John more money! Dan says that in this episode they have 3 ads and John asks him to put them in at the worst possible moments right in the middle of a thought. On most of the shows that Dan has recorded over the years, he will do the ads with the co-host, but for the show with John he makes an exception because he sees John as a grand storyteller and he doesn’t want to interrupt the flow of John’s story in any way. For example, their mutual co-host Merlin is very aware of the business of podcasting and he will make a point in the conversation and then ask Dan to tell him something he likes, which is his queue to launch into the ad.

In many of Dan's other shows, topics will lead the episode and Dan will insert an ad whenever he switches to the next topic. In this show, they are sitting by a hearth, the banjo is propped on John’s knee and he is telling a story. At certain points he might be playing a little music (John does actually make up a song that ends with Macintosh). Their conversation would derail if Dan would tell the listeners about SquareSpace in the middle of the song. Sometimes they will pre-record an ad together or they might even actually do them in the show. Otherwise Dan would just record them in post by himself. A lot of the time they will hit some kind of a wall, like when John has to pick up his kid, and John will just throw the headphones down, not even hanging up, and just leave! Sometimes when that happens, Dan just listens. (At that point, John goes to the bathroom and Dan does an ad. John then makes fun of Dan because he heard him say ”a software” instead of ”the software”). Another reason why Dan finds it more difficult to insert an ad in this show is because John goes into the depth of his soul a lot, or what’s left of it and Dan does not want to clobber that.

John’s question is: Where is this pure land where everything is advertiser-free? We are headed into a world with Augmented Reality and there will be ads everywhere we look! People who pay for your augmented reality will buy ads in the air around you and what are you going to do? You can be one of the augmented reality people or not and there is going to be an entire world that you either live in or you don’t. John doesn’t know. They are obviously making a thing that is worth something to people. He gets many nice emails from people who say ”Thank you!” and it gives him great pleasure! Others rather argue with him or they use his voice as a white noise sound and having him on in the background gives them the feeling that there is some old man droning away in the kitchen while they do their chores, which is basically Angry Birds.

The letter Dan had shared at the beginning of the episode was from a person who was proud that he was giving them a dollar a month out of his entertainment budget as presumably not-a-rich-person. That is excellent and if every single person gave them a single dollar a month, it would be super-cool, but that isn’t the case. John thinks that a dollar a month is amazing, but he also wonders what the over-under is on how much you have to donate to a thing in order to send them an angry, righteous letter about money. A dollar a months does not quite put you into the benefactor category. At a museum that has patrons, helpers and people, there are way more names down in the people category than are up in the patrons category. The patrons are awful, becausethey name whole rooms in the museum after themselves.

Back when Dan was going to put up a Patreon for the show, he was making some wild promises about what it was going to generate. John is no longer opposed to a Patreon and he no longer feels hoodwinked. Instead it feels like a very clean transaction. Other than this episode of the show where they have really flogged it, they never really talk about it.

John feels that $10 a month is the cutoff where you can be mad. If you are paying less than that, then you can’t be mad because $10 will not even buy you one movie a month. It is even less than Amazon Prime. It is basically buying one album at iTunes. There is surely something that you can make equivalent to your enjoyment of podcasts and you can see it as a way of finding it in your heart, but if you just want to keep listening for free: That is the deal with podcasts! It is not the deal they made with music in the early 2000s, they did not make that music and offered it for free, but people decided that this was what the economy was. John still feels like they straight-up fucking stole it, they even stole their ability to sell it. John is still making music and not everybody of his generation is. A lot of them aren’t. To Dan’s point: Yes, people should support the Patreon. John isn’t mad if you don’t, but you can’t be mad at them until you give them $10 a month.

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