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Summary:

Marc Maron’s popular WTF podcast is more than an entertaining listen; it shows how the artist-entrepreneur can harness the power of Internet distribution and community. In this audio interview, Maron talks about the lessons he has learned and where he fits into the media landscape.

Marc Maron

If you are a comedy nerd, chances are you have already listened to Marc Maron’s podcast, WTF with Marc Maron. If you haven’t, I suggest you do, but not just because Maron uses the podcast to settle old feuds, bare souls and, of course, talk comedy with some of the biggest comedic voices of the past quarter century.

That all makes for great listening, but the real reason Maron’s podcast deserves a listen from digital media and technology execs is because it shows how someone like Maron, who was “in a compromised position and a little desperate” when his terrestrial radio show was canceled by Air America, has been able to resurrect and build a career through the power of Internet distribution and community, as with an increasing number of other artist-entrepreneurs.

I recently took some time to chat with Maron, which you can listen to by clicking below on the big orange “play” button from the embedded SoundCloud player. In our conversation we talk about some of the lessons he has learned since the launch of his podcast. He talks about his experiments with new methods to sell his content (including the launch of his own app), how he views podcasting and new media in the context of the larger new media landscape, and his thoughts on old friends like Louis C.K. as they find ways to disintermediate and disrupt the old guard, among other things.

Marc Maron – GigaOM Podcast by GigaOM

I suggest you give the whole podcast a listen, but below are a few takeaways from my podcast conversation with Maron.

Embracing new models isn’t optional but required

According to Maron, unless you are a megastar, you need to take control of your own career and embrace new distribution models,  because no one else is going to do it for you.

You think your local paper is going to take care of you? The comedy club’s website is going to draw people in? You really have no choice.

While Maron is specifically speaking of comedy, it is true for artists of all stripes. Taking control of your own distribution and monetization through new Internet models is something we are seeing musicians, authors and video artists at all levels do, since, increasingly, they can’t rely on corporate media to promote and monetize for them.

Experiment with monetization models until you get it right

Maron knew that once his library of podcasts grew to a certain size, he could monetize the back catalog. Once he reached 150 podcasts, he used an aggregator and attempted to charge for podcasts through iTunes. However, it proved difficult, so ultimately he shifted gears, embracing an app model with in-app payments for recurring subscriptions. He has found sponsorship revenue growing as he has become more popular, and he is also using a donation platform, which works well because of the intimate nature of the podcast medium.

With podcasting, you’re able to create a genuine, intimate relationship with people because it’s a solo listening experience, so they build a bond with you. It’s a deeper relationship.

New models accepted as part of “the media landscape”

Maron records his show in his garage, welcoming household names such as Conan O’Brien, Ben Stiller and Rainn Wilson into his garage, complete with cat hair from the many strays Maron welcomes into his home. I asked Maron about this, and he said it’s just the way business is done today.

 [In today's media landscape] it’s not unusual to go to someone’s house, sit in their living room, and do a thing.

On Louis C.K.

Maron counts Louis C.K. among his oldest friends in comedy, and when I asked him about what he thought of Louis C.K.’s self-distribution efforts, he had this to say:

It’s spectacular. Anytime someone makes a move in that direction it empowers the artist. . . . What Louis did was a milestone in creative marketing by the creator.

Go ahead and listen to the podcast, and let us know what you think about Maron’s observations as well as the podcast itself. We are looking into doing more podcasts and would love to hear thoughts from our community.

  1. Nice, thanks for doing this. Your interview hits on all of the main benefits of WTF–the long format, the intimacy, the fact that his interlocutors are naturally good in front of a mic, the freedom from the expense and politics of traditional distribution and employment.

    Plus I learned something new. As a long-time WTF devotee I was curious to learn that Maron is thinking of going in the direction of video. My own feeling is that this would be a mistake. Part of the issue is that videos take a lot more time to download and space to store, but the main reasons are that (1) I don’t want sit in front of a screen when I could be listening while doing other things, and (2) radio is a far more intimate medium, allowing voices to really inhabit your living space/head space. And somehow there’s an objectivity as well as an intimacy to pure audio. Marc is all about humanizing people, and radio does that more effectively than video by putting you more directly into someone else’s head. In most cases it is simply better not to be distracted by the visuals, as orchestras have learned in the switch to blind auditions, where people play behind a screen to make the adjudication process completely unprejudiced. In the case of a Maron podcast I would simply listen even if it was only available in video format, and frankly I suspect that the speakers would be more focused if nobody was playing to a camera, adjustinc cameras and lights, &c &c. There is a place for pure audio, and Maron has found it, so I hope he sticks to his winning formula.

    GForce

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    1. @GForce – thanks for the comment. I agree that audio is a unique and intimate medium, and it allows for a bit more freedom on the part of the speakers/interviewer/interviewees in that they’re not worried about visuals, performing for a camera. Glad it provided some new info for you!

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