When I first encountered Dean, the founder of LSG Media, he was a man on a mission. The mission that he had chosen to accept was to create more top quality podcasts. Over a year later the LSG Media franchise is transformed. From its humble origins it is now across multiple platforms and is fast becoming a podcasting mini-empire. It has always been a good show but the progress and development it has made over the past year has been a joy to behold. The ambition and drive to be the best has seen more content created with shows dedicated to the X-Files, The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones as well as continuing coverage of science fiction films old and new. They have taken on another host in the form of Josh and they are one of the top ranked shows on Itunes. The show is still irreverent and not for the po-faced but it is also stylish and highly professional (more of which later.) The team’s desire to provide quality entertainment is evident in all they do. They have a fervently loyal following, with the shows’ fans regularly contributing to the show by voting for what films they want covered and providing listener feedback. They have a strong online community, which is a genuine link between the hosts and the listeners that support the show.
Dean and I discussed the best way to conduct our interview, factoring in each other’s schedules and the time zones (I’m in the UK and he of course is in the US of A) and we decided to create a teleportation device (we’ve both watched a ton of Star Trek, how hard could it be!?.) This would enable me to transport directly to his studio in Massachusetts. Unfortunately our experiment failed and I am concerned I might be turning into the BrundleFly, so before that happens let’s introduce Dean back to the blog. Our interview was conducted via the quaint medium of email.
Last time we spoke we talked about where you wanted to be in two years’ time. How would you measure your progress towards this 2 year plan? It seems to be going well in terms of the numbers of patrons and your position in the iTunes charts etc.
When I sit down objectively I am very happy with the progress that we’ve made with the show, but I am still obsessed with getting better and growing LSG Media. Sometimes I have to tell myself that we are doing quite well. I always feel hungry for the next step. The next bit. The next show, but let me clarify, I couldn’t be more happy with the team. They are in. They are dedicated. They care about LSG Media, and they want to not only represent LSG Media well, but themselves. Podcasting is funny. You can’t hide behind a brand. You are putting yourself out there when you turn the mics on, and my team kicks ass; they are insightful, funny, and willing. We wouldn’t be anywhere without them.
How do we measure growth specifically? Growth, and growth in all things. Fan interaction and feedback, dollars and cents (because we are also running a business here), other shows reaching out to us, and personal growing points for the hosts. Really gelling on them mics. And, oddly enough – negative feedback. We aren’t trying to get it, and we certainly aren’t being something other than ourselves, but it shows that we have strong identities. It also shows that we have actual POVs, and sometimes that will not jibe with other people who will feel compelled enough to let you know. I do like download numbers as well, but sometimes that’s not always an actual indicator of progress. Community is paramount to us.
Can you explain to the readers what patrons are and how important they are to the show?
The good folks over at Patreon have created a way for people to become “art patrons” for lack of better terms. These people can support projects they care about, and as a result of Patreon’s slick interface, the creators (that’s us) can have a tiered reward system that is determined by donation level. All donations are monthly (which we like because we can actually budget future growth), and you can cancel, upgrade, or downgrade at any time.
We are always trying to think of ways to make our patrons part of a community. We could do individual rewards (like giving stuff away), but we designed our Patreon page to create a sense of community, and without going on-and-on I’ll just say this; Patrons play a direct part if what we cover on the show –– every month. It adds a fun and random element to our production which we love.
Lastly, and this should go without saying: our patrons are incredibly important to the longevity (and sustainability) of the show. Without them, LSG Media goes away.
“Community is paramount to us.”
What do you think is the major difference in the show now from a year ago, in terms of format and production?
Outside of simply just having more content out there, I’d have to say — the stakes. The deeper we get into podcasting, the more it becomes apparent that failure now would be devastating. A lot of (in fact most) podcasts disappear. Life happens. People have kids. People get married. People move away. There are 1000 ways a podcast can die (I think they call it “podfade”), and the bigger the ship gets, the more losing it at sea becomes terrifying. But in this, beautiful things happen.
We’ve become more invested. Our listeners have become more invested. We have more listeners. We have plans. We have other podcasts reaching out to us to appear on their show. We have listeners (shout-out to Damaris and Marrrrria) taking on some of our social media work. We have income that goes beyond covering expenses.
But I suppose I should actually answer the questions as it relates to production and format.
First, we have added Josh Bruins to our hosting roster, and we couldn’t be happier. Josh gels well with everyone, he has his own POV, and he was almost instantly comfortable on the mic. We have added the “commentary” tracks more regularly, and we have branched (very recently, and thanks to Elton over at Shonky Lab Podcast) into live recordings, but we will get more into that in the next questions.
“Our patrons are incredibly important to the longevity (and sustainability) of the show. Without them, LSG Media goes away.”
What’s your proudest moment of the show so far?
I couldn’t be more proud of the team that I assembled. I’m telling you, there is no-show without them, and as much as people think podcasting is easy, it isn’t. I’m proud when they aren’t afraid to take on the workload. I’m proud when they come to me with an idea for a show or an episode. When one of them says, “I really want to cover X.” I love that. Gets my adrenaline up.
“I don’t have to chase them to host. They are lining up. They want to do it. It’s the best….”
What are the challenges in doing a live Pod?
That’s easy… making sure we show up on time. Hahaha…
One big thing was making sure not to get too distracted by the activity in the chat room. If you monitor the chat too closely it could throw off the conversation. But we are getting better with that with each live show. Then you have the technical stuff. Making sure the live listeners can hear everything, making sure the sound quality is good, making sure we communicate break-times, and how we will drop some music into the break. And here is one that may not seem obvious, but the flow of conversation around the break.
Because we edit the breaks out of the final product, we had to make sure that we could segway conversation-break-conversation in a way that flowed when we cut it down for the podcast. For example: If I am wrapping up talking about a particular scene in a movie, and I know that we are going to take a break, and then pick up on the next scene, I have to build that into the conversation so it can be flawlessly edited into the final product. The live listener just gets the break and some music, but the live stuff is awesome. People who tune into the live shows get a lot of extra content. Some pre-show banter, and some post show banter. They also get to influence the show by chiming in on the fly, and sometimes they are de facto producers. We ask them to look stuff up for us. They love it.
Last time we chatted we talked about the humor and how you try to be yourself and create an inclusive atmosphere, I compared it to chatting with your mates at the pub (I wanted to say mates and pub in the same sentence because I am British as Shiiit) and you’ve firmly retained this humor, maybe there are less Wahlberg impressions and the show is more focussed but there is a hilarious irreverence that you have maintained. I formerly listened to your podcast and another, fairly well-known, film podcast but I had to stop listening to your rival pod because it took itself waaaaaay too seriously. Even though some things are slicker or more “professional” you have retained this “you are what you are” vibe, is this a conscious decision?
In my opinion this is our “competitive advantage.” A lot of new podcasters ask questions (and I don’t mean of me, just in general) about how to get more listeners. How to grow, and all those things. I typically tell them to ask themselves, “Why would someone turn into your show? What makes your show special?” I am not really into, pardon my French, blowing myself, but I am aware that our conversational dynamic is our competitive advantage.
There are plenty of podcasters (and some of our listeners) that know more about film than we do. There are plenty of people who have better audio quality than us. There are plenty of people who have “slick” transitions, awesome segments, and cool ideas… better than us. But NOBODY is better at being us than we are. We are the best at being who we are. Now, obviously it isn’t that simple. Being yourself on a mic and speaking to the public is harder than it may seem, but the team seems to have a solid grasp of being themselves. My only contribution to that, besides being one of the hosts, is staying out the other hosts’ way.
As far as conscious decisions, I’ll say this. I personally try not to latch onto impersonations or specific jokes too much. I want to continually challenge myself personally to grow and to get better at things like that. I’m partial to my Jason Statham right now. Love his accent. Well, accent to me – not you guys. But I like to continually challenge myself in that, and when I do that, the other hosts do the same, and that’s because they kick ass.
One last note on this, it is important not to confuse “professional” with “good.” Sometimes people think that professional means watching your language, and having a strict protocol on certain things, and all that nonsense.
When I think Joe Rogan Experience, I don’t think professional, so-to-speak, but I certainly think “good.” His sound quality and presentation is outstanding. I suppose you can call it professional, but at the end of the day it is just a great show.
What is your most essential bit of podcasting kit?
Podcasting kit…? I guess you mean gear. Britiiiiiish as shit. 😉 Just about everything we use is essential. It should go without saying that a computer is absolutely needed, because without one you can’t do anything. On that computer you really need good software. Adobe Audition is incredible. In fact, we could likely have gotten away with shittier gear if we had Audition first, but we started with the mixer and the nice mics. I am partial to our mics – we have a couple Heil PR-40s, but I am looking to maybe move to the Sure SM7Bs. Our priority upgrade at this point is a mixer. Ours is great, but we need a slightly better model to do three hosts in-house.
“Some podcasts certainly have an anti-establishment vibe to them, and I fucking love that part”
Why do you think, generally speaking, podcasts are seemingly so popular right now?
I honestly don’t think they are as popular as we (in the circle) think they are. I still think the average bear isn’t sure how to get a podcast, but to your point, the popularity is really growing. The POTUS (President of the United States) himself was on a podcast, and that means people knew what they were, at least for a few days. I think once the ease of listening becomes a reality, that we will certainly see them grow. Some podcasts certainly have an anti-establishment vibe to them, and I fucking love that part. But there are plenty of podcasting giants that seem to be trying to become the establishment of podcasting. The old-school royalty, if you will. I guess time will tell.
You now have several shows, how are you balancing that out with everything else in life? It must take up all your spare time?
This really comes down to organization, and constant flexibility on the part of everyone involved. One of the things that I’ve been able to do is get more skilled (and more loose) with editing. This has freed up some time for me. The decision (although done for legal reasons) to eliminate clips from our podcasts (outside of that intro clip) has freed up copious amounts of time for me personally. But I do manage to still have a social life outside of the podcast, which at this point, is a second job. You have to schedule stuff. Once upon a time I was anti-scheduling, but I’ve learned that the more things you schedule, the more free time you suddenly have.
How do you unwind from your hectic schedule?
I like the quiet and solace of the woods with my dog, Stella, and the sub-host, Jessica. I like to get away from the tech and the noise, and the woods suits me just fine.
What was your favorite film of 2015?
That’s easy. Star Wars the Force Awakens. It isn’t the best sci-fi movie I watched last year, but it heralds in the beginning of the new age of Star Wars. That is an exciting prospect for me as a fan, and for me as a podcaster. I love that we have new blood coming into the franchise. We will always owe Lucas for Star Wars, but new writers, and new crews finally get a chance to indulge in their creativity to give us great NEW stories.
What film are you most looking forward to in 2016?
Gods of Egypt. I am happy that white people are finally being properly represented in deity roles in African countries. Outside of white cornerbacks in the NFL, I was really happy to see proper representation of white people in Egypt. (Editor’s DISCLAIMER – For all those of you who cannot judge tone when it is written down, Dean is joking and taking a satirical swipe at the recent diversity in Hollywood debate.) All joking aside I was very excited for Deadpool. A giant middle finger to the Hollywood establishment. Ironically, it made a ton of money for people in Hollywood, but I think it was a precious breath of fresh air to the tired super hero tropes. But since I have already watched Deadpool, I’ll give you one more
Without scrolling through all the movies coming, I will just shoot from the hip and say, The Witch. 1630 New England has my attention immediately. It’s dark, there is no tech, people are afraid, and basically powerless. Insert wacky culty stuff… I’m in.
What was your favorite TV Show of 2015?
I didn’t love much to be honest, and I didn’t see a lot of NEW television because of my podcasting responsibilities, but one sticks out – Bloodline on Netflix. If not for Ben Menelsohn alone. He is brilliant. A solid show no doubt. I know that Fargo is great (I only watched 3 episodes), Humans, Black Mirror, and Daredevil, but I haven’t watched them enough to comment on them. If only I had more time!
Who would win in a fight, Kylo Ren or Darth Maul?
Kylo Ren wins the hair battle, but loses the lightsaber battle, and rather quickly.
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