It’s been a while, but this feature is finally back. I continue to really enjoy publishing these snapshots; even as this industry grows bigger and more complicated and more curious, it’s still a community of individuals — and groups of individuals — trying to do stuff and make a buck. Anyway, I’m not sure if this is going to be a monthly or bi-weekly feature. I guess it depends on the news pace moving forward. In any case, let me know what you think.
So this week, I traded emails with Amanda McLoughlin, the proprietor of an indie collective called Multitude.
Hot Pod: Tell me about your current situation.
McLoughlin: I’m the creator and CEO of Multitude, an independent podcast collective and consultancy. The collective is five shows banding together to share resources: signing advertisers, booking live shows, and cross-promoting to one another’s audiences. Our shows feature enthusiastic hosts welcoming new people in to a subject they love — whether that’s mythology, basketball, Harry Potter, or Dungeons & Dragons. I handle those logistics, and each show is run and owned by its hosts. The consultancy is where we help our clients — anyone from indie producers to radio stations to companies wading into the audio world — make and market podcasts. We also publish a lot of free resources for podcasters on topics like production, marketing, and making money.
HP: How did you get to this point?
McLoughlin: Podcasts helped me stay sane at a demanding but unfulfilling day job right out of college. By late 2015, I teamed up with my friends Julia Schifini and Eric Schneider to start Spirits. We learned a lot over our first year, and by that time, our other friends were getting into podcasting too. Eric Silver brought me on to an improvised roleplaying and storytelling podcast that he and his colleague Brandon Grugle were starting (Join the Party), and a friend from my vlogging days, Mike Schubert, was about to launch a show where he read Harry Potter for the first time (Potterless). We recommended each other’s shows to our audiences, shared tips, and pitched conferences together. By late 2017, we felt more like one podcasting family than separate shops doing their own thing, so I pitched the idea of a collective named Multitude (based off of a Walt Whitman poem. Like most podcasters, I was an English major).
The consultancy was born to address a gap I saw in the market for services to help podcasters grow and make money from their shows. There are a lot of individual producers for hire, and a lot of expensive branded content studios, but not a lot of nimble full-service production companies in that vast middle ground —so I made one. That additional consulting income, combined with ad revenue and direct listener support on Patreon, that let me quit my day job in September 2018.
HP: What does a career mean to you, at this point?
McLoughlin: Making my jobs work for me, not the other way around. I worked in theater, finance, education, and tech while I learned how to make podcasts. And each time I changed jobs, I looked for roles that would let me develop a new skill — not to be more marketable to future employers, but to become more useful to my creative collaborators. Each one of those moves felt like a compromise, and the mix of industries made my resumé look somewhat scattered. I felt like a wide-eyed freshman all over again when I had to learn about fundraising, accounting, teaching, and advertising on the fly, but I got good at them quickly enough to carve out my own time. I dedicated some time each workday to learn: taking advantage of an e-learning platform one company subscribed to, and auditing courses at another to learn accounting, business, and management. I had a lot of “please explain what your job is” coffees and sat in on the workshops I organized for the interns I was supervising. Ultimately those skills are what equipped me to run my own company, and now, I am.
There’s so much pressure on people in their twenties to become successful immediately. Lots of us feel like a failure for not finding a fabulous and fulfilling job right out of college—but that’s not actually possible for most of us. Ira Glass wasn’t good at radio while working full-time in radio for, like, eight years! Jobs that support you through that long of a learning curve don’t exist anymore. Instead, most of us have to support ourselves as we get good at what we want to do. And there is absolutely no shame in paying your bills with unglamorous or unfulfilling jobs while you try and fail and slowly get better at your art.
HP: When you started out being an adult, what did you think you wanted to do?
McLoughlin: I thought I’d work in publishing, but between school and two work-study jobs, I couldn’t afford to work unpaid internships at publishing houses. The only paid internships I was remotely qualified for were in corporate HR or operations, which is how I ended up working in recruiting at an investment bank. I got another internship at the same company, then a temporary full-time role, then a permanent one. It wasn’t what I wanted to do with my life, but I had student loans and rent to pay.
HP: What’s your take on where podcasting is going, at this point in time?
McLoughlin: No one can predict what the future of podcast production, monetization, or platforms will look like — if they claim to, they’re probably trying to sell you something. Living through a similar cycle in online video taught me what’s really important: staying independent of any particular platform, diversifying your income, and developing deep relationships with your audience. Making it as an independent podcaster is hard. But there is so much power in not needing anyone’s money, tools, or permission to make your work and reach your listeners.
HP: What should I be listening to right now?
McLoughlin: Multitude shows — Spirits, Join the Party, Potterless, HORSE, and Waystation! We welcome listeners into worlds they might now know much about, as do many of my favorite podcasts: Secret Life of Canada (Canadian history), One to Grow On (agriculture), Throwing Sheyd (Jewish demonology), Dirt (archaeology), Accession (art history), Pairing (wine), The Empty Bowl (breakfast foods), and Shedunnit (detective fiction). I also love falling into the worlds of Unwell, Flyest Fables, and Flash Forward. And I love to save my “feels-like-a-warm-bath” shows for long plane or train rides: Hilarious World of Depression, Wonderful, 99pi, ARCS, and Dear Prudence.