Music is What I Know
An inside look at UC Radio Podshow with Michael Yusi
UC Radio Podshow wasn’t Michael Yusi’s first attempt at web broadcasting. With a USB headset, Quicktime, and a Chicago-based website in the late 90’s called “Mike’s Midwestern Updates”, he began broadcasting stories about the Midwest that were hard to believe, things like people freezing to death in their bathtubs because they opened a window to let the steam out, then fell asleep in the tub. While the show was a success, Michael wasn’t fully passionate about the content. As so many others did, he turned to Adam Curry after being a long time listener of The Daily Source Code. Curry’s advice was simple, “talk about the things that you and your closest friends talk about when there is nothing else to say.” Following that, the choice became simple. Yusi grew up in a musical family and had plenty exposure to the greats, receiving his first three rock albums at age 11 (Led Zeppelin 3, Jimi Hendrix Are you Experienced and Jim Croce’s Greatest Hits). He adds, “Music is what I know, it’s what I’m passionate about and it is easy for me to talk about it. So, I ditched the stories and went with the music. That was in October of 2005.”
T: What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a podcaster?
M: Growing the audience. I find myself at least a couple of nights a week staring at the ceiling at 3am trying to figure out new ways to drive more listeners to The UC Radio Podshow, as well as Pacific Coast Hellway which I co produce with Mark Yoshimoto Nemcoff.
Honestly, I’m incredibly fortunate to have a listener base that hasn’t left me, which is fairly uncommon in podcasting. And not only have they stuck around, but they’ve spread the word and been incredibly supportive of the bands that I’ve played by going to shows, buying albums and visiting their sites. I’ve also been lucky in that I’ve formed some excellent relationships with bands. I like to think it’s because I know what they go through daily trying to make it so we speak the same language. That’s led to some exclusive tracks and pre-release album give-aways from some amazing bands worldwide. I’ve got a couple of bands that wear my t shirts when they play and promote the show for me from the stage by handing out stickers and the now world famous UC Radio promotional guitar picks. That’s huge and I can’t thank them enough.
T: How has the programming and format of UC Podcast evolved over the course of the shows history?
M: The show started out with me playing about 30 minutes of music and pretty much doing the DJ thing, simply introducing the music and playing songs back to back, as many times a week as I could squeeze in. I got a lot of feedback from early listeners asking that I give more info about the bands, upcoming shows, but more importantly, listeners started asking me why I liked the songs and who I thought the bands sounded like. The end of the first year is really when the show changed. After listening to a number of my shows back to back, I realized that it wasn’t quantity, but quality and production that made certain shows really stand out. I cut back to two shows a week, started only playing bands that I actually want on my iPod, and started to ditch the DJ act and just be myself. The difference in the shows was immediate and the numbers started going up.
I started talking more about the influences I was hearing in the music, comparing bands to mainstream acts that people would recognize. I began answering listener emails on the show, which led to people asking about my political stance (don’t even remember how that started), my opinion on social topics etc. so the show became about half music, and half me just talking about whatever came to mind or was in the news that seemed to interest the listeners. I’ve also done over 75 classic album referrals in the last year and a half. That has been a big hit and I wish I’d thought of it earlier. As far as I know, I’m still the only podcaster out there doing album referrals on a weekly basis.
Two other things had an incredible impact on the show. The first was the realization that people were actually listening and that I had more of a responsibility to them to produce a better show which led to some outlay of cash on things like compressors, mixers, mics and software and as the show started to sound better, my confidence grew exponentially. The second was the fact that I started getting email from places like Iraq, Afghanistan and other places where we had soldiers getting shot at for us. These guys somehow had found the show and were thanking me for putting them out there for their entertainment, as a little blast from home. That’s pretty humbling and it made me think of the impact that my show could have in an entirely different light. I mean think about it. Here I am, safe and sound in Hollywood, doing something I love, listening to music and talking about it, while half way around the world some poor kid is huddled in a hole trying not to get shot while listening to my show. Then, when he gets ten minutes off and some computer time, he emails me to thank me. I swear, I get those emails once in awhile and just shake my head in disbelief.
T: What was the reason for hosting the show on PodShow rather than its own site?
M: Just to be clear, I do have my own site. You can find shownotes, GoDaddy sponsorship details and a lot of other info about myself and the bands I play at http://www.bitemefcc.com
As for hosting, I hosted my show off my own server for the first two months, then I went to Libsyn, which is a great company. About 14 months in, I was offered a contract by The Podshow Network and I haven’t looked back. Not only is the distribution reliable, and they’ve helped me get sponsorship from GoDaddy for the show, but the talent that I get to work with daily and have access to, the minds that are defining and shaping New Media and looking well beyond what’s happening with podcasting right now, blow me away on a daily basis. I’m really proud and honored to be associated with The Podshow Network.
T: For aspiring podcasters, do you have any tips for growing their listener base?
M: Work your shows. Develop content that is interesting, well produced and that will speak to the listeners in one way or another. Don’t just play bands, play bands you like so when you talk about them, that comes through. Don’t do a show about cars just because you think they’re cool and you know how to drive. Don’t talk about politics if you aren’t willing to spend the time to really get under the hood. Figure out what moves you, what you’re passionate about, then do a show about that. I guarantee you there are people out there that will share your feelings.
Most importantly, take ownership and be passionate about your shows. Use urban guerrilla tactics to spread the word. Stickers on menus, gas pumps and in record stores. Give away T Shirts to hot girls because you know that guys will look at them and go to the site expecting to see the girls there (make sure your logo is chest high). And don’t take yourself too seriously. Have fun with your show and the listeners will have fun listening. Some of my best shows were done when I had nothing planned other than the bands I was going to play, or I was sick as a dog and hopped up on Nyquil and Theraflu. I like to take the David Lee Roth approach to podcasting. When you’re doing the production, promotion and distribution, it’s all work, but when you’ve got the mic in front of you, if you’re not having fun, how can you expect anyone else to?
T: Where do you plan to take the show in the coming year?
M: Well, I just resurrected my second show, “Sonic Wallpaper” at sonicwallpaper.podshow.com, which is where I play 8 of the most commented on songs from the UC Radio Podshow in the previous month. It’s like a greatest hits show, if you will. I don’t talk much, just intro the bands and give you 35-45 minutes of good solid rock. As for UC Radio itself, I just did my first interview with the band Urbansnake and it was a huge success. Listeners loved it, and the band thought it was great so I’ll be doing more of that. My hope is that I’ll be able to get one interview in a week, on the Monday shows, and do an album referral on Thursdays shows as it is now. I’d also like to start doing more live interviews with bands around Hollywood, so you can look for that as well.
Mostly, I’m hoping to start developing more offshoots from the show, maybe a show with just interviews, or just album referrals, but UC Radio is my baby so it will always be the central character in my play. I like to say that it’s my therapy and my addiction which keeps the whole thing spinning in a slightly out of control circle, and I like it that way.
So, give it a listen, UCpod.podshow.com