Brad Nolan

May 23, 2023

Your show is actually a startup

Let's dispense some of the nonsense about startups and also help you move your creative business forward.

“Your show is a startup - act like it!” - Brad Nolan

It’s a cute phrase and has all the trappings of a solid tweet. It’s rude, it’s true, and it’s short. But that’s not why we are here, is it? No. Let’s get into why your show is a start up and exactly how to “act like it.”

The myth of running a startup
The whole startup culture has been quite glorified and turned into this hustle culture nonsense about getting investment and grinding and (insert time wasting thing here). But the reality of running a startup is quite different. It takes daily focus on what the user wants, a vision including both the right now and the up next, and then it rounds itself out with feeling like you’re getting nowhere. This should sound familiar. Let me put it in different terms.

  1. Daily examination of what your listener is engaging with
  2. The clock running on the hamster wheel of content
  3. No increase in downloads, retweets, or downloads from that GREAT episode you shipped

Startups are not like Uber. Startups are focused, consistent, and valuable. They are small businesses serving something other than themselves.

I want you to trust me on this one. I know this all too well because of the sheer amount of failures I’ve had. I tried to start a show prep service called Thumpr once. I just expected people to come and love it and be all about it. They didn’t. I built a piece of software called Podcave intended to bring radio operations to podcasting. I assumed they would understand it. They did! But another host did it better, faster, and with a little more experience than we did (we also truly under-estimated the amount of work it would take). 

Do not underestimate the amount of work
This is the leading cause of ‘Pod-Fade.’

“Podfade is when a new podcast produces a few episodes and then gradually starts releasing fewer and fewer until they stop entirely. Essentially, the podcast stops existing because the podcaster is unable to keep up with producing shows and it fades into podcasting oblivion.” - CoHost

Just like your radio show, your podcast will be a lot of work. Know that. Embrace it. Make the incremental changes you need to make. 

Just the other day…

A friend of mine, who’s starting a podcast, asked me what her merch should look like. Not even one episode is recorded, she has zero audience, and she is already wondering how to extract money from them. I get it. It’s normal, honestly. But, it’s not the right mindset.

  • 3M was a mining company before they made the double sided tape holding up your sound absorption foam
  • Taco Bell started as a hotdog stand
  • American Express was a parcel delivery service

You have NO idea what your product is until you find its audience. So go find it. Worry about your podcast art being perfect, or your merch, later.
Do the work. Get feedback. Do the work better. I promise this is the only action that matters.

Stop reading the tweets and start reading the books
I probably spend hours a week wasting my time saving threads from people about cool things I like. Just the other day I saved a thread on Twitter about how to make a song from scratch without using an instrument. And there it will stay, in my bookmarks, forever. I will not likely ever revisit it or use it. I’m not starting a music career anytime soon, or ever. 

But, there are three books I’ve read and recommend to anyone starting something creative (not affiliate links… cause I’m lazy):

  1. The Lean Startup
  2. The E Myth
  3. Turning Pro (First given to me by Terry Jaymes, and I’ve given copies 100 times)

Let’s take some action
Here are three things you should think about, write down, and revisit as much as you can:

  1. What is the smallest and least complicated version of the goal I want to achieve? (Really cut it way down!)
  2. What are the things about doing my podcast someone else could do as good or better than me? (Challenge your own ‘special-ness’)
  3. Why am I creating this podcast? (be honest)

If you need more clarity on any of this, let me know. 

- Brad

About Brad Nolan

Hello! I'm Brad. I've spent 20+ years helping radio personalities, podcasters, and companies make better content and operate more smoothly. I work every day in the content business, so not a fraud, which is nice.

Subscribe to get anecdotes and lessons in leadership and creativity from two decades of mistakes. Thank you for being here. Thank you for reading.