10 Questions with ... Larry Wachs
April 21, 2015
1. After you left Rock 100.5, it wasn't long before you started the new podcast. What was your thought process in deciding to do the podcast -- why do it instead of, say, taking time off or (not that it's mutually exclusive) just applying for the next gig?
First three months into this career, re-trajectoring entailed rest and getting back into working condition. Doing morning talk radio almost every day for 7 straight years is a drain and like having a concussion. So I rested, cooled the inflammations, ate good food, traveled to fun places and events, hung out with winners, and had a freakin bacchanalia. Then I got bored with that and set out to do what I do best, which is write. That progressed into wanting to have a platform for the writing, to see in whose hands it lands, and then that idea progressed into just recording and shaping the ideas into a digital presentation for a wider audience. Digital writing: It used to be called script writing, I think. I used some simple branding ideas and clicks of the mouse to point a domain at an mp3 host, and voilÃ¡: The WACHS Modcast at HouseofWACHS.com was born. If that sounds like a snooty subdivision, it is. My content is better than yours.
2. The podcast is very different from what you were doing with The Regular Guys. What's different and why did you choose to go in that direction?
Everything about it is a departure. In doing some market research on podcastery to see what was working, what was not, and what was not being done at all, I noticed a big negative trend to avoid was the ex-broadcaster/current comedian who spends a ton of money on microphones and digital equipment and essentially recreates the 4 hour guy/political talk ensemble cast format the marketplace just got done telling them they don't want anymore. "The Regular Guys" was/is a legendary show in Atlanta/Los Angeles for 20 years, and that's a great achievement. But it's enough already. I prepared for the last year and a half to make a healthy exit. When I left, ratings were at an all time high level, money was saved in the accounts. Then we go to the beach. It was obvious to me 2 years ago that not only were The Regular Guys done as a brand, but that '90s creation known as the "guy talk" format was dead and decomposing fast. Time for intimate story telling, friends and listeners.
3. What podcasts are you listening to, and what are you hearing out there that's interesting, inspiring, or catching your ear?
A few, but not regularly. "10 Minute Podcast," because those guys are loose and funny and it's 10 minutes. Their comedy style had less to do with their influence on me than their respect of people's time. Another disturbing trend I noticed in my research of podcastery was the self-indulgent length of most programs and a roughly 5-1 ratio of time to worthwhile content on some of the more popular ones. As a consumer, I'm kind of offended that any host insists that I spend 2-3 hours a session with them 3-5 days a week. I made this observation when I had no job, so I could imagine how particularly acute the situation is for people who DO have jobs and whom I want to reach with my work. So I settled gradually on a length in the 20-30 minute range every 10-14 days. Who knows? I only see my shrink once a month for 45 minutes. That's all I need. I also listen to Carolla. Great observational humorist and he understands and explains American culture better than anyone. "Freakonomics Radio" is a good one. I admire these guys' curiosity and their breakdown of behavioral incentives in just a short period of time.
4. How difficult has the transition been from a daily radio show early in the morning to a medium that has no clock, no rules, no predetermined structure imposed on you? What's your process for making the new show?
There's been no difficulty at all, just a small learning curve of starting something new and discarding old habits and thinking. I was doing it largely one way for 35 years. The process for ginning up a show is simple: I write. I record. Make a couple passes at that, and then the editing and sound design process begins. It's a blast. It's similar to film-making and record producing, but I do everything. It's led me to wonder why radio stations insist on being live 24/7 especially when most of them play musical recordings. I think the radio industry would solve most of its content problems and enjoy a renaissance by reducing its live content significantly and playing recordings of great conversations instead of just musical ones. But that's just bitter old me.
5. As someone who's just now stepping into the podcast arena, what's your impression of its promise as a business? How long would you guess it will take before podcasts are a major revenue player -- if it ever will be that, that is?
I don't know the answer. No one does. I do know that if you're really good at something, you're going to find a place. I'm really good. No worries, then? No, just fewer worries, then.
6. There are a lot of podcasts out there, and it can be hard to sort through them all to find the gems. How do you think you can make your podcast stand out amidst the thousands of choices?
You have to start from within. What are YOU good at? Do it. Keep it simple. Repetition will create mastery. Mastery leads to notice.
7. Is there anything you miss about the daily radio experience (other than the salary)? If or when you go back, what would you like to change about the process?
Nothing. It's exhausting and stressful. It doesn't have to be this way, but it is for a variety of reasons beyond my control and pay grade.
8. How important has maintaining your social media presence and participation been in the months since you left broadcast radio? What kind of things do you do to keep the engagement going? And what's the reaction been so far?
It's helpful, so I guess it's important. I use Twitter and Facebook to let people know what's going on. The reaction has been a pretty good download rate. With just Twitter, Facebook, and my local reputation from "The Regular Guys Show," the WACHS Modcast had over 2000 downloads in month 1 and in April (month 2) I'm tracking 3500-4000 for the month. I've also done interviews with people who have large followings so they will tell their followers. There's also a level of patience, because, from experience, I know that, even on a widely used platform such as radio, it takes time for people to find and then accept what you're doing. I also think that friends and colleagues currently in broadcast radio are puzzled with what I'm doing. As you pointed out, the WACHS Modcast is a grand departure from "The Regular Guys Show," and it breaks many rules and assumptions about content they've been living with for decades.
9. Here's a technical question: What's your recording setup like right now? You're doing more production on the show than many other shows do -- what equipment are you using, where are you doing it, and what would you like to add to the setup?
The whole setup was purchased for under $400 dollars. Sounds like $40,000. H4N recorder, Rode mic, Adobe software. Read the manuals. Get going.
10. Besides podcasts and radio, are there creative areas you'd like to explore now that you're off the daily grind? Writing, video, anything else?
I'd like to make/perform in video presentations because I look good and that's one area of my career I need to get more reps in. And also, I drum and sing in a band every once in a while. I'm considering a run at the PBA if I could master their lane oil patterns. It's devilish.