Andrew: Hey there, freedom fighters. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder Mixergy where I interview entrepreneurs about how they built their businesses for an audience of entrepreneurs. Joining me is someone who used to listen to my podcast, and when he decided that he was going to create a podcast of his own, he invited me on and I thought it was just phenomenal.
And then a few years later, I went to this conference that I had heard so much about called Podcast Movement, a conference for podcasters, and I was amazed by the size of it. In fact, even before I arrived, I was amazed by how many people talked about it, how big it had gotten. And then I realized it was the guy who interviewed me, it was the guy who was listening. It was Dan Franks. And I watched his thing just grow and grow and grow and I asked him to come on, and I think he was being strategic by saying, “Yes, but let’s wait.”
And my guess is, Dan, that you’re waiting for the next conference to happen which is what we’re going to get to talk about today, how you built to where you are today and where the next conference is for anyone who’s interested in podcasting. I highly recommend it. I love the freaking conference. I thought it was well done. And I think that the interesting thing about podcasters at this point is they are very accessible and it’s way easier to go to your conference, Dan, and get to know a bunch of podcasters than to fire off all these annoying emails that I get all the time that I now created shortcuts to get rid of.
So, if you’re interested in creating conferences, if you’re interested in podcasting, in general, if you’re interested in going from being a listener to an entrepreneurial creator, this is the interview for you. And we can do this interview with Dan Franks thanks to two phenomenal sponsors. The first is also a sponsor of Dan’s conference. It’s the program that will . . . the company that will . . . the hosting service that will host your website right. It’s called HostGator.
And the second is a company you guys probably hadn’t heard too much about, James Altucher, also a podcaster has built a reputation by publishing a book. He is showing people how to publish books themselves. His company is called Choose Yourself. And we’re going to talk about how, later on when I talked about the advertisers, how he can help you publish your own book and build your own reputation. But first, Dan, good to have you on here.
Dan: Thanks for having me on. Like you said, it’s really a full-circle moment for me here to be on here with you on the other side of the microphone, so to speak.
Andrew: I like that you’ve been listening long enough to not be shocked by this first question, which is, what’s the revenue? How much are you guys doing with this conference?
Dan: Yes. Last year, 2018 calendar year was the first year we crossed seven figures. So for a once a year conference that really kind of grew in a grassroots way out of nothing. That was a really huge milestone for us. And anyone who run an event or runs conferences knows like the margins are not as great as other types of businesses, but that top line revenue being seven figures was one of those invisible milestones that we were just aiming for.
Andrew: You broke over $1 million in revenue. Is it fair to say that you did over 200,000 in profit after paying yourselves?
Dan: Yeah, yeah, that is. And a lot of it is with our growth, our ideas for growth and building the conference business and building the brand to more than conferences, we definitely keep a lot of it in for reinvestment. We’ve always reinvest pretty heavily, but yeah, we’re happy with how much money we’re making and hope to . . .
Andrew: Don’t be a weak guest. Let’s be a strong guest. What’s the profit on this? If you’re doing over $1 million, what’s the profit look like?
Dan: Yeah, probably 30%.
Andrew: Thirty percent after paying you and Jared’s salary from this.
Dan: Yeah. For runway and we still look at this runway. We definitely don’t look at it as money that’s there for us to play with.
Andrew: Meaning you put it in the bank. So you guys take your own salary, you’ve got 30%, meaning for every $1 million, $300,000 you keep it in the bank and you say, “Look, we need to be able to protect ourselves from bad situations,” like what happened to you guys in the past. I had no idea. And we’ll talk about it in this interview. The thing that kind of gave me a sense that you guys were going through a difficult moment was the conference was doing really well and then you told me about a new job that you got. Do you remember what that job was?
Dan: Yeah. It was probably when I was working for Midroll. So I worked two years with Midroll whose main business at the time was selling ads for other podcasters kind of being that middleman between the advertisers and the podcasters. Yeah. It was going great, but it was . . . That was when our margins weren’t as good as they were now before we started learning a lot of things. And a lot of it with the conference business is there’s those hard costs that even when the number of attendees doubles or triples, some of those costs don’t double or triple. A lot of them are just hard costs that are going to be there regardless.
Andrew: Like what?
Dan: A lot of stuff to do with the venue. So, there’s going to be in certain cities like LA is one of the big ones where there’s going to be like this labor costs that’s like whether you have 100 people in the audience or 3,000 people in the audience, there’s this . . . And every venue is different, but one of the venues we worked at in the past had something like that where it’s $20,000 flat regardless of how many people are there. So, if your revenue is $50,000 or $500,000 for that one event, that $20,000 is going to make a different impact.
Andrew: I realized that the event had gotten really big and dialed in with the team when I got up on stage and there was a problem with the AV, and I remember telling your co-founder about it, Jared, and Jared said, “Yeah.” I said, “Well, Jared is not doing anything.” And then two people came over and they immediately like, came up to the stage. “Don’t bother Jared with this. We’re on this. We got it.” They fixed the issue in a moment I go, “Whoa, this is no longer just two dudes with an idea. This is a really organized team.” What are you thinking about that?
Dan: Yeah, I know. That’s been a huge part of that growth and we talked about Dan having to take a new job even though the event seemingly is doing really well versus now Dan being able to have Podcast Movement as the job really about the team. So you don’t know what you don’t know, and that’s a very common saying and people say it a lot, but it’s absolutely true. And we didn’t know a whole lot about running events until we started bringing on people to our team that did know a lot about running events.
Andrew: Just before you created the event you were a listener. What were you listening to at Mixergy interviews? Why were you listening? Give me a sense as a podcast listener which obviously everyone here is, what were you thinking?
Dan: Yeah. So my background is accounting and I did taxes and finances for small businesses. So I was almost listening to it from like a business development standpoint, like how can I help my entrepreneur and my solopreneur clients? Like, if I can share some kind of wisdom with him that I learned from Andrew in his business, then it make me seem like a better accountant. They’ll tell their friends come to me and I might make partner at my accounting firm one day. That was the short-term thinking for sure. That was before there was any business on my own on the table.
Andrew: And you were on that path. I see that you spent five years at . . . Is it Beaird Harris? And then two more years at KPMG, a huge accounting firm. And then you said, “You know what? I think I could do a better job than these guys.” And you were the only one who interviewed me that I can think of right now who had a different angle on the podcast interview. What was that angle? What were you guys thinking when you said, “We could do better”?
Dan: Yeah. So we listened to all the same podcasts which meant all the same people being interviewed over and over. And back then I think it was even more so and you mentioned how many inbound requests you get. So maybe I’m just out of the loop a little bit from what I was then, but it just seemed like all the podcasts that I like to listen to they all had the same guests over and over telling the same stories. But we wanted to have those same guests on because those were the people like you that we looked up to. So we had to figure out, “How are we going to have this show that has the same guests, but if we want to grow it into a podcast that people want to listen to, in addition to all these other ones, what are we going to do differently?”
And our whole take on it was, let’s start off the interview and say, “Okay. Everyone’s heard your backstory. Everyone knows who Andrew Warner is, if they don’t, here’s three places to go, here are the same interview. Now we’re going to start from there and we’re going to talk about anything but things that you’ve talked about in the past.” So almost like bypassing all the “Tell us about yourself.” or “Tell us how you got started.”
Andrew: But it was supposed to be like a boxing match. I think you called . . . It was “Entrepreneur Showdown with Andrew.” And I forget what you guys challenged me on, but it was, “Let’s challenge Andrew about something.” Right?
Dan: Yeah, it was exactly that. So we would say, “All right, let’s get past everything that everyone talks about and then let’s pick some topic that either Andrew has done a recent show about or Andrew has recently written about or recently shared on social media, some hot take that Andrew has, and let’s challenge him on it, let’s take an opposite stance.” And I don’t remember what that specific topic was, but I do remember that’s how all of our interviews started is, “No, let’s not talk about what other people talk about, but let’s do something completely different, kind of moving the goalposts from the very beginning.”
Andrew: Okay. And then how did you go from there to suddenly saying, “We need a new type of conference”? Actually, I think the intermediate step was as podcast listeners, as creators, you went to New Media Expo. Is that right?
Dan: Yeah, New Media Expo which was a stalwart in Las Vegas for many years. Every January they would have New Media Expo in Las Vegas. And it was a bloggers conference. They had a little bit of podcasting sprinkled in, a little bit of video sprinkled in, and this would have been in the early 2000 or the mid-2000s started as BlogWorld and kind of evolved a couple of times into the New Media Expo.
And yeah, we were there and we noticed that there was just a whole lot of podcasters including ourselves that were there as attendees, but a lot of the programming was geared towards bloggers, so we would look in the blogging sessions and there’d be like three people in it, and then the podcasting sessions, they would be turning people away at the floor, but the conference kept doubling down on the blogging aspect. So, as attendees, we would have preferred something different from a content standpoint and that’s . . . I hate to say a lightbulb moment, but that’s when we were all sitting around a table thinking like, “Somebody is going to do this and if it’s not us, it’s got to be someone else. So why don’t we try our best to make it us?” And that’s when we kind of put together that Kickstarter campaign.
Andrew: I think the way it worked was Rick Calvert had blog . . . What was it? BlogWorld is the conference. And then he acquired, I think, a podcasting conference back when . . .
Dan: I think you had the founders on that on your show one time.
Andrew: Yeah, yeah. I’m blanking on the name, but I’ve known the guy forever. I even went to his conference and the . . . Oh, Tim Bourquin. And so it was his podcasting conference essentially what you called New Media Expo because podcasting was too small. And then when Rick acquired it, he was afraid, I think, to double down on podcasting because he saw that it didn’t work in the past.
And you guys realized that, yeah, podcasting was too small back before Apple even had the podcast app which is when Tim I think recognize the power of it. But now it was something and it was growing and you said, “We’re going to create our own podcasting conference.” And you were talking about the Kickstarter campaign which kicked the whole thing off, but I’m wondering why do you even want to get into a conference space. I never see the opportunity the way other people do in conferences. Why did you want to do it?
Dan: When you say opportunity, you’re looking at it from a business perspective, and we weren’t. We were just looking for something that we wanted to exist that didn’t exist. We had no . . . And in my background, and I’m embarrassed, not as embarrassed to admit now because it ended up working out, but looking back embarrassed to think about how little effort and thought I put into the actual numbers and into the finances of this thing and really just kind of did it by the seat of our pants. So, when you say opportunity, there was certainly an opportunity there for the conference to exist. Now, had we looked at it and crunch the numbers, maybe it wouldn’t have flushed out that way, but since we didn’t do that, that ignorance is what I think led us to putting it together in the first place.
Andrew: I never understand that way of thinking. I guess I have side hobby, side projects, but I don’t allow them to become that big. I always think, “Where’s the payoff here? Where is it makes sense?” And I’m surprised that you don’t think that way, but I’m also recognizing that there are a lot of people who really don’t think that way, who do better in many ways and often better than people who are obsessed with the payoff all the time. You smiled as I said that. Why?
Dan: Yeah, no, because like I said, for many years, especially when it was getting a little rocky in the middle years there where it looked like it might not work out. I really was embarrassed to admit like, “Oh, yeah, I happened to be a CPA, but oh, yeah, the numbers . . . ” I ended up not budgeting this thing right, not planning this out. So, yeah. I mean, that was . . . What you said almost could be a strength. At the time it looked like an extreme weakness for a couple of years.
Andrew: You’re a guy who’s not like . . . And don’t . . . You’re someone who does care about business, who does care about big projects. I actually heard from our producer that growing up you were into professional wrestling. You called yourself a superfan, by the way. What made you a superfan and what did you like about professional wrestling?
Dan: Yeah. I mean, I’m still a superfan of professional wrestling, and that’s something I’m not afraid to admit while other people are. But I yeah, I grew up ever since I was little watching professional wrestling and it was the combination of the athleticism. So it’s like football in that there’s contact and slamming and all that, but it also has that entertainment element because it’s very much soap opera. And then for me, the part that kind of transitioned into some of the events stuff I do is more of the production element. So, anytime you go to these things in person, there’s always pyrotechnics and lights and it’s very much like a production show as much as it is the athleticism and the entertainment. So, a lot of that actually shapes the way we do a lot of things at the event in terms of the production, in terms of the sets and all those pieces that we do for the event.
But yeah, that professional wrestling background. I often ask myself, “What would Vince McMahon do?” So he’s like the proprietor of the world’s largest professional wrestling league. And anytime we have this decision whether it’s, “Should we pay this speaker this amount of money or should we invest in this additional lighting package or anything like that? What would Vince McMahon do if he’s doing this for the WWE? Would he pay The Rock $1 million to make a surprise appearance at WrestleMania this year? Okay. Maybe it does make sense to bring in Terry Gross for five figures.”
Andrew: Wow. I’m surprised that Terry Gross charges anything because she’s still NPR’ish, you know, but she is . . .
Dan: NPR, they know how to make money. And I think the piece to that is because they do . . . Maybe the NPR side of things is rather conservative in their compensation and stuff. Whenever there’s things outside of that “day job” for them outside of the norm, then they make up for it that way.
Andrew: Okay, that makes sense. And so you went to one of these, like, underground wrestling matches. I’ve always been afraid of them because there’s so low buck and I feel like I’m just going to get hit by a wrestler thrown off or watch someone die. And maybe that’s the feel of going to . . .
Dan: Yeah. Either those could happen, for sure.
Andrew: So, you went to it as a kid. And what was it about it that your parents said, “No, I don’t think you should go back”?
Dan: It was kind of like you described. They would drop me off with my friend every Friday and we were, I don’t know, 13, 14 years old and it was just kind of a strip mall like place. It was in a decent part of town, versus taking us to the movies, they took us to this and two hours later they’d pick us up. And then one time it was the Thanksgiving Day, a special. They had the big special cage match on Thanksgiving and I talked to them into going with me. That was the big mistake because when they came with me then they saw all the blood and the swearing and the fights that the wrestlers were getting in with the people in the audience and that’s when they said, “All right, we’re not going to do this anymore. You’re going to have to do this on your own when you can drive yourself.”
Andrew: So what did you do with that?
Dan: Yeah. So, I mean, basically what happened was I turned that into . . . And again, not talking about the business opportunities, but I turned it into a business opportunity on accident as I started saying, “Well, if I can’t go to these professional wrestling shows every week, I still just have to know who’s winning and who’s losing on a weekly basis.” But at that time, late 1998, 1999, somewhere in that timeframe, there was no websites for these types of things, and now there’s probably 12 for every little show that happens. But now there’s . . . At that time, there were no websites, there was no online reporting, so I decided to build that out on my own. And I built this professional wrestling . . . this Texas local professional wrestling website that reported all the news and had interviews and I was doing all this stuff out of my bedroom because my parents wouldn’t actually let me go to these things.
Andrew: And you would actually reach the wrestlers?
Dan: Yeah, yeah.
Dan: I would reach the wrestlers and then they would start asking me, “Hey, can you build my website?” and I started charging money. And yeah, every day I’d come home from school and I’d have checks from these pretty low-budget professional wrestlers for building and maintaining their websites.
Andrew: Wow. I do remember as a kid whenever I’d have a project and reach out to an adult and asked for help, it felt like I was really in business and I had this superpower, that all the people who are not accessible actually are now in my world. For me, the example of that was, I was kind of into baseball cards for a little bit and there’d be these big shows in New York which were focused about how much you can sell your baseball cards for and make money from them. And I remember having an idea of creating my own show and I reached out to the people who had booths at the other shows to say, “I’m thinking of doing this.” And they took my calls and they took me seriously and I was like, “Wow, this is amazing. This actually is a world that I could enter like an adult.” It’s not something you see from the outside. What do you think about it?
Dan: Yeah. I mean, no, it was awesome, but a lot of times, especially that because a lot of it was over email and stuff. They didn’t even know they were dealing with a 13-year-old kid. I mean, surely this has to be an adult because he knows how to build these websites whereas these adults didn’t know how to do these things. So, years later when I actually was, again, old enough to drive myself to these things, and I didn’t lose interest, and they’d meet me, they’d say, “Wait. So you’re 16 now. You were how old when I was sending you the checks?” Yeah. But I mean, it was to me even if I wouldn’t have gotten paid, it was just absolutely like the best thing in the world to be chatting with these professional wrestlers who to me were idols and now I look back and it’s a little silly but it was a blast then.
Andrew: You got to tell me what the website was. I’m on the Internet Archive. I want to see it.
Dan: It was txwrestling.com.
Andrew: Oh, for Texas.
Dan: For Texas because texaswrestling.com would have been taken at the time.
Andrew: What are we talking about? 2001, right?
Dan: Yeah, that would have been kind of the tail end of it I believe.
Andrew: The tail end. Okay. The Internet Archive doesn’t go back any earlier than that. It does show lot of movement in 2003. Let me take a look at 2001, 2003, see what it looks like. In fact . . . Oh, there it is. Look at this. You’ve got your results for each for like, February 23rd. I can see that there’s nude. Not nude, news. There’s a pop-up coming up here for yoho.com. Is that you guys?
Dan: That could have been the free hosting company that I was using at the time. Who knows what was around back then?
Andrew: Yeah. All right, cool. And then it looks like at some point you lost it and 2003 there’s a lot of movement because somebody turned it into a site full of links to like inkjet cartridges and cigarettes and so on.
Dan: It’s what happens to the best websites of the late ’90s.
Andrew: That’s what Yoho. It seems like their business model was because “Powered by Yoho” is on the very bottom of these link pages. All right. Let me talk about my first sponsor and then get into the rest of the conversation. I want to know why you went to Kickstarter, what happened at Kickstarter, how it worked out, how you got people to pay.
First sponsor is a company called HostGator. If you have an idea, I keep saying, “You know what? If it’s an idea that has legs, if you think that it’s going to be something big, go to hostgator.com.” But you know what we’re finding with Dan and so many other people, frankly, even with me, this podcast was not going to be a thing. It was just something on the weekend I decided . . . So the weekend was going to be so accurate. Maybe it was after work one day, my wife came home, I took my special seat into my office from the living room and I sat down there with my laptop and I just started crunching away in a website where I could do interviews with people when that wouldn’t matter.
And because it didn’t matter, I had a whole lot of freedom and it felt great. And then this little podcast became a thing and it’s been taken over my life for so long now, so much so, Dan, I love living in San Francisco because I took my kids to an amusement park and you’re going to start to see this in your life, I bet. And this guy just walked up to me and said, “Hey, aren’t you Andrew Warner?” I said, “Yeah.” My kid goes, “What’s going on Daddy? What happened?” I said, “Give me a moment to talk to him and then I’ll explain it to you later.”
And it was kind of a cool moment, especially because it wasn’t just like a celebrity sighting situation. It was a conversation with an entrepreneur who had built something interesting, who I wanted to know more about. And one of the things that I love about my audience is when they do stop me, and it happens in San Francisco a lot as you could imagine, they have something substantive going on even if they don’t think it is because they think they’re in a job and it’s bad or they shouldn’t be in a job if they’re entrepreneurs.
It’s always fascinating stuff. So, I love it. I love my audience. And it all started because I just decided . . . Look, I’ve been cursing. I’m trying to be a little more responsible. Screw it. I’m just going to sit here and I’m going to create something and then it took off. So if you’ve got an idea, screw it, take it over to HostGator. If you pick that middle option, the one that gives you unlimited domain hosting, any one of your little ideas with one click could have a WordPress website for it, and then a theme that you can pick from the WordPress dashboard and just start creating. And if you don’t like it, dump it, screw it. Nobody has to know.
And if you do like it, keep going with it. Don’t feel the need to justify it in a business sense. Just understand that the more you get into it, the more you learn, the more that you do something that you’re passionate about, I think the more greatness comes out of you. Take it to HostGator by going to hostgator.com/mixergy. When you do, they’re going to give you the lowest price available. I know because Sachit Gupta, the guy who sells ads is relentless about going to our sponsors and telling them to give our people the lowest price available. And frankly, you’ll also be supporting my podcast here. hostgator.com/mixergy.
All right. You went to Kickstarter because what you wanted to know was, “Hey, does anyone else care about this?” Right?
Dan: Yeah. I mean, we thought that the proof was in the numbers, the proof was in just simply being at New Media Expo and seeing the number of podcasters that were there that wanted to be at a podcast conference. But we didn’t learn everything from podcasts, but we learned enough to know that you had to get in there and prove out the concept and make sure before . . . make sure people are willing to support things financially.
So that’s what we did with Kickstarter and it was a little interesting because there weren’t a whole lot of use cases for events funding on Kickstarter. And I think there’s a few more of them now, but at the time, we were trying to find other people that were doing it. It was really hard to do. We were trying to find out if we were able to just because Kickstarter is more for physical products and things like that.
But once we figured out we were able to, yeah, Kickstarter seemed like the best way especially because we didn’t have . . . None of us had famous podcast or none of us had any kind of following on social. So the whole idea was, well, Kickstarter will organically promote for you. So, that was the best organic promotion we could think of because no one else was really going to be willing to support us on the front end when we first came to them with the idea. So, that was kind of that Kickstarter marketing.
Andrew: But Dan, what about this? You did have people who were really well known in the podcast space, Jaime Tardy is on your site, Cliff Ravenscraft who taught people how to create podcasts. His podcast was called Podcast Answer Man. He’s a big draw. John Lee Dumas. How much . . . How hard was it to get them to say, “Yes, I will come and speak at this conference”?
Dan: A lot easier when we got funded in the first 24 hours.
Andrew: So you didn’t even have them on your site until you got funded?
Dan: A handful of them, but probably 10% or 15%. Like, anyone whose name you recognize on there, probably were not on there initially.
Andrew: So it was mostly Kickstarter doing it, a little bit of help from you, a little bit of help from the few people who came on to speaking . . .
Dan: Yeah, asking our friends because amongst those people that were all wishing an event like this would happen, we were saying, “Oh, yeah, you’re like a big podcaster,” because to us, some of them were big podcasters and we asked them to speak and asked to use their face on the Kickstarter campaign. And then just as that kept rolling and as it started picking up steam and gaining momentum and people started talking about it, then some people started coming to us and asking to speak, and some people who we had gone to and they had turned us away came back to us and said, “Oh, this actually is going to be a thing. Maybe I can make time for this.”
Andrew: Who was a mensch who even before it was anything was supportive?
Dan: I think John Lee Dumas is someone that he was tentatively supportive, or not tentatively but he was a little hesitant about it, but he did. So we asked him to keynote that first year. And I think you’ve been on his show, he’s been on your show. But we asked him to keynote the first year, he said, “No, thanks for asking me.” I’m like, “Oh, man, that was going to be our big draw that first year.”
And I went back to him a little bit later and said, “Okay. What if we just pay to fly you out, pay you a hotel, fly out Kate Erickson, your girlfriend, pay to put [crosstalk 00:24:28] and then we’ll just put your face on the website and we’ll say you’re going to be on a panel.” And he’s like, “Okay.” So he went with that. So that was the kind of thing that like to us, that was a big win, the hesitant “Okay” was like a whole world for us because at the time and even still now, but at the time, he just had a big megaphone reaching the people that were trying to get to attend the conference. So, yeah.
Andrew: Because he was teaching people how to create podcasts.
Dan: Yeah, he was. And then you mentioned Cliff Ravenscraft, and he’s one of the ones and he’s told this story publicly before so I’m not afraid to share it also. He told us no and he kind of pushed us away a couple of times when we asked him to speak. And then he’s one of the few that six months later came back and said, “You know what? I made a mistake. This is something I really do want to be a part of. Will you still have me?” And we took him back and that was something that, I don’t want to say it was like redemption for us, but it was validation that, okay, we’re not just creating something we want and we’re not just creating something that the small number of Kickstarter people want, but we’re creating something that people at the time we saw as really big influencers in the space wanted to be a part of.
Andrew: You mentioned the cost of location. What was the location for the first conference?
Dan: It’s funny. It changed three times actually because every time we started selling more and more tickets, we kept having to upgrade and change facilities and it was going to be at a little like community center in a small suburb north of Dallas named Addison, and it was going to be there. And then every time we would sell another 100 or 150 tickets we were like, “Oh crap, we just outgrew that.” So, we’d go to the next one and ended up being at a Westin here in North Dallas.
Andrew: Westin Galleria Dallas? Is that where it was?
Dan: That’s right. That’s right. It’s actually, it’s connected to a mall which is great for us because we’re like, “This is amazing. We don’t even have to feed people because they can just walk to the food court during lunch break.” So, definitely bare bones version one.
Andrew: How did you . . . So, your goal was to get 100 people. You said, “If we could get 100 people, we’re going to be happy.” You picked August, by the way, which is insane in Texas.
Dan: It’s insane anywhere, like, that’s what we’ve learned. Nobody is happy to go anywhere in August. That’s the month that people just kind of want to batten down the hatches and stay at home wherever home is, wherever home and wherever the air conditioner is. Because since then we’ve done events in Philadelphia and Chicago in different places that would, in theory, be cooler places than Dallas, and all those have been super hot and super muggy and super bad weather as well. So more so than just August in Dallas, just August, in general, is going to be considered not the best weather month.
Andrew: The latest one is going to be August 13th through the 16th in Orlando at Rosen Shingle Creek, Orlando.
Dan: Yeah. Speaking of hot.
Andrew: Yeah. And the reason you’re doing this is you’re saying, “Look, yes, it is very hot, but you know what? We’re not looking for people to go and explore the city. What we want to do is pick a time when there isn’t another conference. We’re not trying to compete with everything else that’s going on in their lives.” Right?
Dan: That’s part of it, but the other part of it, that’s when the venues are the cheapest. And especially when we started out, we were trying to make it as cheap as possible for us just to be able to afford to actually hold the event. And then once we got that momentum going, then we started figuring out, okay, this also, like you said, happens to be a pocket of time where other people aren’t hosting events. So the venues are the cheapest, other events aren’t being hosted. We tried to squeeze in right before the kids go back to school. I mean, we did picked locations that people we hope would want to go to and explore, you know, Orlando Disney World. We’ve been in different places. So, we do try to pick locations that are somewhat exciting for people to go to, but yeah, sometimes the weather is not the best.
Andrew: I think you did it in Chicago when I was there. Is that right?
Dan: Chicago, and I think you were in Anaheim with us as well. So, 2016 and 2017.
Andrew: And yeah, I did like it. I like hanging out with people outside of the conference. That’s one of my favorite things to do. How helpful are speakers in getting attendees, I mean, as far as promoting beyond just having their name on the site?
Dan: We’ve had this, like, big pendulum swing. So, early on, a lot of the speakers were excited just to be a part of something special. Like I said, it was a grassroots thing that people that were participating were really excited about it and sharing it. And since then, we’ve seen a little bit of a shift, and I don’t say this to be negative to anyone, but we’ve seen a little bit of a shift and participants not necessarily wanting to promote other people’s things. So they certainly are excited to speak at the event, but in terms of like, promoting to the audiences and to the potential ticket buyers, not as much as you would probably expect.
And I think because we’re not in that marketing world, so I know you’ve had Michael Stelzer on and you’ve chat at Traffic & Conversion recently, listen to some of those shows. And I think at that marketing space, there’s a little bit more of an acceptance of promo codes and affiliate links and people sharing and some revenue shares going on there. And I’m not saying those conferences do or don’t do it, but in a lot of spaces, that’s more acceptable whereas for us, a lot of our attendees and a lot of our speakers are creators, they’re very much from a creative standpoint, so they’re not necessarily approaching anything from a business standpoint. So, a), they don’t have the channels to promote things on an affiliate links at least that they’re willing to, but then b) their audiences aren’t necessarily going to be receptive to that kind of thing as well. So, it’s a little bit of a corner we’ve painted ourselves into. Again, not a bad way because the actual content on stage is what draws the attendees. We don’t need them to promote it, but that piece of the marketing machine isn’t necessarily there.
Andrew: I feel like there was a period there where it was okay for people to promote conferences because it was self-congratulatory. It was, “Look at me. I’m at a conference. It’s amazing that people asked me to speak.” And now if you do it, it’s, “Look at me. I’m at a conference. People asked me to speak.” It’s like a weird flex, which is kind of a tough situation for conferences. So then, what do you do to get attendees? What’s worked?
Dan: Well, we do a lot of Facebook marketing. So, anyone who’s ever been to our website and also uses Facebook has probably seen many, many ads in their face after that. It’s just where we found a lot of our attendees and prospective attendees hanging out is Facebook.
Andrew: What else? So, Facebook . . . If I get retargeting on Facebook, but if I’m not coming to your site in the first place, you can’t retargeting me.
Dan: Yeah. I mean, there’s all kind of . . . We do the typical lookalike audiences on Facebook marketing, lookalike audiences on Instagram, lookalike audiences on Twitter. So I mean, it really is social media. Our Facebook group is probably our big there in terms of just getting people on the email list and into our pipeline, so our Facebook group is almost 23,000 people strong right now mostly brand new podcasters or people interested in podcasting, so really, that target audience for who our conference is built around.
And as they join that group, part of it is giving them an optional opt-in to be on our email list and then from there once a week, they’re getting promotional information about the conference and updates on the conference, updates on speakers, everything that would get people excited about going to the conference. So, that piece . . . It is Facebook, but it’s completely outside the typical Facebook marketing bubble.
Andrew: I think I’ve got a similar problem with the podcast where I think your audience would be interested in seeing this episode or listening to it. In fact, I know that a significant number would. How do I even reach them? I wish that it was easier to target somebody else’s audience. Like, I could imagine that your speakers may not be excited to go and promote. Not like they were years ago. They definitely wouldn’t be buying ads to promote, but I wish it was easy for you to say, “You know what? I just want to target your audience online. Jaime Tardy, you’re speaking at the conference, you’ve got a lot that you’re promoting right now, you can’t promote it. Can I just have access to your audience to tell them you are going to be speaking at my conference?” There isn’t an easy way to do that, right?
Dan: No, there’s not. And you know the harder thing for us is because our speakers a lot of them are not podcasting about podcasts. They’re podcasting about current events or new. Even if they’re promoting a third of their audience, it’s just not a relevant promotion. So if we were a fan event where we were trying to get these speakers to bring their fans in to listen to them do a live podcast or something like that, then that would be a little more applicable and then they potentially would be open to whether it’s a revenue share or just sharing in that wealth, but when they’re really not speaking to their audience at all, that’s where they don’t see that value and necessarily promoting to their audience.
Andrew: All right. First one, did you make money from it?
Dan: First one, we did make money from it.
Andrew: You did.
Dan: Close to breakeven but enough to encourage us to keep going. The second year was kind of when the bottom dropped out.
Andrew: The first one you didn’t have any sponsorship. No, you did. You did. Even on Kickstarter, you had sponsorship.
Dan: We did. That was one of the big things we did that really helped the Kickstarter campaign was not only did we use the reward tiers in Kickstarter to pre-sell the tickets to the event. So, if you contributed over, whatever, was $79 I think the first time, you got a ticket to the three-day conference, but you could also buy a booth. You could also be one of our top . . . I think we were calling them gold sponsors or diamond sponsors or something at the time.
Andrew: Silver sponsor for 599. Your company gets silver placement on our conference website, banner, signage and sponsorship signage. You’ll be mentioned in the mailings, in programs, in social media. And then there is for $1,200 the gold sponsorship. And then you had platinum which I don’t think you sold that first year.
Dan: We did not sell that first . . . We sold it later on. But yeah, it was interesting, like, a lot of the people that were sponsoring that first year were almost, I don’t want to call them the get-rich-quick type of companies, but that’s what they saw us as, is just a business type conference that they can come in and get some coaching clients and that kind of thing. Whereas very quickly, we evolved into more of a service-based and product-based type of exhibitors and sponsors who are trying to reach podcasters specifically.
Andrew: Like who? Who became the big sponsor?
Dan: Your Libsyns, your Blubrrys, your Podbeans, anyone that’s providing a service specifically to podcasters, and then pretty much every microphone manufacturer that you can think of is there demoing their products and stuff. So it’s really grown into something that even if you don’t go to any of the sessions, people will go and just spend two days in the expo hall talking to all these companies.
Andrew: I get that. I’ve been watching a lot of YouTube videos lately about Rode microphones. I’ve been using a Rode podcasting mic for a long time. That’s what you got too, the exact same one as mine.
Dan: Yeah, I’m talking into one, yeah.
Andrew: Actually, no. Which one do you have?
Dan: It’s the Rode Procaster.
Andrew: Got it. I’ve been really amazed by the wireless mics that they just came out with. I think it’s called the Rode GO, super tiny, just really well-thought out. I could see that there’s a whole world of podcasting tech that I never cared about and now because I’m taking my podcast international, I suddenly care again about all the equipment and I want to find out about what equipment makes sense for me to take with me and so on. My next trip in less than 48 hours I’m going to go to Mongolia to run a marathon and then from there I’m going to go to Singapore to do interviews in person with entrepreneurs. I’m psyched about it.
Dan: And what’s your equipment right now that you bring?
Andrew: So I got the Zoom . . . Is it 4HN recorder or N4H or something?
Andrew: H4N. I got that and then I got these two omnidirectional lavalier mics to plug into it. I wish that it wasn’t such a big bulky thing, but I’ve got those two coming in. I wear earphones as I sit and record with the guests because I want to make sure that there’s not a weird situation going on where their shirt is brushing up against it. But I like having lavaliers on guests because it gets them to forget that they’re performing and just lets them lean back and move forward and get angry at me and get relaxed with me. And that little bit of movement without having to think about mic placement means that the conversation gets more personal. I’m still kind of into it. Are you still into podcasting?
Dan: I’m not. I really enjoy the medium and I really enjoy working with those who work in the medium, but I’ve not recorded my own podcast in quite some time. Yeah, I mean . . .
Dan: Because, well, a), time, the conference just takes up so much time, but, b), I’ve just found that I really enjoy the medium and enjoy doing things like running the conference to support the medium and I don’t really feel like my podcast or my voice in the form that I was doing the podcast in was contributing to anything. I figured through the conference and through just working with the people in our community I could contribute to their podcast medium a lot more than hosting my own.
I think that’s probably a . . . That could go for a lot of people too I think. There’s a lot of podcasters out there and people that are just doing them just to do them. And I really think that taking a step back and trying to figure out if what you’re putting into the podcast space is actually of any value to listeners whether it’s educational or entertainment or whatever the purpose is, make sure it’s actually fulfilling that need.
Andrew: You know what? I agree with you and at the same time, I just saw recently an alternative approach that I’ve been intrigued by. Anchor was bought out by Spotify. And I think they, just before the buyout, finally nailed the process, finally nailed their product, which is just an easy way to create a podcast. It’s not the most high production podcast, but if you just want a simple podcast, they make it easy.
And here’s an example of someone who doesn’t really give . . . He doesn’t spend a lot of time thinking about his audience. He just thinks what’s right for him and then it becomes useful for the audience. Brian Harris. What he does is he goes on and for like five minutes just riffs on what he’s doing at work, something like how he finally found his business model. And his business model is now to create software that he gives away for free as a lead magnet so people will use his software, they enter their email addresses in order to get it. And now he has a list of people who are interested in the topic of the software and he tells them about his course which he is selling.
Another podcast. And that was a five-minute discussion. Actually, not even discussion. It was just him talking into his phone with nice music on the background, interesting to hear how he’s thinking about his business, five minutes in and out.
The other one that he had was how he’s not doing courses anymore. He’s now creating something that he calls an accelerator, which is just 200 people at a time guaranteed results or else you get your money back. So, if it’s like the partnership accelerator, he is going to guarantee that you will end up with a partnership by the end of the 200s . . . by the end of the program and something like 90% of the people who go through it end up getting a partnership. And I think it’s interesting for him to just think out loud journal style and for me to hear his thought process on his business. A really lightweight podcast doesn’t really compete with the Marc Marons of the world, for example, but I think there’s a place for that especially for a fan and a friend who wants to follow along.
Dan: Yeah, no, I completely agree with that. I don’t think the format has to be any kind of rigid format and it doesn’t have to fit any kind of structure or do any . . . has to be a certain length or a certain format. But by you just describing what he’s doing and how it’s working well and how you like that format, that kind of proves my point of is what you’re doing something that people care about or want to listen to, not necessarily doesn’t fit the mold of what someone else’s or what the coaches or any of these podcasts trainers or any famous person is doing, it doesn’t necessarily have to fit their mold, but it does have to be interesting.
I think, Anchor, your example, there’s a big drop off in people creating one or two shows in Anchor and then abandoning their anchor accounts. I think like 90% of people that create on Anchor create one or two episodes, they never create again. I don’t necessarily think that’s something that’s pushing people into the podcast space the right way. Now, if they’re happy with what that is and that’s all they wanted to do is create a couple of episodes, then that’s fine. But if they actually were wanting to do something a little more, maybe that’s not the best gateway for them to go through.
Andrew: You know what? I’m someone who likes to follow through on things. It’s the reason why I’m a marathon man. I’m running long distance because I like to commit to stuff and I’ve been doing marathons now for a long time and I’ve been doing Mixergy for a long time. And I used to think that anyone who doesn’t go all the way through, doesn’t follow through is a failure and giving up on themselves and it’s just a bad way to live life.
Now I’m recognizing that it’s okay to start things and drop them off. I don’t think everything especially the significant things should be dropped off. But you know what? I think we should be experimenting with little podcasts that we then stop doing. We should be experimenting with YouTube videos that we then stop doing, with blogs that we do and we stop doing. This little bit of experimentation makes us smarter, helps us be aware of what our strengths are, what we like, lets us pick up on how different parts of the world work and keeps us from trying new things.
And maybe one of the things that we try ends up being that thing and that’s what we need to stick with and force ourselves to stick with even on days when we don’t feel fully compelled, and that’s what’s going to benefit from all the little experimentation of what we learned as we were creating that YouTube channel, what we learned from that podcast that we only did two episodes of and failed, what we learned from blogging for a day and then deciding that we’re not going to do it. I used to be against that and call it dabbling and think that it was a failure attitude. I’m now reconsidering it and I think that there’s a lot of room for try it and drop it fast.
Dan: Yeah. I mean, I think from a creative standpoint, that’s certainly a great argument, one that a lot of the creatives would have. And that’s looking at it more from a creative standpoint, less from a business standpoint.
Andrew: I would even say that it’s okay from a business standpoint because I think that the world of business means that we should be experimenting, we should be tasting, we should be . . . Tasting as Gary Vaynerchuk says. He says go all in on one thing, but spend 20% of your time tasting the other stuff to see what you should be moving to in the future.
All right. Let me talk about my second sponsor here. I like that I get to riff with you a little bit. Second sponsor is James Altucher. Why isn’t James . . . Actually, James probably didn’t speak because he doesn’t speak anywhere, right?
Dan: Yeah. I mean, we are big fans of James, I have been for a long time, but yeah, he was one of those ones that didn’t have a whole lot of interest in participating.
Andrew: I feel like he’s someone who just is looking for the 20% . . . actually the 5% that gives him 100% plus value instead of going and doing a lot of different things. Anyway, one of the things that he did that gave him a big, big, big platform was he said, “You know what? I’m a guy who’s kind of struggling. I’m depressed, I’m on the floor, things aren’t working for me.” And then he realized that he just has to discover himself and be okay with himself and he calls it Choose Yourself.
James, choose you, you are as your life. And that was going well for him as he was blogging about it. And then he wrote a book about it, which made him into a better-recognized person. There’s something about writing a book. Podcasting gives you a little bit of a reputation, but writing a book gives you a lot. And so he wrote a book, and as a result, he raised his platform, raised his profile, which got more people listen to his podcast, got more people to buy his stuff, allowed him to live the life that he wants, which at one point I contact him, I said, “What’s your address?” He goes, “I have no address anymore. I’m just living at friends’ houses from now on.” And he says, “You know what? More people should be writing books.” If there’s anyone out there who wants help writing a book, James is offering to help you right now.
I don’t like the way that he’s getting people to sign up for this. I have to be honest, Dan, because I think it’s going to turn people off, but it shouldn’t. He wants you to text my name, Andrew, to this phone number. So go to your messaging app. Instead of putting in your friend’s phone number, put in 50445, 50445, and then text one word “Andrew” to it and you will start to get messages from him about how you can start creating your book.
One of the things that I do like about it is, with these phone numbers, it’s really easy to drop text messages, so if you’re not happy, unsubscribing is so easy that the government will kick his butt if he doesn’t unsubscribe you. But I know that there’s some hesitation of texting numbers. Don’t hesitate. I tested it and then retested it and did not allow them to advertise until I was happy with the messaging there and I was happy with the experience, and I know you will be too.
So here’s the number. Go to your phone right now, text over to 50445, text my name, Andrew, and he will guide you through the process of creating a book. The whole thing won’t happen via text messaging, obviously. It’ll start via text messaging and then you can take it over to the web and other mediums. He will help you. He has done it. And if he doesn’t, just unsubscribe and stop. All right.
James Altucher. I freaking love that guy. I love him. And one of the things that makes it hard for me to get to know him is the things that I love about him as a reader. He’s living life his own way. Just, “I don’t care, Andrew. I’m not going to return your . . . I’m not going to return your phone call. I’m not going to return your text.” But then every once in a while, he’ll reach out with something. That’s what I love about this world that everyone’s doing their own thing and also what’s a little bit tough that everyone’s doing their own thing. Like, I don’t know. I’m not as responsive as I should be because I’m traveling so much for my marathons.
Dan: Yeah. No. I mean, we had to reschedule this interview one time because there was some travel.
Andrew: Right. Thank you.
Dan: There you go. Case in point.
Andrew: Actually, I think it was going to be when I finally decided I found a date for Asia and I said, “No, Dan Franks will finally going to do this interview.” You’re right. Yeah, that’s really painful that the most tough decision is going to be around a wedding. A close friend is getting married. I’ve got a work trip. I don’t know how I’m going to fly back. I don’t know what I’m going to do with all this.
Dan: That’s life, Andrew.
Andrew: So you know what? You’re in the conference space. Don’t you sit back and say, “You know what? If I was in the online space, no conferences, I wouldn’t have to deal with people in person, I could scale at will. What am I doing conferences?”? I bet you’re thinking, “How do I get some more online revenue?” Aren’t you?
Dan: We are. You can still scale a conference business and there’s multiple ways to do that, multiple events a year, grow the event bigger. But yeah, we’ve got a new focus on helping to build out the brand and trying to build out the brand a little bit more. One of the things that’s so important to us is the community and the people that we’ve brought together starting at that 600 the first year, and the 3,000 we’ll have this year, and then, like I said, the 22,000 that are in our Facebook group and just that community of podcasters who we’ve really kind of created this in-person and online space for them not to sell them anything but just to be around one another. And we’re really striving this year, the second half of this year to build that out more online and to provide more educational value and community type value for everyone. So some of it is more in-person events, but some of it is building out more online.
Andrew: Were you thinking of something like what John Lee Dumas did, which is do a course on how to do this or something else?
Dan: No, I don’t think there’s a need for more how to podcast type things. But I think that . . . We do have . . . That Facebook group is a great, if nothing else, it’s great for ideas and great to see what questions new podcasters keep asking over and over again. Every three weeks there’s a new batch of 500 podcasters that have joined that group and they’re asking the same questions that the last week’s batch have asked. So, pinpointing those and saying, “Okay. Some of these are in those how to podcast courses. Some of them are not.” But they’re all seeming to be asking the same questions. So trying to build little resources and tools around that. And a lot of that is not necessarily building more revenue, but it’s adding more value as a Podcast Movement brands, so then when we do come to their town or host our annual event or whatever it is we’re doing and from an in-person perspective, they’ll be more interested in coming to join us.
Andrew: What’s the tool you’re thinking of?
Dan: Just regular resources like we see a question and we might have a top 10 list. If somebody asks, “What’s the best microphone?” we just talked about two of them. Having those recommended microphones. And it seems like such a basic thing to you and I about people are just getting into it and a lot of them would be those people that are those Anchor people, toes in the water. A lot of those folks. There’s either too much noise out there, and for whatever reason they see us as the trusted ones to look to or there’s just not exactly what they’re looking for that we’re seeing those questions come up over and over. So, we’re still in early, early days in that, but we just feel like outside of those four days a year where it seems like the whole podcast industry comes together at our event, like, what else can we do those other 360 days a year to bridge the gap and to continue to add value throughout the year?
Andrew: The first event was 2014, made a little bit of money, nice progress, you built up a reputation. 2015, you lost money because what happened? You got to tell that story.
Dan: Yeah. So several things happened. We were just a little more freewheeling and throwing money around. Anyone who was there they walked into the hotel lobby and our logos were all over everything and every possible call in the conference space was wrapped and it was just like, we just spent a ton of money doing that. But the biggest thing was we had a keynote speaker who was secured and we promoted for months, and then three weeks before the conference dropped out and we had to replace him and it was a very costly replacement.
Andrew: Wow. How much did you pay to replace the speaker?
Dan: So, it was $30,000 or $35,000, one of the two, which for that year would have been flipping us from being slightly in the black to in the red. I mean, it was Marc Maron, so it ended up being . . . We look back at it now and it was a total blessing in disguise that this keynote speaker dropped out and Marc Maron was the one that ended up being the last minute replacement.
Dan: Well, first of all, he was a few weeks just off of interviewing Obama, so he was a name that . . . Even people that didn’t know his name previously a month earlier and now all of a sudden he’s at the conference and he’s the one that was just on all the big news networks for having Obama in his garage being interviewed. On the stage, he could talk about that experience. He could talk about something like that that no one else had had Obama on their podcast, so he could talk about the Secret Service on his roof and Obama trying to fiddle with the door to get the bathroom to lock behind them and all these funny things that are just like anecdotal, but there are things that were shared at Podcast Movement that hadn’t been shared anywhere else, so a lot of people felt like they had that inside look at this piece of podcasting history.
And yeah, just because of that and because we went from somebody that we thought would have been a cool keynote and it was free to now all of a sudden, “We’re paying $30,000 or $35,000 plus everything else, first-class airfare, suite and all this.” But it ended up being something that really put us on the map not only for the people that were at the conference but the people that would have been on the fence decided not to come and then all of a sudden they were regretful because they saw, “Oh, no. Maybe this is a serious type thing.” So, I think for the long term it was definitely a benefit, but it created some painful moments.
Andrew: Who was the speaker who dropped out? Was it Chris Brogan?
Dan: It wasn’t. So Chris Brogan spoke the first year in 2014.
Dan: The speaker who dropped out was Glenn Beck.
Andrew: Oh, wow. That was . . .
Dan: Yeah, it was . . .
Andrew: He’s also a good speaker.
Dan: He is a good speaker and it was the reason why that whole experience was so painful even more painful than just losing the money was anyone who knows Glenn Beck or knows of him knows he was very controversial, very political, and people were either super fans or super not fans. And when we first announced him . . . And the backstory is he’s local here to Dallas. The event was in Fort Worth. He was trying to get more into the podcast space. He had built this media empire at the time, this cable news network and all these different radio shows and stuff, so he was really, really a hot thing in the media industry. So we thought this would be a cool thing, we can learn from him, he can get up there, it’s not political. It’ll be education. No big deal. So we were pretty excited about it.
And then when we announced him, we got like the big political backlash. We tried to present it as, “Hey, this guy is . . . We can learn from him whether you believe in or you like his politics or not, he’s built this empire. Let’s learn from him as creators ourselves.” And a lot of people didn’t see it that way. So we dealt with quite a bit of backlash, a number of refund requests, a number of people boycotting, not the conference, but like the session itself.
So it was really something that we had to battle. And whether we share his political beliefs or not, that was not why we picked him to speak, so each person that emailed us to complain or that we saw upset on social media, we went to everybody and had personal conversations one-on-one with probably 100 different people to try to smooth it over to speakers who were threatening to pull out because they didn’t like it.
So we went through all this damage control, finally got it smooth up. And then three weeks before the event, he caught, like, laryngitis or something and wasn’t allowed to speak for a full month and had to back out. And so not only was it that kick in the butt of, “Oh, here’s your new spend on the replacement,” but also we just felt like so deflated because we had worked so hard to make the first option work.
Andrew: And you know what? And I’m someone who just forgets about that. I have a hard time making value judgments about people and I assume everyone doesn’t. And I just want to learn from them. I want to get to know what I can take from them. Yeah, I feel like it’s almost a selfish thing where regardless of how you feel about Glenn Beck, he built TheBlaze into something that was really big at the time. I remember reading a bunch of books on Fox News. At the time the fact that he had TheBlaze gave him a lot more freedom with Fox News than some of the other hosts and I didn’t even realize TheBlaze was a thing until I started reading about it, Fox News, behind the scenes with Fox News.
Anyway, that’s kind of interesting. I feel like Marc Maron is a better guest because Marc Maron is a guy who I think said that he was basically a failure before podcasting and podcasting gave him this freedom, gave him a way to turn his life around, right?
Dan: Yeah. His exact quote was, “I was either going to kill myself or start a podcast and I decided to start a podcast.” And if you know Marc and his history of drug abuse and depression and all of that, like, that was 100% fact.
Dan: So, I mean, podcasting saves lives, I guess. But yeah, he was . . . outside of that, like hopefully a lot of our attendees aren’t facing that such a one or the other type of decision, but that type of mentality, I think resonates probably a lot more than Glenn Beck would have.
Andrew: You have tickets, you have sponsorship, you have other revenue, and we’ll talk about that in a moment. Which of those two is the biggest? Is it tickets or sponsorship?
Dan: So, it’s been . . . Again, talking about that pendulum swinging and it started out with almost all attendees, ticket sales, registrations, whatever you call it. And very little of it was sponsorships and exhibitors. And it’s slowly but surely been breaking, coming closer to 50-50. And this year, it’ll be pretty heavily lean toward sponsors and exhibitors will bring in more revenue than the tickets.
Andrew: You told our producer that one of the things that you guys do is . . . Well, actually, you diversify your revenue even beyond those two sources. You’ve got hosted parties, you sell videos, you do other stuff. Are the hosted parties a real revenue generator?
Dan: They are. And that’s the . . . It’s strange because those first few years when we did have your microphone manufacturers or just your very basic companies that are interested in getting in front of podcast creators. It was non-existent. There were no parties, nobody wanted to do anything. And then as the bigger brands are starting to come in, and I say brands like your Spotifys, your Pandoras, your iHeartRadios, all of these companies, they’re the ones that they don’t necessarily want to booth to show off whatever it is they have to show off. They just want to be at the center of the party. So, those sponsored parties and those sponsored some of them are private parties, some of them are public parties, some of them are happy hours. Alcohol is almost always involved. That’s the one common denominator.
Andrew: Is this something that you guys officially put on and get revenue from or that they do get on their own?
Dan: We do. So, yeah, they’re held in conjunction with the event. So some of them are . . . Like, every night we have an official party and they kind of different sizes and scales. And we have one that’s like the main party and then a few that are kind of the secondary parties.
Andrew: And then who is invited to the secondary parties?
Dan: Same thing. So those are all open to the public, but just some of them will be hosted in one of the ballrooms. So there’s only . . . It can only be so awesome in a ballroom, but then the bigger party is going to be off-site at some whether it’s a nightclub or whether it’s some venue that’s very unique and interesting to the city. So those are going to be the big ones and those are the ones that we charge more for. So, the way those financials work is usually, we get paid just some flat fee for the right to host that official party that then we send everybody to, we promote, we brand . . .
Andrew: But they host it. They find the location.
Dan: They find the location, they pay the location and they pay for the food and drinks.
Andrew: All they have to do is pay you for the promotion and to make it the official thing.
Dan: To make it the official thing. And then kind of the secondary piece to that what you were getting at is the private parties, and those are the ones that we have 20 different ballrooms and classrooms and things throughout the venue. And if a sponsor wants to host a 50-person private invite only happy hour, they can do it right there so that people don’t have to leave the venue or try to walk [inaudible 00:57:27]
Andrew: Do they pay you for that?
Dan: We get paid a little bit, but the way the finances work with hotels because all of our events are at hotels as a lot of the cost is food and beverage. So, if you guarantee the hotel, if they give you all this meeting room for a low cost, then you’re going to sell $100,000 or buy $100,000 of food and drink or 150,000 or whatever it is. So by them hosting those parties more or less under our umbrella, they’re chipping away at that food and beverage minimum.
Andrew: Got it. I got it. I think John Lee Dumas had a party for his group at the hotel one year and that’s the kind of thing that you’re talking about where he gave everyone a t-shirt. He was good about that. His freaking t-shirts were on everybody in that year.
Dan: The whole weekend, yeah. And you’re starting to wonder how many shirts did they get or are they just wearing the same one over and over?
Andrew: Right, because people were wearing . . . Right. They would wear it two days in a row.
Andrew: You guys have the same designer for your logo, because there’s a similar aesthetic to his t-shirt design and your logo?
Dan: We don’t have the same designer, but I think that style is one that for whatever reason. I mean, it kind of looks like the shirt you’re wearing now with that heathered-type look, that’s something that tends to go over pretty well. We do . . . Yeah. When you were talking about diversifying revenue, a good chunk of our revenue . . . not a good chunk, but a decent size is at the event we have a merchandise table much like you would find at a professional wrestling match or a concert we have . . .
Andrew: You’re sell . . . People are buying t-shirts for Podcast Movement.
Dan: People are buying shirts for Podcast Movement. So, every year we have one or two unique designs for that year . . .
Dan: . . . that you can only get that year and it’ll say like 2018 or 2019 or whatever. And then we have another batch of them that are more brand general Podcast Movement shirts or logos and those can be worn anywhere and everywhere.
Andrew: Wait. How many people came to the conference last year?
Dan: About 2,500.
Andrew: Twenty five . . . Look at this dude. Twenty hundred, Dan. You’re still not cracking a smile about it. I am so proud of the little things that I do and you get 2,500 people to come in the middle of the summer to care about podcasting. Are you about to like . . .
Dan: Yeah. No, it’s . . . No. I don’t take it for granted. I know I’m not cracking a smile but I don’t take it for granted either just because . . . And we didn’t have like a Marc Maron type situation at the beginning like, “Oh my gosh. This is like a life or death thing.” But like we said we did go through some tough times, we lost money, we have some battles. So yeah, the fact that it’s successful now and people are coming to us wanting to be a part of it versus us having to beat down everyone’s door like we did the first year. It’s definitely not something you take for granted.
Andrew: Wow. And then how many t-shirts would you sell? I can’t believe t-shirt is a significant.
Dan: A couple of 100.
Dan: A couple 100 at 25 apiece. Yeah.
Andrew: Here’s what I like about it. I feel like there are people who are recognizing the podcasts are good way to build brand and to get people to come to your site and to get links to your site and all that, but build brand, I think is number one. And so what they’re doing is . . . I know what they do. They use the same email, which just they pull a collection of . . . They scrape the names and email addresses of podcasters in the area that they care about and they fire off a bunch of messages. When we don’t respond, they automatically follow up with a bunch of, “Hey, did you see my other message?” And they try to get themselves booked.
I think if they really made a bit of an effort and came to Podcast Movement and just kind of hung out, talked to people, said, “Hi,” I think they’d get to know the people they want to meet, maybe schedule lunches for a few of the podcasters that they want to get in front of. I like lunches a lot because everyone has dinner plans, but nobody has lunch plans at these conferences. Imagine if they said, “I’m going to pick a couple of podcasters about 10 who I think I want to get in front of and I’ll have them meet each other and take them out to lunch.” Oh, that’s a way better way to build relationships and then later on transition into, “Can I be on your podcast?” than firing off a bunch of annoying messages. Don’t you agree?
Dan: Well, you said it yourself I think it was before we started recording, but one year you had a conversation with Dan Carlin from Hardcore History and that’s something that, a), you would never be able to find his email address, but, b), if you did, you would never hear back from him. Whereas there, people just have their guards down. There’s something about it and I think it’s because it feels more like a peer conference than a fan type conference even though lots of people are fans of these people, their guard is down a little bit because they’re not feeling like, “Okay, I’m going to have to sign an autograph or do any of that.” I might be talking to people that actually get what I go through and get the issues I’m facing or get what I mean when I’m talking about my hosting company or whatever it is. It’s just a little bit more people that speak the same language than you encounter in your daily life.
Andrew: I see you’re going very kumbaya for me. For me, it’s more like they’re very nice because they know at some point they might want to be on your podcast too or they might ask you for a referral for someone who might be on their podcast that those, yes, it’s very nice because we’re all in this shared environment. But also there’s this sense of, “I’m here to make connections that will help my business and if I’m nice today in two years when I need something, that person will appreciate it.” But I’m a bit of a jerk that way. I’m very influenced by the New York that I grew up in which is how do we go hard driving towards what we want? What do you think?
Dan: Well, I mean, there’s definitely a lot of people there with business intent too, so yeah. I mean, you wouldn’t be alone. But I think that there’s some level of that where it could turn people off. I don’t know you . . .
Andrew: Yeah. No. I’m not walking into this environment or thinking other people are walking into the environment saying, “You know what? I’m going to buy somebody a drink so that I can be on their podcast in the future.” I’m just saying, if you are nice in this environment full of podcasters, it will pay back, it will pay off, and there is this . . .
Dan: Although I think one of your past guests did buy you a drink there and he did . . . Nathan Latka or something. I think he was at 2017 and he told the story on your podcast a while back that he didn’t even buy a ticket. He unconferenced us and one of his goals was to buy you a drink there and get on the show. So I think we have one success story there.
Andrew: You know what? I really liked talking to him in person because I feel like what he’s doing is constantly doing stuff like that, constantly coming up with angles on stuff, and in-person, he gets even more open about it. There are a couple of stories that I can’t wait till he’s ready for me to reveal that he told me in private that I think are just fascinating. Anyway, but that’s why I like going to conferences because people will be open about it.
All right. The website is, for anyone who wants to go, I highly recommend it. If I wasn’t traveling so much that I feel like it’s an undue burden on my wife. I can’t believe she’s putting up with this freaking thing. I would be there this year. I feel like it is one of the best produced conference . . . Actually, I don’t even care about production. It is one of the best produced conferences.
And the reason I know it is because Michael Stelzer who runs Social Media Marketing Expo, he was looking at your signage and he was talking about the signage, he’s like, “This is what . . . ” I don’t think he knew exactly what it costs but he said, “This is high-end signage. Here’s why they did this. Here’s how we do it.” He was like, analyzing it and through his head, because he organized a big conference too, through his eyes, through his attitude I was able to understand the work that went into your conference. So it is well produced.
I don’t care about that. I care about the people who are there. I care that when I wait in line always at these freaking conferences, it’s 10, 15 people long to get coffee and a bagel. I like that in the 10, 15 minutes the people who I get to meet in line are people who I’d want to get to know anyway, but I don’t have to go out of my way. I’m just standing there like a schlub waiting for my coffee and I get to have meaningful conversations. I think I almost always bought coffee or whatever it is that people had when I waited in line. I just bought it for them because it’s just were great people.
All right. So, it’s Podcast Movement. I love it. If you’re interested in podcasting, I highly recommend it. I got no affiliate commission from it. I just happen to love Dan very much. I didn’t get a chance to talk about it. Your cruise. I know the cruise didn’t work out the way that you wanted it to, but I thought it was great. I loved it. I never thought . . .
Dan: It was a lot of fun. Yeah. Who wouldn’t want to hang out with 100 podcasters on a cruise?
Andrew: I wouldn’t have thought. Here’s why . . . Okay. Here’s the thing about cruises. It’s intimidating because you’re locked on a boat with people and you can’t communicate out. I couldn’t make phone calls out and I live on the internet. I live on my phone. And forget about live, I need to talk to my wife and talk to my kids.
So I was on this boat. The beauty of it was we were all locked on the boat, and we all got to know each other. And at first, it was like, “Who’s Chris Brogan? He’s just a guy I know online. Who’s Andrew Warner? Just some dude from a podcast.” And then you bump into each other at breakfast. And maybe nod to each other because it’s kind of weird and you doing your own thing, but at lunch you see each other again. And then there’s an excursion so you get to see each other on a boat and you get to like have this weirdo conversation that bonds you.
And then you’re back at breakfast the next day and like you’re old friends having conversation about your wives, your husband, some weirdo thing that you did in high school. And by the end of this trip when you’re locked together you feel such a connection that there are people who still when they come to San Francisco will pop in here because we known each other on this one cruise.
All right. But a cruise is I think a tough sell. I’m imagining that’s why you didn’t repeat it.
Dan: Yeah, way harder. As hard as it is to make money in a conference, doing one on the cruise ship is 10 times harder than that.
Andrew: It was really well produced. It was really like thought through. I liked the excursions. I understand why people now do cruises. All right. Podcast Movement, go check them out. I want to thank two sponsors who made this interview happen. The first will host your website right and also sponsors Dan Franks’ conference. It’s called HostGator. Go check them out at hostgator.com/mixergy. Throw on that /mixergy at the end really helps me, so I appreciate when you do it.
And then the second is James Altucher. He’s a guy who’s built his reputation by writing books and he wants to help you write your own book. I checked to see like, what is 50445 stand for? It stands for nothing. But that is a number. If you go to your phone in the messaging app and you send a message to this number, 50445, 50445 . . . Actually, let me say it. It’s just once. 50445 end number, text the name “Andrew” and you will get his guide to writing a book and he will help you out through that.
You know what? Here’s one more thing, Dan, that I’m really proud of. I’m really freaking proud of what we’re doing with Mixergy Premium. We started out inviting entrepreneurs on to teach courses. I thought the content was great, I was doing it myself, I thought the production values weren’t great. Now the content and production values are great because I hired a guy who was phenomenal at producing these things. Dan is killing it and I like having somebody on board who’s helping me with it so it’s not just on me. If anyone is interested in Mixergy Premium, I’ll be telling you more about it but you should know, top entrepreneurs like the founders of Twitch, like founder of DuckDuckGo and so many others are teaching courses and it’s all available at mixergypremium.com. Dan, I’m done promoting. That’s it.
Dan: That’s it. I appreciate you having me, Andrew.
Andrew: Thanks for having . . . Thanks for being on here. I’m really proud to have watched you build this thing. It’s exciting to see it. And now I can see that you’re doing well because you’re back to wearing your stiff-like accountant shirt with the collars . . .
Dan: No, I got dressed up for the interview.
Andrew: Did you really?
Dan: I did.
Andrew: Wow. Okay, good. I thought . . .
Dan: You used to wear a suit. I know you don’t anymore, but you used to get all fancy years ago.
Andrew: I did. I hired somebody who told me, “Here’s what you do. You wear the suit.” And I wore it because I don’t know how to dress myself and it came across as too stiff to my audience, so now I’m back into these schlubby t-shirts, which I think I need to step it up a little bit. Like, you’re really showing me I got to step it up a bit. But it doesn’t matter. It’s podcasting. People are just listening to me.
Dan: It’s the beauty of it.
Andrew: I’m handsome in their ears. I’m handsome in your ears, people. Thanks for listening. Bye, Dan. Bye, everyone.