Make A Name For Yourself

I'll miss you, Eddie.

A short one today. It’s been a hard week.

Larry Rosin at Edison Research inspired this first item. Our Joe Lenski, who heads up our election work (seems important this year, no?) was recently on a podcast called The Debrief, with Major Garrett from CBS News, to talk about our exit polling efforts. Larry went to search for it, and this is what he found:

You’ve done this, too, right? Here’s another example:

At every podcast conference I’ve ever been to, there has been a discussion about podcasting’s “discovery problem,” which I have skewered on a few occasions in this newsletter. Well, here’s another angle on that discussion. If you were starting a business—let’s say, an electronics store—would you call it Best Buy? Legally, you couldn’t. But even illegally, you shouldn’t, right? Remember blogs? I do. I was just a boy then. When I started my (now long-deceased) blog, I called it Brandsavant. I called it that, because it wasn’t a word, and it was easy to search. Had I called it “Random Musings,” it would be even more lost to the ages than it currently is.

I’ve mentioned before that I have a podcast with my wife called “The Freenoter,” which equips people how to profit from speaking for free. We could have called it “The Speaking Show” or some such, but we would have gotten a screen like the two above. So I made up a brand new word. I’m quite proud of it, really. Search for it in your favorite app. You won’t get a screen like those.

I don’t say this merely to prove how smart I am. OK, maybe that’s 65% of it. But it seems like so many podcasters start a show without doing a search like the ones above, as if podcasts were immune to good SEO. So the producer bears some of the blame. But that doesn’t change the fact that there are legions of podcasts out there with essentially the same name, and podcast search engines choke on them, so search is part of the problem, too.

So this newsletter starts with a bit of a scold, I guess. Make a name for yourself.


One of the podcasts I listen to most is the Dan Le Batard show from ESPN, which combines their daily radio content with exclusive podcast-only content. Dan is a Miami-based journalist who melds sports, social commentary, and humor like no one I’ve ever heard, and he has an amazing cast of characters around him that push out a mind-boggling amount of original, entertaining content every single day. As a podcaster myself, who often struggles to put out 30 minutes a week, it’s humbling.

A huge part of the show’s success is Dan’s “sidekick,” Stugotz (Jon Weiner.) The show paints Stu as a shifty, evasive, lazy sportscaster who traffics in clichés and doesn’t work as hard as the rest of the cast. This may or may not be true. The show sure does convince you that it is. But Stugotz is a character. Every great show needs roles and goals, and with Dan serving as the “smartest guy in the room,” Jon Weiner just plays a different role, one the show needs. I forget where I first heard this—I think it might have been from the late Steve Rivers, who was the best mind in radio I ever met. He said “Every [radio] morning show needs a dick, a dork, and a dear.” I am not calling Stugotz a dick. But the Le Batard show has clearly defined characters - roles and goals - and that is why you tune in every day.

I mention this here because I recently read an interview with Jon Weiner about his role as Stugotz, and I was blown away by this detail:

BC: Was there instant chemistry when you guys launched?

STU: It was awful. It started off with me interviewing Dan for three hours a day, we had no chemistry. We realized quickly Dan needed to drive the show because I was just guessing what he wanted to talk about.

I didn’t know this. And it is an astounding detail, because Jon Weiner is an extremely skilled sports radio personality. He’s done it all. He plays the buffoon on the Le Batard show, but he is an absolutely fantastic broadcaster. What he and Dan realized was that, despite Jon’s sports cred, the show would be better served if he could react to Dan, and not interview Dan. I think there is some amazing wisdom here for podcasters who produce shows with multiple hosts. If it isn’t working, change the roles. When I was in high school, I tried out for the lead in a school play that was a farcical western. I didn’t get it. Instead, I got the bad guy, “Bart Gatewood.” I don’t think I am a bad guy. But changing up that role changed the whole chemistry of the show.

I miss that mustache.


So, this was a hard week. It was hard personally, but it was also hard for an entire generation of us for whom Van Halen was our Led Zeppelin, our Nirvana. Van Halen was what I listened to in the car when I got my license, windows down, wind blowing though my gloriously feathered and parted in the middle hair (true story—I rear-ended a car when the lamination was still warm on my newly granted license. I’ve made a few mistakes.)

A true Van Halen fan has their favorite concert, video, or performance. For many it was their 1983 US Festival performance, which was David Lee Roth on a cocktail of everything possible to drink, snort, or inject. It's wild.

But this 2015 Jimmy Kimmel performance (the first part of this video) is my favorite and not by a little.

Here are five reasons why:

5. David busted his nose right before showtime, bandaged it up, and gave it everything. A famous story amongs Van Halen nerds, but still--respect. He wasn't really "singing" in the classical sense, but he never did, did he?

4. The backing vocals. This is a thing that Van Halen never got enough credit for. Dave was all over the map, but Eddie and Michael Anthony rarely missed a note. So many classic Van Halen songs are all about those harmonies. And Eddie's son Wolfie stepped right in and nailed Michael Anthony's singing. Also Wolfie can play some. You are going to hear a lot more from that young man, I can assure you.

3. Eddie Fucking Van Halen on the guitar. He is 60 in this video. Let's think about that for a moment. He is as fast and articulate as he was in 1978. I am a decade younger than he is and I have wrist tendonitis from sleeping wrong.

2. Alex Fucking Van Halen on the drums. He is 62 in this video. Always the second mention for Van Halen, but like his brother, he had an unmistakable tone. Every snare and tom tightened to within an inch of their life.

1. And this. This is everything. How he looks at his son while they are playing. Love, admiration, joy. That is why I come back to this one, every time. He got to play with his son, himself a virtuoso. He was sober, he was still the best of his generation at the guitar. And this is the Field of Dreams of music. Wolfie and Eddie got to play catch together. And you can see the love. As a parent, I watch this whole performance with fresh eyes, and I see a man who is no longer tortured by demons, but can still just fucking play.

And this is how a Van Halen concert can make you cry.

Have a great weekend.

Tom

Photo Credit: By GHOSTRIDER2112 - This file has been extracted from another file: VAN HALEN 2008.jpg, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=57459382