Indie podcasts have a special place in our heart. Despite lacking the big budgets and marketing resources of studio shows, these podcasts create some excellent and compelling content. One of these is The Quad M Show, which emerged from an indie comic book, Enigma. The team originally created the podcast as another avenue to get the word out, but quickly realized there’s a sustainable audience that expands beyond simply the comic book.
I got a chance to meet the host, TJ Damon, who has an interesting history as his experience evolved from a censored and shut down radio show into the freedom of podcasting. Combined with nerdom and comedy, TJ and the rest of the team take extreme care into the production and format of their podcast to make sure the audience is receiving the best possible finished product. See our full Q&A below.
Discover Pods: How did your podcast get started?
TJ Damon: Initially, we started on a local college radio station back around ’97-’98. We managed to get four episodes in before we got kicked off the air. Apparently, Catholic colleges don’t like uncensored comments on live radio. From there, we didn’t really think much about it. Fast forward to a couple of years ago when I started Quad M Productions and begin publishing our indie comic book, Enigma. Jason, who is the colorist on Enigma, was also on the old college show. We started bandying around the idea of doing the podcast partially out of self-promotion but also scratch that lingering showman itch from all those years ago.
DP: Why did you choose a podcast over other mediums?
TJ: No FCC regulations. Seriously though, podcasting is the only medium where you can truly say what you want to say in as pure of a way as you want to say it. And that counts for both ‘fiction’ and ‘non-fiction’ style shows. If, as an indie podcaster, you’re lucky enough to get an advertiser you may have to tone down some things if you want to keep them around. But that’s completely YOUR prerogative and not a mandate handed down by a network.
I haven’t done much by way of YouTube or videos. I’ve uploaded some shows but we’ll never do a live stream or anything like that. I edit the show. Adding in all the sound effects and commercials and bumpers and stuff. Take out all the dead air. I think if people actually listened to us live they’d be bored out of their minds.
DP: It seems through your radio experience — and one of your reasons for podcasting — that a major draw of podcasts is simply the freedom. How do you think this lack of censorship contributes to an overall better product?
TJ: Not necessarily. If a podcast doesn’t have some sort of structure or overall goal or vision, it can turn into a mess real quick. What someone might consider free form, free flowing genius, the general audience sees it as a couple of drunk idiots jabbering nonsense and in-jokes for 30 plus minutes.
That being said, the freedom that indie podcasting allows is no restraints from program directors and the FCC. You can talk about whatever you want and say whatever you want. Obviously, your content and viewpoints could turn off some listeners and some podcast networks if it’s too vulgar, controversial, etc.
In the end, freedom to say what you want won’t make a better product. Content and the ability to get your point across will.
DP: What’s unique about your podcast?
TJ: I think just our brand of humor. We feed off of each other pretty well. I’m pretty sure there are thousands of other podcasts out there that do the same thing we do and talk about the same stuff we talk about but a lot of those podcasts…. I don’t know…. I listen to some of the indie shows out there and they kind of drive me up a wall.
First off, take the time and put forth a good sounding show. Not necessarily ‘great’ but at least ‘good’. It’s almost hypocritical of me to say that because our first episodes sounded like hot garbage but I always made (and still do make) efforts to get the show to sound like a million dollars on a shoestring budget.
Also, stop talking over each other. Let one person get their point across and then pipe up. And for God sakes, learn how to format to some extent. I’ve listened to too many shows that start off great and then either drone on saying the same thing over and over or start with an initial point and then veer off into the Twilight Zone. Stay focused.
DP: Besides sound quality and lack of chemistry between hosts, what are your other podcasting pet peeves?
TJ: Sometimes the little things that you don’t think of can come across in hindsight as annoying and can turn me off from a show pretty quick. Hearing some open a can of soda/beer drives me up a wall and comes across as Bush League. Same goes for the previously mention rambling with no direction. In-jokes between hosts as well. You have an audience. Let them in on it. On The Quad M Show, we have in-jokes but they’re centered around something that has happened on the show. Long time listeners will get it. New listeners may not at first but if they want, they can always go back and get hipped to what’s going on.
DP: Why do your listeners keep coming back?
TJ: I have no idea. I keep begging and pleading for emails or some type of correspondence but we’ve only managed to get one email so far. We’ve got a ton of subscribers to the show and the numbers go up every month but I have no idea what works. So, I just say “Stay the course”.
DP: What’s next?
TJ: I really need to focus on getting guests. I have to take some time and make sure Skype works with my current setup. I’ve done two interviews so far and they’ve turned out excellent. Since then, I’ve gotten a new mixer so I gotta do a test run or two and then start getting those going.
DP: As a relatively new interviewer myself, how have you gotten better getting more out of your guests?
TJ: I’ve always treated my interviews like we’re sitting at a bar and shooting the breeze over a couple of beers. I’ve always thought interview where “I ask a question, you give an answer, repeat” goes over as boring and clinical. I think the way I approach it puts the guest into a more comfortable state and make for an easier conversation.
DP: Where do you want to take your podcast?
TJ: I think like any other indie, I’d like the show to get to the point where it financially allows us to go full time with Quad M as a whole. Not just the podcast but the comics as well. Attract enough of an audience to draw in that type of revenue. Judging by our growth, that should be sometime around 2040.
DP: Anything else you’d like to add?
TJ: My word of advice: Know your points. Know your goals, Don’t get sidetracked by superfluous banter. Reach out to your audience. And find your niche and scratch the hell out of it.
DP: What are your favorite 5 podcasts?
TJ: 1) The Mike O’Meara Show. A huge influence on me dating back to the old Don and Mike days on terrestrial radio.
2 & 3) The Jim Cornette Experience and Something To Wrestle with Bruce Pritchard are great because I’m an old school wrestling fan.
4 & 5) Deeply Dapper Dispatches and The Andy Mac Show are a couple of shows put out by a couple of friends that I enjoy listening to.