Adam Carolla's Pilot Fish
Adam Carolla’s warehouse looks no different from the others that line this industrial block of Glendale. Most of the 5,000-square-foot garage is dedicated to mechanics and woodworking. Its focus is exotic automobiles, each in a different stage of modification.
The high walls are lined with memorabilia from Carolla’s 100-episode The Man Show, his independent film, The Hammer, and gifts from fans. A piece of fan art portrays Carolla as either a peer of Sir Lancelot’s, or perhaps a thick-browed Medieval Times employee.
A drive past doesn’t hint that this garage is also home to one of the world’s most downloaded podcasts.
Carolla’s longtime friend and new co-worker, Donny Misraje, has converted the building’s office space into an ever-evolving recording studio for “The Adam Carolla Podcast.” From there, the pair, assisted by a team of interns, has recorded more than 300 shows. These have been downloaded more than 50 million times over the past year, making Carolla one of the most-heard voices in new media.
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In February 2009, the former Loveline host launched his podcast two days after CBS Radio flipped KLSX 97.1 FM to a Top 40 station, removing Carolla from both local airwaves and syndicated affiliates. His contract’s buyout precluded his working at another station but did not prohibit revenue-free podcasting.
Thanks to audio gear Misraje bought from Guitar Center, Carolla wasn’t silenced. But ensuring that his voice continues to be heard hasn’t been cheap. He estimates that he’s invested $100,000, in part because the strong initial response from his first podcasts meant Carolla had to expand bandwidth. The cost began at $8,000 a month and rose by 30 percent, although, of late, that expense has been offset by CBS, which now has a minor partnership deal with him (ironic, Carolla knows). “Our pilot fish is connected to their bandwidth shark essentially,” he says.
Carolla feels that radio’s future lies in podcasts rather than terrestrial or Sirius XM.
“We haven’t really expanded into a format that could compete with terrestrial radio or satellite, but I think we’re going to start heading in that direction.”
Carolla says he’s imagined his response if a radio network called to offer him work. “I was going to take some pleasure in telling somebody, ‘I don’t roll over in bed for that kind of money,’ but nobody called.”
Both Carolla and Misraje express faith in podcasting’s business potential. Misraje left his work as a TV editor to produce Carolla’s Internet-only content. As a result, he hasn’t earned anything since last May, and his union health insurance has expired.
The pair’s roll of the dice is growing riskier with the birth of their podcast network. The two men are paying to convert one floor of another Carolla-owned warehouse to provide additional studio space for the ACE Broadcasting Network (Adam Carolla Entertainment, of course). The network launches this spring.
Their programming promises to be lighthearted and mindful, continuing what they’ve done in expanding their offerings to include an auto podcast known as CarCast; a sports podcast; and a parenting podcast, co-hosted by Carolla’s wife, Lynette, and his former morning radio co-host, Teresa Strasser.
Carolla has been contacted by other podcasters who want to bring their established brands into the network. “The idea that people want to be under our umbrella is flattering, and it’s why we did it for free and used our own money. It’d be nice to make your own decisions, ones you have to live and die with.” He is also seeking new talent.
Thus in this brave new territory, Carolla needs to “figure out a way to essentially be the artist and the Man,” as the network’s largest talent and boss.
The technology will continue to progress as well. Misraje’s aim is to live-stream video of every show.
Many of the expansion costs will be taken care of by the capital generated from podcast recordings of live events. Since December, along with actor and comedian friends, Carolla has been selling out shows at the improv-comedy clubs around Southern California, and at El Portal Theatre in Carolla’s hometown, North Hollywood. “Doing the live shows has really been an unexpected way to be the main source of the income for the podcast.”
In 2007, The Guinness Book of World Records awarded English comedian Ricky Gervais the crown for helming the most-downloaded podcast. “We are going to attempt to take the world record away from Gervais,” Misraje says.
Gervais, who began podcasting in 2005, records as few as one show per month, and one a week at most. Many of these are only 10 minutes long. Carolla’s podcasts average an hour, and a new show is released each weekday.
Back at his warehouse, Carolla sits relaxed on his couch, his long arms draped across its back. His guests are former KLSX co-workers, Strasser and “Bald” Bryan Bishop. Their conversation resembles their FM radio days, though it’s uncensored and free of frequent, stifling commercial breaks (though, at the top of each show, Carolla will read a live commercial).
This podcast will be downloaded 150,000 times.
“I like talking, and I’ve been amazed that I’ve been able to make money talking,” Carolla admits. “I was always kind of surprised and delighted that I was able to make money essentially doing what you like to do over lunch with your buddies.”
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