SPP: Today’s podcast we welcome Robb Spewak from the Mike O’Meara Show, which can be found at www.mikeomearashow.com. Robb how are you doing?
Robb: I’m doing good. Hi Jon. Hi Chris.
SPP: Hello. Thanks for joining us, I really appreciate it.
Robb Spewak: It’s my pleasure. I must say of all the podcasts I’ve ever done this is certainly the most recent.
SPP: Thanks, appreciate it.
Robb Spewak: Yeah. And I mean it with every bit of my being. No thank you for having me fellows.
SPP: No problem. And as I mentioned the Mike O’Meara Show you guys are around 237 shows now, been on the internet for about what over a year now?
Robb Spewak: Just about a year. We started on December 7th, 2009 and so we are staring at our first anniversary. And yeah we did, we recorded Episode 237 today.
SPP: That’s awesome. And yeah, I see that you guys have over four million downloads and appearing over 145 countries. Did you guys imagine this type of success so early with the podcasts?
Robb Spewak: We imagined it. We imagined that we’d be doing a hell of a lot better than this. No I’m kidding. No we hoped for it certainly. But no I think, it’s hard for me to speak for Mike or Buzz or Oscar, but I think that the success is rather overwhelming and very, very gratifying. It’s very exciting because we went into this not knowing anything about podcasting. I remember my biggest deal with Oscar when he came to us and said, “We could try this.” I said “Do you think we can really do it for just an hour a day? That doesn’t seem like a real job, but then radio never does.” And he said “Yeah.”
And he explained to me that most people only listen for about an hour a day anyway, so if we just provide an hour that they can listen to on their own schedule that’s plenty. And I love it. I’m as proud of what we’re doing now as anything that I’ve done in my record career, but I think we all sound our best, we’re all delighted, we’re all very happy, and we’re all in a really good place because of it.
SPP: I mean this show sounds absolutely amazing and it’s just a joy to listen to. Robb Spewak: Well thank you.
SPP: Absolutely. So how do you go about getting into the radio industry?
Robb Spewak: A series of horrible decisions. No one decision could make a mistake that bad. No I’m kidding. I started as, well they will tell you on the show, I’m just an aging old queen. And I was, for a lack of a better word, a drama fag in high school. That’s what they called us. I was told it was with love but I’m not sure. But yeah I was a theatre guy. And a lot of my friends were auditioning and doing theatre stuff for college. And I looked at myself I said “You’re not even the best theatre guy in high school. How are you going to make a career in the real world?”
So I tried to figure out something where I could goof off but still get a job and broadcasting seemed to be the right track for that. And I was accepted at VCU Virginia Commonwealth University, “University” in quotation marks, and at that time they were still an accredited Mass Comm School in the state of Virginia. They’ve lost it, I don’t know if they’ve got it back, but at the time it was a decent school. So I went there and used that to learn the basics, but really if you talk about broadcasting college is just an excuse to get an internship. College doesn’t teach you anything.
Robb Spewak: Oh no I’m sorry I learned about economics. SPP: What kind of economics was that?
Robb Spewak: Apparently having to get by on very, very little if you’re going to work for CBS Radio. You want to talk about microeconomics you should have seen my paycheck. So basically it was looking for a way to goof off and make a career of it and radio and broadcasting seemed to be the way. Now once I got to VCU the weird thing is everyone on the broadcasting track wanted to get into television. I had no use for television because the equipment was way too heavy.
I saw people going out to do their projects and they’re having to carry cameras and batteries, at that point recorders, the cameras were not one piece. And I’d go out and cover an event with a tape recorder and it was easy, so once again laziness was a key factor in it. I also, you know the old joke a face for radio, I’m not a TV guy. All of my professors said, “You know what you’d be good at Robb.” I’d say, “What?” They’d say ,”You’d be good as a weatherman.” Now don’t be fooled that’s professor code for saying “You’re a fat guy.”
SPP: Oh wow!
Robb Spewak: Because all weathermen are fat. So I was too fat to be an anchor. I wasn’t a good looking enough guy to be out in the field. So they said “You could be a weather guy.” I said “You know what I’ll just stick to playing records.” And from that I got into the college station and it was all downhill from there.
SPP: Nice. So how long have you been in the radio industry?
Robb Spewak: I started interning, I guess that’s when you’d have to start it in April of 1992, I started interning with the Don and Mike Radio Show. This is very, very professional my phones ringing. Can you hold on a second?
SPP: No problem.
Robb Spewak: I will get that. Horrible. Don’t worry folks we’ll edit that out.
SPP: We can do that.
Robb Spewak: They’re all done. Sorry about that folks. Yeah I started with a Don and Mike in April of ’92 as an intern. I was hired by CBS Radio, which then was Infinity Broadcasting in August of ’93, so 18 years roughly, yeah 18 1/2 years.
SPP: And now that you guys are, I guess the connoisseurs of podcasting, what’s the major difference between the podcasts you have now versus the old shows that you used to do, I mean besides keeping stuff clean for the FCC. I know you still kind of have to do that.
Robb Spewak: We still toe the line as far as the content because we have two affiliates. And see the thing that was funny about broadcasting with CBS is your content was not really regulated by the FCC it was regulated by CBS.
Robb Spewak: Because they didn’t want to have trouble with the FCC. So you can bet that they were going to air on the side of being conservative. And you just can’t go in there and do a radio show when you’re having to second guess yourself three times about whether or not you can use a word like, I mean something as innocent as the word poop.
And I can say that because we’re on the Internet so I can say that. Poop this and bull poop and you don’t mean poop to me, and all that, but they would really sweat that stuff. Like well what context are you using the word poop? I one time got an email from a very high powered attorney on K Street in Washington, D.C. when I inquired as to playing a fart sound effect. This is really an attorney with a reputation. I got an email back and when you get an email and it’s on letterhead and you know you’re dealing with someone who’s important, the content of the email said, “Can you describe the nature of the fart?”
SPP: No way.
Robb Spewak: Yeah. And I’m thinking they’re billing CBS hours for that.
Robb Spewak: So I think one of the main differences between the radio where we used to be and the podcast where we are now is not so much content but a sensibility. It’s goofy, it’s a fart, and it’s the funniest thing God has given us on this earth.
Robb Spewak: So we can roll with it as long as you just don’t get disgusting, except occasionally.
SPP: I was going to say because you guys get around that with the Raw Shows that you have to offer.
Robb Spewak: Well that’s an extra product that we all came up with. I can remember getting started in the business one of the coolest things was getting to your disc jockeys or people in the business that you as being professional to get to hear them cuss. There was nothing cooler than that. The first time I heard the uncensored tape of Casey Kasem drop the “F” bomb it changed my world.
So we have to imagine in the same vain but perhaps in a much smaller way, there are people that download the podcast that would like to hear us truly being us. That was the birth of the Raw Shop and also that was a response to people wanting more content. It’s also a way to make some revenue for us because we’re not in it for kicks. It’s worked out very, very well and we enjoy it very much. It’s fun to not have to bleep a broadcast when we’re all done.
SPP: In speaking of which, how long does that take you when you have to go through? I mean even this morning’s Podcast 237 with all the booking you had to do.
Robb Spewak: I raised my voice at Mike today. Not long. No we record I don’t know if there’s anyone who is incredibly tech savvy listening that cares, but we use Adobe Audition to record the show and the bleeping is very easy. If you watch on the video of the Ustream while we’re doing this show people laugh because as soon as someone says a bad word the first thing that happens is I write down the time code so I know where it is to bleep it. So yeah Mike gives me a hard time because it’s an extra effort, but it’s inconsequential. I’d still rather not have to do it.
SPP: Got you. On this show now you’re doing, one of your main segments is the audio vault, which is the segment on the show where you play funny television and internet clips. How long have you been doing the audio vault and how did you get brought into that, because it’s a very, I want to say, unique segment of the show?
Robb Spewak: It started because I’ve pulled tape my entire life. I remember doing it on VHS and you’d want to find something good that you could bring in and play on the show. It goes back to when I was working with the Don and Mike Show. Then when the Don and Mike Show stopped and the Mike O’Meara Show began, Mike started looked for more and more audio and I just started to really run with it. I always got it now with the DVR it’s so easy because if you’re watching it you’re recording it. You can grab the stuff over and over again.
The Internet makes it a lot easier too because of all the people that share things. You don’t have to be there the first time. But we were looking for content and then when we realized that gosh there’s 10, 15, 20 minutes of content a day, what can we do with it? Instead of sprinkling it around we concentrated it into one segment. I love doing it because it’s my chance to show off and make the guys laugh. Because I’ve heard all this stuff but I love to surprise Mike with stuff that he’s not expecting and that’s a lot of fun.
I think that also conveys because I think Mike enjoys listening to the audio evolve as the listeners do. He has no idea what’s coming up and so that lays a lot of surprise to it and makes it a lot of fun. It’s a great excuse. They always say “If you find something you love and figure out a way to get paid for it you’ll never work a day in your life.” That’s very, very jive but I figured out a way to get paid for watching TV. Not too shabby, of course not paid very much but just some.
SPP: See this is the reason we had you on Smart People Podcast because it takes a smart man to realize that or figure that out.
Robb Spewak: Well I think the first thing we do when you hit Stop on the tape go around and raise the bar. Don’t book someone like me to be on a Smart Person’s Podcast.
Robb Spewak: This looks to me like five people cancelled frankly.
SPP: No way.
SPP: You figured out a way to get paid to watch TV. If I could do that I could stop playing poker and try and earn $5 dollars an hour doing that.
Robb Spewak: How about this, my wife figured out a way to make the television a tax deduction. SPP: Oh man.
SPP: Oh wow!
Robb Spewak: Isn’t that great.
SPP: We should be interviewing her too is what you’re saying.
Robb Spewak: Oh no, no the show is not long enough. I don’t care how long it is it’s not long enough to talk to my wife.
SPP: Speaking of making money though, something I commend you for and I don’t know how some people do it, I mean obviously when you went to school that had to be tough realizing I’m going to work in radio and I’m going to make a career out it because it it’s tough to do that. Did that ever kind of worry you, such as like how am I going to get paid?
Robb Spewak: Yeah a little bit, but if you don’t have a passion for it don’t try. I’ve got through email originally, originally letters than emails and stuff on Facebook. I get letters and communication from people that are in high school or in their 20s and they say “I don’t know I think I want to get into radio. What do you think?” I always tell them “Don’t do it”, because if you’re thinking about it you already lack the drive to make it happen.
Robb Spewak: Because even at the worse position if you have your foot in the door and you’re running board on Thanksgiving morning at 6:00 in the morning and you say, “Oh screw this I don’t want to do this”, have fun because there’s six people that are dying to have that job.
Robb Spewak: You’ve got to be ready to roll with it and go with it and take whatever crap positions that offered and sort of climb up through the ranks. I was very, very lucky my parents were very, very supportive. My wife has been very, very supportive. It was a long time before I made as much as her and it’s come to a time where I’m not making as much as her again. But it really is it’s what I love to do and if you have that passion you’ll figure out a way to make it work. As long as the people around you are supportive, if not financially certainly morally, that that’s what you want to do you got to make it work.
I mean and there were times when I mean when I lost my job and we had nothing I the pipeline I’m thinking, well God is Radio Shack hiring? What can I do? My past of employment has not really been that varied. I sold vegetables, I worked at Safeway, I delivered furniture, and I was on a nationally syndicated radio show. I tend to focus on the radio show part that was the best job.
Robb Spewak: So luckily the podcast is coming together. Also a lot of support from the people at KCJJ Radio in Iowa City and Coralville in Iowa which is an odd pairing, but he had been an affiliate supporter of the Mike O’Meara Show and the Don and Mike Show before that. As soon as I lost my job he said “If there’s anything you want to do let me know we’ll put it on our air.” I said “Well God I’ve always wanted to spin records.”
It was music radio that made me want to get into the business in the first place, but I got luckily into a talk deal. I mean we played records going in and out of stuff but not like the hot record flame throwing disc jockeys when I was growing up. So he gave me four hours a week to do whatever I want. So now I’ve built, for lack of a better word a working – no don’t say working let’s say functioning – a functioning studio in my basement. And I do a four-hour music show for him every week that I post at RobbRadio.com and that’s a blast too. So that’s a lot of fun.
SPP: Yeah that’s awesome. I was going to see if you wanted to plug anything else like the show that you do for KCJJ. Robb Spewak: Oh I’m sorry I read ahead. You must write that.
SPP: Or even Mike’s other show.
Robb Spewak: Oh of course on 105.9 The Edge.
SPP: Yes exactly.
Robb Spewak: You’re based in the DC area right.
SPP: Well I’m originally from DC and I’m in Scottsdale now, but yeah you could kind of say I’m based in DC so I follow you guys. Robb Spewak: You can take the boy out of DC but you can’t take the DC out of the boy.
SPP: That’s true.
Robb Spewak: Of course every morning on 105.9 The Edge Mike and Kirk McEwen do a great morning show. It is really the only music station I listen to in the market, and of course Mike on the radio you can’t beat it. He’s the funniest and the best. G. Gordon Liddy used to say “A very clever mimic.” He’s the best impressionist and it’s a great radio show. So yeah check out Mike every morning. Then what you do is run home and you download the Mike O’Meara Show Podcast, and that kills the time to Friday when you can go to www.1630kcjj.com and listen to my music show and hear me pretending to be Dan Ingram.
SPP: Very nice. Well Robb I appreciate it. I promise you that I would keep this as close to 15 minutes as possible. So once again thank you Robb Spewak of the Mike O’Meara Show at www.mikeomearashow.com.
Robb Spewak: Jon and Chris I appreciate your time very much and do great with your podcast, unless you do better than us then we have to talk.
SPP: All right appreciate it Robb.
Robb Spewak: I’m coming over and I’m pulling out some USB cable.
SPP: We’ll try not to.
Robb Spewak: Have a great day.
SPP: All right you too.