Even a pandemic can’t slowdown Jared Gutstadt.
The Canadian-born entrepreneur is known for his hard work and hustle. Gutstadt made a name for himself building up the audio creative agency Jingle Punks. His latest Hollywood venture, Audio Up, is focusing on the fast growing world of podcasting. Described as an “ecosystem of premium entertainment content within the music and audio space,” Audio Up has teamed up with well-known celebrities such as Dennis Quaid, who hosts an interview show called “The Dennissance.” MGM has also become an investor in the startup.
Of course, every day is interesting when you’re launching a business — especially during COVID-19.
Here’s our full email Q&A about the process.
When did you start thinking about launching a podcasting business
I started thinking about podcasts in December of 2019. I was coming off an extremely challenging year, realizing that my core business of putting music into cable television was about to become a lot more challenging, and I needed to figure out where the pivot was coming. I saw that iHeart was investing heavily in the space, and they happened to be one of my biggest clients where I was one of the largest providers of music and jingles for the radio network. I took the concept of an album and transformed it into a narrative podcast, and Bear And A Banjo ended up breaking through the glass ceiling of podcasting. The crazy thing is that 17 per cent of all podcasts in 2020 contain music because music licensing is a huge challenge for the world of podcasting. But I realized if we created our own musical assets and our own stories based on the music, there could be a huge business there.
What has it been like to launch a business during the COVID-19 pandemic
It's been interesting launching a business during COVID-19. At the very beginning of the pandemic, I bought 25 Zoom H6 recorders, and my partner Dennis Quaid and I have essentially set up mini versions of Hollywood studios in our homes. We are recording with a lot of talent who were otherwise not available prior to this. For example, Billy Bob Thornton was somebody whose schedule now allowed him to be a part of our podcast, 'Make It Up As We Go'.
By simply dropping off primitive recording gear with a microphone at his house, then picking the gear up later, wiping it off and putting it into our narrative, we're essentially putting together a movie without the visuals. Every day has really been exciting and challenging in different ways. Managing a team of 15 to 20 people on a day-to-day basis through windows in a Zoom call can sometimes be a little taxing, but it's amazing to see the revenue that's coming from music labels, publishers and brands looking to park money into innovative new ways of telling stories. I think podcasting is really the media of the moment.
Podcasting has become a crowded field. How do you stand out?
We stand out because we are extremely dynamic marketers. Throughout my entire career, I've been able to be noisy and when folks are going right, I go left. If you check out my Weird Al Ted Talk from a few years ago, it really explains the model of how I like to do business. For example, before COVID, we bought several billboards across Los Angeles promoting the fact that you could text Dennis Quaid and he would send you his podcast on cassette tape. This marketing stunt was supposed to be dovetailing with an appearance on Ellen that ultimately got crushed because of COVID. But we ended up just adapting and moving forward.
We're standing out with the type of talent that we work with, collaborating with people like: Bob Dylan, Billy Bob Thornton, T-Bone Burnett and Rosanna Arquette. The upcoming slate of content that we have is really going to be the difference. We're a company that does not rely on two microphones and a host, we are writing blockbusters for the audio space.
Where do podcasts fit on the priority list for celebrities who also have opportunities in TV, film and music?
If you asked me that question two months ago, I would have said fairly low, but now we're finding that we have access to A-list talent. In fact, some of the biggest directors, actors, artists, rappers and media minds in the world have all been willing to participate in the new fun things that we're doing in the audio space. For example, on my podcast, 'Occupational Therapy,' I was able to get interviews lined up with people like NBA Laker JaVale McGee, CNN's Don Lemon, creator of Modern Family, Steven Levitan, rapper 24KGoldn and countless other big names. The list of people that we've spoken to is just scratching the surface, as next season on my podcast we plan on expanding that list even further. Getting the lift from NYU's Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music has certainly helped our chances of us talking with people like Pharrell, Alicia Keys and other folks who would normally be busy.
Beyond the content itself, how will the podcasting business continue to evolve (revenue, sources, etc.)?
For us, the podcast business will continue to evolve because content is really just the tip of the iceberg for me. What I'm really building is a media agency that offers up audio products. I'm also building a publishing business because every single podcast that I create has a stellar soundtrack and huge upside to become a new model for the record business works.
We're also building a tech platform that's going be the on-ramp for neophytes to the world of podcasting. It's really a three-tier structure of high quality content at the top, host-driven things in the middle and then user generated content at the bottom. I created a video for my investors called, 'The Case for Audio', that really outlines the way I see audio becoming a huge business and possibly a business that's way bigger and more important than the world of cable TV because of how ubiquitous and how sticky the medium is.