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Brian Ibbott started Coverville Media LLC in 2004 after discovering a new technique to fulfill his dreams of becoming a DJ. He was one of the earliest pioneers of “podcasting,” streaming a show that plays 100 percent covers – artists playing other artists’ songs.
When Ibbot’s show goes out over the Internet from his home studio in Arvada, it is listened to by more than 16,000 people around the world.
His advice to other entrepreneurs is to find a niche that you are passionate about, then “just jump in” because “if you spend too much time on the edge of the pool trying to figure out how to do it, someone else will get there first.”
Q: What was your initial startup cost?
A: Approximately $350 for a mic, mixer, website and hosting.
Q: How long until there was a positive cash flow?
A: Four months. My first sponsor came on board within that time.
Q: Did you use a business plan?
Q: What was the genesis of the idea?
A: I was intrigued by what was referred to as an ‘MP3 Blog’ that Adam Curry, the former VJ, was posting online. As the technology began to evolve, thanks in a large part to the open software movement, the possibility of having my own radio show emerged. My dream had always been to host an ‘all covers’ radio show. The only resemblance of such a show was a short segment on satellite radio that no longer exists. As the technology of podcasting emerged, I jumped on my opportunity to get the show out there.
Q: What came first, the problem or the solution?
A: The solution came first, as a creative expression; second came the love of music; and lastly came the way to leverage the Internet to broadcast a niche. It all integrates nicely into the world of podcasting.
Q:What is the passion that it fills for you personally?
A: I’d always been a wannabe DJ. I love music. I literally own thousands upon thousands of CDs. For a short time I was a wedding DJ, but it was not at all what I had envisioned. This is fulfilling my need for creative expression, tapping into my music trivia mind, and providing entertainment to others.
Q: Where do you see yourself and your company in 10 years?
A: Coverville is a mainstream radio show, and I’m able to reach a much larger audience that podcasting will likely never reach.
Q: What were your biggest challenges?
A: Learning the ropes on music licensing was a major challenge. Nobody had asked the questions before about how you get licensed to play entire songs on a podcast. I intentionally stay away from the major labels to avoid running into licensing problems. Bandwidth early on was a challenge as well. After Adam Curry mentioned me on his show, my subscriber base went through the roof.
Q: What are your biggest rewards?
A: The feedback from my listeners! The positive feedback from my listeners is the ‘fuel’ that makes doing this so much fun. I get emails from all over the world. I know my podcasts are being listened to, and talked about, because I see the evidence of it all the time. It has been a thrill to get mentioned in the media, including a textbook, as a case study on new media, and Rolling Stone. One of my listeners shared with me that my show helped him through recovery from surgery. Artists now send me their CDs, and record labels approach me to have their artists on the show.
Q:Are there one or two things you can attribute your success to?
A: Getting in early as the technology was first emerging. In the beginning, there were only eight or so podcasts, so those of us in early had a fairly captive audience. Having numerous mentions on Adam Curry’s podcast really helped. Timing and word-of-mouth have probably been the biggest factors.
Q: Any recommended books? How about an MBA?
A: No on the MBA. Two books I recommend on podcasting: “Podcast Solutions,” by Dan Klass and Michael Geoghegan, and “Podcasting for Dummies,” by Tee Morris and Evo Terra. A great book that I go back to time and time again is “Radio: An Illustrated Guide,” by Jessica Abel and Ira Glass.
Q: Slogan to live by or what it might say on your tombstone?
A: For a slogan: “Just jump in.” For my tombstone: “A devoted husband and father.” My family brings more joy to me than anything else, and I love being able to incorporate them occasionally into the show.
Q: Anything else?
A: First and foremost, do what you are passionate about. You do need to find a niche, but be sure it’s something you are passionate about. Jump in with both feet, just get into it, and adjust later. If you spend too much time on the edge of the pool trying to figure out how to do it, someone else will get there first.
Brian Schwartz is the founder of 50 Interviews Inc., and can be reached at www.50interviews.com.