Eric Zane: Broadcast InZanity
Updated: May 31
This week's show features yet another broadcast icon who I've been a fan of for a long time. Eric Zane is one of many former radio hosts who've made the transition into podcasting, and he's done it more successfully than most. Back when I met Eric in 2019, I knew him from the Free Beer & Hot Wings radio show out of Grand Rapids, Michigan- a show he'd just begun to pivot away from to debut his own podcast. But this was 2019, and it wasn't so easy back then to make the switch.
Eric was one of the first to pick up on the new wave of monetization for podcasting, a wave we're all still riding to this day, and The Eric Zane Show remains a gold standard podcast 3 years later. Together, we talk about how he managed to make that switch, the stumbles he made along the way, and which avenues for support have been the most successful for him. We also dive into his storied radio career in Grand Rapids, where he still lives.
Something we didn't get a chance to talk about on the show, but that I definitely think should tell you a lot about Eric's character, is the time he donated a kidney to an old friend from high school. Check out his Fox News interview about it, or read the full story here.
And here's a fun fact, for those who might not know Eric or his show: he puts out two episodes per day. One for his regular free show, and one exclusive episode for his Patreon supporters. This means that he's put out over 800 episodes total in just three years. As a podcast producer myself, the amount of work that schedule would require not only gives me an anxiety attack, but also a massive amount of respect for Eric's work ethic and dedication to his show.
If you want to learn more about Eric, you're in luck- he just happens to be one of the most connected podcast hosts out there. Of course there's website, where you can (and should) listen to his show, but you can also follow him on Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube, support him on Patreon for exclusive bonus content, or even join his Subreddit r/TheEricZaneShow to become a part of his community.
Tara Sands (Voiceover) 00:00:01
The Sound Off podcast. The podcast about broadcast with Matt Cundill starts now.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:00:10
I met Eric Zane back in 2019 in the hallways of the Conclave Summer Radio Come conference in Minneapolis.I knew Eric from the show. Free beer and hot wings. I'd been a regular listener on my vacations in the early 2000s, whether I went to Maine or to Florida. But when I met him, Eric was in the process of doing that. Also familiar pivot from broadcast to podcast. But think back to 2019. There wasn't as much of a blueprint to do it, but there was work from home and some new monetization gadgets like Twitch and Patreon were coming into their own. Indeed, it was becoming more common. Eric Zane joins me from the home studio of the Eric Zane Podcast in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Eric Zane (Guest) 00:00:52
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:00:53
Did your radio career start in Saginaw, or does it go back before that?
Eric Zane (Guest) 00:00:57
Technically it goes back before that because I was in high school in Metro Detroit and we had a radio station. And when I was in 9th grade, I started to get interested in that. After spending plenty of time listening to the radio to these terrific morning shows in Detroit, these Fred Jacobs program radio stations and then off and running, that was it. I got the bug. High school college radio station there. Great. Broadcasting School Central Michigan University. Someone say, hey, you should try the commercial station, the rock station in Saginaw. I was like, no way. No way. I sent a tape they called the next day that ranks as, I mean, you could have blown me over with a feather. The excitement when I realized that there was potential that to actually earn a dollar doing this. What? And it was incredible. And I still get that excited to this day.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:01:48
A Fred Jacobs programmed radio station in Detroit would have been early eighty s and wrist.
Eric Zane (Guest) 00:01:55
Yeah, that was it, man. JJ. And the Morning Crew, I would get off to school on my own. That was on. I could tell you the whole lineup. They were all superstar announcers and talent. And I tell you what, that's what I cut my teeth on. And then I would record the music this is ten years old. Play it, and then hold a microphone for another recorder to it. When the DJ would start to talk, ken Kelvert, Steve Costa, I pull the mic and talk myself, and that's how I would practice. That was like, fun for me. I listened back to it and I just got so much fun and mileage out of those recorders, and it was magical. And from that point on, I couldn't stop.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:02:38
Were there other radio stations you listened to?
Eric Zane (Guest) 00:02:41
The Riff, was it? And then W LLC signed on, and then that was incredible, too. Now I have two great radio stations that I love. And then JJ. And the morning crew goes to Wheels. I'm like, oh, no. So then time passes, and I was all about it. And then as I went to college, then I started radio in high school, and so that was that, and then college. And then when I was 20 years old, I interned at the Riff. And even just going there and erasing carts and getting coffee, it was incredible. The fact that these people who I just these were my superheroes and I'm getting them coffee, it was incredible.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:03:24
Did you play them any of those demo tapes that you made?
Eric Zane (Guest) 00:03:27
I sure didn't, but it was a great time. I've always been in wonder of radio, even to this day, after being out of it for so long. I still wish I was doing it, really? Especially now that I've been able to get enough of a following to live doing this from this room, I still love it. I don't care how maligned it is. I don't care about stories, about how it's going away. It's still a dream to me, and still magical. I still love it.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:03:59
We've answered a question that's like, two pages ahead on what I wrote out, but it gives me an idea that you didn't really care if you were going to be doing radio in Detroit or in Saginaw or in Knoxville. So when was the first time you got behind the microphone and did a show over the air?
Eric Zane (Guest) 00:04:17
Yeah. Goes back to high school. I was doing a show on a high school radio station weekly, playing rap music because I went to a phase where I loved rap, so I called myself Easy Rhyme, played rap songs, and then everything kind of developed. After the internship at the Riff, I did a morning show at the college station once a week, and then that went to the professional level to earning $5 an hour overnights on the weekend. Greatest. Incredible. Just couldn't believe it. Playing Metallica records. I can't believe it. Would cost me more in gas than the amount of money that I was making. But it didn't matter. I'm on the radio. Doesn't matter. And then everybody started people just wear out their welcome at radio stations, whatever. The overnight guy got fired, so I'm full time overnight, full time nights, full time afternoon. I then started to get a little wore out with radio because I was just kind of liner jockeying it. So I felt at a young age, I was getting stale. So I went back to college, got a degree completely unrelated to this, and was ready to walk away. And then I got offered a morning job at that station, and that put it into a different realm once mornings took hold, and I was like, now I can see that this is something on a selfish level that is even more satisfying to me. And then just by dumb luck, I get to a point where it was terrifically lucrative, which can't be said I was very lucky to be able to have that happen because too often I hear about radio morning people and just radio people in general who just die on the vine and the dream dies because they can't eat. And that's a shame.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:05:51
As I look over my shoulder, I've got a degree. That's the only thing behind me. I'm looking behind you. I don't see your degree. What did you get your degree in?
Eric Zane (Guest) 00:05:59
I was going to be the guy who, when you need a stress test for your heart, I would put you on the stress test and hook up the machinery to it and administer the test. Stress test administrator I got a degree in exercise science.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:06:16
And what was the morning job where you said, okay, I don't have to do that. I get to do Mornings Now, a.
Eric Zane (Guest) 00:06:21
Cumulus radio station still known as Z 93 in Saginaw, Michigan. And yeah, I did a show with a guy named Joe Volk who is no longer in radio. And yeah, we did a lot of it was different brand of radio. Obviously we played music, but it was cutting your teeth. And it was great because I worked for program directors who let me experiment on the overnight shift and then if I would come up with concepts and bits on my own, similar to a lot of the people that you hear about in the industry with voices and writing and things like that, and it was great fun. And I still like doing that to this day.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:07:00
It's a great opportunity for both you and me to really talk about overnight radio and its value, because it sounds like you spent an awful lot of time overnight and being creative and coming up with things, but we don't have that anymore. So what is today's generation of broadcasters missing out by not having that overnight?
Eric Zane (Guest) 00:07:18
Well, that to me was always the minor leagues where you'd screw up. And I was blessed with a great program director by the name of Mike Ferriss. And Mike, he's been out of the game for about a year, and if I ever got in the weeds, he'd call me and say, yeah, too much or more of this? And he'd facilitate me. And I think now and I've talked about this with other people that I don't know where the talent is. It's harder for radio stations to find talent that is growing and improving. I almost think that they have to focus on the podcast world and find someone who's doing something fun that can translate to the radio, which is not out of the question. I know if I were running a radio company, I mean, you got to get something on the air at the end of the day, you need ears hearing it, and if it's good, they will. So you better find it fast.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:08:11
What was the biggest move you ever made where you had to go from one market to another and you were most excited.
Eric Zane (Guest) 00:08:17
Well, nearly every move I made it was out of necessity so I was quite scared. So most of those were because I either got it just didn't work out or I needed a change, it wasn't making any money and so those were all big things. To move emotionally from Michigan down to East Tennessee I think was the strangest and hardest thing to do because we had a sick family member at the time. My wife's mother. So there was a lot of sleepless nights there and then didn't know anybody in that scenario and so here I am with two young children and my lovely wife and oh I didn't know what to do. But then fast forward when I went because I went from Michigan down to Tennessee to New Jersey, a couple of years in Jersey and then Dave Brewer from Pollock Media called looking to get a show on in Grand Rapids, Michigan which is not far from home. Well now that one still some trepidation but that was true excitement and that excitement was warranted because the show ended up really growing and taking hold from that point and that's how I was able to base this podcast because of the audience from that show.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:09:32
How did you hook up with free beer and hot wings? How did that all come together?
Eric Zane (Guest) 00:09:36
Before I knew them, they knew of me. We were going to college at the same time, maybe a couple of years behind me but I did not know them. When I went to Tennessee they signed on at Arrival radio station and when they signed on I called them while they were on the air like one of their first days and they picked it up and I'm like trying to throw a fastball at their head at this moment and they kind of put it back on my face because they mentioned my real name and I was like who are these people. How do they know me? So we met a couple of times casually at various remotes and things like that and then the show that I was on got fired because favored to John Boy and Billy at this Tennessee radio station which are still on to that station wimz to this day. The guy who hired me in Tennessee, he was not working with Free Beer and Hot Wings. So I drove over to the radio station that day and they were interested in me coming on and joining their show and then that was it. We ended up working together at that point and had a lot of good years together.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:10:40
I would have never known about Free Beer and Hot Wings as a show if I didn't spend my summers in Portland, Maine where the show was carried. And I was listening to it one day going I've never heard of this. I feel as though I should have heard of this but I've heard of this. I've heard of this nowhere else but here I am in Portland, Maine, listening to this show. So first of all, why was I hearing it in Portland, Maine? And secondly, for those who didn't get the opportunity to hear it in Portland, Maine, or on any of the other affiliates that it was being carried on, tell me a little bit about the show, who was on it, and what you guys are doing every day.
Eric Zane (Guest) 00:11:14
Greg Freebie daniels chris Hollywings. Michael Zari Zane. It's kind of hard to explain. And I remember it was a few years of doing the show that I remember when one day it really started to feel good. It took a little time when we started to get really comfortable with what we're doing. And we were in New Jersey at the time. I don't know how I can quite put into words how this show is what it was, but all I can tell you is what I was always focused on was trying to weave my personal life into what's on the radio. And I mean, like, 90% of anything that I say has to do with the things going on within my house with my kids, and I really like storytelling. So they played off that very well. In addition to we were with a great team of people at NASA Broadcasting in New Jersey at the time. I don't think that company is anymore. But they believed in us and they helped us and they facilitated us with all the things that we needed and helped us out. So it did pretty darn well. So much so that when the show was invited to come to Grand Rapids, Michigan, long story short, the New Jersey stations, because it was on two at the time, said, let us carry the show until we find a replacement show. And we said, okay. So it was an accidental syndication. They didn't want the show to leave. So that worked out. And then after a period of months of doing it that way, they said, we think we want to keep doing this. Okay, great. They then had a station in Portland, Maine, and they said, let's try doing it there, too. So they put us in that all of this was going on, all while Opie and Anthony had the Sex for Sam bit that got them fired and Howard Stern left Terrestrial Radio. So we took over for Howard in Portland. We took over for Howard in Albany, New York. We took over for Howard on Cape Cod, and they put us on all those this is where we showed up at all these stations. And it was tough at first, but those stations still all carry the show. So that's really incredible because there are no other stations post Stern, Opie and Anthony that are still the show that took over for them. That show has maintained that. So that's a pretty important thing, I think, considering those are all East Coast stations, too. You got people that don't sound like they're from there that have made it happen. I think that's fantastic.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:13:40
I couldn't figure out where the show was from. I just knew that I liked the show. And when I think back to it, I think the decision to put that show on the radio, maybe there was some cost savings, but at the same time the ratings are probably going to go up and it's solving a bigger problem at the time, which, as you mentioned, is the disappearance of opening Anthony or Howard Stern or even their local person if they went away. So you had all these stations, so every time you got a new market, how did you approach it?
Eric Zane (Guest) 00:14:09
Well, as I remember, it was pretty much the same every time. We tried to make ourselves as available as possible for those radio stations because it's usually a lot of trepidation when the radio station would put that show on and when they would put the show on, you probably had some dissenters. I know that that was the case in Albany. There was mass dissension and eventually we won them over. First we won the building over, then the show started to get a little bit of traction. So we tried to do everything we could to set ourselves apart from any other syndicated show and just trying to take care of them in any way, shape or form. There are some stations that put it on just as an afterthought. I remember Green Bay, Wisconsin in particular, that they're still on to the stay. Put it on as an afterthought and then left it alone, didn't even bother with it for two years. And they got a ratings book and it was terrific and they couldn't believe it. And so we had a get to know you meeting two years after they put us on, and it was really remarkable because we had been there the whole time.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:15:12
Were you guys on in Florida too?
Eric Zane (Guest) 00:15:13
Not when I was there. I think they may be now.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:15:16
I heard it on the air in Florida and I'm like, is this show based out of Florida?
Eric Zane (Guest) 00:15:20
Yeah, it's done very well. It's continued to be very strong. They should be very proud of what they've been able to accomplish and continue to.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:15:28
Why did you leave it?
Eric Zane (Guest) 00:15:30
Well, I was fired because my role on the show, I was the most vocal of everyone. I looked as everyday show as a big bowl of dog food, and we're all puppies trying to eat, so I swing for the fences every time. And what I did for years on that show was I'm making omelets for another bad analogy. I'm constantly making omelets. And occasionally my general manager would clean up the mess. You would have to. His name was Phil Catalyt. Terrific, Mind. And he really looked past the, oh, I got to go smooth this over because Eric said something stupid, you look past it, because he was making money hand over fist. So all right, whatever. As a good general manager should. Now, I don't want you to get the wrong idea. When I would get in trouble, it wasn't for some of the things, ridiculous things you hear from radio people. But what I would do is occasionally I would upset sponsors. Like if sponsor comes on the air and he's doing his own commercial and he's got a bad, horrible voice, I'm going to make fun of that guy at some point in time. I'll probably do an impression of him and try to be a buffoon, try to make it funny. That was always the goal. And of course, Guy would call this is a hypothetical, but it probably did happen at one point during my time there. So when Phil Catalan wasn't part of the radio station anymore, they bring a new guy in who he's not very good, or at least he won't consider, I guess, cleaning up my messes. So I kept doing what I've always done, and so every handful of months I'm called into the corner office because I did something that pissed off a sponsor, and I was given the old, all right, you did it big time this time. Now you have to sign a document if you ever do this again, if you ever piss off Joe's Taco Shop, you're out. Well, sure enough, that lasts another ten months. Then a poor old Joe's Taco Shop took one between the eyes, and then that was it. I was fired. People have asked, what do you think about shouldn't the guys have defended you or done this? And I go, I don't know. They may have. I have no idea. I wasn't privy to any of those things. But that was it. I was asked to leave, so I had to go.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:17:49
Have you spoken to those guys since?
Eric Zane (Guest) 00:17:51
Okay, this is where it gets even more fun. Because for the first two months after that, I only had a 30 day non compete, which is absurd, but when we were renegotiating contracts year after year, we'd always whittled down the non compete. So it was immediately 30 days, which isn't even enough time to put a new show in place somewhere. So it took me two months to the day before I signed on on my own show. Leading up to that, there were some conversations that took place that weren't bad at all. But then once I signed on, I started talking. That did not go well at all. That was the proverbial lighting the bridge on fire. That was the beginning of it. There have been moments where we've spoken somewhat in the past, only to have it detonate explosively later on. It's remained that way for quite some time now.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:18:44
Yeah. I think of Opie and Anthony as well. They're not on talking terms at all either. So there's something about working so closely with people for many years at odd hours and going through so much, and then if and when it ends, it's.
Eric Zane (Guest) 00:18:59
It yeah, frankly, it's been so long now that if we ran into each other, no, I shouldn't say that. I'd still be pissed. I was about to say it's all water under the bridge. That would be a lie. I would still be pissed.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:19:15
There's something about radio, though, that when one person gets let go, it's almost like they've got fireditis and nobody wants to talk to the person who's just been fired. And it's uncomfortable and weird. Somebody was talking about this on another podcast. In fact, it was David Martin and Kipper McGee, and the guests that they had on was saying that is that when people get let go from this business, nobody will call you because they're afraid to catch fireditis. Okay, so this is a clip that I heard on another podcast about broadcast called Brandwidth on Demand. It's hosted by David Martin and Kippur McGee, who's been on this show. They're talking to Chuck Knight, who is now the PD at Wi NK in Fort Myers, Florida. But I want you to pay attention to what he says about how some of us in radio treat each other when we're out of work.
Tara Sands (Voiceover) 00:20:04
But what I found in a couple of my job search, it was kind of disturbing within the industry is people that you kind of knew throughout your career ghost you. And I don't know if those people think that because you're out of a job that somehow that job itis or whatever will slither off to them and they'll be out of a job soon or what the deal? If there was some contagious to being out of a job, but it was unreal, people that you communicate with on maybe even a weekly or a monthly basis when you were employed would ghost you after that point. And even people that I have interviewed with you'll send them follow up information and you don't even get a reply. And I just plead with all of us to reply to emails. If you've got an applicant or if you've got somebody who's reaching out or if you've got a listener or whatever, it's easy to reply, hey, thanks, I'll look at this. Or thanks, good thoughts.
Eric Zane (Guest) 00:21:18
Tara Sands (Voiceover) 00:21:19
It is so easy to do, and you will not deflate people by not doing it, because when we don't do it, we are telling people that they are not worth our time to respond to respect. And that is depleting. And I fear it pushes people out of this industry because they don't get that communication throughout so many of their applications and they become frustrated with the industry and they get out before they should. Respect, please, from all of our perspectives, let's communicate. Don't ghost anybody. It's easy. Just reply with three words. Hey, thanks. Hope you're doing well. I got this. Thank you. It isn't promising anybody a job or anything, but it helps somebody have a good day is really what it boils down to. Sorry, that's my soapbox.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:22:19
You're so right shut.
Eric Zane (Guest) 00:22:21
But those guys, I will give them this, they're not really the type to ever have anything like what has happened to me repeatedly ever happened to them. Just not quite in their makeup. These are not very conservative people. I'm extremely emotionally charged. That has been a good thing for me and a very bad thing that I have an on off switch. I don't have a dimmer.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:22:48
Do you think you're a product of the attitude era? You think back to the late ninety s and right on through the rock radio. There was a lot of in your face stuff and that's really what the format and radio is about. And then sometime around 2012 that really disappears and the pendulum swings the other way.
Eric Zane (Guest) 00:23:05
I don't know. Maybe when it comes to me. I was always I remember distinctly having a feeling at the time that on the day that I said what I said. Because what I did was I made fun of the local it was an arena they were building for the local minor league basketball team and I was the PA voice for the team and the shot clock broke. Which is ridiculous. And I ended up making jokes about the arena and saying it's a dump and the guy who owns it's an idiot. So that was that. Now, to me, I always was looking to jazz up stories and for the longest time on that show in particular, I had this terrible feeling like we were going to lose what we had built. For some reason I felt like with the show was losing its punch. I know that sounds weird, but I struggled to put a fine point on it myself. But I remember almost trying too hard to get some type of, I don't know, something going a bit a laugh, working almost too hard and that never works. So I think that if I had just sat back and just smelled the roses, I probably would not have wound up in the scenario that I was in. But then again, that kind of goes against everything that I'd ever done, ever in this business. And that was just kind of let it fly. And I'm kind of happy in a way that I'm not over there because everything is different and creating something from scratch is a hell of a lot more enjoyable than just sitting back and kind of like drifting off slowly into the sunset, which I feel a lot of people are doing.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:24:42
You mentioned you had a 30 day non compete, but is what you're doing really in competition with where you came from? Because you're not broadcasting over the air?
Eric Zane (Guest) 00:24:51
No, but if I'm doing my show and if they listen to it or watch it live or they well, any show is on the radio actually broadcasting live. If their ears are on something, I'm saying it is taken away from their time over there, which, I mean, I want that to happen as much as possible. That makes the world go round for me. So in a way, yes, I am in competition not only with radio, but TikTok videos, YouTube, television, the kids in the backseat. It's all about that dog bull I got to get after in just a.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:25:29
Second more with Eric, he shares his plan for how he made that jump from broadcast to podcast. He also has a very generous offer if you're thinking about doing the same. But we're not quite done talking about terrestrial radio yet, by the way. All the connections to Eric show can be found in the show notes of this firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tara Sands (Voiceover) 00:25:49
Transcription for the the Sound Off podcast.
Eric Zane (Guest) 00:25:52
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Matt Cundill (Host) 00:26:04
It took you two months to go from being on the radio to starting this show, so clearly you had your mind made up.
Eric Zane (Guest) 00:26:12
Actually, no. The two months was when I left. Freeburn hot wings. I started my own radio show two months later, in April of 16th.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:26:20
Eric Zane (Guest) 00:26:21
That played out on that station, a totally different station.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:26:24
That was a cumulative station, right?
Eric Zane (Guest) 00:26:26
Correct. January 4, 2019, fired. That was a Friday, Sunday, the 6, January 1st podcast from this room.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:26:36
So your mind had been made up that you were going to be doing a podcast.
Eric Zane (Guest) 00:26:39
I had been thinking that there was trouble brewing a few months before. Built the website, built where the podcast was going to show up at all the infrastructure laid out. I had the T shirts ready to go for sale, and just in case, you know, I built a patreon so that you got to do it right away, get after as quickly as possible. So I suspected there was trouble brewing. It hit. I was ready.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:27:05
So tell me about that launch. And I just launched a podcast the other day. It showed up at number one on the charts. I'm very pleased with myself, but during the launch that you did, you mentioned I needed to get the patreon in order, I needed to get the shirts in order. This isn't something you could have started softly. You went all in very quickly and let's go.
Eric Zane (Guest) 00:27:24
Yes. And in fact, I had a lot of that set up in 2016 because I was thinking about doing this in 2016 after I got fired from free beer. Did not just let it stay dormant. So I had the people in place, so I wanted to help me. And then the few months leading up to January 4 when I was fired, 2019. Yeah, I was preparing myself.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:27:48
So your parachute was packed?
Eric Zane (Guest) 00:27:50
Yeah. See you later. I got a great story to the day I was fired. Despite. Having that preparation. I honestly didn't see this happening. And I think that that's because when you're in the trenches, you just don't think about it. You're thinking about what to talk about and various radio stuff, oh, I'm fired. But on that particular day, I ended up getting sick. Like, I have to go home. I'm throwing up. So I said to my partner, bag of Ben and Sam, okay, I got to leave. And I called the boss, and she always responds, and she did not respond. I texted her. I said, hey, I got to go. Little did I know, I'm getting fired that afternoon, as soon as the show is over, I'm getting fired. Now I'm leaving. So that's weird. I go home. I remember walking in the door thinking, oh, I got to make sure to tell everybody right away that I'm just sick. I'm not getting fired. So I'm, like, almost playing it out as to what's about to happen. But I am not kidding you. I wasn't thinking about that at all. I go home. I get in bed. I'm having a terrible time. I'm laying there, and the phones buzzing, like, every 15 seconds. New message. What the hell is this? And it's from one of the people. Hey, heads are rolling, and yours is next. I'm like, oh, no. So I called the boss, and they did it over the phone, and then that was it. I thought, hey, don't worry about it. It's fine. No big deal. That was that.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:29:15
Tell me about when we met at the Conclave in 2019. Why did you go to the Conclave? What were you hoping to see and find and do?
Eric Zane (Guest) 00:29:22
Well, in addition to just being able to see the multi talented Lori Lewis, which is the reason enough to attend. So she invited me there to talk about podcasting. There's a number of terrific people that were there doing just that. So I'm like, yeah, so that was cool. And it was there that I met you. And so I'm like, Boy, this guy. This is fantastic. So then I went and listened to your podcast, and then you driving from Minnesota back to Michigan. I listened to so much of you on several interviews you did, and I was like, this is fantastic. And I can tell you, I can count on one hand how many podcasts I've ever listened to from beginning to end. I think you are the most listened to podcasts that I've ever listened to in my life. So it was awesome. And then looking back and meeting you, it was a good time.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:30:13
So how long has that drive?
Eric Zane (Guest) 00:30:15
Oh, God. I don't know. I would have to say probably at least 10 hours.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:30:19
See, mine is only seven and a half, and I have to cross the border.
Eric Zane (Guest) 00:30:24
Yes. But that was a good event. I love the Conclave. They really did a good job. There's a lot of wonderful people there. Yeah.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:30:31
And now that you mention it, now I remember, yes, you did talk about podcast and I was very interested with your show and I started to actually watch the show. And I know that sounds weird because we're talking about you having this podcast, but there is a streaming capability that you can experience every morning. So tell me how you stream the show.
Eric Zane (Guest) 00:30:48
Okay, so at the time that I met you, I even bought my equipment and did the show from the hotel. At the time I was putting it out on Facebook. And then you link it up to Restream, which then spits it out to whatever platform you want, which everybody probably knows that. And another fantastic Canadian reached out to me, that is Don Collins. I don't know if you know don't.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:31:08
We'Ve had him on the show.
Eric Zane (Guest) 00:31:09
Oh, good. In fact, after I got fired actually, no, in 2019 when I started, he reached out to me about putting my show on Twitch and he said, okay, yeah, you need two to 3 hours a day every day on Twitch instead of Facebook. And I said, Well, I can't do that. I don't have that ability to do that. Thank you, but no thank you. But I kept talking to him because when I first started podcasting, I would put it out live on Facebook. Then that audio would become the podcast, but we're talking 1520 minutes of whatever I could come up with. But as I started to do this more and more, I've done this. Now, as of today, 845, I do two podcasts a day, the free podcast and the Patreon every weekday. So we're talking on almost 1800 podcasts since I started, not to mention all sorts of interviews that I put up there. And whatever I can do, I do. So then a funny thing happened when you monologue for that amount of time just looking at a camera, it just got easier. I just started having the ability to carry on that amount of time every single day. So Facebook started getting more finicky about the content and I'd get blocked and I just can't have that. So I reached out to Don and he and his folks put me in the right spot. And now I put it out on Twitch and then it goes out on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter. But then 15 minutes into it, I say, hey, I hope you enjoyed this, facebook, Twitter, YouTube. But now you got to go to Twitch if you want the rest of the show. Goodbye. I toggle a button and then I finish the show. So it is something I'm proud of too, to be able to sit for 2 hours, do your thing. Telling stories about your personal life every day, commenting on the news, shying away from no stories, being firm in your convictions, being anything but boring. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter as long as it's not boring. You can make them mad. You can make them sad, you can make them happy. You can make them hate you. Just don't be boring. And for God's sake, just keep that content moving, especially if you're alone. And then put the audio out to the world and do it again the next day. And then when you're done doing all that, go sell it, because this is no different than radio. The only thing that's different is how it's getting to those years.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:33:20
So how hard was it for you to do the transition from being in a group of three? I'm doing it on my own now. I'm the host. I'm the guy.
Eric Zane (Guest) 00:33:29
I know those early shows were ugly because I had to get in the habit of not waiting for someone to answer me. I had to figure that out. And it took probably out of all the things I've had to learn how to do, this took the longest, especially when you're working with a group of people. So I would say it was a significant amount of time. I don't dare go back and listen to those old shows, but they were pretty icky. So I'm just fortunate that people stuck with it. Not that it's any better now, but I can hold my own and what I want to talk about. And frankly, I think that anyone who does speaks into a microphone should be able to do that.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:34:09
Well, welcome to podcasting, because everybody's first few episodes are treacherous.
Eric Zane (Guest) 00:34:14
I try to tell people who pick my brain about doing this, whoever it may be, it doesn't matter if it's some guy who's going to do the show for one person or for 1000. I often say I go, I know this is going to be difficult, but I want you to do some shows and don't tell anybody about it. Just do it and just kind of get used to it. But then they don't. No one ever does that. They just launch and off they go. But people who listen are getting really good at giving shows plenty of avenue to grow. People are giving shows a chance, and that's incredible.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:34:47
You mentioned Twitch. Can we just tell the audience that's a monetization stream, right? People can throw you like, some coins and stuff.
Eric Zane (Guest) 00:34:55
Yeah. So Twitch originally for gamers, where young people and old people, it doesn't matter who would play video games and then talk about it, and then you'd watch their gameplay. Amazon purchased them and then they said that people like, Don Collins, please populate this with shows with any type of content. So that's basically what it is. So now when I start, people see an ad, which is Amazon puts up there. That's the trade off. I'm using their platform. They're playing their ad. Now, see, if you follow, then you just know when I'm on. But if you subscribe, then that's $5. You don't have to, but if you do, then you don't see any ads during the show, but if you don't pay the money, you'll see ads just pop in throughout the whole damn thing. Now, I don't get any of that, but if people do subscribe, it's $5. I get half and Amazon gets half. So as that all unfolds, you can also sign up for free with your Amazon Prime account. And a lot of people do that. It says it right on it. Sign up for free with Amazon Prime. So then they don't pay anything. So there's that. And then other people, what they like to do is people will buy virtual currency. It's just a tip jar, and there's an actual jar on the screen, and people pay like, $5 and they have it ready to go, and they throw a little bit of change in your jar. I'm not even about any of that. I don't talk about it. I have it there. If they figure it out, fine. I will tell them to subscribe if they want to avoid the ads. But to me, I picked up on Twitch well after I had established all these other different things. So I don't really rely on it. It's just a better platform for viewing experience is the big thing to me. Now, if you continue to grow your audience, you can make a hell of a lot of money on Twitch. But honestly, I'm almost like a plateaued show at this point. I still am constantly looking for new ways to get people to check out what I'm doing. And it's sometimes a struggle to get people to just get them to watch, and that's sometimes tough on a person's brain because you're like, Am I doing the right thing? Is what I'm doing even interesting? But it is. You just got to keep working at it.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:37:11
So I'm going to be incredibly rude, and I'm going to count all the ways you make money, and then you can tell me all the ways that I didn't count. Because there's advertising on the show. You've got your studio that is sponsored, you've got your Patreon accounts. There's a little bit of Twitch money.
Eric Zane (Guest) 00:37:26
What else is out there that's not rude? I like to talk about it because I like to be able to tell broadcasters who may wind up in my position that there are things that they can do. And before I explain that, if anyone ever wants to contact me, I will absolutely help you do just that. Eric@ericzaneshow.com, I would love to talk you through this because just for best habits and things like that, because you can do this. Initially, when I started podcasting, the only thing I did was sold ads directly. And I would take my analytics and where they're listening, and I just like a radio station, I'd bang on doors. Okay, there was that. And then the Patreon is direct cash in my pocket. Okay, great. The Patreon actually bought me a couple of months time. Now I'm going to go and sell it so that when the patreon levels off or drops, which it did, now that's okay, you can drop off because I'm selling directly to local advertisers. So when I figured all that shit out and worked on it and got it so that it was humming, honestly, I didn't need anything else. And then I know it sounds cocky and braggy, but it's the truth. I had worked my ass off getting these sponsors on the show, and then I ran into a platform called Red Circle. And I don't care what platform you are, putting your show out onto this, to me, was an absolute game changer because they explained to me the things that they can do to help me and how I can make money on my podcast. Now, I didn't even think I was going to make any money on my podcast. It was just a better platform. And one of the features that they have is a cross promote where I can approach any show really quickly to their platform. Hey, let's cross promote. I give them my 1 minute ad, they give me theirs, and then it shows up automatically. Great way to get more audience members. Then all of a sudden, I started hearing commercials for Banks on my show. I'm like, what happened? I reach out to them. They go, yeah, we're selling you now. I go, you are? They go, yeah. I go, oh, well, that's cool. What do I do? They go, Nothing. Every month you just hit the button, collect money. Like, what? Are you kidding me? So I was shocked by this. I had tried other platforms reaching out, saying, hey, can I get ads? And no one would ever get back to me. And I was like, what the hell? So when I finally put all my contact on Red Circle, all of a sudden all of these great things are happening on top of what I had already built. So that was like, really big. So now I've got my own, similar to a radio station. National sales staff, they're selling the show. Oh my God, that was great. So there's that. And then Twitch was the last puzzle piece and yeah, that's about it. All these different things have kept me just humming along. It's a lot of work, but it's so worth it.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:40:17
Is your show a Geolocal show? Is it Grand Rapids? Is it all of Michigan? Or do you just look at it as being it's all America?
Eric Zane (Guest) 00:40:25
I look at it as being America and beyond. If you can understand the English language and you like to hear something you can react to and won't be bored with, that is it. And that's what I base it on. A lot of my stories. If I do have a local story, that doesn't stop me from talking about it. I mean, if some guy has a pet alligator and he gets in a police chase and he sticks the alligator on them. Just because it happens here doesn't mean that story is not going to play around the world. It's a hilarious story. So yeah, you know, it's paying attention to all that stuff and having fun with it.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:41:01
Yeah, I love the global story, especially if you're to look at the English language and especially with radio. I get a lot of downloads in Nigeria, which is always a little bit surprising. But when you realize all the English that's spoken there, it's not all that surprising after the fact. What do you see in your stats?
Eric Zane (Guest) 00:41:18
Primarily the United States and probably 35% of them are Michigan. And that makes sense. The biggest footprint I had, largest audience was for that radio crowd. But that's the beauty of the podcast. You're constantly building and you've got to keep reinforcing to those audience members all those things to get the word out about you. And as long as you believe in what you're doing, you keep doing what you're doing and it sounds good. They'll keep coming back.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:41:47
There's somebody in radio listening to this right now who is thinking, you know, I should be packing a parachute. What should they be putting into that parachute case?
Eric Zane (Guest) 00:41:55
Well, fortunately they have the big things, their brain and their mouth, which has gotten them quite far in that industry up to the point where they're asked to leave. All is not lost. I mean the equipment that I have is probably $700 worth of equipment and a $500 microphone. That's it. If you have a computer, if you have very basic set up, an understanding of live streaming, Adobe audition, hopefully a podcasting platform in mind, a Patreon. If so and so gets fired, you got to do the old, hey everybody, I'm going to make lemonade out of lemons. I'm starting my own show. I'm going to tell you all about it. On this day you have all that ready to go so that when you have your Patreon all built and set up and it's going to take a little investigation on your part to do that. It's going to seem like another language at first, which if anyone hears us again, I will help you do this. And I'm not looking for anything. Seriously, I'm not looking to earn money from you. I'll just help you just reach out to me and I'll take care of that. Yeah, patreon is huge and your equipment, have it ready to go.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:43:10
I don't see a day where you'll leave this room to be on the radio, but I can see a radio station coming to you and saying, could you be on our station and do this from your room? Would you entertain that?
Eric Zane (Guest) 00:43:23
Well, technically the folks at Iheart in Grand Rapids, they have me voice track the oldest station from here. So that's fun. I really enjoy it because I figured out what I liked about it when I started. It kind of comes full circle. Now I'm playing the monkeys and I'm talking it up and I've got 45 seconds. You better do something even less. In most cases, that's going to be memorable. So I like doing that. That's fun for me. But I don't have a non compete on that station, even though I said, hey, put me on in Mornings. I'd love to do Mornings for you. And I don't know, but for whatever reason, it hasn't happened. But if someone came calling, I'd do that in a heartbeat on Morning Drive. And I'd still do this, too, because normally I do the show 08:00, a.m. Eastern time every day, but if I was blessed with the opportunity to come back to a radio station, oh, my gosh, I would love that. And then I would just move the time of this. It would just be fantastic. And the beauty of that is I don't have any pressure anymore. I mean, there was pressure when I left Freebie and Hot Wings and started on the new show because they were paying me a lot of money and you better go and you better beat your old show. And it was clear early on we weren't going to beat them, and so it took about two and a half years and then that was it. But if I were ever to be allowed to come back to a radio station, I think that would be an absolute blast.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:44:49
Are you looking to the future with anything and where to take your show?
Eric Zane (Guest) 00:44:52
No, right now exactly where it needs to be. Like I say, I'm up at seven. I probably quit doing radio stuff at about this time every day, so it's a long amount of time, but that's fair. I mean, because if a radio person, let's say they do 4 hours and then maybe a couple of hours and then they're out by eleven or one, if I put in that much more time, I might be able to win a few people over and I'm at home. I can always just go walk the dog. It's all right, eric, I know you've.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:45:25
Been schooled by Laurie Lewis along the way with your socials because you do a great job with them. Love catching on Twitter every morning and then catching up with you on Twitch, so keep up the good work.
Eric Zane (Guest) 00:45:34
Thank you. Oh, man, I'm lucky to have people in my corner who helped me. Thank you. I appreciate that.
Matt Cundill (Host) 00:45:41
Thanks for being on the show.
Eric Zane (Guest) 00:45:42
Matt, you're the best.
Tara Sands (Voiceover) 00:45:43
The Sound Off podcast is written and hosted by Matt Cundill. Produced by Evan Surminski. Social Media by Courtney Krebsbach. Another great creation from the the Soundoff media company. There's always more at soundoffpodcast.com.