A screenwriter’s currency is a finished script.— David Lynch
Not an outline, a take, a beat sheet, a rough draft. A finished script.
Once upon a time, Joe Rogan was not famous.
He was doing standup comedy in 1988, hosting Fear Factor in 2001, and started his long form podcast in 2009.
The Joe Rogan Experience is now the most popular podcast in the country, and has been for a while. Each episode gets about 11 million listeners.
For a majority of the last ten years, the only cost to you and me for his show was listening to (or fast-forwarding through) lengthy ads for Fleshlights and random supplements.
At the time, you would hear people ask Why is he doing this?, since it seemed like a lot of work for free content.
In May 2020, we got the answer. Spotify reportedly offered him $100 million for exclusive rights to his content library and future shows.
Even if that number is exaggerated and say it is only $50 million, the dots start to connect.
Give Me More
There is demand for content of any kind.
There is a large demand for mediocre content.
There is an insatiable demand for quality content.
Sticking with Spotify, every Monday, the app shows me 30 new songs (“Discover Weekly”) based on my listening habits.
I can get through that playlist in a couple workouts or one long run.
Insatiable demand comes from insatiable appetites.
I want 30 more.
The internet has reduced the cost of distribution for anything non-physical, and a lot of people have figured this out, so it seems impossible to stand out.
Over time though, it does. People find good content.
Joe Rogan worked very hard for a very long time. He began earning that $100 million 30+ years ago when no one knew who Joe Rogan was.
Your Content Library
You and I are not Joe Rogan, but he may have a useful lesson for us.
It was not the 1st, 10th, or even 50th interview. But, at some point his library went from not worth so much to being worth tens of millions of dollars.
Pick a random episode and it is likely unremarkable, but when you aggregate all of them, the package and platform is worth a lot — particularly because the next episode will have millions of listeners regardless of who he interviews.
This is called emergence.
If you are good at something and/or do it consistently, document it. If you are a musician, don’t just play, start recording. If you cook, start writing down recipes. If you are good at your job, document your workflow.
Over time, you will look back and you will have a content library. Whether you ever monetize it is irrelevant.
You don’t even have to publish it. However, publishing sharpens your focus. When you go to click that button, you are reminded that you are signing your name to the artwork.
If you are reading this and suddenly panicking because nothing comes to mind, you will become a more interesting person if you pick something — almost anything — and get better at it.
Nothing boosts self-esteem like getting better at something. Have you ever seen someone unhappy doing a hobby?
If you are mediocre at everything, then know that you are not alone. Most people you share it with will relate to it.
If you really have nothing and the realization is depressing, good news, you can even document your depression and there will be an entire community that will appreciate you.
It is okay and likely that the first things we create are bad and we will be embarrassed by them later.
I do not like some of the early Red Hot Chili Peppers albums and they seem to be doing okay.
Thanks to James Bunch and Suzanna Villarreal Wood for reading drafts of this.