On a recent episode of Recode Media with Peter Kafka, “Call Your Girlfriend” co-host Aminatou Sow said she started podcasting because men told her she couldn’t.
You can read some of the highlights from Peter’s interview with Aminatou at that link, or listen to it in the audio player above. Below, we’ve posted a lightly edited complete transcript of the conversation.
Transcript by Celia Fogel.
Peter Kafka: I'm here with Aminatou Sow, who's already laughing. Hello, Amina.
Aminatou Sow: Hi, Peter. How are you doing?
You're laughing, that's good. You're entertained.
I mean, I'm watching you record ads, it's funny.
I want to talk about your ads, as well. You're a professional podcaster. You're a podcast star.
Something like that.
What's your podcast called?
My podcast is called “Call Your Girlfriend.” It's a podcast for long-distance besties everywhere.
And it's you and your girlfriend.
Ann Friedman, who is a writer.
Yes, best friend.
Not actually like boyfriend/girlfriend, girlfriend/girlfriend.
No, longtime best friend. We met in Washington, D.C. And I think at this point we have lived further apart than we've lived in the same city.
And the conceit is you do it remotely, that's the whole idea, right? You call each other.
Exactly, the conceit of the show is that we call each other, and it's our catch-up phone call, in essence. We have an agenda, and we talk about all the things that you talk about with your friends. We talk about the Kardashians, we talk about Wendi Deng going to Burning Man, and we talk about politics. We talk about menstruation, we talk about feminism. The high and the low.
And it's a big hit show.
It's doing pretty well.
Like out of the gates, big hit show. How did you do that?
You know, I wouldn't say out of the gates. I think that ... I think two things happened. One is that when we started doing the show, our friend Gina Delvac, who is a producer, she is the radio person in essence, she’s the one that was like, "Here is how you make a podcast, buy this microphone, do this, like let's figure it out." And by the time that people had started paying attention to podcasts again, we had a strong back catalogue.
Because there was a wave. Podcasts were big, and then they went away and they came back.
And then “Serial” happened, and all of a sudden people were like, "Hmm, who are the other non-white guys that are making podcasts?" And so ...
Not all white guys.
Not all white guys. But, yeah, that's also part of kind of the lore of our podcast, is that we were told by a man that women don't make podcasts [PK laughs], and nothing motivates me faster than that. You know it's like, how hard can it be? Turns out ...
That was your investor, right? Because obviously he wanted to do a podcast.
Oh my god, please call us. No, I mean that guy's podcast sucks. But nothing motivates me faster than telling me that women don't do a thing. And, yeah, it's like how, hard can it be? Turns out it's not that hard.
It's a great show. I've been doing a crash course of it the last week or so. It's in many ways an advice column, right? Is there always reader questions, or just frequently?
They're frequently reader questions. It's funny, we didn't start off, we never solicited reader questions. But I think that because of the subject matter we talk about, just friendship mostly, our inbox just started filling up with these really sad stories of people not knowing how to ... It's like, "How do we get the magic back in my friendship?" And all of this stuff. So we accidentally became advice givers.
I think that is the coolest thing about any kind of internet thing is where you can have a feedback loop with the people who are consuming your stuff, and they come back to you and they give you more stuff to talk about. In your case, it's in the form of questions, and I just think that's the most impressive thing about digital media when you do it right.
I agree. For a while, it helped the show evolve. I think it has naturally taken this form of giving advice, and we kind of go where our audience wants to go. But I think what's been really cool, too, is just being really reinforced in knowing that there are a lot of women like us who consume media like us. Which is not the conventionalism.
So, you guys started this thing how long ago?
We started it two years ago. I think we're going on year three now.
And the idea was, "This will be a fun thing to do as a novelty," or, "We want to make a career out of this, we want to make a job out of this"?
No, it was really, Ann is a writer, I was like a digital strategist, worked in marketing. We were firm believers in having a side hustle, always. Like some sort of creative outlet that you can do something out. And I think that we were both really interested in telling stories in a different format. And I think there's something about audio that's really intimate, and we were really lucky that our friend was a producer, and she was like, "Well, I will show you the ropes." And we did not set out to make a popular podcast. I think if that had been the case we would have failed. We were really just trying to learn how to do this thing and the mechanics of it, and the pleasant surprise was that people came along for the ride with us.
And now you're doing live shows, you have advertisers. Is it a still a side hustle, or is it the main? Is it what's paying your rent?
For all of us, it's still a side hustle. We all have day jobs or other regular gigs. But it's getting to the point where there's a serious question for all of us of, "This could be our jobs."
What do you think about that idea?
I will not lie to you, for me personally it's kind of an identity crisis [laughs].
In the sense that I don't view myself as a media maker, but I guess I've been making media now. And it had not occurred to me, right? And then you start, like, getting checks for it, and then you start getting asked to do other things, and you're like, "Oh ..."
People recognize you on the street, right?
Yes, that happens and ...
That's a thing.
That's so weird, though. It's so weird. It's like, "Hi I record a podcast in my closet because I don't want to be recognized." But, yeah, I think, for all of us, we're all there. I don't know, I can't tell you for sure where the transition is going to happen, but for now it's really fun.
What is the single most difficult question you guys have gotten? One that you don't want to answer.
I don't know there's a question we don't …
Yeah, it seems like you take them all on.
We talk about periods and blood and guts, so I don't know...
But you guys revel in that, right?
Yeah, I mean, we like love it. But at the same time, if I can answer that, it's like, what's a thing I don't want to answer? [laughs] So ...
I was just listening to one on the way up, where someone said, "Well, I'm blogging at work, and work has told me I shouldn't be blogging, or I have to restrain what I write, because it's about the workplace." And I thought, "Well that's just a question you answer in a sentence, I would answer in a sentence, which is like, ‘Get a job.'" But you were good about it. You kind of came to the same conclusion, but you were very thoughtful about it, and reassuring and explaining you could go a couple different avenues, but ultimately if you've got work, you've got work. I was very impressed.
I remember that question. I think a lot of the questions we get come from the same place of, "I am an anxious twentysomething-year-old trying to be a less-anxious thirtysomething-year-old who's trying to impress a fortysomething-year-old." And I think that that's something we all relate to. Like, we don't have good models or good manuals for how to be young women in the workplace a lot of times. So those questions are really familiar to us, because they're also things that we used to struggle with.
Right, and so you are — I pegged you in your late twenties, but you're older than that now.
Is it odd at all to be giving advice to people who are in their twenties? Does it give you pause, like, "What am I doing here?"
It's definitely odd. I don't consider myself to be a good advice giver, and I find it a little ... You know, there are people who are way better at this. But I think at the same time I view what we're doing as more like a kick in the pants. It's like, "Listen, you already know the solution to the problem in asking this thing."
You just need to have someone say it out loud.
You just want someone to say it out loud, and you want someone to reinforce the fact that you should, like, quit your job, or you should tell your boyfriend that he sucks, or like ... If you're at the point where you're asking like internet strangers what you should do with your life, you kind of already know what you should do with your life.
Have you guys thought about taking this and making it a TV show, or playing around with different formats? You've done live things, right?
Yeah. We're doing live shows, we've definitely been approached about some TV projects. We're trusting the process and we're trusting the form. I think there's still a lot of stuff we can do audio-wise. And part of taking this on the road and doing it and doing it more interactively as connecting with our audience — is there is a CYG book one day, or is CYG a TV show? I think that those things are quite possible. But at the end of the day, I'm also a marketer, and I think about the mistake that people make is that they do things too fast. And they always feel like it's going to go away if you get this opportunity now, and if you don't take it, it's going to go away, I don't think that that's true. We're still in the process where we need to build an audience, and we need to build more brand awareness and more, like, cachet around what we do, and then we can explore these other forms.
Can you walk people through how you launch a podcast, how you launch a media ... I'm calling it a media brand for a minute. Even a couple of years ago, there was still a ton of stuff in iTunes, there was still a million other podcasts. How do you create space, how do you get in front of people, how do you bootstrap your way to attention?
That's a hard question, and I think for us it's like we're saying that we kind of cheated, because we are people who have worked on the internet in the public eye for a long time. And so, when we were ready to launch a thing, we knew exactly who to go to.
Walk us through that. How do you build ... So you had a network?
Yeah, we already had a network.
How do you build that network? Where does that network come from?
That network for us came through professional things. Ann was a longtime writer and editor in D.C. I worked in social media and social media marketing for a long time in D.C., also. And we were just, like, I don't say this sheepishly, but for us a lot of people that we reach out to, turns out they were our friends.
You mean reach out to for an endorsement, or ...?
“Call Your Girlfriend” didn't do any of that stuff. It just turned out that when we launched the podcast we were like, "Hey guys, this is this new thing that we're doing." Some of our best friends were media influencers, and so we didn't have to do the whole, you know — we don't do any kind of earned media or like that kind of rigmarole.
I was Googling you earlier, and it said one of your besties is Lena Dunham. Does that come before or after the show?
I think that came before the show?
So how did you get connected with her?
I know Lena through Brooklyn and, you know, just being ladies of New York. She's great.
It's a circle. So it's interesting, right, in 2016/2015, it still matters ... Location still matters when you're doing this stuff. You literally do this show from anywhere. You can call from anywhere. But your network is around Washington, New York, San Francisco.
Yup, Washington, New York, San Francisco, LA. Like, you know, we're coastal ladies.
If you were launching this thing from Omaha, it would be much harder to build a network.
Probably it would be much harder. I think, too, that it's worth noting that, yeah, it's like your location matters, but also your profession matters. It's like we're like steeped in media and tech, and you know in some regards that sucks because there are a lot of smaller shows in flyover states, and people doing really cool stuff that don't get the same kind of attention because they're not part of this world.
Right. And telling people you have to move to New York or Washington or San Francisco or someplace like that, that's pretty limiting for a lot of folks.
It is really limiting, but I think, too, that you know that the internet has made it so that you don't have to move to those places, but you definitely have to know people in those places. And I think that you can cheat a little there.
Do you find that when you're giving advice to twentysomethings that they're comfortable with the notion that you have to actively network and actively build a network and create people who are going to help you both as friends and professionals? Or do they sort of get that inherently now?
No, I think that they really need to see it. I think, too, that a lot of twentysomething-year-olds don't realize — and for me and probably for Ann, it's something that we realized really early on — is that if you don't have a built-in network, you have to do the work of making that. It's like, we lived in D.C., that's kind of a very chauvinist, white-dude kind of town. I worked at a think tank, and my boss, like, literally told me, "You're not worth investing in. Because you didn't go to an Ivy League school, you're not a dude, you're not ..."
You've had a lot of great anti mentors in your life.
Totally. And he was like, "I don't know what I'm going to do with you." I'm proud to report I'm, like, the only rock star out of that cohort today. They're all, like, nobodies. But the thing that is really liberating about somebody saying that to you is that, instead of looking up at all these people that you want to mentor — because there's a limited amount of people who can actually mentor you — is that you start looking around. And you look on your own level and you say, "Who has potential here? And how can we help each other?" And I think that's been the story of my career. It's like, really, the horizontal loyalty. And saying, "Who are the people that are on my level, how do we level up together, and how do we find our own confidence and how do we get there?”
And actively leaning into it, saying, "We're going to level up together. You have potential, I have potential, we're going to actively do this." I can imagine points in my life where if people had said that to me or about me or my friends, we would have said, "What the hell? You're weird, dude. Why are you talking like that?" That would have been perceived as a weird sort of ... just an alien person. There are obviously people like that. It strikes me from afar now that people are more comfortable saying, "No, no, I get that this is part of the thing. That school is a thing, that work is a thing, and network is another thing. I have to create a network, it's part of my life."
You have to do it. And I think that if you're transparent about all that stuff, there's nothing, like, yucky about it, right?
Yeah, “yucky” was the word I was looking for.
Yeah, because you're being very intentional. And the people around you can be a resource to you, and you figure out how to mentor each other, because nobody else is going to do it for you [laughs].
You've got some tea in you. What's in your tea?
This is mint tea.
You're at a sweet digital media studio, we spare no expense.
This is a palatial situation happening here.
I was going to ask — you record all your stuff on the phone, that's the conceit of it. I've been doing this since February, I've done one phone interview. He was very good. But it was difficult to do. I find the face-to-face really works for me. Do you ever want to switch that up?
I don't know. It's funny, for us, whenever we're in the same room, I get really flustered, because we've been doing it remotely for so long [laughs]. But we do most of our ... We have segments called "Phone a Friend," we also do those through the phone. I've done a couple of them actually in person, just because I've been in New York so much this summer. And every once in a while, the really tricky part is when we do, like, a three-way phoner. And we've done like a four-way one once.
Can I ask a gender question? Is this also with women?
Yeah, there have only been two dudes on “Call Your Girlfriend” in the history of the show.
It seems like if you had a dude on the phone, it'd be a lot harder to pull off.
I just think dudes are less good at phone conversations.
I don't know. We had our friend Cord Jefferson, who's a delight, who did great really early on. And then our buddy Andrew Golis, who we called to ask for feminist advice. I don't know, but yeah. You have to be very special to be a man on “Call Your Girlfriend.”
All right, I'll have to work up to it. You probably don't want to hear from me at all, actually.
[laughs] We'll call you with some, like, media questions. "Peter, how do we make media moguls?"
I don't know. I'm just here podcasting here with a plastic cup.
You're a media mogul.
I'm a media mogul. We should have the disclosure segment now, right?
Because you and I worked together for a minute.
Yes we did. Man, podcasts disclosures. We did work together on putting on the Code Conference.
You programmed part of the Code Conference. You brought in some of the awesome thinkers and doers. And I remember Kara Swisher said she wanted to work with you. She said, "Oh, everyone knows Amina. Amina is totally plugged in, she's got this amazing network." I'd never heard of you. [AS laughs]. Which doesn't mean anything. And then I looked into it, and I thought, "She does know everybody." Was that all from the podcast, or again, was this this network you'd built up over time?
It's literally the network that I've built up over time. The podcast has only been the last two years, and honestly I don't consider the podcast part of my professional story. You know, I've lived a lot of places, I've worked a lot of jobs.
You moved around a lot.
And we moved around a lot.
So you went to college in Texas, but you didn't grow up in the U.S., right?
I grew up in Belgium and in Nigeria. I am originally from Guinea. I went to college at UT Austin — Hook ’em Horns!
Did you move to the U.S. for school?
I moved to the U.S. for school, and there was kind of no plan. I wanted that, like, American-movie college experience. I was like, "Where can I go that is ..."
What movie were you thinking about?
Like, all of them. I was like, "Where can I go that is really big but still has decent academics?" And Austin was great. It worked out really well. I studied political science, my parents were diplomats, so ...
It's Texas, but it's Austin, so you get sort of, it's a cool college, but also America.
Exactly. And there's a great football team, and I wanted all of that stuff. And I thought I was going to be, like — Christiane Amanpour was my hero growing up. and I thought that's what I wanted to do. My parents were diplomats., I was like, "Maybe I'll be a journalist." And then I kind of don't know what happened. I, like, moved to D.C., I worked at this think tank for a while, and I was like, "I'm too fun for policy work. This is great, I care deeply about policy, but the people who make policy drive me up the wall."
Was there a particular policy you thought you were interested in?
Mostly like foreign policy stuff, but I was just like, "I am too fun for this." And, oh yeah, it just didn't happen. And at the same time, I graduate college in, like, 2007 — I think we were the last college class where people had, like, jobs when you still graduate college. I was not one of those people.
What do you mean? Because of the recession afterward?
Yeah. Because of the recession. I remember being a freshman in college and, like, being friends with all these seniors, and they knew exactly where they were going. That was a thing that used to happen. That was not true by the time my class showed up. And then the recession happened, and I think everyone just kind of had to learn to be ... It's like, what is the resource you can pull on? And social media was kind of becoming a thing at the same time.
Myspace, Facebook ...
Yeah, it was like Facebook, Twitter, and I just like put all the think tank stuff online. I was like, "Oh, I could do this, I know how to talk to humans and take these really complicated policy points and do that." [laughs] And then from then on, I was, like, "This is what I want to do."
You became a social media connector.
Yeah, it was like social media, marketing, digital marketing, and then I started building websites and running campaigns. And I was like, "Oh, I actually enjoy this, I enjoy this so much better, and it is suited to my talents better."
And there was a woman in … Was? Is? A women-in-tech listserv?
Yeah, and then we started this women-in-tech listserv called the Tech Lady Mafia. We do murders — that's our tagline. No, so that started when? In 2009, it was the same ... I feel like this is a theme in my life. My co-founder, Eriem she sent me a late-night Gchat that was some article where it was like, "Only four women know how to computer. Three women know how to math in the country." And she was really outraged, and I was like these stats are true, probably, but that's not true for us. We know people who are applying to be NASA astronauts, that's in our network. And so it's, like, instead of coming from a place of scarcity, what if we chose abundance? And we, like, banded together, and we gave each other advice.
So the point is, find women who are in tech already, network, you have a common thing ... It's not necessarily, "Let's go promote science in grade schools, although we're not opposed to it." But the point was, you're women. The commonality was, you’re women, and you're in tech.
Exactly. And even in a town like D.C., there are a ton of women who work in technology here, they just don't identify that way. And we all feel isolated. That was the truth of it. And I was, like, instead of being isolated, if we just all found each other, what does that look like? And I think we emailed 30 people, and now the listserv is over 2,000 people, so ... that worked out.
And what sort of happens there? Is the idea, there's a thing we want to achieve here, or we're just connecting each other, and that in itself was enough?
It's like the thing that we wanted to achieve was really finding each other and being a resource for each other. So I think that has taken on many iterations. Throughout the years, we have helped each other find jobs, everyone has leveled up professionally in a way that has been really great to see from when we joined. We have become a resource for people who are recruiting now. People come to me all the time, and they go, "I'm looking for an engineer who does X, Y, Z," and I'm like, "I probably know, like, 10 people who do that." And we do also a lot of media training, a lot of media awareness. We have a men's auxiliary group. They plan our annual picnic every year [PK laughs], and they tell us how much money they make, so we know how much money to ask for when we're applying for jobs. So, yeah. It's pretty fun.
I think I first started talking to you because I was going to end up talking to DeRay from Black Lives Matter. You sort of brokered an introduction there. How did you get connected with those guys?
Through the internet, probably. DeRay and I have some good friends in common through like Teach for America and Bowdoin, where he went to school. But, yeah, mostly internet.
And is there commonality there between Black Lives Matters and listserv stuff and what you're doing professionally? Or they're all separate groups?
I think they're all separate things. I think that, for me, I'm very curiosity-driven. If I want to know something, I will get to the bottom of it. And I also love connecting people and finding external-facing solutions for people. That sounds very “consultant.”
Yeah, very consultant, but that is your job, right?
Yeah, it is my job. But it's also kind of like my life's mission. I'm like, this is what I do, and this is what I enjoy doing.
You said the podcast is your side hustle still. You have a cool day job, you told me about it. Can you tell us?
For a day job, I do mostly marketing consulting. I help people launch products. And so I get to work with, like, really cool tech companies and some media companies.
Can you say who you're working with now? Or you don't want ...
You can't say what it rhymes with?
But it's cool. But the point is it's a big, well-known brand.
And they want you to do stuff like what? They reach out to you because why?
Well, they reach out to me because, one, I do know everyone [laughs]. But also because I don't think people take marketing seriously enough. You know, it's like people will make things, they'll put so much effort into engineering, and they'll put a lot of effort into creating. And then they just assume, "If we build it, people will come." That is not true.
That's part of it, right. I think a lot of it also is they deal with people from marketing who often aren't great.
I think that is fair, but I think that if you're building anything in 2016, and marketing is not at the forefront of what you're doing, you're a fool. It's a waste of your time, and nobody will see the thing you're making.
In tech, and I think probably some other industries, as well, there are a bunch of coder types who are really dismissive of marketing. Some of this is gendered, too, right?
It's definitely gendered.
And there's, like, “The product will sell itself, it'll take care of itself, we don't need to do this.” And it's sometimes just healthy skepticism of companies that are led by marketing, where it's more marketing than anything else. It all goes together.
I think it all goes together. I think that definitely in tech, people who work in, like ... marketing is seen as a soft skill or something that you do afterward. But, I don't know, history just proves that wrong. Look at anything that is successful. It's, like, mostly marketing.
Steve Jobs is the best marketer of all time. We all say that, we were just talking about this — if you actually go back and watch the videos, especially early on when he was launching the initial versions of Apple and comes back, it's amazing what he's doing.
He knows what he's doing.
And over time, it sort of got dismissed as, well, he's blinding people, he's saying that black is white, and up is down, and he's saying that whatever is the hot thing and it's not really, it's got problems. But he created an entire brands of products and awarenesses. Awarenesses? That's very smart.
I think you can say that.
I'm going with it. No one's going to hear this thing anyway.
It's cool [laughs]
But it was super- impressive. So, people reach out to you and say, "Amina, we want to launch a thing?" Or, "We're launching this thing, and want you to do this one specific subset."
Exactly. It's like, "Amina, we're launching a thing, can you come on board and advise us on that?" Or, "This thing is ready for launch, who should we reach out to to figure that out?" So, like, some sort of marketing-PR strategy. Or a lot of times it's, "Hi, I have this idea, do you think anybody will want to use this?"
When they come to you and say, "We want to reach some influencers," and this is an idea I think probably didn't exist a few years ago or people weren't aware of it.
It wasn't as systematic.
And the idea now — I'm sure people like Lena are used to being approached and saying, "Would you fondle this product in public? Would you wear these glasses?"
"Would you wear these airbuds?" [laughs]
They must be inundated, and I think also, I assume it's harder to get them to do something.
And I assume that the audience is much more aware of this, and probably was responsive to it in some ways, in part because this stuff has gotten so public.
Yeah, I think that that's true. I think, too, that one of the pitfalls that people make is that they think that “influencer” means “celebrity.” And so they're always trying to get their stuff in the hands of celebrities. Listen, there are a lot of celebrities that I love, but I don't take their product reviews seriously. I think that if you want to be smart about it, you actually need to figure out, like, who are the known and not-so-known people who are influential in the sphere you want to be in. And I think that's really the key. And the people who are not smart about it, that's not the way they think about it. They're like, "Who's the 100 most famous people? I'm going to send them XYZ." And that's not actually how people consume things.
And now there's derivations like, "Oh, we want a Vine star, or we want a Musical.ly star." You're in your thirties...
Are you concerned at all that there's going to be a new set of influencers, a new social platform that sort of won't be organic to you, and you're going to have to be the person on the outside trying to figure out how it works?
Yeah, I mean that's already happened for me.
I think about that all the time.
Yeah, I mean I think about that all the time. But it doesn't give me too much anxiety. You know what I mean? I think part of the reason that we're good at what we do, people like you or me, is that if we don't know something, we know how to find out about it. So, you know, like I'm not too worried about that. And I do think that we have seen, you know, like these kids on Snapchat, I'm like, "I don't understand what is going on there." And Musical.ly ...
So you're confused by Snapchat, as well?
Yeah, Snapchat is the first thing that ever made me feel old. I was like, oh, I am no longer relevant in this demographic, but that felt great!
And do you force yourself and go in there and create a persona and look for followers?
No, I don't, like, force myself. I think that, you know. for the older geezers, for us, Snapchat is fun in that it's the one platform where everybody can be themselves. Like nobody looks good, and everyone is kind of a little silly. So among my friends, like, we really like using it for that, but beyond that I'm just, like, this is not my world.
If someone comes to you and they've got a terrible idea, and they want to create their own social network, they want to create their own virtual reality world — I've seen versions of this — is it your job to go, "That's a terrible idea, you shouldn't do it." Or do you say, "I will help you execute this for this amount of money, but don't put my name on it."
No. If I think it's a terrible idea, I'll tell you it's a terrible idea. But, at the same time, people get funding to do terrible things all the time, because, yeah, venture capital is basically welfare for white people, so they'll build anything. And, you know, I think there's something to learn in a lot of those failures, and there's something to explore there. But for me, personally, if I think something is dumb, I will tell you it's dumb.
You were in San Francisco for a couple years, you just came back to New York — are you done with San Francisco? Is there something there that made you want to leave, or something that made you want to come back to New York?
Well, I famously quit my job on Kara Swisher's podcast. [laughs]
You don't know that story? It's great.
No, I don't know that story.
You know, I am done with San Francisco. I really enjoyed my time. I like my friends there, I paid my dues in the Silicon Valley content farms, but it's just not the place for me. It is just, like, eerily homogenous, there's not any kind of diversity. I'm not even talking about like racial diversity — just, people all do the same thing.
It's a company town.
It's a company town. The energy's not compelling for me, and it's too far from all the things I care about. And so I'm glad to be there, I will spend more time there, I know, but just emotionally, that's not my vibe.
I'm glad to have you back in New York. How long do we get to keep you in Brooklyn for?
Forever? All right, good, we'll come back in a year or so and have you back on.
You can tell me about your super-secret client that you can't say on air.
[laughs] I'm trying not to get sued, Peter.
Who made your tea there? You can at least endorse the tea.
Let's endorse the tea. The tea is made ... it's Celestial Seasonings.
I've heard of that brand. Hey, actually, you know what, let's use this platform right here.
Yes, tell me.
Who should people go check out — either a podcast or a book or a song or a thing?
Oh, that's great.
What's under the radar that shouldn't be under the radar?
I'm really into two great podcasts. One of them is called “Mashup Americans,” and it just tells the story of people who are like hyphen-American and new Americans, and it's really well done, you should definitely check it out. That's the high. The low is another podcast I love, called “Who? Weekly,” and it's basically, like, you know when like you're in the grocery story and you're looking at Us Weekly and you recognize, like, one person on the cover, and then it's like 100 pages of “who the eff is this person?” “Who? Weekly” tells you about all the stars that you don't need to give two craps about.
It's a whole podcast dedicated to the people you don't need to care about?
Yeah. But it's great. It's actually, like, fascinating media criticism. It's made by Lindsey Weber and Bobby Finger, who are people who are, like, great internet personalities. And beyond just like making fun of the Whos — the world is like divided into Whos and Thems — they explain to you, like, why magazine pages are filled with these people.
All right, I'll listen.
And it's fantastic. Otherwise, I just read a book called “Homecoming” that is also great, that I recommend.
All right, late-breaking news. I forgot to ask you a question that I wrote down, because I wanted the answer to it.
Tell me, tell me.
So you have theme music on “Call Your Girlfriend.”
Yes, we do.
And I thought for a minute, "Oh, this is very cool. They got one of the listeners to create a song for them. I've always been jealous." And then I just thought, "I'll Google on the way up." It turns out it's not something from your listeners, it's from Robyn. Who's a pop star.
Yes, it's from Robyn, who is a ginormous pop star who we are such big fans of.
Okay, but I would like to use Robyn's music, but we can't, because they tell me I can't do that legally. How do you guys pull that off?
We do do it legally. We license the song. What happened is that Ann is a writer, who is my co-host for the show, and she profiled Robyn for this great British magazine, the Gentlewoman. And so Robyn, like, knew about the podcast.
So, one, interview a pop star. Two, have that pop star know about your podcast.
Yeah, and she's, like, obviously flattered, but also, like, "I'm going to give it up to the people at Universal Music Group who were great to us." So we license the theme song and a couple of other songs on the show, so that works out well.
So you cut them a check, you pay them each episode?
No, we pay them for I want to say, two or three years?
And you pay them out of pocket?
Out of our pockets.
You can afford that?
We're podcast moguls. But also they gave us a good deal.
They gave you a good deal, and you read tampon ads and bra ads, and that pays for the theme music.
Yeah, it's like all of these lady-product ads. Turns out that it pays.
Listen, I endorse socks, which I'm perfectly happy with. These are very nice socks here from Mack Weldon, even though they're not paying me right now. But I will endorse tampons. Any product, if I can get cool theme music.
Yeah, we're endorsing tampons, we have a bra, we have a lot of period underwear. We have a food delivery, we have Casper mattresses, we have some really fun sponsors.
I will endorse whatever fine sponsor would like to work with me, if I can get an awesome theme. I've got to figure out cool theme music.
I'm telling you, go with the labels. The labels are weirdly ... they will work with you.
Okay, I'm going to try to do it.
Thank you so much for having me, Peter, I appreciate it.
Thanks for coming.
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.