Q&A with Hamish and Andy: Have we reached ‘peak podcast’?

'Hamish and Andy's' Hamish Blake and Andy Lee took a fall down the Australian Podcast Ranker today, and joked they will 'quit' as they only do podcasts for attention, accolades and awards.

Here, they speak to Mumbrella's editor Vivienne Kelly about why they love podcasting, how they feel about the implication it's 'lazy' radio, and what happens when there's more podcasts than people.


Hamish Blake, TV presenter, podcaster and co-host of ‘Hamish & Andy’ on PodcastOne (HB)
Andy Lee, TV presenter, podcaster and the ‘Andy’ in ‘Hamish & Andy’ on PodcastOne (AL)
Vivienne Kelly, editor, Mumbrella (VK)

VK: There is often the impression that podcasting is a bit easier and doesn’t involve as much work [as radio]. Indeed at Radio Alive last year, Kyle Sandilands was joking at your expense that of course you guys went to podcasting because you’re lazy and don’t like to work very hard.

HB: Yes, we will of course accept that from Kyle, because he’s known for his tireless work ethic, never missing a day…

AL: Committing to everything. Exercise being one of them…

HB: Heath and wellbeing…

He’s in at 3am. He leaves the building at 9pm. He has a quick power nap and he’s straight back in because the guy won’t take a bloody minute off.

That is a fair criticism from Kyle, and we wouldn’t accept it from anyone else.

Sandilands joked on stage last year that Blake and Lee don’t like working very hard

AL: To put a ‘P’ on the scale of Kyle’s side, yes the flexibility of podcasts definitely helps us be able to go and look at all the other stuff we’re doing like the TV shows etc.

HB: He [Kyle] does have a point. We’re just being sensitive because he’s spot on.

VK: And so what do you prefer about podcasting over radio?

HB: The real difference is – and this isn’t taking away from all the people that were with us and listening on the journey for radio – but the real difference is that by definition with the podcast, because people are opting in, they listen to the beginning, middle and end of the show. So the listeners that we have, listen to every section that’s being produced. They’re so deep, and the knowledge they have of the show is so deep, and that is so much fun for us, because it’s a way stickier relationship with your audience than people that will listen to you when they happen to be in the car, but no-one’s listening to the entirety of every breakfast or drive show. But people do listen to the entirety of every podcast.

AL: And you don’t have a song or an ad that comes on, causing some people to flick over. When they flick off us, they don’t like us – they’ve heard enough that day. So it is as Hamish said, there is probably a bit of a deeper dive with these listeners, and the engagement we’ve got and the correspondence we’ve got through email, it’s just layers and layers of jokes and information that you can share with each other that does feel like a slightly deeper relationship.

HB: It makes it feel much more like a tribe, or like a community, that you’re part of this secret club – well it’s quite public – part of the world’s most public secret club.

VK: Do you miss the immediacy of radio though – in terms of getting people to call up and that spontaneity that happened with radio?

AL: We still get that because we’re like the world’s best telemarketers now. We call out the whole time. So people drop us a line, often they leave us a clue in their email, and still we get the surprise ringing them back and finding out about their lives.

HB: That’s probably one of the reasons we were keen to incorporate the audience still in the podcast because interacting with the people who listen to the show is my favourite part. For us it is a big part of it, still to be able to do that. So we would miss it if we didn’t have that as part of the show, but we still do get to scratch that itch.

VK: The Podcast Ranker is coming out again soon [it was released this morning, Friday 6 March, just after this chat took place, with ‘Hamish & Andy’ slipping from 1st to 8th], and you guys are so frequently at the top, how will you feel is you start falling down the ladder?

AL: Well we only ever do podcasts for awards, rankers, status…

HB: Accolades is obviously very important to us….

AL: Very very much so. So obviously we’ll quit.

HB: If you move anywhere, get out of that top one. It’s all over.

No, in all seriousness, I think we’ll just continue to do what we’re doing.

AL: We’ve just been lucky that so many people listen to us, so we’re grateful for that. We know that, as I think we mentioned in the press release, if you didn’t listen, it would just be two guys hanging out in an expensive studio…

HB: We would do it a lot easier, probably go to a cafe or something.

AL: I suppose we’re humbled by [being number one], as it’s a sign that a lot of people are listening, but it’s definitely not the reason we do the podcast. We are humbled by the idea [of being number one in the Australian Podcast Ranker].

VK: How long do you think you’ll be doing it for? Could you see your podcast career running as long as your radio career?

HB: Yes, I mean it’s a lot of fun. Like Andy said, we do it because we just love putting the show together.

AL: And we missed the radio show when it ended, but enough of the podcast is like the radio show to scratch that itch. And then we’ve found all new great things about podcasts that we love. Because of the flexibility, I can’t see myself wanting to stop it for a very, very long time.

HB: It would be tough, I guess, if things get really bad with coronavirus, we might not be able to find 40 days a year, but I think we’ll be able to – so it’s a good balance.

VK: It can feel like every conversation at a pub leads to somebody saying ‘Oh my God, that should be a podcast’. Do you think we’ll ever reach the point where there’s too many podcasts? Is there such thing as podcast saturation?

AL: We’re already there [laughs]. We’re well and truly already there.

HB: I suppose when you have more podcasts than listeners – if we’re all busy doing podcasts, then no-one will be free to listen to them. There might be a law that comes in once we have the same amount of podcasts on Earth as humans, that you have to promise to listen to two on your way home in order to do one. Otherwise the economy stops and we’re only just producing and no-one’s consuming. That’s the critical thing for governments to worry about. That one-to-one podcast-to-population ratio.

VK: And if you had to make a promise now to a robot overlord about which two podcasts you’d listen to, other than your own, what would they be?

HB: Oh good one…

AL: Yea, particularly when you put the “other than your own” in there.

HB: So I can’t just choose Hamish and Andy, and Classic Hamish and Andy?

What’s a regular spin?

AL: I’d probably go to the true crime thing. I’d probably go Serial for one of mine.

Lee listens to Serial

HB: I’m a fan of Akimbo by Seth Godin at the moment. I’m a big fan of Seth. Probably not your predicted pick, but that is my tip.

VK: Now talk to me about True Story By Hamish and Andy being sold to NBC for a US version. Was that something you were anticipating?

AL: Well, yea I suppose, it’s been a couple of years of chatting to them….

HB: It was a surprise buy [laughs]. But certainly it’s lovely that they believe in the format and that they’re excited to do the American version.

AL: They’ve brought out a huge eraser and scrubbed out ‘Hamish and Andy’, and now it’s just ‘True Story with’…. They’ve kept the ‘with’ but now it’s with Ed Helms and Randall Parks. And you know, that’s hard, to see your name scrubbed off, but we wish them all the best [laughs].

HB: I think those guys have done slightly more than us in the US market. We should remind them that we were over in America for an episode of Rove back in the day, but they still felt that Randall and Ed had a bigger repertoire…

AL: We asked them whether we get to be in the next Hangover in place of him, and they said no [Helms played Stuart Price in the Hangover film series].

True Story With Hamish & Andy will be remade for the US market 

HB: So that’s just a fun bit of negotiation.

VK: And speaking of television, do you have any future plans for joint ventures on TV? I know Andy you’ve got the Front Bar coming up on Seven, and Hamish you have Lego Masters on Nine. But will we see you in screens together again?

AL: Oh we hope to travel again. We loved Perfect Holiday.

HB: We can’t let that Golden Goose go.

And I’ll have to be in the audience for Front Bar, and Andy is one of those behind-the-scenes Lego re-stockers – the people that restock the Brick Pit.

AL: I find it very satisfying because putting all the colours back in their right position is right up my alley.

Blake on the set of Lego Masters

VK: Now you two invite your fans to interact with you as much as possible with the ‘Do you have a dollar?’ gag and that kind of thing. What’s the strangest interaction you’ve had from a podcast fan recently?

HB: Look the whole dollar offer thing, just to give a bit of back story to your readers. We decided it would be a nice gesture…

AL: Do you want to say this, because we need people to listen to the show?

HB: Yea I know mate, but it’s been written about anyway….

If you see us in the flesh, you can ask for a dollar, as a thank you – we can quiz you on the show, so you have to show some knowledge of the show. We said rather than it being a subscription that costs you money, we’ll be the world’s first reverse subscription podcast, where if you see us, you get a dollar just for listening. But you have to prove you listen to the show.

That’s since graduated now to if we don’t have a dollar, we can do a deep bow for you, to show our appreciation that you listen to the show.

AL: You have to request the bow.

HB: Yes, we won’t offer the bow. You have to know about it already. But sometimes I guess like at a pub or something it has been weird for people to look over and see us doing deep bows to people who are not even reacting, who are more sort of like nodding, like ‘That’s what I expected’.

AL: Like the early 1800s where I’ve offended a chap and it’s the only honourable way [to fix it].

HB: So yea, things are getting stranger and stranger, but that’s all part of the fun.

VK: By the end of the year, what will success for your podcast look like?

AL: Good question. Hamish promised a Big Start.

VK: Instead of the Big Finish?

AL: Yes. He failed at the Big Finish.

HB: Well, it wasn’t my fault, mate.

AL: Tune in [after Thursday, 5 March] to see how the Big Start goes.

Let’s put it this way, success for us will be if Hamish brings anything big by the end of the year.

HB: We would like to see, and we know this is outrageous, 28% to 32% follow-through rate on the promises we make on the podcast. If we get somewhere in that metric, we’ll be stoked.

VK: And who’s going to be charged with keeping track of that?

HB: Certainly Andy. Oh no, Andy will be keeping track of what we have to do. I might be in charge of if we hit the percentage, and we’ll announce it at the end.

VK: Alright guys well I’m sorry to wrap this up, but I’m conscious that we all have other meetings to get to… 

HB: Heaps, as we said, South Korea’s on the phone.

AL: Thanks so much for taking the time. We really appreciate it. It’s nice that podcasting is becoming more in the vernacular and obviously hitting more people, so we appreciate it.

Andy Lee is speaking at Mumbrella’s Audioland on 5 May a panel alongside Meshel Laurie and Osher Günsberg about ‘The power of personality: Building an audio brand listeners love’. Earlybird prices are still available here


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