Imagine this: You and your best friend decide to take your phone conversations to the podcasting airwaves. You’ve known each other for 20 years and you have a great rapport when it comes to discussing the latest true crime happenings of the day.
Suddenly, a huge murder case rocks the nation. Every stay-at-home dad, wife, and their mother is discussing the heinous crimes of a man who killed not only his wife but his children as well. You and your best friend launch a murder-focused podcast covering the case and publish episodes across SoundCloud, YouTube, and other locations.
Your podcast draws boatloads of fans and your episodes are listened to by the thousands. But one day you have a big blowout argument with your podcast partner, who accuses you of leaking information to the press and trying to sell data to a publication behind your back. You guys have an irreparable split and the podcast is no longer.
This sad scenario is what happened when real-life podcasters broke up. But the major events of the split happened behind the scenes. Other podcast partnership splits are very public and go viral very quickly.
What do you do when you lose a podcast partner? Remain calm…recording in session
Podcast partners from @wilstewart3
As reported by the The Daily Beast, some explosive podcast break-ups happen on air, with the audio still being recorded.
That’s what happened when anti-Trump strategist Steve Schmidt walked away from his own podcast session in progress while discussing the 2020 presidential race.
Schmidt got heated during an episode with longterm friends and podcast partners, Adam Levine and Elise Jordan. The duo interviewed Schmidt for the podcast Words Matter, but Schmidt lost his temper, slammed down his headphones, and left the studio.
That’s not exactly a pretty way to end a podcast partnership. Despite legal maneuvers to try and prevent the audio from airing, Schmidt’s words made it to the public. Therefore, in the heat of the moment during a podcast partnership shattering, try and remain calm. Remember that your words will live on in infamy, may affect your future podcast hosting duties, and could prevent you from getting new podcast sponsorships.
#1: Grieve the loss of the podcast partner(s)
Grieve the loss from @whoislimos
Let’s face it, losing your podcast partner might be a gigantic blow to your psyche, especially if your podcast has grown popular and you’ve worked with your co-host(s) for years.
Elise Jordan, a fellow MSNBC analyst who founded the Words Matter podcast with Steve Schmidt, announced via Twitter that she was leaving the podcast as well. Such a sudden argument can be a shock to the system for podcasters who had no idea their podcasting partnership would end one day.
You may have envisioned being podcast partners for years to come with plans to garner an HBO special based on your runaway podcast show, like Two Dope Queens. Or maybe you see yourself taking the journey of Desus Nice and The Kid Mero, who gained so many fans with their “Bodega Boys” podcast that Showtime created the original series Desus & Mero for the fellas.
But if Two Dope Queens turned into one dope queen, or if Desus left Mero, the first thing each podcast partner should do is grieve the loss of their expectations and figure out how to progress past the unexpected bump in the road. Not only would a professional relationship become severed, but a personal friendship may have ended, too. Podcast partners who can’t figure out how to stay together must address the emotional and professional loss. But how do you move forward? Which way will your fans go?
Well, the opening scenario about the true crime podcast is based on true events that broke apart a popular podcasting partnership called Murder ‘Rap Sesh,’ leaving each woman to figure out how to move forward in their podcasting careers without each other. Steps that they and others took in the wake of such a shocking split may help many podcasters facing the same scenario.
#2: Figure out who owns what part of the podcast
Figure out ownership from @emmamatthews
After you’ve taken however long of a period of time that you need to reset your expectations in a new direction and to grieve the loss of the partnership — whether it lasts a couple of hours or many months — it is time to decide who owns what portion of the existing podcast’s graphics, episodes, and title.
One of the big questions that may first occur when you break up with your podcast partner is: What part of the podcast do I own? What portion of the podcast is my partner entitled to keep?
In a perfect scenario, one podcasting partner may decide to walk away from it all and give everything to the other partner or partners without any issues if they realize that they didn’t contribute much to the offering.
Or, two partners could decide to split things down the middle 50–50 in terms of episode earnings and agree that one person is allowed to continue using the podcast title. Perhaps one partner will buy the other person out and give up rights to the podcast for an agreed-upon dollar amount, without taking the break-up to court in order to come to a suitable resolution.
Whenever there is a peaceable and fair solution to splitting up a podcast on the table, take it. If not, the negotiations could get ugly.
#3: Get legal help if necessary
Legal help from @melindagimpel
The Daily Beast notes that after Schmidt’s outburst, “he threatened legal action against the studio if the interview airs…[but] when his legal threat failed, he offered to buy the recording…The studio refused.”
In the above-referenced true crime instance, the podcast partnership break-up also turned ugly. One podcast partner locked the other podcast partner out of everything — to the point where one woman could not access the shared YouTube account, the SoundCloud account, and most other platforms where the podcast episodes were uploaded.
The locked-out party had to get legal help. She petitioned YouTube and the other podcasting platforms. After explaining the events, she regained access and control of her podcast episodes. Both women went their separate ways and started brand-new podcasts with new titles and episodes.
Unfortunately, certain podcast partners won’t go quietly and gently into that good night. If you discover that breaking up with your podcast partner is causing a similar mess, lawyers may have to get involved in order for you to get the rights to your entitled portion of podcast episodes.
It may represent an instance where you don’t mind walking away from everything, especially if you’ve only created a few episodes and don’t care about your rights to the work. But if you and your podcast partner have put in plenty of time and have built a growing audience, you’ll probably want what you feel is rightfully yours.
It is easier to delineate who owns what if you are a podcast creator who writes most of the content. If your podcast partner was merely a sidekick, like a background voice to fill dead air, it might be determined that you own 90% to 100% of the work. But with a more equivalent contribution by two partners, you may determine that both of you contributed equally 50–50 to all podcast episodes and therefore neither person may want to relinquish the podcast.
Each individual case will have to stand on its own. Based on who founded the podcast, who owns it, and any other governing bodies at play, you may walk away with everything or nothing. Due to the circumstances of the break up, you may have to go to court to determine who owns the podcast name and who has the right to continue under that same name. Such an option will take time and money to resolve, therefore decide if that route is worth all the drama.
#4: Keep any sponsors you can
If the break up is more amicable, you might gain the rights to use the podcast name or decide to give them to your partner and move forward under a new podcast title, keeping all existing sponsors.
However, if large sponsorships are involved, it could get a little trickier to determine how to split the existing large revenues and decide who will keep selective sponsors moving forward.
Sponsors may decide to continue to work with all podcast partners under separate names, only one podcast person going forward, or no one, especially if controversy was involved. These are all the details that will have to be worked out as part of the split. Moving forward, you may decide to garner different sponsorships altogether.
#5: Decide to go solo or find a new podcast partner(s)
Decision from @soymeraki
It may take some time to get back on your feet after experiencing a split with your podcast partner. After all, you may have envisioned being with that person or group of people for the next 20 years and enjoying an amazing podcast. But once you decide to move forward, you must make the choice to do it solo, with a new podcast partner, or even multiple partners.
You might be the type who is ready to jump back in the saddle and resume your podcast alone or even start a new one under a new name. Or, you may need more time to grieve and reset before you continue, and that’s perfectly fine. The podcast’s demise may cause you to get out of the game three months or more, in order to understand how the situation shifted.
You may have to come up with all new podcast branding. A new name, new artwork, new graphics, and new episodes may need to be created after the split. That will take time.
The biggest decision you may have to make in the meantime is whether you want to continue at all. But don’t let the previous breakup discourage you from a career of podcasting, if that is your passion. Learn from any mistakes and keep it pushing.
Indeed, you might adamantly insist on moving forward as a solo podcast host who simply invites people to speak during every episode. Or you may decide to run the podcast on your own with your voice being the sole voice heard by your listeners. Maybe it’ll end up being some combination of the two.
If you feel jaded against podcast partners because of being burned in the past and never want to take on another podcast partner again, that’s a stance you will have to be sure you want to take before moving on.
#6: Create a podcast partner contract if you don’t go solo
Partner contract from @helloquence
Don’t let past negative experiences keep you from enjoying a new podcast partner. But next time, make sure you get your expectations in writing from the start. Use sample Freelancer Podcast Production Agreements or ask an attorney to draw up a podcast partner contract, if you can afford to do so.
Ensuring that your contracts cover what happens in the case of a podcast partner break up may help avoid lots of legal problems in the future.
Make sure you and your podcast partner(s) are on the same page when it comes to breaking up. Will all partners split any sponsorship royalties evenly? Or will one person take a larger split because they contribute more to the podcast?
Working out all these fine details at the beginning of a podcast partnership will help make any eventual split go smoother.
#7: Where to find a new podcast partner
Where to find podcast partner from @mauromora
If you decide that you love the dynamics of a podcast partner over and above your singular voice, Listen Notes makes a great place to try and find a new partner. Searching through the classified ads for podcasting, podcaster interviews, and podcast episodes can help you find a partner who covers similar topics as your podcast.
That person might be willing to enter a podcast partnership with you on an entirely new podcast. The benefit of searching through Listen Notes, the largest podcast search engine out there, is that you will get a feel for the person’s voice, personality, and experience in podcasting. It’s a plus that the person will already have a basic level of podcasting knowledge since they already have been a guest or a host of their own podcast.
By listening to their episodes, you’ll get to know which podcasters are already putting the desire out there to add another voice to their podcast or even start a new podcast with someone they’ve yet to meet — you!