[Intro music begins]
Andrew: Looking to start your own website? The first thing you need is a domain name, and the best place to get one is at GoDaddy.com. With your domain registration you'll get hosting, a free blog, complete e-mail, and much more. Plus, as a MuggleCast listener, enter code Ron, that's R-O-N, when you check out and get your dot com domain name for just $7.49 a year. Get your piece of the internet at GoDaddy.com! This week's episode of MuggleCast is also brought to you by Audible.com, the internet's leading provider of audiobooks with more than 75,000 downloadable titles across all types of literature including fiction, non-fiction, and periodicals. For a free audio book of your choice, go to AudiblePodcast.com/MuggleCast today for details.
["Hedwig's Theme" plays]
Jim Dale: [as Professor McGonagall] This is Professor McGonagall welcoming you all to MuggleCast hoping you enjoy it - Dobby! Dobby, come here! Here! Dobby! [as Dobby] Yes, I'd just like to say how very pleased I am to introduce MuggleCast to all of you! Thank you! Thank you!
[Show music begins]
Andrew: Because we have a new idea for a television network, this is MuggleCast Episode 199 for May 26th, 2010.
[Show music continues]
Andrew: Welcome to MuggleCast Episode 199! We are one episode away from the gigantic 200. We're so close that poor Ben - he was confused this week. He came on thinking it was 200, but lo and behold, it's lonely old 199, Ben.
Ben: I know, it nearly broke my heart when you broke the news to me, man.
Andrew: Well, next week - two weeks from now is actually 200. So, you can be here for that as well.
Ben: Yeah and it's been how long now, Andrew? How long have we been doing this?
Andrew: I don't know, man. Since the beginning. But we'll actually...
Ben: That's usually where it starts.
Ben: At the beginning.
Andrew: But we will...
Eric: It's a very good place to start, Ben.
Andrew: Related to that, today we're actually going to be talking a lot about MuggleCast's five year history. And we're going to be catching up on news as well, getting to some e-mails. There's a lot of feedback, a lot of good feedback, about last week's show, so we'll get into it. I'm Andrew Sims.
Ben: I'm Ben Schoen.
Eric: I'm Eric Scull.
Micah: And I'm Micah Tannenbaum.
[Show music continues]
Andrew: Micah Tannenbaum, what's in the news this week?
Micah: A little bit of Wizarding World information. A huge high-res picture - you know how much I love pictures - was released of the hog's head, in the Hog's Head.
Eric: And it moves!
Andrew: Yeah, Eric, did you actually see the hog's head? Does it actually move?
Eric: I don't even know if I can release that kind of information.
Eric: No, to be perfectly honest, but I will say that if I did see it, I'm pretty sure it wasn't moving when I saw it.
Eric: If I saw it.
Micah: Well, considering it's called "animatronic," I would assume that it moves at some point. It's interactive with people. And what was cool about it, was they had those shrunken heads from Prisoner of Azkaban...
Andrew: Yeah, that was interesting.
Micah: ...kind of hanging out next to them.
Ben: Did they speak in Jamaican voices?
Eric: [laughs] It really enhances the persona of the Hog's Head as being sort of a dodgy place.
Andrew: Yeah. That's cool. What else, Micah?
Micah: Virgin Atlantic is getting in on the fun with the theme park. They've branded an entire airplane with the Wizarding World logo.
Eric: I want to fly that when I go to Florida for Infinitus.
Andrew: Well, the whole thing behind this is that Virgin has some travel plan with Universal and, Micah, he's all excited about it, but, Micah, it's just a little side of the plane. They should have covered the entire thing with Harry Potter.
Andrew: It's just the left side - like the back and it says Harry Potter on it. [laughs]
Eric: That'd be cool though - instead of sitting in row 9, you'd be in row 9 3/4 B.
Andrew: Yeah, they should have decked the whole plane out and like Ben was saying, they should have the stewardesses - should have been in gowns. They totally dropped the ball here.
Eric: Pushing the trolleys, yeah.
Andrew: Is that next though? I mean could this a sign of whats to come? We have a Harry Potter theme park, why would there not be Harry Potter air travel? A Harry Potter airline?
Ben: It's like the world slowly is going to evolve into one giant Harry Potter land.
Andrew: Right, it will truly be the Wizarding World.
Ben: It's coming folks, you heard it here first.
Micah: It's all a ploy to make money, right Ben?
Ben: That's life.
[Andrew and Micah laugh]
Micah: But I guess the big theme park news was that, today, Robbie Coltrane, Emma Watson, Matt Lewis and the Phelps twins got their own sneak peek of the park and there's some photos up on MuggleNet.com, more photos. Seems like they were having a pretty good time. They were pretty impressed with what they saw.
Andrew: Yeah, there's like this really goofy photo. We got a photo in the morning right after their arrival and they're all looking at each other like with surprised look on their face. It's a funny photo but - first of all, what's Robbie Coltrane - why is he one of the first stars to go down there?
Andrew: He's never involved in Harry Potter anything and then we get this picture this morning of Robbie Coltrane in the theme park. [laughs]
Micah: Somebody else must have been busy.
[Andrew and Eric laugh]
Andrew: Yeah, I guess so.
Eric: They're like, "Robbie, will you go to this?" and he was like...
Micah: Or maybe he was in the area.
Eric: ..."I'll be involved." That's true.
Andrew: Don't get me wrong, it's cool. But - yeah, and then Emma is there and I heard Universal called this morning. They said, "Andrew, where's Ben? He's not anywhere near the South-Eastern area of the country, right?" I was like, "No, no, no. He's on the West Coast." They're like, "Oh good. Because Emma Watson is coming in today. We don't need anyone chasing her down."
Ben: Yeah, I'm kind of on one of those watch lists or something at this point I'm sure.
Andrew: If you try to go into the theme park they're going to deny you, whether Emma is there or not. So yeah, we got these pictures and Emma - [laughs] there is this photo of Emma. It's actually really nice. She's looking into one of the windows and she's holding her hands to her mouth in all - she's in awe. It's just really sweet. You know, it really speaks to the level of quality at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme park.
Eric: And there was a new - have you guys been seeing new commercials on TV for this?
Micah: No. A little bit altered but same...
Micah: ...end scene, if that makes sense.
Eric: Same end scene. And I guess Harry is still - you know, says, "Come on." But they're actually flying through Hogsmeade now. I think it's pretty close to what I think the park will look like.
Andrew: All right, what else is going on, Micah?
Micah: J.K. Rowling - according to a poll that was conducted in The Telegraph, eleven percent of British parents want their children to grow up to be like author J.K. Rowling.
Micah: Now, in the same poll, 20 percent of 6 - 16 year olds believe their mother or father is the ultimate role model and 15 percent chose Sir Richard Branson over J.K. Rowling.
Andrew: This was a U.K. poll right?
Micah: Yes, it was a U.K. poll.
Andrew: Because I don't think any American children would be like "Sir Richard Branson! I want to be like him!"
Micah: Yes, it was in the Telegraph so I'm guessing it was strictly U.K. based. Sir Richard Branson is a cool guy, man. He's on the cusp of technology. He's going to send a plane up to the moon.
Andrew: I know.
Ben: Yeah, but J.K. Rowling's a witch, okay?
[Andrew and Micah laugh]
Ben: She can do wicked, crazy things. She put a spell on all of us and here we are 199 episodes later!
Andrew: Actually, that's kind of interesting because that also shows that Jo is still really relevant.
Andrew: Many kids - the last book came out three years ago now and children it seems are still reading Harry Potter - new kids because I don't think Jo would be one of the first people that came to my mind if I was a 12 year old unless I'd read the books.
Micah: Well, it was the parents who chose J.K. Rowling, not the kids.
Andrew: Oh, well, then she should be like Oprah and have her own talk show because clearly she's still very relevant and influential.
[Andrew and Eric laugh]
Ben: jOprah? Oprah and Jo should should do a show together. Oh my God, that would just shake the world at it's core.
Eric: jOprah's book club.
Andrew: Well, Oprah's starting a television network so maybe Jo can get a show on there. The jOprah show.
Ben: No, I think Jo should start her own network to rival Oprah. It would be like the world's biggest showdown. Two billionaire, powerful women...
Andrew: [laughs] Competing in content.
Andrew: I think we would go to Oprah. Oprah's been nicer to us than Jo.
Micah: But what is she doing anyways, by the way? Any updates? I mean...
Andrew: What are you talking about?
Eric: Spy on Jo.
Micah: J.K. Rowling!
Micah: I mean, I haven't heard from her recently since her White House appearance.
Andrew: Well, she hasn't been on Twitter either, so we have no tweets to imitate.
Andrew: [trying to do a British accent] "Starting my own network! jOprah!"
[Eric and Micah laugh]
Micah: She hasn't been on her site in about two years.
Andrew: I know! This is my point! Why are parents still talking about her? No offense.
Ben: She lost touch, guys.
Andrew: [laughs] Update your Twitter, please! All right, is that it Micah?
Micah: That is it.
Andrew: Before we move on we'd like to remind everyone that this week's episode of MuggleCast is brought to you by Audible.com, the internet's leading provider of audiobooks with more than 75,000 downloadable titles across all types of literature and featuring audio versions of many New York Times Best Sellers. For listeners of this podcast, Audible is offering a free audiobook to give you a chance to try out their service. One audiobook to consider is Will Grayson, Will Grayson the new book by John Green. He's the author of Paper Towns and he's a great young adult author. So for a free audiobook of your choice such as Will Grayson, Will Grayson, go to AudiblePodcast.com/MuggleCast. That's AudiblePodcast.com/MuggleCast.
Andrew: So now we're going to - as we lead up to Episode 200 here, we want to have a discussion about where the show has gone over the past 5 years. It's pretty amazing that we've been doing this - it's almost five years now, our fifth year - our fifth birthday will be this August, the beginning of August. Eric came up with the idea for this and he wanted to treat it sort of like an interview but I also think that it would be good as a group conversation.
Eric: All right, sweet. Well in celebration of our almost 200 episodes of MuggleCast, we've decided to sit down with the show's creator and producer, Andrew Tiberius Sims. So first question. All right, Andrew, we've heard on the past how this podcast was formed, it was a discussion on the MuggleNet staff forums and some rivalry and accusation with other Harry Potter sites but what, if you could recount once more definitively, started the process of creating a Harry Potter podcast. How did you get involved in this crazy new idea?
Andrew: It all just came out of my head one day. I was meditating and it just popped in my head.
Ben: [laughs] Oh yeah, 15-year-old Andrew was deep in meditation one day.
Andrew: [laughs] No, what happened is on MuggleNet we had staff forums where the staff would convene to plan and organize things. And one day, one of the staff members, one of the editorialists, Sarah, she made a post in the forums saying, "hey, I was watching TV and I saw a news segment on podcasting and I think it would be really - it would be a really cool idea for MuggleNet to have a Harry Potter podcast." And at that time I had already been listening to a couple of podcasts because iTunes had just kicked off podcasting within - within iTunes. So I immediately jumped on this. I was like, whoa that would be actually a pretty cool idea and I'm, you know, I'm a pretty big nerd so we started planning it within the staff forums and Ben jumped on board. And Eric, did you?
Eric: No, no, no, no.
Ben: No. That was Episode Three.
Eric: Yeah. No, I didn't...
Andrew: But were you into the idea when we first...
Eric: Yeah, yeah, no I mean I didn't know anything about podcasts. In fact, I looked at the - the first two news post of MuggleCast - I recall looking at them and being like, "podcasts, what is that." I had no clue.
Andrew: Yeah. A couple people thought it wouldn't have been that great of an idea. But we proved them wrong.
Micah: We could name them if we really wanted to.
Andrew: No, that's all right.
Eric: We have their posts on the staff forums still where they said this won't work. So did you ever - for your follow-up question. Did you ever thank this Sarah girl? Maybe like by having her on the show or anything?
Andrew: You know what? We offered to have her on the show. But I think she said she preferred to stay - she's not one to like go talk - like I don't know, I guess she was shy or something?
Eric: Yeah. Cool.
Andrew: Yeah but I think we did offer her.
Micah: A modest person.
Andrew: A modest person.
Micah: Didn't want to take credit for all her success.
Eric: Yeah, she's the reason we're - well, okay, so what other...
Micah: Well, she is the reason we are here today. [laughs]
Eric: Yeah. Yeah. Absolutely. So...
Andrew: Thanks, Sarah.
Eric: Yeah, thank you, Sarah. So you mentioned that you listened to other podcasts, Andrew. What - what other podcasts do you remember listening to back then and would you say any of them influenced the style of MuggleCast?
Andrew: [laughs] Well, Ben is going to rip into me, but one of the first podcasts I listened to was TWiT, This Week in Tech with Leo Laporte, and Ben used to listen to it, too. Another podcast was the Dawn and Drew Show, and both those podcasts are still around today, and two really good podcasts, and I would say I was influenced by them, sure.
Eric: So have they changed their style in the past five years?
Andrew: Yeah. You know, podcasts grow and change and...
Ben: They do less Chapter-by-Chapter than they used to.
[Andrew and Eric laugh]
Andrew: Right, yeah. I mean, we didn't - I don't think we ever took any segment ideas. I think most podcasts that you see will talk about news about any sort of genre, any genre, specific...
Micah: How about Nobody Likes Onions? That was a - kind of a rivalry for a while, wasn't it? They liked picking on us.
Andrew: Yeah, yeah. I didn't start - personally, I didn't start listening to that when we started MuggleCast but, yeah, I had heard of it. I think the first way - first time I heard of it was when somebody told us that they were making fun of us on the show, so...
Eric: Yeah, when we were like...
Andrew: I was like, "Oh, they're making fun of us but I kind of like it."
[Andrew, Eric and Micah laugh]
Micah: Well, it's good exposure for us, regardless. I'm sure they had a pretty big audience. They probably still do and they were - we met them in California, I think, right?
Andrew: Yeah, it was awkward. It was awkward for me.
Eric: Because it was like we were picking up the award, weren't we?
Andrew: Yeah, exactly
Eric: Now when did you, going off from that when did you become aware that MuggleCast was gaining popularity.
Andrew: I think it was - we had some number tracking pie charts, download tracking things, but I don't think we really knew how popular it was until that first live podcast when it was us and Leaky and we did the Leaky Mug in New York City after the Goblet of Fire premiere and that was, that was a real surprise for us because we didn't think that many people would show up for a Harry Potter podcast. I mean we knew the premieres get big crowds but we didn't think one of our shows would get a big crowd. And then meeting the fans afterwards, after the live show.
Eric: How did that live podcast start? Because it was at Barnes and Noble in Union Square. How, who contacted Barnes - did you guys contact them, do they contact you?
Ben: All credit goes to Melissa Anelli.
Eric: Okay, next question.
Andrew: Well, its - [laughs] it started with, the original plan was just to do it in a Starbucks.
Micah: Yeah, that's right. I remember that.
Eric: Oh, wow.
Andrew: And we were just like we'll just have a little show in Starbucks and then when we had people starting to RSVP it started, we saw fifty people were planning on coming and we realized "oh we can't do it in a Starbucks, obviously." And so then we move to one Barnes and Noble but then the RSVPs kept growing so we moved to another Barnes and Noble and that was the big one in Union Square.
Eric: Oh I remember that. I remember it was another Barnes and Noble at first.
Andrew: Yeah, yeah. But even before that we were planning on doing it at a Starbucks! I mean...
Andrew: I would love to revisit that time and think - be at a time where we didn't know that a live podcast would bring out a bigger audience.
Eric: And just so the fans listening know, that video from that show is still on the site and is - is available in two .mov movies. And you can see there just the fan base that - or at least the people who showed up really did want to listen. And they were a very - they were a very good audience.
Eric: So what makes - what makes MuggleCast so special?
Andrew: You guys.
Eric: [laughs] What other podcast have that - that...
Andrew: No I think that what makes - well first of all it's all thanks to the Harry Potter community that MuggleCast has been successful. You can't just start a podcast anywhere online and expect to have some sort of - a bigger supportive audience. Something like Harry Potter comes with a very supportive, open, excitable audience. So MuggleCast's popularity was thanks to MuggleNet and it was thanks to the Harry Potter fans. We know what Harry Potter fans are like. They celebrate book releases, movie releases, big news. Having a podcast was just a natural fit.
Eric: Yeah. So, it's one thing to have a Harry Potter, built-in, supportive fan community, but by the end of 2005, that's our first year, you have stated on the podcast that there were over fifty thousand unique subscriptions to MuggleCast on iTunes. Do you have any comments on that?
Andrew: [laughs] No, I mean it's just awesome. I mean that's all you can really say about it. And I'm so appreciative of the audience and support that we've had over the years.
Micah: What I've always thought was cool was that when all these people e-mail in and they're from all these different places across the world, just the fact that they're listening...
Micah: ...to what we have to say. And they can be in Rome or Tokyo or South Africa or anywhere. Obviously, they're here in the United States and the U.K., too, but it's just kind of amazing that it's that far-reaching. And didn't Andrew, you also say that Episode - was it 100 or 101 had over one hundred thousand unique listeners?
Andrew: Yeah, yeah. That - that episode has over a hundred thousand.
Micah: That's unbelievable.
Andrew: And when you think about it we all read that book in London, and as soon as we were finished we all gathered around the laptop, we just hit record, and we spoke for an hour, and we streamed it live on UStream. And it was amazing because it was right after we finished reading, and at that time other people across the world were finishing reading the book, too.
Andrew: I mean I think MuggleNet had about three hundred, four hundred thousand unique people the day after. So that's a good - the people who had visited wanted to hear what other people thought. So of course a podcast was the most perfect venue to hear other people's thoughts about the final book.
Eric: And so now you've been trying to keep up with technology this whole time. You've grown so much in that - in that respect. And obviously this whole live podcast thing which - that was done from your computer in the hotel room on UStream. How has technology changed to allow for - I mean I guess podcasting in general or hasn't it?
Andrew: Yeah. I mean we've always basically used the same stuff. I mean you guys are still using the same headsets. I'm still using the same audio editor. But to do this - these live shows that we do now over UStream now I have a mixer for that and use two computers to do it to make it sound as good as possible and also do video now. Video we just about started a year ago.
Eric: Wow! Now how old were you when you first started MuggleCast?
Andrew: How old were we Ben, 15?
Ben: Fifteen, wow!
Andrew: [starts singing] "When you're 15 start a podcast, gonna believe it."
Eric: Can you believe that?
Andrew: Yeah I know. I don't know where my life's gone.
Andrew: I think - no, in all seriousness I think it's really interesting how we've really grown up with the show. What I honestly think is most amazing is that I started the show in New Jersey. Ben started the show in Kansas, and now we're both living in L.A. five years later.
Andrew: And we're sitting here recording together.
Eric: And yeah.
Andrew: It's just amazing to think back to then, and then think of now, how that ended up being.
Eric: Yeah. We've been...
Ben: I guess it's just kind of like one of those things where - When we were fifteen, we were just working on a Harry Potter website just for the love of Harry Potter, and we just wanted to create an outlet to be able to - to be able to express ourselves. We had no idea what it was going to lead to, it wasn't like we sat down one day, and were like, "Oh, we want to get 50,000 subscribers"...
Andrew: Yeah, yeah.
Ben: ...and all that. It just kind of happened out of nowhere, and I think all of us were kind of taken aback by it at first - that people actually value the opinion of some kids rambling about...
Ben: ...Horcruxes and the like.
Eric: And you were kids.
Andrew: Yeah, that's the most rewarding thing, is just that people really care to hear your opinion. And so - I mean that's what's still motivating I think to all of us. When we record we know that people are going to be listening to this, and looking forward to it, and hopefully getting something out of it, whether it's entertainment or information. And that's why we always include Chicken Soup, because it's always nice to read those types of e-mails to see how people are actually affected by the show.
Eric: How did your family react towards MuggleNet and MuggleCast?
[Andrew and Micah laugh]
Eric: No this is an honest question because everybody's got this story. Especially if you work on MuggleNet you have this story.
Andrew: Actually, you know what my dad said to me? I may have told this to you, Ben. Because he had known I had been listening to TWiT, Leo's podcast. And he said, "What do you think you're going to be, the next Leo Laporte?" And I was like, "No, but we're just going to do it for fun." But it did surprise them. And my mom and sister came to that first live podcast we did in New York City, and they were blown away by it. And I was too! It's just amazing to see, people came out to see us talk about Harry Potter.
Ben: My family thought I was a weirdo.
Ben: Just for the record.
Andrew: They kicked him out of the house.
Ben: And the jury's still out on that one. No one's quite sure whether I am or not.
Eric: Yeah. Same. So what about - what about high school? Because you still had two years of school to complete. So obviously by the time you left high school, MuggleCast was huge. So did your peers ever find out what you were doing? Would they come up to you in the halls wanting to discuss each week's show, or was there a basic understanding that they had to send in a Muggle Mail or a listener rebuttal or voice-mail if they wanted your opinion?
Ben: Well, yeah, that's the only way they could really reach Andrew...
Ben: Because in high school I know he kind of reached this point where it was like, MuggleCast, or friends?
[Andrew and Micah laugh]
Ben: And he chose I guess what he called the more rewarding one.
Andrew: That's right.
Eric: Andrew, do you really think - I mean, is that...?
Andrew: Nobody knew about MuggleCast and I did not want to tell anyone. And somebody outed me one day. It was actually my TV Tech teacher. I came in one morning and he had the word 'MuggleCast' written on the whiteboard. I - my heart - I was so - it was like somebody outed me. And I was so - [laughs] - I actually felt so like, "Oh my God."
Eric: But he was just trying to be supportive, right?
Andrew: He was like - yeah, yeah. What had happened was my dad had e-mailed him and was like, "Hey, check out this podcast Andrew does." And so he was like, "Let's talk later."
[Andrew and Eric laugh]
Ben: Oh my.
Andrew: My TV Tech teacher, not my dad. But yeah. And - and people made fun of me in high school for it. I'll admit that.
Eric: But we've seen the videos. You did your morning news and stuff.
Andrew: Oh, yeah. Well eventually - listen, when you tell somebody in high school - there's a lot of peer pressure in high school and when you tell someone, "I sit in my bedroom and I do a Harry Potter podcast," what does that translate to? Loser! But then when you tell them, "Hey, a lot of people are listening to it. I get to do this really cool stuff thanks to it, and I made a lot of great friends because of it," then it becomes, "Oh, that's really cool. You're not just sitting in your parents' basement."
Ben: So the lesson is to follow your heart, folks.
Ben: And don't care what anybody thinks.
Eric: Well you've had - you've got souvenirs to prove it, and stamps on your passport. I mean you've gone many places as a result of this podcast. I mean you said it yourself, you grew up in New Jersey, and now you're in L.A. And where else have you gone for this MuggleCast stuff?
Andrew: We've been to Las Vegas, we've been to London, we've been to New York, and we did that Summer tour in 2007.
Eric: Wow. Cool. So the next few questions - and we are almost done with this interview. Thank you so much for your time here...
Eric: [laughs] The first hundred episodes of MuggleCast - we were talking about this a few minutes ago - they took place prior to the release of the seventh and final Harry Potter book. The next hundred episodes took place after. So how would you say - we're at basically Episode 200, next episode. How would you say the show has changed and/or stayed the same over this 200-episode span of time?
Andrew: The show has always been a lot of fun. It's been - us four have been on since basically the beginning. And other than that, other than production, if you - we get a lot of e-mails from people saying "Hey, I've been listening for a few months and I decided to listen to Episode 1" and "Wow! You guys have changed a lot!" And you know, that's true, because if you listen to the first episode, you hear me and I've mocked myself for it before. You hear me just being like, [in dorky voice] "Hey guys, welcome to MuggleCast Episode 2. This is Andrew Sims here." And we all develop personalities. And that was one of the challenges when we started the show. We didn't really know who we were speaking to, so we were sort of more uptight. But now that we know our audience very well, it's very easy to speak - to not put up any barriers...
Ben: To really communicate openly with people we want to communicate with.
Andrew: Yeah, yeah. And we know how to be entertaining - how to entertain the audience, because we know what they like, what they don't like.
Ben: Andrew, has your voice changed at all since the first episode?
Andrew: Yeah, I'm sure it cracked a couple - yours has always been the same though, I think.
Eric: I think Ben's is probably stayed - Ben's and Micah's...
Ben: Audible chocolate.
Eric: It's the...
[Eric and Micah laugh]
Micah: We should start our own show, Ben.
Ben: Me and Micah.
Andrew: The two deep voices?
Andrew: My bass would break. People's earbuds would crack.
Eric: The woofer would just be always going.
Click here to go to page two