A podcast episode of EXPRESS CHANGE in the multitrack editor window of Adobe Audition.

A Podcast Born From A YouTube Failure

The origin story of ‘Express Change’ — the podcast which I am currently working on and which will launch in early spring of 2024 — began with a failed attempt at creating a YouTube channel.

For quite some time, I had wanted to build a media project of my own that I could run without gatekeepers, and that would go beyond blogging, i.e. writing online. (I’d had some experience with blogging from my marketing days; now I wanted to be a filmmaker and work with moving images.) With both my documentary feature film and our show project, I’d had learned painful lessons about the power of gatekeepers. I wanted something on the side where I could reach audiences without anyone’s permission.

In the summer of 2022, I decided it was going to be a YouTube channel about sustainable investing. I was (and still am) convinced: If more people were interested in what their money is doing, our world would look very different. I wanted to play my part in helping people understand that and rethink their investments.

Long story short: That did not work out.

But the project taught me a valuable lesson about self-publishing and YouTube film-making. The lesson is that a YouTube channel can only work if you have three things:

  1. a subject you feel you have something to say about,
  2. the conviction that it is an important subject,
  3. the passion to dedicate a lot of energy and time to it.

Alas, when it came to sustainable investing, I only had two out of three. I had spent time figuring out what sustainable investing should and could be, in my personal view, and I thought my learnings could be helpful to others. I also felt very strongly that this was an incredibly important issue. What I did not have was a passion for investing and money. Some people love money, they love thinking about it. I don’t. Money is — in this world — an incredible necessity, I understand that. But I am not passionate about it.

As time went on, I increasingly had to force myself to make the next video. And the one after that. Slowly but surely, my little past time project was turning into something very painful. After countless hours that I had invested (!) in the channel, the realisation dawned on me that the project was not going to work out. The final blow came when my friend Fabian Holland (who is meticulously building a YouTube channel about guitar-playing and recording) told me what motivates him about his channel:

I am not all too worried about my subscriber numbers; I am much more focussed on building a community around music.

Fabian Holland

It hit me: I was simply not interested in building a community around investments and money — no matter how sustainable. But that’s what I would have to do to make my YouTube channel work. It was time to call it a day on this doomed endeavour, after about a year of work. I made a couple more videos to say what I had left to say. Then I ended project “Geldbewegung“.

But now what? I still wanted to have a vehicle, a media project that I could design and build and grow with direct access to users, on the web. So the question was: What am I passionate about that could maintain my interest?

The one thing that drives everything I do is sustainability in the broadest sense: How can we, humanity, find ways to live together on this earth in ways that will work for a long time — for all of us humans, now and in the future, and for the world in which we are embedded, which we need to survive and thrive? Humanity is currently going in the opposite direction, quite swiftly, on a collision course with the planet’s limited and very exhausted resources, and on a collision course with what our societies are willing and able to bear. The rise of fascism everywhere is the most visible sign of how badly we are doing. People lose hope, they lose perspectives. So they turn to easy answers: scapegoats and recipes of yesteryear.

But my interest in sustainability is more specific — I had decided a while ago that my response to our predicament was going to be art and culture. My skin is not thick enough to go into politics, or try to become some sort of pundit, speaker, or media personality. I am too vulnerable for those things. On the other hand, I have dreamed of making films and telling stories, and creating visual things that move or inspire people my whole life. Now I wanted to try to do this, and do it in service of that larger political project and problem of sustainability. What I was struggling to figure out was how. How can you be an artist and an activist at the same time? How do you solve the problem of ‘preachy art’? No one wants stories with blatant political messages at their core. Instead, we like engaging characters we can relate to, who go through things we feel we understand. Where do art and activism interface, how do they relate, how does that work?

When I got to this point, I realised: This could be my subject. This is something I am very curious about, something I want to learn more about. The obvious idea was to try and start another YouTube channel — this time about the relationship between art and activism. But another realisation bumped up against that: Making something with moving images is always ten times more work than doing ‘audio only’. (That seems to be changing to some extent now with AI, but I think the general rule will remain.) And I really like audio editing and recording, too. So maybe start smaller and not go straight for film again, but keep it more contained, and do an audio podcast? Also because I am a fairly regular podcast listener myself. The fact that it’s a media type I can use while I am doing other things, like driving or cleaning, makes it very appealing to me.

As I was thinking about this idea, I realised another thing: I should stop trying to do this by myself. The struggles that come with a self-made media project can be fairly exhausting, and shouldering that type of burden with another person, or with more people, makes it so much more fun and so much more doable. My first choice to do this with was Marina Gattàs at WEAll. She had been in a communications role at WEAll until recently, but then changed the remit of her work to specifically focus on the intersection between the work WEAll does for a wellbeing economy (which is, simply put, a sustainable concept for re-designing our economic systems) and arts and culture. Who could be a better person to work on this podcast with than Marina?

To my great delight, she pretty much immediately said ‘yes, let’s do this’.

And that is how Express Change got started.


One response to “A Podcast Born From A YouTube Failure”

  1. […] for season 1 (not sure yet about the exact number), and then we’ll see how it goes. Here is a little background story about the podcast’s […]