For those continuing to wonder where the world is with podcasts and its burgeoning popularity, unionizing is a pretty good barometer for the size and scope of where the medium is. There has to be enough business, infrastructure, and, of course, people involved to justify a union for collective bargaining on behalf of employees whose demands might be otherwise overlooked or ignored.
Thus, it’s kind of a thrilling announcement that iHeartPodcast Network talent including hosts, producers, and writers are signed on with WGA East in order to guarantee basic benefits and working conditions. That’s such a big step considering that the world of podcasting has been a wild west since its inception despite exponential growth in both popularity and profits in the last decade or so. Under the iHeartPodcast Network umbrella are The Nikki Glaser Podcast, How Did We Get Weird? with Vanessa and Jonah Bayer, Life Will Be the Death of Me with Chelsea Handler, Las Culturistas with Matt Rogers and Bowen Yang, a number of Jamie Loftus audio projects/shows, and Will Ferrell‘s own imprint, Big Money Players.
The idea of any sort of comedy being part of a union feels like a fever dream. So many of the career paths in comedy are so solitary, nebulous, and circuitous that any sort of organizing on the part of talent is nothing short of a miracle. The idea of being a part of a podcast union, especially one that represents a handful of some of the most popular comedy podcasts, is astonishing, yet, thankfully where we have arrived.
We’ll see if this has a ripple effect across the podcasting spectrum (and maybe even, dare we say, comedy itself like folks have tried and failed in decades past).