Over the last nine months, Matt Shore and Harry Hitchens have made thousands of friends all around the world. To be precise, the number recently hit 200,000 - and keeps on growing. Every day of the week, they visit dozens of dinner parties and join hundreds of daily commuters... A little while ago, 22-year old Matt had the idea of starting a podcast and was looking around for a co-host. The moment he met Harry, the magic happened - they clicked, and the fastest growing UK based internet radio show was born. Filler explores the ins and outs of creative industries and demonstrates the public hunger for honest conversations. With a new episode coming out every Sunday and dozens of freelance jobs lined up, Matt talks about the value of not overthinking ideas and investing in your passion projects.
Co-founders are like married couples – people invite one of you and expect both of you to come. You spend more time together than alone… How did you meet?
Harry and I were first introduced over Twitter by a mutual friend, Jack Harries. I was about to make the move to London, and Jack figured that we’d get along well and potentially mesh creatively. We met for the first time in late February at Borough Market and spent the day together taking photos, exploring central London, and finally settling down for a coffee at Soho House. We knew that it was meant-to-be the second we sat down and began discussing our creative ambitions.
And how about Filler? Who thought of starting a radio show and how did you take it from an idea to the first episode?
I came to Harry with the idea for Filler a few weeks before our first meeting in London. I had been toying with the idea of hosting a conversational podcast about creative industries for a while, and he was immediately interested in partnering up for the project after I gave him the initial pitch. We literally took Filler from a seedling to a tangible creative entity within the span of a few hours. We sat down in a coffee shop, and in that short span of time designed our branding elements, reached out to potential guests and sponsors, and built a landing page for our website. A week later, we had Notes coffee shop signed on to let us record out of their space, five or six guests confirmed for upcoming episodes, beautiful microphones from RODE, and a website. One month later we sat down to record our first episode. It all came together pretty naturally and painlessly, but we were hustling pretty hard that month.
What are the personal and professional benefits of having a side project?
Personally, having a project that I need to put work into for a few hours, two or three times a week is a really nice way to add structure to my week, especially since I’m otherwise on a freelance schedule.
Professionally, I find that my personal work tends to shape my professional work. I find that when I’m quite passionate and engrossed in my side-projects, my paid-for, professional work is impacted positively… now that I connect the two, that makes perfect sense. The only way that you’ll produce brilliant work for other people is if your own creative needs are being met first.
Did you have doubts before starting Filler?
To be honest – and I reckon I can speak for both Harry and myself – Filler is probably the first project I’ve started that I didn’t second-guess as I was getting it off the ground. We knew that there was a gap in the podcasting market for a show like Filler and we knew that we had access to the resources to make it happen, so we went full steam ahead with it. I imagine that’s why so many new projects fail; people overthink their ideas and beat them down before they take time to breathe life into them.
It’s easy to find reasons why not to start passion projects: similar things have been done before, there are too many podcasts out there anyway, you don’t like the sound of your voice and therefore others will judge… Did you have similar inner doubts?
The reason why Filler has worked so well is because we ignored those initial instincts and tendencies. We shook those doubts and went full-force into creating a podcast that we thought people would enjoy.
"We very much just wanted to create something that we'd listen to ourselves.
That rule applies to any creative idea or endeavour - if you aren’t interested in the idea yourself, then nobody will be."
Can you give us a step by step guide on how to start a podcast?
Idea: We very much just wanted to create something that we’d listen to ourselves. That rule applies to any creative idea or endeavour – if you aren’t interested in the idea yourself, then nobody will be. It’s critical that your idea is authentic.
Equipment: We were lucky enough to be sponsored by RODE Microphones for our first season – they sent us four beautiful directional microphones. We also use a Macbook Air and Scarlett Focusrite 18i8 for recording episodes.
Questions: The beauty of Filler is that it’s very much just a conversation over coffee – that’s the goal at least. Because it’s so candid, we rarely choose any specific questions to ask before we hit record. Instead, Harry and I will come up with broad topics to cover, and think up questions about those topics as the discussion evolves and progresses. And, of course, if the guest wants to talk about anything in particular, we’re happy to work it into the conversation.
Controlling conversations: That’s my job really. Harry has presenting experience and is excellent at asking very specific, detailed questions. I tend to ask fewer questions, but steer the conversation when necessary to keep what we’re talking about fresh for our listeners.
People: We were excited to invite some of our good, immensely talented friends onto the show because we thought they’d make good guests. We reckon that the reason we were able to book such incredible, “top-tier” guests in Season One (Blaise DiPersia of Facebook or Rosa Park of Cereal Magazine, for instance), was because of the nature of the podcast. Filler acts as a forum for creatives to truly express themselves, unlike other media outlets which require them to stick to strict talking points.
Getting first listeners: We’ve recently surpassed 200,000 listens between SoundCloud and iTunes which is really exciting! The first podcast season seemed to spread via word of mouth. I reckon that after Season One we had about 75,000 listens. Since then, our growth has been a bit steadier and reflective of the content that we produce; we were featured on the iTunes Podcast Store twice and have been picked up by a few media outlets. It’s pretty amazing though – Harry and I have each been stopped a couple of times in London by complete strangers who have let us know that they love Filler. What’s even cooler is that we have people from over 80 different countries tuning in. We’re confident in now saying that Filler has grown far beyond our immediate circles, which is an exciting achievement.
Marketing and PR: There’s no secret formula. It relays back to your question about the idea behind the project, and my notion that it needs to be authentic. A project will become successful if it comes from a genuine place and it’s executed well. Once you check those boxes, the people will come. That all said, we do give away some pretty cool Filler stickers quite often. Get in touch with us and ask us nicely and we’ll send you some! That’s the only marketing we do really.