Building a Strong Foundation with Hayden Gray

With two podcasts under his belt, Droppin Dimes & Courtside Chats, Hayden is here to share his advice on podcasting. After pivoting from acting, Hayden knew he had to go into one of his long-time passions: sports; So he transferred all his skills in performance into content creation. He emphasizes the importance of having a solid and clear idea before diving into monetization. Hayden ends with the serious questions you have to ask yourself if you want to start a podcast. Dive into this episode to learn about Hayden’s incredible trial-and-error experience in the podcasting world!

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Building a Strong Foundation with Hayden Gray

About our Guest – Hayden Gray

Hayden Gray is our first guest on the show! He is a podcaster, NBA writer, and graphic designer. With a background in performance, music, and Music Theatre, Hayden decided to pivot into sports. He took his talents and applied them to sports media, and began Courtside Chats and Droppin Dimes.

He co-hosts Droppin Dimes with fellow podcaster, friend, and sports lover, Travis Cole Huddleston. In this podcast, they discuss the latest NBA news. In addition, his solo show, Courtside Chats, explores something that makes him curious in the Basketball industry.

 

Smooth Podcast_Hayden Gray: Audio automatically transcribed by Sonix

Smooth Podcast_Hayden Gray: this mp3 audio file was automatically transcribed by Sonix with the best speech-to-text algorithms. This transcript may contain errors.

Smooth Podcast Intro:
All the technical busywork required to produce a podcast can be a struggle, establishing trust with clients and increasing sales for your company with your own podcast is something you can do well. We interview the top podcasters in the industry to provide hacks and insights to help you start and scale your podcast. Welcome to the Smooth Podcast!

Martín Acuña :
Hello everyone, this is the Smooth Podcast! We are here with Daniela, our co-host, and Hayden Gray. He has a background in music and music theater and he is a basketball podcaster and writer. He’s a Houston sports fan that will always claim the 2018 rockets were a hamstring away from being remembered as the all-time great team. He covers the NBA weekly on two of his podcasts, the first one, Droppign’ Dimes, a basketball podcast, and the other one is Courtside Chats. He strives to engage in larger discussions about sports in a way that is different from traditional media. Am I right, Heyden?

Hayden Gray:
That’s a pretty good synopsis of it. I would say.

Martín Acuña :
Well, Hayden welcome to the Smooth Podcast! It’s amazing to have you here. First, and like the most direct question for you, why did you choose to start a podcast?

Hayden Gray:
Yeah. So you kind of mentioned at the beginning when you were introducing me that I have a background in music and musical theater. From the time in high school, music has been something that has been one of my passions and I even studied it in college and moved to New York for a short time to pursue a career as an actor. And eventually, as many people do, I kind of change course. And I moved back to Texas, which is where I live now, and I’ve always had a passion for sports, particularly. I remember when I was a kid sitting in the car with my dad, listening to local sports radio, hearing all the different news and rumors has always been a lot of fun for me, and sports has just always been a really big part of my life. And I was always trying to think of things to kind of shift my focus towards. Naturally, I thought, OK, well, I have this background in performance, I have a lot of things that are applicable to media in general, so why don’t I start to try and join the sports media landscape, particularly as a podcaster? Once I moved to New York, I had a forty-five-minute commute on the subway both ways for my job, and so I would listen to podcasts the entire way around. And it kind of became one of those things where listening to podcasts was like comfort food for me almost. So I really have a love for the medium. And so I said, OK, I have, I think I have good taste in podcasts, and so why don’t I start my own and kind of work my way up, build my own portfolio. And here I am a little under a year later with two podcasts of my own. As you said, I’ve been doing some writing and just kind of trying to make a little niche for myself in the sports media landscape.

Martín Acuña :
What was the initial idea for your podcast and how has it evolved through time since you started?

Daniela Perea:
Yeah, and I also want to talk about, because you have two, so one of them is really recent.

Hayden Gray:
Yeah.

Daniela Perea:
So what like, what makes you think of it in the first place and why did you like decided to get a solo.

Hayden Gray:
Right.

Daniela Perea:
Let’s say performance gear?

Hayden Gray:
Yeah, yeah. Yeah. So it’s kind of funny if I could, if I could backtrack a little bit, I kind of know, as I’m sure you guys know, as adults yourself, sometimes you go through life and you feel like, man, I have no direction right now, like I need to figure out what is going to make me happy and what I can do that’s going to fulfill me. And so I said, OK, I’m going to start a podcast and I’m just going to start it by myself. And ironically enough, a couple of days later, I ran into a friend of mine from college who actually lived across the country. But just so happened to be visiting where I live. At work, I ran into him and we started catching up and I said, yeah, I think I’m going to start a podcast, and he was like, man, I’ve been thinking about doing the same thing, I want to do sports media, too. And he ended up being my co-host. So it’s just funny how things work out when you put things out into the universe, the way that kind of reward you and just kind of work everything out itself. So anyways, we kind of approached it from your standard traditional podcast, just in terms of two guys, two buddies sitting down talking about basketball every single week. And we’re, we just released our 40th episode, So we’re quite of a ways in, but as we went down that road, I started to look at what can I do to further kind of take the next step in my own growth as a content creator. And also when things start opening up, like when TV stations or companies start hiring again because everything’s been messed up with covid, how can I kind of set myself apart and build an even stronger portfolio? And I said, OK, well, what if I try to tackle a different corner of the medium and go full solo and really focus on not so much talking about the day-to-day stuff of sports, but more trying to dig a little bit deeper, looking at at a cultural level, more from a historical lens as well. And I just kind of followed that instinct. And as you said, it’s kind of new, I’ve only gotten five episodes in and so I’m still kind of developing that. But I just thought it was an opportunity to explore a different corner of the podcasting medium.

Martín Acuña :
So in that order of ideas, what is the number one way that the podcast world has helped you?

Hayden Gray:
Yeah, so honestly. So first of all, I’m a big proponent of when you have an idea, when you think of something that you want to do, it is so easy to limit ourselves and to decide, meh, it’s not a good idea for me to do this, just do it. If you do it, you will be rewarded and so many different ways, which just happened with me, because like I said, I started this podcast in July, my first one, Droppin Dimes, I started that in July, and now I’m, I’ve met so many different people in the same space who have helped me to become more skilled, who have been great connections for me. So I think the biggest reward that I’ve gotten from starting a podcast is kind of that reassurance for myself, that if I do put my mind to this, I will be able to be successful in my own way. And it’s not necessarily about the numbers, how many downloads you get per episode, it’s more about kind of creating that experience for yourself and giving yourself an opportunity to grow in your craft, which is something that I do every single time I sit down to record.

Martín Acuña :
That sounds awesome. We are digging the growth with podcasting for everyone, basically across every single industry. So.

Hayden Gray:
Yes!

Martín Acuña :
Like one question that I really like is, you’ve told us that your experience with podcasting has been basically a trial and error and just doing it.

Hayden Gray:
Yes.

Martín Acuña :
You were head over heels diving into it.

Hayden Gray:
Yes.

Martín Acuña :
Which has been the biggest mistake you have made or the biggest lesson that you’ve learned from podcasting?

Hayden Gray:
Yeah, so, hahaha, well, so one stilly one before I get to my bigger lesson is the second episode that my buddy, his name is Travis, my co-host, or my other, so shout out, Travis. The second episode that we sat down to record, we recorded the whole thing. It was awesome. We felt great about it. And then I went over to send over the file to him and I was like, I did not hit the record.

Martín Acuña :
Oh, my God, no!

Daniela Perea:
You’re not going to, like, you can’t believe how many times I have heard that. Like, yeah, I didn’t record.

Hayden Gray:
Yes. Yes, it is, it’s just one of those things that I think everyone has to experience because it sounds so silly. But when you’re about to sit down and going to record and you’re excited to have a conversation, if you don’t take that second to say, hey, I should probably press the record, but at some point you’re going to forget and thank God it happened on my second try, because then down the line, when I’m actually interviewing someone or if I’m talking to a player or something like that, I’m not going to finish the interview and say, oh, my God, I just wasted your time. So in a way, I’m glad it happened then. But what I will say too is, I’ve talked about jumping into things and just going for it. But I do think there is something to be said for allowing yourself the time and breathing room to really flesh out your concept. Because in terms of the timeline with my first podcast, the NBA season stopped due to covid, and then it restarted in late July, early August. And Travis and I, we ran into each other in mid-July. So we were really excited to get started and we wanted to coincide with the beginning of the NBA season. But by doing that and forcing ourselves to go through that deadline, we didn’t get to take the time to dive a little bit deeper into exactly how we want the show to go, how we want it to feel, who are exact audience is going to be. That’s some really important that you need to put in before you even sit down and press record if you want your show to be cohesive and to have a strong start as it possibly can.

Daniela Perea:
So what I’m getting from this is that you have actually evolved your idea doing the podcast because of this.

Hayden Gray:
Yeah. So, you know, and listen, it’s been a, we kind of been thinking on our feet, and I think every single week we kind of tweak things a little bit and get better and better. But we kind of went on this whirlwind for the first 10 episodes or so, and then the NBA’d gotten to its off season and we’re like, oh, my God. Like, we need to take some time, sit down and really think about our vision for this thing, because it’s so easy to get caught up in the excitement of, oh, I’m starting a podcast, but in order for it to be successful, you have to balance that excitement with also taking the time to do some planning. And if I could go back and do one thing differently, I would have taken a little bit more time to plan those things out. But you know what? At the same time, I do think that we’ve learned a lot of lessons and being able to think on our feet. And honestly, in a way, you can make an argument that it’s grown organically since that time. So I think there’s it’s not that it’s hurt the podcast, but I do wish in some ways that I could have gone back and done it differently.

Martín Acuña :
I agree with you. I think that both of us, Dani and I can, not on this podcast, but in our other podcast and other audio stuff we work on, we do think that that would be the best advice. Like to just take a step back, breathe, give yourself a little time for things to like mature a bit and then go ahead with the rest.

Hayden Gray:
Right. And here’s the thing about it too is, I started listening to podcasts and oh, man, it must have been 2007-2008, when I was like 12-13 years old. And it was a much different landscape back then. It was truly like a platform for hobbyists, for people who really love certain things to do things that they love out of the goodness and kindness of their heart. Now, I mean, every celebrity has a podcast. If you search for the type of topic you want to do, there’s going to be at least 10 to even one hundred podcasts of that same topic. And we’re going to talk about this a little bit later. But it is so, so important, I think, to really be serious about how am I going to differentiate myself from other podcasts of the same note, because if you don’t, you’re just going to fall further. You’re going to just get lost among all the podcasts that show up when you search, like if you think about someone says, OK, I want to listen to a basketball podcast, I mean, can you imagine how many, how many show up in the search, it’s impossible unless that you do something to kind of make yourself a little bit different.

Daniela Perea:
So I think that that the fair question here is do you think that monetization is it’s a role you want to take with your podcasts? And how do you think that will look like for you?

Hayden Gray:
Yeah, so, I mean, obviously, I think we live in a society today where there are surveys made of kids in school these days where like 40 percent say I want to grow up to be a YouTube or a streamer. And so a lot of people have the dream of making money off of their content. So, of course, that’s something I would like to do down the line. I think part of the reason I haven’t explored that yet is because we talked a lot about developing a show and making into what is supposed to be. I do not think that monetization should come before your vision is fully developed. And also I think that if we’re looking at, we were talking about how every celebrity nowadays has a podcast, they have a lot more resources than the average person does in order to market and have greater reach for their podcast. Me, as someone who just kind of hit record and is trying to make it happen organically, I don’t have an advertising budget, I don’t have marketing people working to help me out. I’m doing this completely out of my own pocket. So in order for me to truly grow my audience, first comes making good content. No one’s going to listen past the first five minutes and get to any kind of ad that I put on it. If the content is not enjoyable and doesn’t speak to someone. Second of all, if I want to grow my audience, I’m going to need people who have been there from day one or got on very early to be actual advocates for my show. I’m not going to go on face, personally just because I can’t afford at this time, I’m not going to go on Facebook or Instagram and start doing advertising there. I’m going to be doing it through word of mouth. And in order to do that, I need to engage with the listeners that I have right now so that they’re going to take the time out of their day, not only to listen to one to two hours of podcast from me every single week. They’re going to go to their friends who have the same interest as them and tell them to listen to it. So some advice I would have for small podcasters starting out is to really find that good core and not be paying attention to the number of downloads each week. You’re going to notice that once you do your first episode, your mom, your friends, your dog, your grandma is going to listen to that first episode, then it’s going to plateau a little bit, go down, and if you can get consistency week to week with that same number of people, that means you’re doing something right, because then the likelihood that they’re going to advocate for your show and say to their friend, hey, this is really good, they have proven content. I think you should listen to it. That’s going to mean a lot more to them than you going on Instagram or Facebook and advertising, because, you know, at the end of the day, we’re fighting for people’s time for them to put their freaking headphones in their ears and listen to our stuff. And if we don’t have people advocating for us, we’re not going to get a larger audience. So in a roundabout way, what I’m trying is, I do plan on monetizing. And once that happens, I want to partner with companies that I believe in. I, as personally as someone who listens to tens of podcasts every week, I skip all the ads. So I think that’s an important thing. But I don’t want it to be disruptive to my content. And in order for me to do that, first, I have to really work out that vision first.

Daniela Perea:
Yeah, I think it’s really important, what you just said, like, I think that, like if you’re starting now, that’s got to be one of the least of your troubles. That’s not something you’re going to need to think about because you’re going to spend a lot of money.

Hayden Gray:
Sure!

Daniela Perea:
And you’ve got a first, as Hayden said, you’ve got to build a foundation.

Hayden Gray:
Right.

Daniela Perea:
So you can go and search for your partners, because in reality, if you’re selling because you’re selling trust.

Hayden Gray:
Sure.

Daniela Perea:
People that listens to you, it, it’s like your family. So you need to build that and give that to them.

Hayden Gray:
Yeah.

Daniela Perea:
It’s like respecting what they are there for.

Hayden Gray:
Absolutely. And I’ll tell you from my personal experience, the most successful podcast, in my eyes, are the ones that when I put them on every week, I feel as though I am chatting with my friends. And so that comes from creating a personal connection and also doing it not necessarily for money. If you are starting from scratch and you are doing it purely to make money, I hate to break it to you, but you’re probably going to be disappointed. I, I dealt with this when I was an actor and I wanted to make money as an actor and I’m doing it now as a podcaster. It’s very difficult for you to make money and the only way you’re going to do it when there’s the sea of people, I mean, I keep talking about it, but the industry is so bloated now with the kind of the large amount of money that is coming in from advertisers has attracted people, celebrities with far more reach than regular people like us. So if you are going to make a difference and you’re going to stand out, it has to be based on the content first.

Martín Acuña :
Yeah, absolutely. I agree. Well, Hayden, before we go, and on a last thought, what is your number one podcast hack or something you think people really need to know? Because you just said a really big thing about dealing with ads. Do you have any other thought in mind about things that people really need to know or maybe a podcasting hack that you’ve used?

Hayden Gray:
Yeah, so.

Daniela Perea:
Yeah, maybe drop some dimes here.

Hayden Gray:
Yeah, I do it every week, so I’ll go ahead and drop a few more! So personally, so I kind of learn from my first experience creating my first podcast and I use some of those lessons to develop Courtside Chats. One thing that I think is so important and I’m coming back to kind of the development stage is take some time to ask yourself some serious questions about one who you’re trying to reach, and that will also help you inform yourself what kind of niche you are trying to latch onto when you are starting your podcast, and there’s a few questions that I like to ask myself. First of all, what is this for? What is the reason I am starting this? Personally for me, let’s look at my second podcast. I was really happy with the work I was doing on my first, but I wanted to ask some different questions. I wanted to talk about things that I don’t think are talked about on ESPN every day or on the big traditional media market. So I said, OK, why am I starting this? Second of all, with that in mind, who is this going to appeal to? Like who is this for? And so I thought to myself, OK, I think this is for someone who when they turn on the TV and they hear people arguing about sports, they’re kind of disappointed because they want a little more nuance. They want something a little bit deeper when they talk about the things that they love. And so then I had an idea of who my audience was. And so from there, I was able to use that to inform how I designed my logo, I was able to use that and how I just introduced myself in the very first episode and from there sprouted 10 to 15 episode ideas just from doing those first few questions. So if you can ask yourself why you’re doing it, who’s it for, and figure out what niche you are trying to inhabit. You’re going to be fine, because once again, if you say I just want to start a basketball podcast and I want every single basketball fan in the world to listen to me, it’s not going to happen. You have to choose a very specific kind of person to do that. And if you do that to start, I think you’re set up for success in the future.

Daniela Perea:
Yeah. So I think that’s a great advice, first of all. So, guys, if you are listening to what Hayden is saying, just remember, you got to know who you’re talking to. That way, you’re going to start with the right foot and don’t do it for the money, at least not at the beginning, because you’re going to get disappointed. Yeah, do it because you want to, you want to make a difference and you want to take your genius out to the world.

Martín Acuña :
Hayden, we can thank you enough for being here. It’s been amazing. We will leave in our episode description the link of your two podcasts, because we want our listeners to know about your podcast, too. And if you’re a sports fan, go ahead and give Courtside Chats and Droppin’ Dimes a listen. Hayden, thank you so much for being here, it’s been a pleasure and an honor having you.

Hayden Gray:
Hey, I really appreciate it. It’s been a lot of fun. Thank you so much.

Smooth Podcast Outro:
Thanks for tuning in to the Smooth Podcast. Be sure to visit us at SmoothPodcasting.com and follow us on social media for resources, show notes, and all you want to know about podcasting.

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Key Take-Aways

  • Pivoting may be scary, but it can take you to whole new heights.
  • When starting a project, try to go deeper than what is already out there.
  • Allow yourself the time and breathing room to explore the concept of your project.
  • For a podcast to be successful, one has to balance the excitement of launching with planning.
  • Ask yourself the serious questions: What is your podcast for? Who are you trying to reach? What do you want to put out there? What’s your goal?
  • Don’t do things for the money. You’ll get disappointed.

Resources

Connect and follow Hayden on LinkedIn 

Listen to Droppin Dimes 

Listen to Courtside Chats  

Follow Hayden on Instagram 

Follow Hayden on TikTok

Follow the Smooth Podcast on Instagram 

Want to be featured in our podcast? Send us a message at martin@smoothpodcasting.com.