Catch PJ Pedroni on the #PirateBroadcast
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Welcome to the #PirateBroadcast, where we interview #interestingpeople doing #interestingthings. Where you can expand your connections, your community, #kindnessiscool and #smilesarefree. Let’s get this party started.
Russ Johns 0:21
I'm so excited. I'm so excited to be here today, because we're going to throw the Wayback Machine on. I'm going to interview and have a conversation with somebody that I have known for a few years. It's amazing to me to see how relationships can actually develop and go quiet sometimes and then all of a sudden reappear, because PJ and I have known each other for I'm guessing 30 years, PJ.
PJ Pedroni 0:47
Russ Johns 0:48
I just want to thank you for being here. The #piratebroadcast is all about #interestingpeople doing #interestingthings and you've always been in that niche, and it caused a little bit of a challenge, ups and downs, all of that stuff. So thank you so much for being here, PJ, how you doing?
PJ Pedroni 1:08
I'm doing well, man, thanks for having me. This is kind of crazy. I was thinking about it. Actually, the other day, we used to do this before even podcasting was a thing. I'm not a morning person, as you know, but I would come by the IT studio at the Ackerly Group, and we would sit and chop it up like this over the first cup of coffee in the morning, before I'd have to go and take on my sales duties, right?
Russ Johns 1:32
Yeah, no kidding. No kidding. You know, it's funny, because those formative years really helped us develop some of the skills we've used our entire life. That was a real, amazing testing ground for a lot of things, a lot of challenging times, a lot of exciting times. When we were there, I often tell people about the transition and how it developed and how printing developed and how it evolved and changed. You're still in the outdoor business right now doing a few things with the organization, right?
PJ Pedroni 2:09
Yeah, that's right. I work for a company called Outdoor Link and we support outdoor companies, with a out of band timing system that we have, that allows them to sort of set their lights from a distance. But yeah, I mean, I've been around the business. almost my entire career. I took a couple of left turns, which I'm sure we'll talk about today, but it's amazing how much the industry has changed and how much it's stayed exactly the same. We heard it for years, we still hear it now that it's a dying industry, or that the new things coming along are really targeting mobile, or everybody's targetinging...Google AdWords was a thing 15 years ago, right? And then everybody's worried about it. But what continues to survive, is the outdoor business. It's the billboard companies that just keep flourishing. I remember, they used to say that it gets in your blood. When I was young and up and coming, and the old guard guys would tell you, you know, it gets in your blood, and you'll be here forever. It's kind of true. I mean, I feel like every time I've tried to get out of the industry, something's pulled me back in and the most successful years I've had have been in and around billboards. It's crazy.
Russ Johns 3:24
Yeah, well, I have to say, it sure changed my life. It took me two years to recover from falling off a billboard. Even though it was a challenging time in my life, it's still that whole episode at the Ackerly Group, AK Media. All of those evolutions that I had within the organization really made a difference in my life and it's life impacting forever. I suspect it's the same example for you because you're still in the industry, billboards are still a thing, people are still buying them. The way we approach them I'm sure is different; however, advertising in media and all of the things that go along with it, the psychology of the message, and everything that goes along with it, is essentially the same people still want to know what's going on in a billboard is an essential part of that.
PJ Pedroni 4:33
Yeah, totally, and with the advent of digital at home and programmatic buying and all the things that people can do nowadays it's, I mean, the industry is just so strong, and look what survived during COVID times. All of those companies got to keep doing business because the messages that they needed to get out and restaurants were still open or they were serving food to go or whatever it was. You really see how closely they're tied with the fabric of our communities, you know? So it does make a lot of sense. I feel like I'm doing a commercial for the outdoor industry, but it's true. You're right, those years for me, really sort of helped shape who I would become because I never wanted to be a salesperson in my life. I never thought that it was even something I would consider doing. I grew up in a small family run delicatessen, ironically, in Northern California, and the sales guys would come in and talk to my dad and they'd laugh and joke, and they'd always have the great jokes. They'd leave and I'd say, I really like Tom and my dad would say, yeah, but he's just a sales guy. He's paid to do that. So, that, as a kid, was how I viewed salespeople. It was just somebody that wasn't real. It was just just all made up and manufactured. So when I became a salesperson, because that's just kind of naturally my personality, I was fearful of it for years and hated telling people that that's what I did for a living, but then as I grew and as my experience grew and I got to really do cool stuff. I did really cool stuff at Ackerly, but then, as we went to Clear Channel, I got to do some even neater stuff with my Time Square things that I did. Taking a brand that was a local brand here and go national with it, it became sort of really cool for me. Then I saw how my mind worked and how I could grow that on a national stage.
Russ Johns 6:51
It's interesting how a little turn of events can expand your experience, and really make a difference and change how you feel about things, because it's really about, using your accumulated experience to achieve better results over time. You left the industry for a little period of time because you've always been you, you and I've been much alike, you always have something else going on on the side, whether it be music. I remember sitting in my apartment, down in downtown Seattle, and hacking around on music, I think it was more me trying to put something together, but it was a lot of great times. You actually took that to the next level. You've been an entrepreneur and you did a startup, actually.
PJ Pedroni 7:44
Russ Johns 7:45
I'm fascinated about that story. I want to share that. I know you have a lot of good stories around that. I really haven't dug into it at all, so I kind of like to have you share that journey and kind of outline some of the challenges and some of the things.
PJ Pedroni 8:06
Yeah, the reason why I stay up at night, is that what you're trying to get at now? So yeah, it was kind of two faceted, really. My first left turn out of the outdoor business was, I mentioned before I grew up in and around restaurants and a delicatessen. So I took a left turn initially to open a chain of dueling piano bars. Our own dueling piano bars in Seattle, and eventually had three restaurants. That was very successful. I did that for eight plus years. When my daughter Stella was born, I realized I needed to be a dad. I needed to be home. So I sold my interest in the restaurant and came back into media and was doing more on the buying side of things and did that for a few years. While I was working at Westfield, ironically, learning sort of digital engagement and, and that kind of thing, I came up with an idea for a music sharing app because there wasn't such a thing at the time. Stil, no one's actually solved for the exact problem that I believe we solve for. The idea was very simple. It was just being able to take a licensed version of the song that you love, and being able to share it. one to one or one to many, You can send it via text message or on your social platforms, or whatever the case was. YouTube existed, but who has time if you're not a teenager, right? Who has time to go through all those different YouTube versions of a particular song to find the one that you know you're looking for that you want to share with a friend or with a loved one or whatever, because you're absolutely right. Music tells our stories and is the thing that brings us back to those moments. So, a really close friend of mine was a programmer, and he was an Executive Vice President at Microsoft and had just left. He had learned how to code on on iOS, so I told him the idea and, and we started working on it together. Two years later, we'd raised like three and a half million and had record label deals done, had the same catalog that Spotify had and, and launched this thing. I mean, it was a ride, man, it was some of the highest highs, some of the lowest lows, you know, all in the same thing. I always joke, I say, if you Google my name, the first thing that pops up is a article about me in Fortune Magazine. That and five bucks gets me a cup of coffee at Starbucks. Because we're close, but we weren't able to pull it completely over the line. Timings, everything, right? You have to learn so much, even those failures. For a while, it really slowed me down because I was so close and I thought, yeah, we got something, and then we didn't, and then to think of yourself as as a failure, to think of the idea didn't make it right. So, it's hard, it takes a minute to sort of recover from that, but, I did and took away so many lessons. It made me just even that much stronger.
Russ Johns 11:30
Yeah, I know, I remember the app. I was, like, a little silent cheerleader on the side and watching it evolve, especially being a musician and having been in the music industry long before the internet was there and watching some of the music and the musicians and how it's evolved over time. It's like a lot of musicians, they really don't have a platform like they used to have when I was growing up in music. We would play live. I played live for every night for seven years. It's almost inconceivable to do that now. There might be the venues around, but they're not the same kind of venues that I've seen recently. So in music, a lot of music is online. Now, there's a lot of artists doing some amazing creative things. It would be really nice to be able to share that with your friends and have an app that does that as well, so it's almost as if it was too soon. You planted the seed and now, it's happening in a little different way, obviously, and then with Spotify growing, it's amazing to watch these platforms, Amazon's getting in the game, Spotify, Apple has always been there. There's some very big players now that it'd be a challenge to break into, I think.
PJ Pedroni 13:02
What's interesting is, here's an interesting little snapshot of the timing, right? All the things you mentioned, didn't exist, whenever we came up with the idea for for the app. The way that people were streaming music at the time was Pandora. Pandora was sort of a set it and forget it experience. You like the Beatles so we chose the Beatles channel, and then you'd go and you had no choice over what was playing, there was no sort of on demand, right? Then Apple Music didn't even exist at the time. I mean, we were still paying 99 cents to download a song, right. This was in 2012-2013, not that long ago. In comparison, there was no such thing as Netflix, or any of that kind of stuff when we first started, or it was just maybe, sort of taking off. But there was not the breadth of services that we have now. The second phase of what we were going to do had nothing to do with music, it was all about streaming media on TV, which I still think would be very, very relevant today. Because you and I and every one of the people listening or watching this pirate radio broadcast has a different way of how they consume media, right? I mean, you might be a Netflix person, I'm an Apple TV guy, somebody else could be a Hulu person, whatever, but we all have our series that we watch. And that's what everybody's talking about. Now, when they're getting into the zoom conversations like, hey, what's everybody watching? I just finished a great series called X and then it's like, oh, what's that on, you know? Do I have a subscription to that or do I not, right? So, it would have been cool to be able to sort of solve that problem for people too.
Russ Johns 15:00
Absolutely. I love the idea. I love the idea. In fact, when I come across something like on YouTube, and I haven't had an actual t television since 1995, it's like, it's just not what I do. I'll binge watch on Netflix or Hulu or a platform like that. It's only once in a while, it's infrequently, just when I need to decompress and not really think about anything. However, the majority of my watch time, my screen time is on YouTube, learning something. That's my mode, but it's not everybody's mode. It's like, okay, this is really cool. I want to learn how to do this. The information is available, and it's easy to share now. So now it's like, how do I share from platform to platform? How do I navigate that, share with my friends and create a community? So there's a lot of things that I'm thinking about. Now, I want to kind of shift gears here, PJ, because you're son, Sam, who is an amazing individual, we connected or reconnected through Frank Podany. So Frank and I are going back and forth online and Frank goes, hey, have you seen this video for Sam? It's like, holy cow. If you have any problems, you just talk to your son.
PJ Pedroni 16:37
Yeah, so Sam's eight, as you know. We started this thing, or he started this thing, earlier this year, where he basically...the story goes, he found some money that was given to him by one of his grandparents, which he had lost. He just let it go, or whatever in his room and then found it one day. So for like, a week, he was in my ear, hey, Dad, what, what should I spend this 40 bucks on? I've been looking at Amazon and I want this sticker pack or I want that. It's no different than when we were kids and we'd go to the grocery store with our parents and kick and scream over a box of Captain Crunch, except he's got Amazon at his fingertips. So he's always buying something, he wants a resin kit to make jewelry or whatever it is, right? So I said to him, man, you've got to save money, you've got to learn to save money. So we were having this conversation for three or four days. Finally, I said to him, you know what, I'll make you a challenge. If you can put $200 in your bank account between now and the day before your birthday in November, I'll match dollar for dollar, whatever you have. But you've got to come up with an idea and you've got to do it on your own, because I'm not just going to give you money.
Russ Johns 17:52
Which was a brilliant idea.
PJ Pedroni 17:54
Well, the brilliant idea is what he came up with to do. So his sister had this lemonade stand that had been been around in the family for years and years and years. We were doing a pop up mask sale every Saturday because my ex wife came up with this phenomenal idea to make masks for people. She was doing it originally for her health care friends and it grew into a business because the demand was so big. You couldn't buy masks anywhere for the longest period of time. So she was getting really cool fabric and making these cool designs, so we were doing this thing on Saturdays. Anyway, one Saturday, Sam rolls up the lemonade stand. He had gotten this idea to do a life advice booth, so he sits at this lemonade stand, and there's a chair across from him. People come up, he charges them $1 and in the beginning, it was this novelty thing where people are like, wait, an eight year old's gonna give me life advice. Then they would sit down. I mean, he's almost a therapist, right? It's pretty crazy. He had started that weekend prior. I was sitting where I'm sitting now drinking a cup of coffee in the morning, just kind of chilling out and he comes in, he sits across from me and he says, My name is Sam Danger. I'm Dr. Sam Danger. Danger is actually his middle name. And he says, I'm the world's greatest therapist, and I'm here for your therapy session. I just looked at him and said, okay, I'll go with this for a minute. He had a pad of paper. His first question to me was, how are you feeling right now emotionally? And I'm like, who are you? Right? So I went with it and we would do this five or 10 minutes session. He took copious notes. Then later that day, I went back and I looked at the notes that he'd taken. I mean, it was like I was in therapy. He's had a really fun time with it and it's kind of gone viral to the point where three different news stories have been done on him. There was one on an evening magazine just recently. So a lot of people have seen it, a lot of people want to do Skype sessions with him now and all sorts of stuff. We haven't broken into the digital thing yet, but for those of you keeping track at home, he's raised over $500 in his bank account, so it's going to be a pretty hefty bill for me to match. So I gotta sell some extra units at work just to try to pay that bill. But it's been fantastic. He's always been that kid that comes up with really, really deep conversations all the time. It's been that way since he was a kid. Sometimes he'll ask me philosophical questions and I'll say to him, well, do you want to know what I believe? Or do you want to know what sort of mainstream thought is on it? And he'll say, oh and so then I have to give him sort of both angles, and then let him kind of come up with with what his own sort of ideals are, you know?
Russ Johns 21:11
Yeah. So hey, guess who's in the house?
PJ Pedroni 21:15
Russ Johns 21:15
Frank Podany, hey, gents. Frank, the man, the myth, the legend. so fantastic. We also have Paolo, from Italy, the pirates and Lori Knutsen. So hey, Gabriel, hello, my friend, Gabriel is back and saying hey, Lori, how's it going? Gabriel says Good morning, everyone. Hiett Ives says, on Network Texas Tomball. See y'all Monday. That has to be kind of refreshing to think that your son is thinking in those kinds of dimensions. You know, it's not a typical eight year old conversation that comes up and says, How are you feeling? emotionally?
PJ Pedroni 22:05
Totally, it is refreshing, especially, given the times that we're in right now. With all of the weirdness that's going on in the world, it's really cool to see somebody that's so youthful, you know, come up with those kind of thoughts. It just gives you hope, right? Because I think, for so many of us, we sat here for months going, what's going on? Is the the world ending tomorrow? Or which conspiracy theory to do you want to dive into today, but it is, it's incredible to see him and then it's all his thing. It's 100% authentic. I know Sam was gonna join you yesterday, but had become like, violently ill on Wednesday out of nowhere, like, he was fine. He was taking a test, got done and next thing you know, he was down for the count. He's fine now. He feels much better, just some little 24 hour bug or something went through him, but it was crazy. But yeah, we'll get him on here. He was really looking forward to doing it. You and I talked about it and I said, I don't want to be on with him when he does it. Because you'll get more out of him just talking to him than if I'm there or his mom's there or something because then he'll sort of lean on us.
Russ Johns 23:24
Yeah, it's amazing to think that we're all...I truly believe PJ, and you know, it's been part of my whole philosophy for decades is that we all have a gift, we just kind of have to unpack ourselves sometimes and figure out what that gift is because we all have something to deliver to the world. With your experience in the piano bars and music and all of the entertainment pieces of the puzzle and outdoor and the startup community, think of all the dimensions and how all of those relationships have been able to mesh together in a different way. You, as a result, have developed as an individual as a result of those relationships, and the gifts that you bring to the world. Now that Sam is involved, it's like another dimension of your life and it's crazy how it evolves and expands as you look back and say, wow, yeah, that did happen.
PJ Pedroni 24:28
Oh, it's true. You think about the successes and the failures and sometimes it's through those failures or through tragedy or through, you know, something that really sort of uncovers that gift that you have or the thing that really your core value, your core fabric that you're able to bring to the world. I think it's so important to embrace that and once you can identify it and work on it, because you have to hone it. It's like any other skill. You're not just an amazing musician overnight, or you're not one of the world's best podcasters the day you start. You go through trials and tribulations and you stay at it, but I think as long as you stay true to what's in your heart, then you can't help but be a success. It takes some time to grind it out, but, look at all the people that told you that you couldn't do something. If you truly love it, and you stay with it, then that's who you become.
Russ Johns 25:33
Yeah, it's interesting, because I've been promoting this idea that you are the media now, you know, with it with the Internet, and, you know, live streaming, and podcasting, and everything else. I've been teaching podcasting for six, seven years now. And I really love the idea that anyone with a voice and a message that wants to put it out there can create their channel, create an audience, and it doesn't have to be a huge audience, you know, you don't have to be howard stern or, or Joe Rogan to to have your level of success and have a quality life, you can actually put quality information out there, generate some revenue, and enjoy life. You know, it's it's about how do you spend your days? How do you feel about the day that you're spending? And are those close enough to make you happy and comfortable in life and feel good about what's going on? So those are some things that I like to consider and share.
PJ Pedroni 26:36
I think of that philosophy, or that view, seems to be an older person's mentality, right? Because we go through, or at least I always thought it was, we go through life and then you kind of get to the point where we are now where you're like, yeah, you know what, I'm on the downhill slide. So why would I do anything? That's not what I love. Right? But I think kids like Sam and the millennials have kind of already adapted that, so they're not waiting until they're 50. They're doing it at 20. They don't drive, they don't live close to where they're going to work, and they walk and they have community and they have, those things that took a lot of us a long time to sort of figure out and so that's another thing that sort of inspires me for the future. I think people are figuring it out a lot sooner. Somebody asked them the other day, in one of those videos, I think the one you saw where he said, what advice do you need today? And they said, well, I want to follow my dreams, but some people don't want me to because I'd have to spend money to follow my dreams. Without hesitation, he said, you absolutely need to follow your dreams, because why would you want to live your life doing something you don't want to do? You know? So many of us took jobs or did things that we didn't want to do because we felt like we had to make money or we had to pay rent, or we had to do this or that. So, it's pretty real, you know?
Russ Johns 28:15
Well, and I think for myself growing up, there was a certain criteria that you followed, and I think, depending on what period of life you're going through, it's like, my mother wanted me to go to college. She wanted me to go to college. I tried it, it didn't take. The only thing I wanted to do is be a musician. Yeah, I played music. I played music for years. I did. I had a great life. There are periods of time where I would go skiing in the daytime and play music in the night. I had a car and a house and it was like, everything was great. I had a place to live, a thing to drive. I got from point A to point B and that's as much as I ever wanted. So we have these ideas and then you think okay. Well, you get married, you have kids, you have a house, you have a job and all these things. It's sometimes the American Dream turned into my American nightmare, you know, and it's like, okay, sure. This is not what I want to do and, like you said, some of the kids nowadays are going that's not what I want to do. I want to get more experience. I want to go explore, I want to travel, I want to see new things. My son's in that place right now. It's like he's doing a lot of different things. He has a job that allows him to do those things right now. I think he would quit the job if he found something that he wanted to do more.
PJ Pedroni 29:47
Yeah, Sam said that the other day, he said that he wanted to when he got older, after high school, he was going to buy an RV and drive it around the world. He said anything that sounds cool. I said, you know, maybe you should think about driving that RV around North America, maybe South America, right? Then you might have to fly a few places and he's like, no, no, I'm gonna drive the RV everywhere. Well, let's understand the world first before we decide where you're going to drive to, right. So you know it. It's cool, man.
Russ Johns 30:22
That's fantastic. So I just want to say Kenyatta says, good morning, wonderful people #piratebroadcast. Love you Kenyatta. Thank you so much for jumping in. Jill Sullivan, Chef Sullivan. She's an amazing individual. Thank you so much for jumping in Jill. Appreciate that. You know, PJ, we wrap it up out of time. It's been an amazing time reconnecting with you. I know that there's many more stories that we could share and talk about, I just really want to make sure that people understand that, Sam will be coming on in the future and we'll stay connected and have conversations as well. Also, where do people get ahold of you if they want to be able to purchase stuff, or they wanted to connect and just chat with you and talk about ideas or brainstorm or anything like that?
PJ Pedroni 31:19
Yeah, so I'm at outdoor link, you can find me on LinkedIn, that's the easiest way to do it. We do a lot of stuff for billboard companies, as we talked about. Also in the commercial space, and in the enterprise space, the same controllers, we use work there too. So really doing a lot of stuff. You can find me at OutdoorLink.com or, like I said, LinkedIn, Facebook, wherever. But I'd love to love to connect with people. I love seeing some of the names of people we've worked with in the past, obviously, Podany, he and I still kick it from time to time. But yeah, I'd love to hear from people. Man, I appreciate you having me on. We'll have to do it again. We should do it after you talk with Sam because, it'll be fun to kind of bookend that.
Russ Johns 32:08
We'll look at that in the future and have a great time. So don't go away everyone. As you know, thank you so much for being here on the #piratebroadcast. I love this thing five days a week, streaming to all these platforms up here. By getting here you don't Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, through Periscope and LinkedIn live as well. Also, as you know, #kindnessiscool, #smilesarefree and you #enjoytheday. Take care.
PJ Pedroni 32:39
Russ Johns 32:40
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