David Yontef of the Behind the Velvet Rope Podcast: Be a Fan and Have Fun to Create a Bingeable Podcast
As part of my series of interviews about “5 things you need to know to create a very bingeable podcast”, I had the pleasure of interviewing reality TV and pop culture connoisseur David Yontef.
David is a superfan of reality stars, ‘Bravolebrities’ and celebs. He’s since turned his fandom into friendship, appearing in scenes with ‘Real Housewives’ across franchises, rubbing shoulders with them at countless events, and even making their “main feeds” on Instagram. His popular podcast, Acast’s “Behind the Velvet Rope” is an inside look into his hobnobbing with the stars behind our screens and rise from superfan to “super friend.” The show has grown massively since its creation in January of this year, appearing in the top 10 on Apple Podcasts, and has attracted guests like Patti Stanger of The Millionaire Matchmaker, Tamra Judge of Real Housewives of Orange County, Perez Hilton, Dr. Imani Walker of Married to Medicine, Heather & Terry Dubrow of ‘RHOC’ and Botched, and Scheana Shay of Vanderpump Rules, just to name a few.
David’s approachable and chatty demeanor welcomes his guests to open up and share the juicy tidbits that go on in their lives both on-screen and off. “Tea” spilled on “Behind the Velvet Rope” has been covered in news outlets like People, The Daily Mail, Life & Style, The Sun, Access Hollywood, Entertainment Tonight, Watch What Happens Live, and more.
Not only is David an expert in all things pop culture, but he also boasts a Juris Doctor degree in law, and is licensed to practice in both New York and Connecticut, making him a reliable and informed source on the intersection of law and entertainment. In his spare time, David loves to travel, having visited all seven continents and 55 countries. He currently resides in New York City.
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Can you tell us a bit of your “personal backstory? What is your background and what eventually brought you to this particular career path?
I have had a varied career prior to becoming the host of and starting the Behind The Velvet Rope Podcast. I graduated with a B.S. in Accounting and went to Law School. I practiced corporate tax law for a few years. If that doesn’t sound exciting, it was not. During that time I realized I wanted to go into HR and Recruiting, which I did. I eventually had my own Recruiting Agency, which I ran successfully for many years until it was time to move on.
Not knowing what I wanted to do next in my career, I decided to take some time off. I was always a huge fan of reality TV. / Real Housewives fan. I started really following it closely during this time off and quickly realized the “fan fare” surrounding these reality shows was fanatical. I personally didn’t understand the fans who spent all day talking about these shows from afar. I decided I would rather insert myself in the story and “set out” to befriend these reality “stars” and Real Housewives. I was successful and after months of hanging out with them — started to think of how I could turn my hobby into a business. After brainstorming a few ideas, I thought a Podcast would be the right vehicle to share my stories of what hanging out with these reality folks was really like.
Can you share a story about the most interesting thing that has happened to you since you started podcasting?
Since my podcast, Behind The Velvet Rope, is about what happens when the cameras stop rolling and what reality TV stars are really like, in real life, I am constantly meeting different pop culture and reality talent as I live my life and when I book them on my show. An hour on my show is a really personal up-close hour, so we can’t help but get to know each other during it. I leave each show with new friends — which sounds amazing and fun — but it is a lot of work also. My phone is 90% filled with Reality TV talent and once they realize you will respond, you get texts all day, every day, at all hours about every little drama going on in their lives. It’s fun, but I can seriously earn a degree in psychology with some of the situations I need to solve on a daily basis.
Can you share a story about the biggest or funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or takeaways you learned from that?
The biggest and non-funniest mistake I have ever made was uploading the wrong audio. I did this not only once, but twice. I can tell you it’s a mistake I will never make again. A podcast doesn’t automatically appear on Apple, Spotify etc. You need to upload it to a third-party site and release it for the world to hear. Well, twice I had an episode to release, for example, let’s just say I was going to release an interview with Khloe Kardashian, and the title of the episode was Khloe Kardashian, but I released another interview with say Kim Kardashian. Luckily, I noticed my mistake quickly both times, but still, such a rookie mistake.
How long have you been podcasting and how many shows have you aired?
I have been the Host of Behind The Velvet Rope Podcast for approximately 9 months and have released around 80 episodes. I have had major growth rather quickly. My podcast benefited from quarantine. It was released twice a week prior to quarantine, which went to three and now, due to demand and a waitlist of A list reality TV and Pop Culture guests wanting to sit down with me, my show is released four times a week.
What are the main takeaways, lessons or messages that you want your listeners to walk away with after listening to your show?
I cannot tell you how often I receive a DM on Instagram with someone saying, I really like that particular person that you interviewed more now that I listened to your show. I didn’t like that person on TV based on how they were edited but hearing their story first hand on your podcast, now I really like them. I am not saying you have to like every guest I have on. I don’t necessarily like every guest I have on either but I want to let each person tell their own story and then the audience and listener can decide for themselves. Good, bad or indifferent — I present the person off camera — what they are really like. Sometimes they are exactly what you expected and oftentimes, much different.
In your opinion what makes your podcast binge-listenable? What do you think makes your podcast unique from the others in your category? What do you think is special about you as a host, your guests, or your content?
My podcast is in the TV and Film category. The genesis for how it started was based on my friendships with many Reality TV Stars and Real Housewives. It is an insider’s view looking out. That said, even with access “Behind The Velvet Rope” I am and will always also be a fan. I think it’s possible to be both. As an insider looking out, I am always watching what my famous Reality Friends and Housewives are doing while we are having fun and anything they can be reported on back to my audience. As a fan, when I sit down and conduct all these interviews, I ask the questions the listers REALLY want answers to. Those aren’t always the easy questions to ask but since I know a lot of the talent I am interviewing they feel safe and relaxed and I often get the answers I need for my audience.
Doing something on a consistent basis is not easy. Podcasting every work-day, or even every week can be monotonous. What would you recommend to others about how to maintain discipline and consistency? What would you recommend to others about how to avoid burnout?
My best advice to avoid burnout is to have fun, ignore the competition and don’t focus too much on the results. First off, this isn’t brain surgery so let’s have some fun. For anyone who has decided to start a podcast, it has to be, in part, to have fun. Do not lose sight of that. Second, there are a lot of Podcasts out there. Don’t get too caught up in the competition. Think of what sets your show apart and stay true to that. There is only one you and every other show cannot be exactly similar to yours because this is the one you are the host of. Finally, do the work and the results will come. It’s hard not to check your place in the iTunes Chart, your analytics of how many downloads per episode you have and subscribers you have, but my best advice is to lay off that. Just focus on putting out a great product that the audience loves and the numbers and accolades will come.
What resources do you get your inspiration for materials from?
My inspiration comes from a bunch of Reality Stars and Real Housewives acting a fool. Really my subject matter is the gift that keeps on giving.
Is there someone in the podcasting world who you think is a great model for how to run a really fantastic podcast?
Me. All ego aside, me. I had no idea what I was doing when I started. I didn’t know what an RSS feed was, how to release shows, what was needed for listeners and so on. I really subscribe to that whole fake it til you make it motto. I tend to learn by doing rather than by being taught. So I just turned on the mic, started talking, and the rest is history. Of course, there is more to it than that and there were many steps in between but I just kind of figured it all out as I went along and it all kinda worked out. I think a common mistake people make is planning too much before then hit record. Have a general plan, subject matter, content and then just record
What are the ingredients that make that podcast so successful? If you could break that down into a blueprint, what would that blueprint look like?
I had a clear concept — I would talk about the shenanigans that arose from hanging out with The Real Housewives and other reality TV talent when the cameras were not rolling. Things that the average person doesn’t have access to but should find interesting. I would also interview Housewives and Reality Talent that I am friends with and broaden that list to interview other Reality TV celebs. Once I had that clear concept, I researched my competitors and realized that NO ONE else was doing this in a podcast form let alone any other form. When I realized I was bringing something unique to the marketplace, I didn’t see how I could fail. It was just Business 101.
Can you share with our readers the five things you need to know to create an extremely successful podcast?
1) Clear Concept — I would talk about the shenanigans that arose from hanging out with The Real Housewives and other reality TV talent when the cameras were not rolling. Things that the average person doesn’t have access to but should find interesting. I would also interview Housewives and Reality Talent that I am friends with and broaden that list to interview other Reality TV celebs.
2) Once you have a clear concept — Research your competition. What sets you apart? If your idea is already being done? How is your show unique to your competitors? If it isn’t, find some way to make it stand apart. I researched my competitors and realized that NO ONE else was doing this in a podcast form let alone any other form. When I realized I was bringing something unique to the marketplace, I didn’t see how I could fail. It was just Business 101.
3) Have content stored before beginning. Ever worry about not having enough content once you announce to the world, “hey, I started a Podcast.” Have some shows banked. You never want to be in the situation where it’s time to put out a show and you are running around desperate to create content so always have “filler” shows banked so you have a pool to choose from if your content is low that week — have creators block etc.
4) Consistency — I cannot stress this point enough. If your podcast comes out once a week on Wednesday at 9am then put it out once a week at 9am. An audience loves consistency. Also if your shows are always 45 minutes to an hour — they should always be approximately 45 mins to an hour. A lot of Podcasters I see put a show out a week then have a 3-week gap then put out two shows. You will never build a loyal consistent following that way and it is impossible to grow an audience like that. Further, I see Podcasters who have a 29 min show one week then a four-hour show the next week. That makes no sense. Whether you release 1, 2 or if you are insane like me to do 4 shows a week, consistency is key. Also, if your subject matter is Real Housewives and Reality TV, stick to it. The more specialized the show, the easier it is to build a loyal audience that will grow.
5) Remember this is an audience listening — a LOT of Podcasts I listen to are self-indulgent — the hosts are having a good time, getting drunk, chatting after everything and anything under the sun but at the end of the show, they say nothing. Unless that is your Concept, a Drunk Rambling Podcast about nothing, which could be a great hit, remember there is an audience listening and they are the ones who need to be entertained if you want to turn this into a real business.
Check out the full interview in Tracy Hazzard’s Authority Magazine article with David Yontef!
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1) Book Great Guests. More is more. I always assume someone will say no or never get back to me. That isn’t the case but I don’t think that’s a bad thing to assume. With booking guests, more is more. I would reach out to anyone and everyone you would like to have on your show. Worst case scenario they all say yes and you don’t have the time to interview them all.
Also, I recommend reaching out to someone in all ways possible. On social media, via email and through any representation they have, simultaneously.
2) Increase Listeners. The best way to increase listeners is consistent content, releasing a consistent show in terms of time, subject matter and length of the show. Keep your show interesting and current.
3) Produce In A Professional Way. Ensure sound quality. A little background noise is ok and in the age of COVID, we have all had to adjust to Zoom recordings and WiFi issues and technology glitches. Your audience will forgive you for minor issues but in general, make sure the sound quality is good so people can hear all that great content.
4) Encourage Engagement. Engage. When you are trying to grow a show I recommend, now sit down, answering as many comments on your Instagram, Tweets, Facebook (if anyone even uses Facebook anymore) Messages, Instagram DMs and so on. These are your listeners. Without then, as I always say, I would just be a crazy person with voices in my head. There are only 24 hours in a day, but, that said, answer as many listeners as possible on social media.
5) Monetize Your Show. The best way to monetize, in the beginning, is advertisements. Look into outside Ad Sales Reps and websites you can become a part of. Also the Podcast network you are on, if you are on should also be able to help with this.
Also, there is Patreon where, once you have built an audience, you can put special bonus episodes for your listeners and charge a certain price per month if they want to listen. Those episodes should be different than your regular RSS Podcast feed to entice listeners to pay to listen.
What makes your podcast binge-listenable? What do you think makes your podcast unique from the others in your category? What do you think is special about you as a host, your guests, or the content itself?
Check out the full interview in Tracy Hazzard’s Authority Magazine article with David Yontef!