Maximum Fun has become a worker-owned cooperative, and we wanted everyone to get a chance to get to know the new worker-owners a little more. From the producers of your favorite shows to the people who work behind-the-scenes to keep the lights on, nine worker-owners very graciously shared some of their thoughts about the network, our transition to a cooperative, and the future of art and media as a field.
What was your reaction when you first learned that MaxFun was becoming a cooperative?
Palmira Muñiz (Producer, has worked at MaxFun for 7 months): When I heard about MaxFun becoming a cooperative, I was even more excited to join the team early this year. Starting a new job at a company is risky because you don’t really know the work culture until you’re fully in it, but that piece of info gave me a peace of mind.
C.N. Josephs (Communications Specialist, 4 years): Honestly, I was a little nervous at first—I had seen other companies that billed themselves as “worker-owned” as a PR move without actually giving their workers any real ownership or say over the company, and I was worried the same thing would happen here. But as time has gone on and I’ve seen our bylaws and what our structures will look like, I’ve grown more and more excited. Now, I’m thrilled to be a worker-owner at MaxFun.
Marissa Flaxbart (Producer, 2 years): Excitement, pride, and gratitude. I feel like we’re putting our money where our mouth is in a way that no one really even expected of us.
Christian Dueñas (Producer/Editor, 8 years): Honestly, at first I was a little confused. I never really considered that a podcast network can be a co-op or that an existing company can transition into a co-op. After getting my head around that it made a lot more sense with our business model and the changing landscape of podcasting in general
Kira Gowan (Ad Operations Specialist, 6 years): I was excited; I thought it was a cool direction for us to go in, and that it seemed like it made a lot of sense based on who we are as a company.
Julian Burrell (Producer, 7 years): I was extremely excited! I was pleased to hear that my job was safe and that we had a chance to do something really cool at a time when the industry was experiencing a lot of bad news.
Laura Swisher (Senior Producer, 7 years): I was proud to work for a company that lived up to its values, and placed more importance in the workers and artists that built it than sheer profit.
Richard Robey (Producer, 2.5 years): At first I was a little curious. I had heard of cooperative grocery stories and REI, but I wasn’t too familiar with how they worked and how it would work with our company. At first I wasn’t sure what to expect, but then we began to have out meetings with Project Equity and I started to learn more about co-ops and I got excited!
April Pendergraft (Director of Development and Membership, 3.5 years): I was excited and impressed! I felt really grateful to work somewhere where this could be an option.
What does it mean to you to be a worker-owner at a cooperative media company?
Palmira (Producer): It’s empowering to be a worker-owner, especially at a media company. There is very little space in the industry that gives agency to workers, so to be a part of this means that it is possible to balance out power evenly.
C.N. (Communications Specialist): As a writer and artist, I’m increasingly concerned by the way that major corporations are using their chokehold on the creative industry to strangle the life out of innovative art, particularly when that art centers around marginalized experiences. I firmly believe that worker- and artist-owned models are one of the best ways to combat this. It means a lot to me to be able to take part in this.
Marissa (Producer): One key word there is “media.” For the past year or more, we’ve been Slacking headlines to each other about newsroom layoffs, podcast corporation canceling huge swaths of their slates, media strikes, and more. But for us, this isn’t a case of employees at a company trying to read tea leaves about our own job security. Each example of corporations and VCs failing their workers is another reminder that we are a part of a company that’s trying to get it right—to make great shows while highly valuing our people and growing our business. On a day-to-day level, the sense of job security is empowering. Big-picture, it feels like a step toward a better world, and hopefully an inspiration to other media companies.
Christian (Producer/Editor): It makes me feel motivated to be more in the broader picture and long term success and goals of the company. It feels good, but there is still so much we don’t know so it’s a little scary, but the excitement and pride I have in us outweighs that anxiety lol.
Julian (Producer): It means that we get to have more of a direct voice and influence over my work on a macro scale rather than just my own little corner of it. It means that my incentive to create quality work isn’t just influenced by fear of losing my job, but by wanting to see the company that I have a stake in be successful.
Laura (Senior Producer): Working at a cooperative media company means that I have agency in choosing what types of shows we bring to the network, as well as the individual hosts and creators, as well. It also means I’m able to take more time and care working with creative people to bring an idea to life that might not be viable at another podcast company. In short, it means I have much more independence than I would if I worked elsewhere.
Richard (Producer): For me it means that I will have a seat at the table when it comes to discussions about the future of the company and the opportunity to share my thoughts and ideas with the rest of the MaxFun Team. It also means that I’m a part of a team of people who are all on the same level and all working together to help the company evolve and be successful. It also means that I own a part of the work that I am creating and sharing with the world which is really cool to me.
April (Director of Development and Membership): It means that I have ownership over my work. It makes me feel like I have more of a say in the company’s future, and as someone who strongly believes in the ethos of MaxFun, that’s really comforting. It also means I feel even more secure in my future with MaxFun. Sometimes when a company comes under new management it can change things for the worse–but we *are* the new management, and I have a lot of faith in all the people I work with to carry on the values we all treasure about MaxFun as a community.
What’s your favorite thing about working at Maximum Fun?
Palmira (Producer): I love working at Maximum Fun because everyone’s kind, professional, and knowledgeable 🙂
C.N. (Communications Specialist): MaxFun is the most queer-friendly place I’ve ever worked. It’s not just that I can be out as trans*, but that I can talk freely about my gender and even my cis straight coworkers will gladly participate in the discussion in a way that’s really welcoming and supportive.
Marissa (Producer): I get to meet and work with amazingly talented and interesting people all the time. Beyond my smart, funny co-workers, there are the hosts of my shows, who’ve become a big part of my life; the hosts of other excellent shows on the network; the incredible guests I get to book for my shows, from film critics to puppeteers to acclaimed directors; and the audience who love and support our shows—a group I was already a part of before I worked here.
Christian (Producer/Editor): My coworkers without a doubt. It’s one of the only places I’ve worked at where I actually really like everyone that I work with. Our Slack channels rule.
Kira (Ad Operations Specialist): The community—working with the greatest team, and also having an audience community of kind, thoughtful folks.
Julian (Producer): The smaller size of the work place and the fact that we can focus on more than just the bottom line or how big our reach is or trying to appeal to advertisers.
Laura (Senior Producer): Our Slack channels are top notch. Whether you want to talk turkey (#laregionlunchclub), pets (#Awww), breaking news (#BreakingNews), or have a technical question (#production), there’s a Slack channel for you that will meet your needs.
Richard (Producer): One of my favorite things at Maximum Fun is the the community that we share. Amongst staff, talent and our members. Never have I worked in an environment like this where I felt truly accepted and a part of a community that actually seems to care about everyone that’s a part of it. It’s powerful and makes being an employee at MaxFun special.
April (Director of Development and Membership): Since I began working here I have been treated as a person first, which can be rare for employers. I feel trusted and empowered to use my skills and knowledge to do my job well. I also love that the team I work with are always trying to make decisions that are most compassionate and beneficial to each other, the shows, and people in our community. And I truly enjoy knowing that what I do helps artists continue making shows that make people happy. I guess that’s several favorite things!
What do you think the future of MaxFun will look like now that we’re a worker-owned co-op?
Palmira (Producer): I see MaxFun expanding, possibly touching on different media formats alongside podcasting.
C.N. (Communications Specialist): I think our future is bright. I think that there are a lot of good things coming. MaxFun has always been dedicated to uplifting artists and helping our communities, and I think that being a worker-owned co-op is going to give us even more opportunities to do that.
Marissa (Producer): Is it bad to say that I don’t think it will be much different? I mean it as a compliment—I think this ethos has already been a part of our company, and we are a very self-starting bunch without an arcane hierarchy of big-bosses to go through to make things happen. But I do think that even more cool things can happen now that we’ll have a board of employees all putting their heads and voices together to brainstorm new ideas for our collective future.
Christian (Producer/Editor): This is an impossible question to answer! I really do not know. All I can say is that I hope we can do this well and inspire other companies to follow.
Kira (Ad Operations Specialist): I’m excited to find out!
Julian (Producer): I imagine that we’ll probably have a lot more meetings. As we should! But I also hope that we’ll also regularly assess what goals we have both for the co-op as a whole and our individual work and shows. And then we put plans in place to do everything we can to achieve those on our own and be supported by the network in that pursuit.
Laura (Senior Producer): Bright.
Richard (Producer): I think I’m still getting an idea of what the future might look like now that we’re a co-op. I’m still learning about how our co-op structure works and what will come from that. But I’m hopeful that we continue to grow together as a community and company and inspire other companies out there to do the same.
April (Director of Development and Membership): I think you might see us try a lot of new weird wonderful things, all in the spirit of bringing more joy and kindness into the world. And, I think it will look very similar to what you’ve come to count on now! Each of my colleagues brings a unique perspective to the company, and we are all MaxFunsters, too.
What are your hopes for the future of art and media as a field?
Palmira (Producer): I hope to see ACTUAL and TANGIBLE proof of real DEI in media as a whole.
C.N. (Communications Specialist): I hope that artists can take our art back from corporations. I hope that people start shifting their financial support away from major corporations and towards small organizations and independent artists. I hope more people give art a chance even when it isn’t produced by a company they already know. I hope that everyone who wants to be an artist gets a chance to make the art they want, how they want it, without censorship.
Marissa (Producer): My belief is that art isn’t art unless there is a real human (or humans) behind it. So my hope is that the humanity of art and the human need for art—and for other humans—will be more appreciated and celebrated as our ability to connect with individual artists and communities of artists continues to expand.
Christian (Producer/Editor): I just want people to have some kind of creative outlet. That’s my hope. If it’s part of your job, that’s great! If you do it on the side on the weekends or when you have free time, that’s great too! Make a beat or write a poem or throw some clay or take a photo or knit a scarf or edit a video or whatever!
Kira (Ad Operations Specialist): More people-powered media! Especially right now, I think we’re all realizing the importance of empowering creators.
Julian (Producer): I really hope that we’re getting away from the era of podcasting that was dominated by rich people investing in something and expecting an immediate return without doing the work for it. I want us to get back to the era of people creating shows carefully and intelligently that speak to an audience that’s ready to be served.
Laura (Senior Producer): I hope we continue to prove that art and artists are important and worthy of support.
Richard (Producer):I hope that more artists and creators are able to benefit from the work and ideas that they have played part in creating. And I think that this can be possible in a cooperative model where workers can also be owners.
April (Director of Development and Membership): I would really like to see labor directly and indirectly involved in making art become valued appropriately. Art is one of the most important things people can spend their time on, as it allows us to connect with each other, build compassion, and experience joy. I feel that putting the ownership of the work involved in art back into the hands of folks doing that work, such as in a cooperative model, is the best way to ensure people can continue to make meaningful art.