This post comes to us from Dave Vaughan, who is a passionate activist with a background in economics.
It’s 2020. You’ve probably received that “hey hun” emoji-filled Facebook message from a long forgotten friend. You might even be buying skincare, makeup or essential oils, or using an online shopping platform. Companies may try to steer clear of the negative label that is often attached to this type of predatory “opportunity” shilling, but in fact, it’s all just common practice in multi-level marketing (MLM) companies.
Don’t be ashamed if you’re not entirely aware of what this is — many are not. In fact, those in the business are often the ones least likely to have known what multi-level marketing was before they became involved. This needs to stop. A good way to educate others is to share a powerful method used by all these companies: the chain of distribution and personal stories. Lucky for us, podcasting is a totally innocent way of spreading this awareness without sacrificing friends (unlike what happens in MLMs).
So here’s my Top 10 List of podcasts (stand alone or series) that you will want to listen to on MLMs.
Don’t worry, The Dream Season 1 will be on this list, but I wanted to bring an important spotlight to a new podcast that just wrapped up. Stephanie Asymkos takes the story of three personal experiences with MLM in Illegal Tender, and partners it with experts whose names you will come across frequently in these podcasts (Rick Alan Ross, Robert Fitzpatrick, Doug M Brooks and Bill Keep). Asymkos does an excellent job breaking down many of the problems people have with these companies. Yahoo Finance has partnered with Cashay to deliver this important 2020 briefing on this problem which still persists over seven decades since it began. Stephanie is seen here promoting her new series: https://finance.yahoo.com/video/multi-level-marketing-schemes-hurting-215838298.html
#2 — On Belief: Episode 112 (MLMs with Sasha Zazzi & Katie Young, Rachel Lloyd and Fallon Morey)
Karen Geier runs a small platform with 16 minute episodes. It costs $5/month to unlock her full On Belief interviews on Patreon, but it’s worth bingeing all her content, in my non-expert opinion. She’s done some incredible interviews that circle the drain on undue influence; MLMs frequently get discussed. This particular episode specifically dissects the cult-like nature of MLMs and the “gobs of money” they promise. Sasha and Katie are founders of the Sounds Like MLM But OK podcast (more below). They give a great overview for Karen in this episode.
#3 — Hey Hun, You Woke Up!
The Recovering Hunbot, Alanda Carter, is a former Beachbody, self-proclaimed hun who has already scored a number of high profile interviews. An anthropologist by trade and already responsible for causing big waves in the coaching circle of MLM, listen for the unique perspectives she offers, and her learn-as-you-go audio experience on Hey Hun, You Woke Up. She’s had cult experts, psychologists, former members and other anti-MLM activists on her pod, which hosts new interviews every week. This is an important rather unknown podcast series that shows a great deal of promise. Be sure to check out her episode with Robert Fitzpatrick who goes through some of the origin stories of MLMs that will appear in his upcoming book Ponzinomics.
#4 — The Dream: Season 1
The Dream is the hit podcast from 2019 that really opened up the whole MLM topic on podcasts. In my view, it is essential listening for anyone interested in the world of MLMs. In 2012, the folks at NPR and This American Life did some great episodes on MLMs, entitled Wake Up Now. Perhaps this was the inspiration for what Jane Marie would eventually go on to produce and host. Now in its second season, which looks at dispelling the dream of wellness, the first season leaned hard into the culture found within MLMs and the promise of the American Dream. All 11 episodes and four bonus episodes of The Dream are bingeable — so what are you waiting for? I have to say it, the “sink water dripping” transition beat is an odd earworm.
#5 — IndoctriNation: Season 2, Episode 4 (Escape from NXIVM)
Coasting alongside the Uncover Season 1: Escaping NXIVM podcast is Rachel Bernstein’s IndoctriNation podcast. She is a family therapist who specializes in helping those who have been in cultic groups and relationships. She explores the topics of power and influence in her regular programming, and offers listeners important advice in resolving the issues that people often face long after being involved. Karen Geier, mentioned above, also interviewed her on the On Belief podcast. NXIVM is just about the worst kind of MLM you will find, so it’s good to be aware of how it operated in the hopes of preventing anything like it from affecting anyone else again.
#6 — Cult or Just Weird: Season 1, Episode 9/10 (Apples, Oranges & Roses)
Promising a regular running series on MLMs, Kayla and Chris dive into Chris’s mom’s experience as a Mary Kay rep, and seek to understand if there is a good MLM, or do they just operate with total indiscretion in our lives with our supposed consent and permission. Given Chris’s deep and caring relationship with his mom, it is a testament to how difficult it can be to say no to the ones we love, and be able to truly tackle the core issues of influence that innocently invade the lives of those we love.
#7 — The Anti-MLM Podcast
Perhaps the best named podcast in the bunch, this newbie just launched by Emma Rose is seeking to share all the personal stories of those involved in MLMs, and will conduct deep dives into MLM companies. It’s brand spanking new, but give it a listen and if you really like it, spot her some dough on Anchor to help develop her content and support her as a creator.
#8 — That’s a Cult?: Episode 2 (MLM Schemes)
There are few questions where no is almost ever a valid answer. Would you like another scoop of ice cream? Do you like the 45 year plan that will destroy your life and make you wish you spent more time with your kids? Do you enjoy British accents? If that’s an emphatic yes, then you gotta queue up the incredibly well-researched work of Helen McCarthy. She offered a balanced perspective and asked people to speak to one another. If you reach out to her, she’ll also recommend you listen to her Anti & Pro Vaccination episode that explores how to adopt this approach. Another important episode is her one on Law of Attraction, a feature found in most every MLM.
#9 — Sounds LIke MLM But OK
The ladies of Sounds LIke MLM But OK have taken a bit of a break, but it’s certainly well-deserved. They have served up a collection of 21 episodes which explore important aspects of MLM culture and business. They have a sense of humor that other podcasts play with, but the Katie and Sasha team really master in every episode. Definitely worth going through their full catalogue when you have a chance, and feel free to join their thriving Facebook community.
#10 — Building Fortunes Radio: Scott Johnson & Peter Mingils
This is a bit of a black goose on this list. It’s a radio show that also promotes friendly MLM content. If you want to wade into the waters of activism though, sometimes one must be willing to decide whether you will find friends who hold common enemies. Of course, I reference this knowing that this has caused great failures throughout history. This podcast is included here because I think it’s important you know it exists, and if it’s content you are at least interested in listening to, it’s there for you. If you are a regular listener, the intros will be repetitive, but each Sunday the two hosts cover all the news related to MLMs, usually sourced from a website like behindmlm.com. If you’ve never heard of “tool scams” before, please let us warn you, you’ll be an expert after just a few shows. All this is to say that Peter and Scott do a great job, they just won’t be for everyone.
BONUS: The Stakes: A History of Persuasion (Part 1–3)
Kai Wright and Amanda Aronczyk explore what gave us the tools used and found in MLM marketing. It is actually linked to CIA research done on Korean War veterans who were detained as war prisoners by Chinese Communists. They wanted to understand why the veterans had lost their view of American exceptionalism, and had become so indoctrinated in the communist belief system, in such a short time. There is some really funky stuff here. Have a listen and let me know what you think in the comments below!