Adam Grandmaison interview: Making sense of media consumption, the BMX market and running a hip hop podcast on the side

Marking ten years in 2016, Adam Grandmaison’s The Come Up has grown into a goliath in the BMX world. Commanding subscriber figures that will make even long-standing publishers weep, the astonishing rise through the ranks has prompted a number of off shoots, from stores in Los Angeles to hip hop blogs. Here Grandmaison explains why he has no plans to celebrate the milestone, stating the reason his business matters is “because of what we’re doing right now.”

For the uninitiated in the bike world, you run both BMX and now some non-bike related businesses – what are these and what’s taking up most of your time at the moment?

I own:

  • The Come Up: the world’s biggest BMX website
  • The Come Up BMX: a YouTube channel I update daily with 300,000+ subscribers
  • TCU TV: my BMX podcast
  • OnSomeShit: my clothing line
  • OnSomeShit: my store in Downtown LA where we sell bikes and our own clothing line
  • No Jumper: my hip hop/internet podcast & Youtube channel

The Come Up website is what kicked everything off – how did this go from being a personal blog to one of the largest BMX dedicated websites online?

We’re definitely the most popular BMX media company in existence. It started out as just a real basic blog where I would just post any half decent BMX video that would pop up online, along with randomoss3 links to rap songs, funny videos and celebrity sex tapes. Within the first few years though I kind of honed in on just making it the best possible BMX website. My mission has always been to run a BMX website that took care of all your needs and told you everything you need to know to stay on top of what is going on in BMX on that day.

I guess the inspiration just came from the fact that I loved BMX so much, but hadn’t been able to find my role outside of just riding. I always filmed, but once I had the idea to run a BMX blog it was like I just found my niche. I didn’t really see any option besides just going hard and trying to make it as big as possible.

The site is a decade old this year – any highlights from that time that stand out? Doing anything to celebrate ten years?

We’ve got a collaboration item coming out with one of the brands we work with, but nothing too crazy. I’m not really into celebrating dates all that much. I see brands use their anniversaries to try and get some clout off the fact that they’ve been around for a long time. I don’t really care about the fact that we’ve been around for 10 years, the reason we matter is because of what we’re doing right now. TCU is all about what’s going on in the now, so hyping up our birthday doesn’t really feel right to me.

It used to be that the BMXer would buy Road Fools DVDs to keep up to date. How is the BMX rider consuming media and news nowadays?

I think the average BMX rider kind of designs his own personal ritual to consume BMX content. Honestly, almost every BMX rider that I know does the following:

  • They check TCU daily, usually via the app on their phone
  • They look at Instagram and watch clips on there throughout the day
  • They go on YouTube and either search certain riders names and watch their favourite videos, or they subscribe to a few channels that post stuff that doesn’t usually end up on TCU (mostly webisode style content)

All the magazines are gone now besides Ride BMX and I almost never see kids talk about magazines. We never get asked to stock them at the store either. DVDs still come out once in a while, but usually they will premiere, then there will be some chatter and then you won’t hear anything about them until the sections get released online. I know on a personal level I would never buy a DVD or a magazine, the idea of purchasing a piece of media feels super foreign to me and I’m sure the average kid who checks TCU agrees.

Road Fools (and their parent company, Props) was great, but their relevance started to fade as the DVD era started to come to an end towards the end up of the 2000s. They still do video projects online once in a while, but the Road Fools name has been dead since about 2011.

I honestly think that a kid in 2016, watching a webisode from TCU, Adam LZ, Boqer or Billy Perry is getting the same things out of that video content that I got from Road Fools when I was 16. Except that while a Road Fools DVD would cost five figures and many months of hard work by multiple people to produce, a webisode costs approximately nothing to make and earns maybe a few hundred dollars off YouTube ads (depending on who you ask). So yeah, the game has changed. tcu

Over 300k subscribers on Youtube – that’s huge even by wider bike industry standards, is social a big part of TCU’s success?

From day one I built TCU by posting about it on forums and posting Myspace bulletins. But it’s different now because social media is so good that some kids don’t even feel the need to interact with a traditional blog. So for us of it’s important to be active on all of the social platforms, but also to give our users a reason to check our site daily, just by being comprehensive. That’s why so many people go directly to our site every day to watch videos, because people trust that we will post anything worth seeing. Social media in some cases replaces that, but more often than not it just helps us get the word out about what is on our site at that moment.

We’ve just heard that the late Dave Mirra is to be inducted into the BMX Hall of Fame this summer – how did riders like that and others influence you as you started out in BMX?

I can’t say Mirra had much influence on me personally, since I only ever really cared about street riding and he was a contest/ramp rider don, but he was always a great advocate for BMX and a person who represented BMX well in the mainstream.

I personally grew up idolizing hardcore street riders from the east coast, namely Will Taubin, George Dossantos, Bob Scerbo, Edwin De La Rosa, Vic Ayala, Vinnie Sammon and Ralph Sinisi.

tcu tvThe podcasts that you run seem to have gone down well, how many people are tuning in?

Our average BMX podcast hits around 10 to 20,0000 people between YouTube, Soundcloud and iTunes, although we’ve had a few that have gotten way more than that.

With No Jumper I would say we average about 30-50,000 on YouTube plus another 10,000 or so on Soundcloud and iTunes, although we’ve had a few episodes do crazy numbers, namely the Ian Connor & Shane Gonzalez interview which has 300k on YouTube alone and the Suicide Boys interview which has over 500k in total.

No Jumper also has 16,000 Twitter followers in the four months or so that I’ve been running that account and around 180,000 YouTube subscribers.

And in the past you’ve collaborated on a number of film projects – anything in the pipeline here?

At this point in terms of video stuff I’m mostly just concerned with producing good, consistent webisode content on our YouTube. I find that our fans would way rather see a video that feels personal and
relatable instead of some big grandiose production. That being said, we just dropped six full length OnSomeShit video parts from some of the guys on our team that we had been working on for a couple years and we got an insane reaction. We’re also planning another team trip soon…

I think people like watching a big production video, but if you want people to care about you or your brand in 2016 you need to be producing content across a lot of different platforms on a consistent basis, whether it’s long form stuff on YouTube, or short form on Instagram and Facebook.

Everything from a 30 minute DVD to a three minute video part to a 10 second Instagram clip are all just “video” to me and I don’t get into the whole elitist “quality content” thing. I think everyone should express themselves however they want and I think a 10 second clip is potentially just as valuable and impactful as a full length video.

Tell us about your soft goods brand, still in good demand? 

OSS is doing good, sales are strong, the team is better than ever. We just put out our first full length video project in a few years, On Everything and we’ve been getting a ton of attention outside of BMX from fans of No Jumper and just streetwear enthusiasts in general.

The shop is doing great too. Basically I can’t complain, it seems like people have really warmed up to the brand over the past few years to the extent where we have a hard time keeping stuff in stock.

It’s not unusual for the BMX market to fluctuate between highs and lows – but what do you think’s causing the current dip in trade across the industry?

There just aren’t enough brands in BMX who are doing things that the consumers care about. I’m not complaining about a recession, the only way it’s effected me is because we’ve lost some advertisers on TCU.

Our YouTube views are way up even though BMX is supposedly in a recession. We sell way more product than we ever have before. I just think when young kids look at the BMX landscape they don’t see many brands making BMX look cool, so the kids gravitate towards other things. As the owner of one of the few brands who seem to be doing it right these days, I’m just an observer.oss2

What’s your take on the competition side of BMX nowadays?

To be honest, I don’t really like going to BMX contests and I generally avoid it unless I’m judging, or I have business there. I didn’t grow up watching contests and even when I’m physically at contests I typically won’t bother to watch events.

To say that the X Games sorta messed with the formula is a pretty massive understatement. I prefer not to jump into the “how do we make BMX contests better” discussion, because honestly I just really don’t care.

The version of BMX I fell in love with has absolutely no overlap with anything that goes on at a BMX contest. I think contests are good for the overall growth of BMX and I’m in favour of anything that gets BMX on TV, but I can’t bring myself to pretend I care.

In the US a group of 20 large retailers have mooted setting aside 0.5% of sales revenue to fund marketing for grassroots cycling – does BMX need something like this to keep things like Texas Toast/other promo to new riders alive?

I feel like the average BMX brand already spends quite a bit of their overall revenue on their team, trips, filmers and events. I’m not sure that adding a structure to it like that would be necessary, but I tell kids all the time that when it comes to supporting brands they should be supporting the ones who give back to the scene and produce the content that they love.

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