• Podcast Librarian

The Dream: Exposing exploitative MLMs

Updated: Oct 16, 2020

The premise (Apple Podcasts): 


What if we told you that with zero experience and only a few hundred dollars down, this podcast could change your life? Well, we’d be lying. This season on The Dream, Jane Marie dives into the world of pyramid schemes, multi-level marketing, and all the other businesses that require their members to recruit their nearest and dearest in hopes of a commission. Join us as we trace the path of get-rich schemes from Jane’s roots in rural Michigan all the way to the White House.


Series or standalone: 

Series

Begin listening to:

Episode 1: Wanna Swim in Cash?

Format:

Hybrid of storytelling, reporting, and lots of interviews


Host(s): 

Jane Marie, a journalist who grew up with family members involved in MLMs


Sound/production quality: 

Excellent

Rating/age suitability: 

General audiences, though adults will likely be more interested than most teens.


Approximate length of episodes: 

Varies from about 30-60 minutes


Curricular ties:

None that are immediately apparent, but I don’t think it’s a bad idea to teach students about MLMs,--they should know that an employer should never require the employee to pay in order to get a job (besides maybe uniform, tools, etc.) It might be an interesting listen for college business majors.


The Podcast Librarian’s review:

The Dream is a podcast about the (often seedy) world of MLM businesses. It’s a mix of storytelling from the host’s own personal experiences, investigative reporting (including signing up as a consultant for an MLM), and interviews with those currently or previously involved in MLMs. Granted, it is not unbiased reporting, but I feel Jane did a great job of interviewing people who had differing points of view. Though based in a great deal of research, the tone is playful and jokey at times, which I actually enjoyed. The podcast explores the history of MLMs and their ties to past and current presidential administrations; I had no idea that several previous presidents, as well as Trump, endorsed and accepted money from large MLMs like Amway. The podcast’s production quality is fabulous, with music (almost Stranger Things-esque tunes) often playing underneath the conversations but never distracting from the spoken audio. You’ll want to listen to the whole series from the beginning for the full context and impact, but Episode 8: Destination Amazing, in which an interviewee describes her experience at a convention, is the most heartbreaking. At the end of the series, the host promises they will be returning for another season, and I can’t wait to see what they cover next.


Update (10.15.2020)

The Dream produced a second season which focused on other types of manipulative/scammy schemes in the wellness industry. It's worth a listen, but I think this is a podcast that is the victim of its own Season 1 success (like Serial) because it's a challenge to find another story as compelling to report along the same theme.



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