I created a 9 part series earlier this year about how musicians and artists can start their own podcasts. I’ve collated all the posts into one handly blog entry which I hope you’ll find useful. If you create your own podcast after reading this guide, send me a link!
7 Reasons Why Musicians Should Start Their Own Podcast
If you are a musician or artist, by not having your own podcast, you are missing out on a valuable, engaging and fun marketing tool.
If you’re still thinking podcasting might not be for you, here’s seven reasons why you definitely SHOULD think about starting your own podcast.
- Podcasts are popular right now. Very popular, in fact 17% of the US population have listened to a podcast in the last month.
- People who listen to podcasts really love them and listen to a lot of them. Podcastees (people who listen to podcasts) spend 26% of all their listening time on podcasts.
- Podcasting, like radio, creates an intimacy with your audience. This intimacy forges a stronger relationship with your fans and this is a key marketing strategy for your music.
- Podcasting is another means of discovery for yourself and your music. By having your own audio ‘channel’. people can stumble across you and your music.
- It’s a great communication device allowing you the opportunity to give your fans detailed information about gigs and forthcoming releases.
- It can be relatively cheap to do with very little specialist equipment. You can even do it for free! (see below!)
- Not many bands take the time to podcast. Those that do elevate themselves above the crowd, generating a little kudos for themselves. You’d like some kudos wouldn’t you?
Podcasting – The Basics
So, you want to start podcasting and if I know musicians I’m going to assume you’ll want to spend as little money as possible. Don’t worry, I’m not going to tell you to buy a £300 microphone!
Podcasts are mp3 ‘radio shows’. Listeners can download or stream them from wherever they are hosted or stored on the ‘net. Listeners can also use a system of ‘subscription’ (through an RSS feed) which means that podcasting software will automatically send a new episode to listeners whenever it is published.
You can publish new shows at a frequency of your own choosing. I’d suggest at the most one a month (perhaps bi-monthly). This should give you enough time to create some good content between episodes.
How long should podcasts be? I’d maybe start with 10 -15 minutes which might not sound like a lot but can take a lot of content to fill when you are first starting. Probably 30 minutes is the maximum you should aim for.
The Three Stages Of Podcasting:
- Recording the audio – we’ll look at options to capturing the sound from free to cheap.
- Editing the audio – You’re going to need some audio editing software or a Digital Audio Workstation on a computer to assemble everything together.
- Publishing/Hosting The Audio. You’ll need somewhere to upload the finished show to enable listeners to download it.
Podcasting – Recording Equipment
Do any sort of Googling about hardware for podcasts and you’ll seen the following setup mentioned:
- Microphone (either a condenser like an NT1 or a dynamic like an SM58.
- Audio interface such as the Focusrite Scarlett connected to a laptop or desktop computer.
I think that’s a wrong move. For one, there’s the expense. You’ll be spending nearly £200, money I’m guessing you don’t have lying around. In addition this equipment tethers a lot of your recording to a single location or at least to where you can safely take this equipment.
SO WHAT DO WE NEED INSTEAD?
At a basic level I’d suggest all you need for your recording is the inbuilt microphone on your smartphone.
From my experience the microphone on an average smartphone is completely acceptable for the task of recording podcast audio (with a few caveats, which we’ll discuss below). Using just your phone won’t cost you anything plus you’re ready to record at a moments notice: backstage, in the rehearsal room, anywhere. As long as you have your phone you are ready to record!
You can use the ‘voice recorder’ application found on on your phone’s operating system to record your podcasting chat but the the one issue you may find, especially with long recordings and large file sizes is a difficulty in getting the audio off your phone and onto your computer for editing. To solve this , you could use an app like Voice Record Pro 7 for iPhone (free) or Skyro Voice Recorder for Android.
Both these apps allow you to sync your recorded audio to your Dropbox account.
Next Level Recording
If you want to go up a level for better quality audio recordings, you can buy ‘add on’ mics for your smartphones which increase audio quality. Check out the Zoom iQ6
iRig Mic Cast
Podcasting – Recording Environment
Now let’s examine the techniques you should be looking at to get the best quality audio for your podcast audio.
The environment where you record your podcast audio will have some bearing on how it will sound. Large rooms with hard walls and reflective surfaces will have increased reverberation which will reduce the intelligibility of speech, the one thing you are trying to record!
Smaller spaces with more absorbent materials (curtains, carpets, soft furnishings) will create better quality audio as these spaces will have less reverberation.
So, bear in mind that the smaller the room you record in and the less reflective surfaces there are will result in a better sounding recording.
You can hold the phone in your hand whilst recording however you may suffer from handling noise. If possible try and use a stand for the phone (or an impromptu stand as created here from a paperclip!).
Make sure the microphone which is located at the bottom of your phone is pointing upwards.
Microphones on smartphones are omnidirectional which means they record in all directions. Aim for anyone who is being recorded to be reasonably close to the mic, about an arms length if possible. The closer you get to the phone the more direct the captured sound will be giving a better result.
Podcasting – Editing Your Podcast
Editing podcasts involves removing the unnatural pauses that might have occurred during recording; the mistakes or possibly the ‘errms’ and ‘ahhhhs’ which sometimes accompany natural speech but sound a little unprofessional when you listen back. By removing all these imperfections you’re going to create a more polished product. The task of editing will be performed by either a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) or an audio editor. It may well be that being a musician you already have a copy of Cubase, Pro Tools or Logic, if so then you’re in luck. If you’re not that lucky there are some free pieces of software that will do the job just fine.
Audacity is a renowned free audio editor and has all the functionality to need to import your source audio, edit and export final MP3 file . Click here to go to their download page.
Garageband is the famous free DAW for Mac users which again has everything you need. If you’re a Mac user, this is all you’ll need.
NB If may well be that the phone has exported your audio in either AAC or M4A formats which some audio editors will struggle to convert. To convert your source audio to AIFF or MP3, I’d recommend a free programme called MPEG Streamclip.
Here are some videos from Entrepreneur On Fire to help you with the basics of the software I’ve recommended.
Record, edit, and export MP3 Using Audacity
Record, edit, and export MP3 using Garageband
Podcasting – Polishing Your Podcast
The aim is for your podcast to sound as similar to a regular radio show as possible. First off, let’s deal with audio quality. If you’re going to be recording in the field then you’re going to make sure you ‘sweeten’ your audio to help things sit right in the mix. try these tips.
The people being recorded on your podcast may speak at different volumes or be at different distances from the mic. Use a 10:1 compressor over the mix, a low threshold and a high make us gain to help even things out.
Different environments will impact upon the speech quality being recorded. Try using a high pass filter up to 200 Hz to filter out any low end rumble from rooms, use a high shelf EQ to boost intelligibility of speech and experiment with cuts or boosts in the mids to see if EQ in that range improves the overall room sound.
Jingle Intros and Outros
Pro podcasts are similar to radio shows in that they use intros and outros for their shows. You could use one of your own tracks, an instrumental version of one or your own tracks or for a bit of pizzaz you could get someone to make a jingle for you. How cool is that! It isn’t as expensive as you’d think either, check out these links below.
You’ll need some custom artwork (minimum 1400 x 1400) to accompany your audio. This website has some great tips to help you create that artwork
Podcasting – Hosting Your Podcast
Before we have a look at where you can host your podcast, let’s have a look at the science behind podcasting, the RSS feed.
What Is RSS?
Podcasting uses RSS, a system which allows users to ‘subscribe’ to a feed. Once subscribed, this feed allows users to be notified whenever a new ‘episode’ of a podcast is available for download.
Ideally wherever you host your podcast should be able to generate this RSS feed. Here are a couple that do.
My preferred option would be to host the podcast using Libsyn. Libsyn will host the audio, generate the RSS feed and also give you HTML code so you can embed the podcast on your website. The basic package starts at just $5 per month.
I use the $7 a month Libsyn plan and get access to stats to see how many people have listened per month.
Check Libsyn out here https://www.libsyn.com/
You might not know this but you can upload a podcast to your Soundcloud account and Soundcloud will generate the all important RSS feed for you.
You may need to upgrade to a Pro Unlimited account if you regularly uploading lengthy podcasts as you’ll soon find you need the unlimited storage that the Pro Unlimited account offers.
If your band website is powered by WordPress, you can use the Blubrry PowerPress plugin to upload and host from your own WordPress account.
For a completely free hosting alternative alternative you can upload the podcast mp3 audio to YouTube as a ‘cover art’ video. Click here to read our earlier 60SMM blog post about the ‘Tunes To Tube’ website that can make this happen.
Podcasting – Top 10 Podcast Content Ideas For Musicians
So what should you talk about in your podcast?
Here are some great topic and content suggestions:
- List your gigs.
- News. Talk about all that is happening in your world.
- Dissect the writing of a song. Talk about the lyrics, the inspiration for the song or facts about the recording process.
- Reflect and talk about a recent gig/festival/event. Discuss the good and the bad points.
- Fan questions. Popular one this. Invite questions from fans on social media and answer them on the podcast. Make sure you answer ones that are entertaining to listen to. I once heard a band podcast where one of the questions asked was “What’s your favourite soup?”. Oh dear.
- Get the members of the band to interview/quiz each other. A good option if your fans can’t think of any good questions.
- Interview the people you meet on the road. These could be sound engineers, other bands, promoters, recording engineers, music promoters, the person who works in the box office, the bouncer! Everyone has an interesting tale to tell and they’ll probably enjoy telling it to you.
- Trail new songs. One way to get people to listen to it, is to give them ‘sneak peaks’ of your new stuff.
- Record exclusive acoustic versions of songs especially for the podcast.
- You can also ask your fans what they’d like to hear on your podcast. Chances are they might want something you’d have never thought of yourself.
Your Podcast Doesn’t Even Need To Be About You
If you’d rather not shine the light on yourself, there’s nothing to say your podcast has to be about you. Here are two ideas for podcasts which you can produce but which won’t necessarily be exclusively about you and your music.
- A podcast dedicated to discussing all aspects of your genre of music (metal, indie, rock, folk etc.).
- Your local/regional music scene.
Your podcasts therefore becomes more of a medium of discovery for yourself and your music. As an example, here’s a podcast from ukulele group Chonkinfeckle. Their 4,3 2,1 Podcast highlights other ukulele artists and in doing so also shines a light on themselves..
Podcasting – Final Tips
Here are some final thoughts to help you into the wonderful world of podcasting.
Be Inspired By Other Podcasts
By listening to other podcasts you’ll get an idea of tone, presentational style and a good idea of how podcast shows are formatted. You can then use some of that information to inform and guide your own show. There is no need to slavishly copy other formats, just get a feel and be inspired by others. Here are a few of the podcasts I regularly listen to if you don’t know where to start:
Listen To A Radio Breakfast Show
Tune into any breakfast show and you’ll hear a fast moving, entertaining show which is segmented into small, regularly occurring features. Keep this production template in mind when you record and assemble your podcast.
Use A Script
Whatever content you include on your podcast it will help to ‘announce’ and describe each feature for the benefit of the listener. You will probably find it helpful to read from a script to make your overall presentation more forthright and confident.
At the start of every episode make sure you explain to the listeners what your podcast is about and what they should expect to hear during the show.
Ask People To Comment And Subscribe Through iTunes.
This helps your overall search visibility on the platform.
Like any other aspect of your music career, you should invest time marketing the podcast and making people aware of your show. And let us know if you create one!
Got any questions about this post or how you can better market yourself?
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