Welcome back! In part 1 of this series we explored the technical aspects of podcasting, which is to say, how recording audio on a computer is done. Learning how to do that is, of course, the beginning of many things. Many different audio formats make their way into our entertainment spectrum. For example, you are now equipped to make voice overs. You could make your own video essays. You could record weird songs and put them on the internet. Of course, what we’re here for is podcasting!
Podcasting as a genre comes with certain inherent expectations. For example, it is usually expected that a new episode comes out periodically; for example, every two weeks. It should also be available in the popular podcast-listening platforms, be pleasant to listen to, and so on. All these things need to be done by somebody! Maybe that someone is you. Maybe, it’s you and your friends. Maybe it’s people that aren’t really your friends, but really like making podcasts. The following is a checklist of the steps you could take to get from the mere desire of wanting to enter the podcasting space, to being a bonafide podcaster in your own right. Let’s gooooooooo!
Have a good idea
Arguably, this is the most important step. Keep in mind, it doesn’t have to be a commercially ground breaking idea. You should aim to make a show about a topic you're familiar with, or that you would gladly research extensively. Also, this is a good time to define what type of podcast it is. Maybe you’re aiming for a minimal-editing podcast in which you just turn on the microphones, have a conversation, and put it online. Maybe it’s heavily scripted, like a radio show or This American Life (The best podcast ever, by the way). Maybe it’s just you, talking about a subject you’re passionate about or have researched deeply. Having a clear picture of the structure and complexity of your idea will help when going through the rest of these steps.
Put a team together
A podcast, like many other things, is a group activity. There’s a lot of things to get done. Can you do it yourself? Sure. Is it more fun the more people are involved? Absolutely. The following is a list of roles you will need to fill to make your podcast idea come true. One person can handle many different responsibilities, but ideally you should have one person doing each of these things.
The producer makes the podcast happen. Usually, this involves keeping track of everyone’s schedule, inviting and coordinating guests and making sure each person on the team is doing their part. Their job is to solve problems so that everything goes smoothly. They might also be in charge of uploading the podcast to the internet and dealing with the distributor (more on this later)
These are the people who will be actually appearing on the podcast. They should be eloquent, good at talking and have a good understanding of what the program is about. If there’s more than one host, you should make sure there’s chemistry between them. If you’re gonna be interviewing guests, it would be important to familiarize yourself with interview basics.
This team member is in charge of recording the podcast. Amongst other things, this involves making sure everyone’s microphones are connected, adjusting the recording levels and indicating when the recording starts and ends. The producer and the audio engineer must work together to make sure a recording session goes smoothly and that all the takes (different recordings) are usable. The last step an Audio engineer must realize is sending the recordings to the editor. Sometimes, but not always, the Audio Engineer and editor role are one and the same.
It helps if the audio engineer makes detailed notes about things that happened in the recording that might affect the editing process. For example: Maybe there was the need to adjust someone’s microphone in the middle of the recording. It will be easy for the editor to find and remove that section if the audio engineer writes down the time in the recording that happened.
The editor takes the raw recordings and edits them so that they can be sent to the distributor. Depending on the type of podcast you’re making, this might mean cutting and pasting from many different audio files, or simply adjusting levels and making sure there are no long silences in the conversation. The editor is usually in charge of exporting the final version of your audio file for upload. If your team is small, the editor may also need to do some engineering duties, like removing annoying frequencies or muting other microphones when one person is speaking. Here’s a couple of useful tools for the Editor/engineer:
Every software I mentioned in part 1 comes with at least a barebones EQ. Cars and stereos also come with EQ. It’s the thing that says Bass and Treble. Sound is made up of many different frequencies, and an EQ helps you reduce or increase their volume. A car stereo with only Bass and Treble options is called a two-band EQ, which means you can only increase or decrease the volume of two halves of the sound: The high frequencies (Treble) and the low frequencies (bass). Professional EQ tools can have up to 30 bands or more. Usually, eight bands is enough. I won’t go into depth on how to use them because it would take the whole post, but a quick youtube search should have you on your way.
A gate is kinda like a door for sound. You might have heard it used in techno music buildups and it sounds like someone is opening and closing a music faucet; like in Black Eyed Peas’ 2010 hit The Time(Dirty Bit) right before they say “Dirty Bit”. Basically what a gate does is let sound through when it’s open, and not let sound through when it’s closed. This is useful when you’ve got four microphones and really need to stop them from sounding all at the same time. Just slap a gate on them and set the threshold (how loud the sound has to be for the gate to open) just low enough so that the gate opens when someone speaks.
A compressor is one of the more difficult tools to understand, even for audio engineers, but it’s also one of the most widely used ones. What it basically does is raise the volume of the quiet parts in your recording, and reduce the volume of the loud parts, quite literally compressing your track. In podcasting, this could help make someone’s voice louder if you feel like they’re too much in the background and don’t want to just turn up everything. Keep in mind that any unwanted noise will be compressed as well, so you might end up with a track that has a bunch of AC noise in the background.
A true profession of the new age, the community manager is in charge of interacting with the show’s community through social media and electronic messaging. A successful podcast often comes with a strong internet presence, so finding someone committed to the cause is most important. Amongst the responsibilities of the community manager are posting periodic updates to social media, responding to fans and external requests and often taking pictures of the show for posting.
Designers are the unsung heroes of every media project. No team is complete without someone in charge of the visual identity of your show! Go above and beyond by having someone who can make an eye-catching cover, pick visually attractive typographies for your visual material and pitch ideas for social media posts.
Find a distributor (hosting)
One of the biggest schisms of information when trying to put something available to everybody is how to get on Spotify, apple podcasts and such. A distributor takes care of all this. Each distributor offers a variety of services at different price points, but the main activity they all do is get your product from point A to point B, which is from your computer to the internet. From the internet, you can take your RSS feed (your podcast’s URL) and give it to all the platforms you want. Some distributors do this for you automagically. If you’re planning on making many different shows, I would recommend Transistor. Transistor lets you upload unlimited shows, and unlimited episodes as long as they’re not bigger than 500 MB. Other really good options include Buzzsprout and Anchor, both of which have a free option. Do a bit of digging to find out which distributor is right for you.
Publish your first episode
We’re all set! Sit down with your team and record. Put it through the process of editing and exporting and you’ll find yourself with a shiny new podcast episode. Now, it’s time to upload it to your distributor and put it online! Add a nice description for your first episode and be sure to include everyone on the team in the credits. Everyone deserves recognition for their work. Once your episode is published, share it like the plague! Fill the inboxes of your fans and friends and family. Like Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez would say “For every ten rejections you get one acceptance, and that’s how you win everything.”
You’re not done, of course. You gotta keep doing it. Find a rhythm that works for you and your team and keep recording more and more episodes. If you burn out, find what’s wrong and fix it. Maybe change the format up a little. Shake things up! There are no rules and you’re not being subjected to censorship or format regulations, so go crazy. Most of all, have fun! There’s no point in doing anything if it isn’t fun.
If you need a hand or don’t know how to get started or where to go, hit me up at email@example.com and I will do my best to point you in the right direction. Also, listen to our podcasts on Spotify! They're in Spanish but hey, we're all bilingual right?