Full disclosure one: I’ve hosted quite a lot of impartial podcasts, with various levels of success.
Full disclosure two: This story is being hosted on a website owned by a company media large. There’s even some probability that, by the point it’s printed, the choice will likely be made to host it behind a paywall. The actual fact is, I’ve labored for lots of huge media corporations all through my skilled profession. It’s actually the a method I’ve been capable of make a constant residing as knowledgeable author residing in New York Metropolis.
Independence is exactly what drew me to podcasting within the first place. Years of scraping collectively a residing in editorial, I’d felt far faraway from what drew me to writing and interviewing. Struggling within the trade entails quite a lot of writing issues for different folks, and people stuff you do write that you just genuinely care about are, at finest, closely edited and infrequently truncated (I’m sufficiently old to recollect when column area was nonetheless a factor).
I grew to become nostalgic for my faculty days (as one days) as supervisor of KZSC, Santa Cruz’s legendary public radio station. I might spend hours internet hosting reveals on weekends and are available late at evening to spin information after our every day broadcasting obligations have been finished.
Towards the tip of my time on the station (and faculty, usually), a fellow host and I have been provided the chance to intern at a neighborhood radio station. A music director gave us a tour of an workplace area that housed a number of native stations, segmented into what seemed like convention rooms, the place hosts would spend a couple of hours prerecording spots for the week. A dialog round how the station decided its playlists left me with the same sense of existential dread.
The state of affairs was sufficient to finish my profession in radio earlier than it began. Between publishing and radio, I assume I’ve all the time had a little bit of a factor for dying mediums. However this was a bridge too far. I’ve a really vivid reminiscence of standing within the station’s car parking zone and remarking to my pal, “I guess that’s it for our careers in radio.” He nodded and we have been on our manner.
However podcasting felt hopeful. Like running a blog earlier than it, it introduced a uncommon alternative to embrace a medium in its relative infancy. That temporary, hopeful interval earlier than the company pursuits totally decimated the panorama as they inevitably do. I reached out to pal and former KZSC colleague, Jesse Thorn, who’d constructed his personal mini-podcasting empire within the years since faculty.
I go to his dwelling in Los Angeles, a room of which he’d became a podcasting studio (it has since moved to an official Most Enjoyable workplace overlooking MacArthur Park close to downtown Los Angeles). He’d additionally assisted in serving to arrange a veteran comic named Marc Maron flirt with the world of podcasting — undecided if that man’s present ever obtained off the bottom.
My very own ambitions — no less than from a technological standpoint — have been extra grounded. After I began my most up-to-date podcast, RiYL, five-plus years in the past, I used to be working as a freelancer. I wanted one thing cell that I might might take to interview topics wherever they have been. The gear has been refined considerably, over time, however the gear nonetheless matches right into a laptop computer sleeve for max portability. Spoiler alert: Subsequent week’s interview with New Pornographers frontman Carl Newman was fairly actually recorded in a rest room.
That broad spectrum of expertise ranges was exactly what made podcasting so interesting to so many. It felt just like the promise of the web fulfilled. You knew it might be laborious — some mixture of expertise and timing and luck — however you could possibly persuade your self that, if the celebrities aligned appropriately, your shoestring present might make it to the highest of the charts.
The unfiltered nature of all of it was additionally immensely interesting to somebody who grew up obsessive about self-produced punk and self-published zines. These have been all the time the names I wished to get on my present and report for posterity. And each interview may very well be as lengthy or as brief as was warranted. Each medium inherits some parameters from its predecessors, but it surely really breaks away when it grows past that. For that motive, I made a degree producing a present made up solely of five-minute episodes and one other that routinely handed the hour-long mark.
The medium is the message, and all that great things.
Late final yr, I wrote a bit for TechCrunch titled “2019: the year podcasting broke.” It was, as I defined, a considerably tongue-in-cheek homage to the documentary “1991: The Year Punk Broke,” which chronicled the mainstreaming of a as soon as explicitly pop-cultural phenomenon. The early ’90s notions of co-opting punk appears pretty quaint in hindsight.
Equally, 2019 feels just like the tip of the spear for company funding in podcasting. Spotify’s deliberate spending of between $400 million and $500 million is jaw-dropping, but it surely’s a drop within the bucket in comparison with different mediums. Companies are going to go huge on podcasting, simply one of the crucial intimate mediums with one of the crucial extremely engaged audiences. Listening to a bunch of strangers discuss historical past or music or sports activities for an hour-plus will get into your mind in methods it’s laborious to clarify.
With company involvement in podcasting come issues like exclusives — company-produced applications that solely exist on particular paid providers (sure, I’m totally conscious that I’m penning this on a website that not too long ago launched a premium content material tier, however all of us have to monetize in the best way we see match). However the fact is similar with podcasters as it’s with creatives in nearly ever medium: The folks making the factor usually need as many individuals to interact with it as attainable.
However the lure of a residing wage is a strong one. And making a residing doing what you like virtually invariably entails compromise at some stage. I, for one, know that I’m extremely fortunate to have survived for so long as I’ve as knowledgeable author, residing in one of many world’s costliest cities. And sure, it’s a profession that has included loads of compromises — some I really feel higher about than others.
I even have loads of buddies who haven’t been so fortunate — artists, writers, cartoonists and musicians who make great artwork that I like that they merely can’t survive on. Welcome to capitalism, buddies. It’s an actual combined bag.
The reply is similar as ever, although. For those who like a factor, assist it. And fortunately, doing as such is less complicated than ever. Whether or not it’s a community with a public radio-style fund drive like Most Enjoyable or a Patreon-backed program like The Finest Present. Help might imply shopping for a boxed mattress utilizing their particular coupon code at checkout or, for these fellow artists, simply ranking and reviewing or telling a pal.
I do consider the spike in podcast recognition will likely be good for its myriad suppliers in some ways. The rising tide and all of that great things. However I do fear that lots of its most unusual impartial voices will get bulldozed as huge corporations rush to assemble skyscrapers. It’s our job as listeners, followers and podcasters to ensure these voices aren’t drowned out.