How to Jury-Rig a Podcast for Fun and (Not Much) Profit

[UNLOCKED] bonus 014, 18th August, 2019

I like a good podcast. I have a long commute. My guilty pleasure is true crime, though I shouldn’t call it a ‘guilty pleasure’ because I shouldn’t have to feel guilty about the stuff that I like. I got enough of that from guys in highschool mansplaining to me why all the stuff I liked was shit. So there.

Anyway.

So, I like podcasts. I also like doing things. I have the kind of brain that needs to be kept busy for the aid of my mental health (or am I simply a millennial living under the capitalist system, indoctrinated since birth to believe that my worth is to be found only in unceasing labour, and with the financial requirement to monetize everything I possibly can? You decide!) I have opinions about things. I’m a middle-class white person. It was only natural that I’d start a podcast.

My first podcast, Catastropod, is about the apocalypse in popular media. I’ve covered The Stand, Max Max: Fury Road, The Book of the Unnamed Midwife, and various apocalyptic fare written by friends and acquaintances. It’s a standard conversational style of podcast, me and a guest. I’ll read the book or watch the movie, come up with questions, and I always ask my guests about their own apocalyptic survivability. It’s good fun, not particularly popular, but satisfying in a ‘look, I made something’ kind of way.

Earlier this year I had a day off work where I was mysteriously inspired to reread one of my favourite Australian YA books (Galax Arena) and I made notes and wrote an entire article about it that I had no idea where to pitch. I tweeted about it, musing that I should start another podcast, this one about 90’s Australian YA books, and for some reason, a whole lot of people got really excited about it.

New podcast idea. Like I don’t have enough work in my life that I don’t get paid for. But, as above: mental health ^ when busy. But here’s another thing: I’m not that great on air. I don’t have a voice for radio and I have ADHD which means I frequently stop mid-sentence, having forgotten what I am saying as I am saying it. Let’s just say that I am eternally grateful for editing. I kinda wish I could just come up with the ideas for the podcasts, record other people doing them, people with actual relevant talent and edit the audio. Something along the lines of a producer, but that is a whole job type job, and I don’t really have time for that kind of thing if I’m not getting paid.

Wanna start your own podcast? Wanna know how I started my first podcast? It’s like this:

I have a friend who has a Terry Pratchett book club podcast called Pratchat. Anyway, this guy has a pro audio recording setup that fits in a backpack and he lives around the corner from me. Boom: profesh level soundgear. He gave me a rundown on how to set it up in about half an hour and I hurriedly wrote everything down in a notebook in my nearly illegible handwriting.

If you don’t have access to this, which pretty much none of you will, you can get a decent USB mic from any number of places, a handy little Zoom recorder (or similar), or you can even rent space at a studio. The Library at the Dock in Docklands, Victoria, has a whole recording studio you can book for what I think is a very reasonable price, or free. (Libraries are the shit these days. Some of them have MAD STUFF in them.) 

Then I put the call out on twitter for a guest. My first guest cancelled on me the day before recording the episode, but the indomitable Mel Campbell filled in and the result was an hour of talk about The Stand, which I consider my gateway drug to the apocalypse (In that I read it very young and it instilled a fascination with the end of the world that I’ve never been able to shake.)

Now I had the audio, what next?

On my friend’s advice, I downloaded Audacity and taught myself how to use it bit by bit, learning the new parts as I came to them. I looked up how to edit the audio, then did that. Then how to remove noise, and how to add music in. It is really simple, user friendly software and you can learn as you go, on a needs-must basis. I got my music from the Free Music Archive and it turned out to be a double bonus because the song I chose was by an Australian band. Local support!

I have websites for my podcasts, but you don’t need to. I guess the upside to a website is that it makes you easier to find, but it can be an added expense. You can just upload to places like Spotify, Soundcloud, Apple Podcasts. If you upload it to anchor.fm, it will post your audio to all the standard places so you don’t have to. Simplicity! As for marketing, I admit that it’s not my strong point. But the first thing I do is get an email for the podcast, and a twitter, then I publicise it over social as best I can. You can get a facebook page for it, I mean, it’s your life.

So, that’s my slap-dash guide to starting a podcast. This weekend I’m recording the first three episodes of my new podcast, So Much To Tell YA, so if you by chance happen to be into 90’s Australian YA fiction, you can take a listen when it comes out. No doubt I’ll put a link into the main newsletter when the first episode is up.