So You Want to Start a Podcast? A Podcasting Primer
MTNA Business Digest, Volume 2, Issue 2
Have you been curious about starting a podcast? Do you have a message to share and wonder if podcasting would be a good medium with which to do that? Whatever the case may be, today we’re pulling back the curtain and demystifying what it takes to start a podcast.
I listened to my first podcast in 2005. It was a Harry Potter fan podcast, and it was glorious. I felt like I knew the hosts. We laughed together. We cried together. We anticipated book and movie releases together. We had our own little virtual fan club within the tiny world of podcasting.
Today, there’s a podcast for every topic imaginable, and everyone from my 3-year-old to my mom is listening. And that magical feeling of being able to connect with people around the world over a common interest is still there. It’s still glorious.
In 2018, the podcasting bug bit me, and I launched my own podcast, Music Studio Startup, a show about entrepreneurship and studio-building for music teachers.
Maybe you’re reading this because you, too, have been curious about starting a podcast. Maybe you have a message to share and wonder if podcasting would be a good medium with which to do that. Whatever the case may be, today I’m going to pull back the curtain on the podcast startup process and highlight the main things you’ll want to think about as you get ready to launch.
Audience And Content
First, answer some basic questions about the content of your show. What is your podcast about? Who is the intended audience? What will you call it?
Most importantly, why do you want to start a podcast? Will it be a hobby? Something you’d like to turn into an income source? How much time do you have to dedicate to podcasting? Knowing your goals will help clarify decisions.
You can utilize a number of different show formats, and each has its pros and cons.
Solo episodes are the easiest to coordinate and produce, but it can be harder to engage an audience as a solo host, and it can be a lonely endeavor.
Episodes with a co-host take some pressure off and are still relatively simple to coordinate and produce, but you’ll want to make sure you and your co-host are highly aligned on your creative and business visions.
Interview style episodes can have one or more hosts and the guests bring a fresh perspective to every episode. This format takes more lead time to produce, and editing can be harder because you don’t have as much control over your guest’s equipment or recording environment.
Or maybe you imagine a totally new format! As a host, your own creative approach and presentation is what will be compelling to listeners.
Length And Frequency
The frequency and length of your episodes will depend on your topic and audience. If you’re tackling dense concepts, shorter episodes might be best. If your podcast is more leisurely, you may want to explore longer episodes, multi-part episodes or even a mini-series.
Some podcasts release just one or two episodes a month, while others release multiple episodes each day. If a year-round schedule is too much, you can release one season, then take a break to prepare for the next season. Choose a rhythm that you can maintain consistently.
Technology and equipment are often a roadblock to getting started. I urge you not to overcomplicate this, especially at the beginning. You can always improve your setup as you go. In fact, you can get great audio quality with an entry-level microphone.
On the production side, there are three phases that require software or web applications: recording, editing and publishing.
If you’re doing a solo show, you can record directly into the software you plan to use to edit your audio. GarageBand (Mac) and Audacity (Windows) are popular choices for podcast editing because they’re completely free!
If you have a co-host or plan to virtually interview guests, you’ll probably rely on a cloud-based recording option like Zoom or ZenCastr to record the conversation and then export the audio into your editing software.
If you’d rather not deal with editing (you’re in good company), you can use a website like Upwork or Fiverr.com to find a freelancer who specializes in podcast editing. Or just be really good and record your episodes in one take.
To publish your podcast, you will need a media “host” (or a place for the content to live online, similar to a website host).
There are many choices, but Libsyn and BuzzSprout are two popular options. Media hosting prices are typically tiered based on the amount of content you plan to upload.
Different media hosts show different information and levels of detail in their reporting. Having access to these stats can help you understand your audience and target your podcast marketing. If you plan to monetize your podcast, these stats will also demonstrate to potential sponsors the value of promoting on your show.
There are a number of websites popping up that offer all-in-one solutions for recording, editing and hosting as well as a clear path to monetization. These are a popular choice for new podcasters because of their simplicity (and they’re often free), but reviews on these services are mixed. Established podcasters lament the lack of detailed reporting and control they offer creators. Some also cite difficulty transferring podcasts away from the services.
With the technical parts of your podcast system in place, it’s time to distribute the show!
Some media hosts may help submit your podcast to different podcast directories, but it’s easy to do on your own using a url and rss feed if this isn’t a service they provide.
The main podcast players (Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and Spotify) represent the vast majority of podcast listeners, so they should be your first priority. The less common podcast directories often pull from these main sources, so over time your podcast will start popping up in other directories as well.
Promoting The Show
Most podcast experts recommend launching your podcast with three episodes—this gives people a chance to binge listen and get a sense of what to expect from the show, even when it’s brand new.
You can build anticipation on social media before the show launches with teaser clips and behind the scenes glimpses into what you’re working on. With each new episode, plan to share it multiple times on multiple platforms. Revisit that “Who is your audience?” question and focus on the platforms where they already hang out.
Hosting a podcast takes time and investment in equipment, hosting, software and tools. You are creating a valuable resource for listeners, so there’s nothing wrong with wanting to generate revenue from it!
Arranging corporate sponsorships and including ads within your podcast is one way of generating income, but listener-supported options are also becoming more common. Your podcast could be available only to paid subscribers, or it may be publicly available and you use a platform like Patreon to let super-fan listeners show their support with ongoing monthly pledges.
Keep On Keeping On
By far the hardest part about getting started in podcasting is sticking with it. Like studying an instrument, it takes a lot of effort, and the results can be slow to surface.
Get to know other podcasters. Find a group of encouraging friends. And the minute you have an audience, start talking to them. Nothing is more motivating and inspiring than talking to someone who is benefiting from the valuable work you’re doing.
For links to tutorials and current product and service recommendations, check out the supporting resources list on MusicStudioStartup.com/resources.
Andrea Miller is the piano teacher and entrepreneur behind the Music Studio Startup podcast and blog. She talks about all things business and coaches musicians who want to build financially sustainable studios.