From Michelle Obama to Gwyneth Paltrow, it feels like everyone has a podcast these days... except for most of your favourite music artists.
The realm of the artist podcast is, strangely, a fairly untapped resource, with a small portion of artists slowly making their way into the world of podcasting as the medium grows exponentially. Recently, we reached out to artists Creeper and Becky Hill to discuss why artists are starting to make their own podcasts.
In this article we speak to Mike Wooller, Content Development Manager of podcasting supergiant Acast, to figure out how best to produce an artist podcast that’s both listenable and marketable, whilst still keeping monetisation in mind.
Here's Mike's advice and some things to consider before your artists start recording.
Take Control Of Your Output
One of the reasons that podcasts have become so popular is the low barrier for entry and “literally anybody with a microphone can make a podcast,” Mike tells me over the phone.
“The fact that it's an open medium and generally distributed by RSS feed means there’s no gatekeeper, a little bit like how social media is, and everyone’s got a social media account now it’s so essential.”
Podcasts allow you to have complete control of what you put out there. This direct-to-fan authenticity is like receiving a phone call from your idol whether the host details their personal life or the podcast is a deep-dive series into the history of cheesecakes!
“From a musician or artist’s perspective, this is another way of reaching your fans, you can say all the things you’d never normally be allowed to say, and your fans get a really intimate insight into you as a person and what makes you tick.”
Find Your Niche
Before you’re let loose on the microphone, there are multiple things to consider in pre-production. The very first thing to think about is the format, as without this your content will labour, crumble or struggle.
“There are so many podcasts out there where people just want to interview interesting people,” Mike explains. “But you’ve already got Joe Rogan and you’ve already got big interviewers out there that are making their own podcasts.”
So finding your original take or niche is really the key. “Maybe you’re an artist that’s into manga so you do a podcast about manga, you might be an artist who is really interested in cooking, so you do a cooking podcast where you talk to chefs, Off-Menu is a really good example of that, they’re both comedians but it’s a food podcast.”
Jessie Ware has also, of course, enjoyed tremendous success with her Table Manners podcast, which she co-hosts with her mother Lennie. The series features a dinner party conversation with a celebrity and the duo’s hit podcast has had 3 million listens since 2017. Jessie Ware said in a recent interview with Music Week that Table Manners was her “biggest PR tool by fluke and total accident”.
“There’s always been this sense that people haven’t discovered me fully and what the podcast did was show a complete other side to me that you don’t get to see when you hear an album, and a personality of mine that I wasn’t able to present in my music because I didn’t particularly want to.”
Perfect The Sound
Once your USP and structure is in place, then you’ll need to perfect the sound quality.
“There are so many podcasts out there now that if yours isn’t good, people will just skip to the next one and they may not come back and listen to your podcast again so the first impression really counts,” Mike explains.
“Sound quality is really important, so that’s gonna be things like really good mic placement, making sure you’re not in too echoey a room, making sure that the mic you’re recording on is decent quality, knowing where to sit away from the microphone, all of those small things.”
For more on perfect sound, check out this article '15 Microphone Techniques You Should Be Using ’ from Podcast.co.
Bring In A Producer
If these elements of sound recording are way out of your depth, you can always outsource an audio producer to make the best possible sounding podcast.
“Putting a simple podcast together is something that most proficient audio producers could do, but someone who has got a really good ear for a story and for details would also be important,” Mike explains.
“If you’re hiring-in a producer as an artist, that producer should also be proficient in distributing podcasts as well: doing all the uploading for you, having an idea of how best to put together social aspects for it, and really understanding the podcasting ecosystem.”
Begin your search for a podcast producer by uploading a podcast brief to Creative Commission.
Becoming The Host Can Reach New Audiences
As an artist, you may be used to the limelight or have a bit of stage presence, but is your personality strong enough to carry an entire podcast series and keep fans coming back for more?
“The key things are, talent-wise, somebody who is good at talking,” Mike agrees. “You need an engaging person to host the podcast and (the fans) need a reason to be listening to you every week so you need to be the real selling point of the audio”.
One great thing of entering a new format is that new fans who enjoy listening to you personally may end up becoming fans of your music. “It will always lead to people listening to more of your music so it’s a great marketing tool in that respect.”
Stick To A Regular Schedule
I ask Mike how often you need to upload to appease listeners.
“We always say weekly, if you do anywhere less than bi-weekly it’s just really hard to get traction, it doesn’t matter how big you are. Once a podcast is in front of people, you have a
limited amount of time to get them hooked on your podcast, make them subscribe and have them coming back every single week. If you release every two weeks, if someone discovers
your podcast but they have to wait another two weeks for the next episode then they would’ve probably have forgotten about it by the time the next episode goes live.”
He adds that discovery for podcasts is still fairly terrible, so you need to hook potential listeners in as soon as they come across it as it may be your only chance.
Get your branding right
“There are so many podcasts out there now that if yours isn’t good,” Mike tells us, “people will just skip to the next one and they may not come back and listen to your podcast again so the first impression really counts.”
Here’s how Mike suggests going about commissioning high-quality artwork that really stands out.
“One thing to note is that podcast artwork is tiny and you can’t read that much of it. So keep text big and simple, making sure there’s not too much going on, maybe sticking to one
“If you as an artist are a big name and people will recognise you, make sure you’re front and centre of it. Most people don’t listen to the trailers to see whether they’ll like it, they’ll see the picture and go “ooh, that looks like a bit of me” so that’s the main thing; it’s the shop front.”
Here’s a great example of graphic artwork and motion visuals created by Oisin Griffin for George Ezra and Friends podcast and commissioned via CC.