How I Got Into Podcasting
Audio production has always been an interest of mine: my late grandfather was an audiophile, my dad ran an AV studio in Woking (the one where the Spice Girls were formed - my dad got mentioned in a couple of their autobiographies) and now runs his own AV consultancy business, and my cousin also runs an AV consultancy... so there’s a definite family history in there.
I dabbled briefly with hospital radio (as a technician, rather than a presenter) in the late 80’s, and I was a technician and presenter on College Radio in the early 90’s where I hosted a show called “The Barry Manilow Fan Club” on Friday lunchtimes.
Yes, I am a huge fan of Barry Manilow - he’s given me a lot of inspiration as a musician - no, I didn’t play any Barry on the College Radio show.
I’d also had a few people say that I had a good radio voice. Others say a good radio face, but I don’t like them anymore.
In 2007, I discovered this podcasting lark through a couple of friends who had their own podcasts. One was The Random Three: a personal musical journey where Mark - the host - would play three seemingly-random pieces of music from his own collection (thus, not podsafe) and explain the reasons why he chose them. Most of the time, these seemingly-random tracks actually had a theme, but it didn’t necessarily become apparent until after the second track. It was a great show - now sadly defunct - and I really miss it. I even submitted my own music choices for Mark to present.
The other was Dumbed Down Life: three chaps nattering about “stuff” and playing some music along with it. Another great show, which - although it still exists - currently releases episodes every year or so.
What drew me to these shows - apart from being friends, was the fact that these were regular guys, not professionals.
That led me to think “I can do that”, so I set about proving - to myself, mostly - that I could.
One Thursday in early March 2008, when the wife had gone to the gym for a couple of hours, I grabbed my Logitech headset, my Linux laptop, a handful of tracks from the Podsafe Music Network, and a piece of software called IDJC, and recorded the first ever episode of The Bugcast. It was just over 22 minutes long, and it was dire. Utterly dire. Every so often, I go back to it and listen and cringe and marvel at how much better the show is now!
The music back then wasn’t strictly podsafe either: the first track I played was Moloko’s Sing It Back… but I didn’t worry about it then, as I got the track from a source that gave implicit permission for use in podcasts.
I did do a show - episode 20 - which was a nostalgic trip back to my college years, where I played tracks by Chad Jackson, Japan, and Dream Warriors. This was a complete and intentional violation of copyright on my part, which led me to pull the show only a few weeks later. I did rerelease the show two years after that, but with the offending tracks removed. However, there is a story to the show, so I would recommend you go listen.
Back then, it was just me and a small listener-base of friends, their family, their families’ servants; their families’ servants’ tennis partners, and some chap I bumped into in the mess the other day called Bernard. But as time went on and I got more experience, I was really enjoying what I was doing, and started to experiment.
One thing I did discover by about episode 16 is that I wasn’t editing my shows in post, aside from topping and tailing silence. This made it so much easier for me as I was recording the shows as-live from the very beginning, but taking out the vocal gaps, gaffes and the like. So there was really only one place to go from there...
So in August 2008, on episode 24, to an audience of about 10 people, I streamed the first LIVE episode of the podcast. Wow, that was such a buzz! It was a major turning point in the show as I committed myself to do a regular show at a set time each week... turning a fun hobby into something a little step beyond amateur. There were a couple of non-live shows that I had to put together using the wife’s Windows machine when my laptop went bang and had to be repaired, but I hated doing that because I didn’t like the piecemeal sticky-tape method of production. There was little flow, and my spoken links between the music sounded very much like a bad Radio 4 anchor.
In late September 2008, I was accepted as a member of the now-defunct Association of Music Podcasting. This was another major step for me. All member of the Association were peer-reviewed as part of the criteria for membership. This meant that my podcast was sufficiently good to be accepted. That meant so much to me, and made me take things so much more seriously (and was the main reason why I pulled episode 20 just prior)
It also meant that the show was becoming more music-oriented - something I really did not have a problem with! Particularly as I was starting to strike up good relationships with some of the artists that I was featuring on the show. This led to me prerecording an interview with one of the bands in January 2009, and then again with another artist in March.
Having registered a proper domain for the podcast (rather than piggybacking my own personal domain) and then celebrated the first anniversary of the show... you could say that the show was fuelling its own progression. And I was enjoying that journey immensely!
Over the next 6 months, I joined the Made In The UK Show collective, interviewed an artist LIVE on the show, had the show syndicated on an internet radio station in the UK, and launched a new, independent chatroom for the website.
The Major Change
And then, in September of 2009, the 18 month anniversary of the show, and two days before my birthday, something happened to totally turn the show upside down.
I decided that I wanted to improve the show. Bearing in mind that I was still using my Logitech headset, my Linux laptop, and a piece of software called IDJC to record and stream the show, I felt it was time for a change. So I spent a small fortune on a mixer, microphones, stands, audio interface, and cables.
Yes, microphones. Plural.
Up to this point my wife, Caroline, had progressed from occasional listener, to regular distraction (I don’t think details are appropriate!), to researcher. So I asked her a question... if I bought two microphones, would you join the show as a permanent co-host? She said yes.
That really changed things. The dynamic of me talking to an imaginary audience (bar the activity in the live chatroom) changing to me bouncing off someone in the same room was electric! The show was totally transformed by that fairly simple change. Our listener figures jumped up, the music on the show was more varied, existing listeners enjoyed the show more... it was amazing.
There have been occasions where Caroline hasn’t been able to join the show (illness, kids, etc) and the listeners (and I) have really noticed her absence.
- we’ve launched an OGG feed, which comprises approximately 20% of the downloads from the site
- at one point we were syndicated on 4 internet radio stations around the world
- we’re major contributors to cchits.net
- in 2013 we were awarded the European Podcast Award for UK Personality
- we’ve just celebrated 10 years of podcasting, producing over 500 regular episodes
So there’s a potted history of how I got into podcasting.
Beyond The Bugcast
Outside the realms of The Bugcast, which is still my primary podcast:
- I’m a contributor to CCJam - a short-form community podcast which focuses on music
- I’m one of the co-hosts of TuxJam - Linux news with Creative Commons music
- I’m one of the co-hosts of the Duffercast
- I’m an irregular contributor to HPR, as you’ll probably already know
- I’m just become the producer of the Admin Admin podcast - my first producer-only gig
- I’m the “owner” (if you like) of the Made In The UK Show - currently on haitus
- I’m one of the co-hosts of Crivins - currently on haitus
I’m always happy to answer any questions or provide help with regard to podcasting, you can find various ways to find me over at my Contact page
Thanks for listening! :-)