The Podcast is “Song Talk Radio with Bruce, Neel & Phil".
It's kind of like a gardening show for songwriters. We share tips and techniques for writing better songs. We don’t talk about things like inspiration or a songwriters history, but we do talk about chord choices and options, melody development, key changes and song structures, etc. It’s a very “inside baseball” kind of thing. If you’re not a songwriter it might seem a little arcane and even boring, but if you write songs, each show contains a crap-load of tips and suggestions on things you can try yourself.
The show is hosed by Bruce Harrott, Neel Modi, and myself Phil Emery. We have Vanessa Vreeland, our producer, doing social media during the show and putting up with us.
I was a professional musician in my younger days (nothing big, just a lot of work) and write music for films and theatre, and most recently was CMO & Bassist/ vocals for a local Punk Rock group “The Parkdale Hookers”. I also host one on the oldest songwriter’s meet-ups in Toronto.
I’ve been a huge podcast listener ever since they started (I used to load them on to my Palm Pilot). I have about a month or two of podcasts ready to go at anytime on my system - so I guess I have a problem.
We (Bruce, Neel and myself) were running a monthly Songwriters Meetup in Toronto for about 3 years. A new radio station was opening up in a university downtown and they approached us to bring the Meetup to their radio station. I think they were expecting a standard showcase kind of thing but I’ve always detested those shows.
So I took bits from all my favourite podcasts (The Mac Geek Gab, Hypercritical, etc) and created a show that I would want to listen to. The other guys weren’t podcast listeners so I had to convince them that it was the way to go and what podcasts were. But the approach has been pretty solid right from the start, although the execution went through some variation.
Our first episode was in November of 2013 and we’ve been doing it every Tuesday since then (213+ episodes at this point). I think it took a couple of months to get a demo version of the show to present to the radio station. It took a month after that to get the podcast stuff happening. Over the first year we tweaked the format to arrive at where we are now. Initially we had the 3 hosts and 2 guests in a half-hour. We then went to one guest in a half-hour, then one guest in a full hour.
We broadcast live on CJRU1280AM in Toronto and the Podcast goes to the stream on Sundays. We have a much larger podcast listener-base than a live radio audience as the station is new and has a pretty low wattage transmitter.
I used to produce a radio show when I was younger and quickly found out that it was much easier and faster to do a live show than something you have to edit, so I wanted to design a show that took as little “post production” as possible. We start recording at 7:02 pm and stop recording at 8:00pm and that’s the show. We don’t edit the shows at all really (apart from compression). The recording is the easy and fun part. The organizing of guests and other matters does take some time but it’s spread between the 4 of us and that makes it doable (especially Vanessa - she holds us together).
I run a marketing practice so I can usually slip the show stuff in within the day.
As my company hosts websites for our clients, we can have a site on our servers. Most marketing is organic at this point and the editing that does need to be done can be done by Neel or myself pretty easily. We have an Amazon S3 account that might be about $200 a year all in.
We’re funded by some affiliate marketing, but we do the rest.
We’ve been getting a lot of sponsor interest but it’s a bit more complicated for us as the radio station we’re on is a non-profit license in Canada. We're exploring a few different approaches to that.
We get about 1k downloads per show at this point. Considering how niche the show is we’re pretty happy.
The show has been a great effect on me - doing the show is a blast, then we go out for beers afterwards and kinda continue the show then. It’s certainly an interesting differentiator when talking to new clients.
We only have guests live in the studio. It’s just more fun and the energy is much higher. Guests at this point find us, although we will approach certain individuals. We’re usually booked 3 to 4 months in advance and now music publishers know this so they contact us in plenty of time.
Apart from listening to the songs the guests will provide (2 per show) and going over the lyrics, we don’t do any prep. It’s much more organic that way (and easier) and fun. We do a group “whoop” about 30secs before we start to record though.
We use the radio station's studio, so we just get there at 6:30pm, do level checks and then go. It makes the whole process much easier as you don’t have to set up a bunch of mics/equipment. We’re often out the door at 8:15pm.
I would advise people to explore partnering with your local community or university/college radio station. It makes the process easier and there is a great discipline about doing a show every week at a certain time. There’s less opportunity for “podfade” to occur. "It’s 1 hour before the show and the guest bails?" Well, you gotta do something. Those show often are the best.
We have facebook pages and do the odd bit of fb & twitter advertising. We also have the meetups that we message to. Being active on Social Media and forms can yield great results. We still need to figure out our acquisition metrics. We cobbled something together when we started but we're getting to the point where we need to take it to the next level.
Recording your show is really only about 20% of the task. There is so much more involved in terms of administration and organization. You want to think about what it's going to be like after doing your show in 2 years. The first month or two is fun but it can become a slog after a while. So if you do things in a way that takes 3 hours per show of post-production, you'll either need to think that doing postproduction the most fun thing to do ever, or hire someone to do it for you. Find partners - its a lot more fun, and work spread amongst a group is easier, although you'll have interpersonal issues but that's normal.