A Note About Podfade
Before we dive into this article/episode, we need to have a bit of a heart-to-heart.
After getting through the questions and thoughts in the previous two posts/episodes, I’m sure you’re ready to move on to getting your podcast built out and launched, and I am too! But first, we need to discuss one of the biggest dangers in podcasting: Podfade.
Podfade is industry slang for burning out on your show. When things are going well and you’re getting great feedback for your content, you’re going to be easily motivated to keep going. However, the minute the download numbers begin to stagnate and each new episode becomes a drag to create, you’re going to find it harder and harder to continue. For most podcasters, Podfade sets in about episodes 7 or 8, which, at this stage may sound shockingly early, but remember, even as a weekly show that represents two months worth of content to be produced.
Perhaps you’ll decide you’re just not that into podcasting.
Maybe it’s too complicated.
Maybe your creativity will seize up around episode 4 and you’ll struggle to make it to 7 or 8.
Or maybe it’s the editing that will get to you. Podcasts can be a PAIN to edit. Especially if you’re just starting, learning how to do script reads, and mic technique.
Maybe you’ll just hate the sound of your own voice. Sure, your mom says you’ve got a voice for radio and a face to match, but when you hear it, it just sounds grating and obnoxious.
Or perhaps it’ll be hard to find guests for your show.
Logistics will bog you down and be the death of you.
It could be any number of things, but rest assured that Podfade hits us all eventually. What we have to do is decide how we are going to handle it when our time comes.
In my time producing content, I’ve found some simple steps for overcoming Podfade, but it’s still going to take you being committed to the work in order to get through it.
Finding Your Frequency
The first thing you can do to avoid Podfade is tied to the format of your show: Frequency. Deciding on a season, limited-run series, or monthly, bi-weekly, or weekly series is going to really impact the way you approach your show.
If you’re doing a season, you don’t necessarily have to release anything until you have everything edited for the season. The same is true of the Limited Run series. You can just do the work of creating the content and then release the show at a cadence your marketing team can keep up with.
That said, the more pre-recorded content you have stored up for release, the less likely your show will succeed. Why is this? It’s because there’s less room for audience feedback. Therefore, if this is your first rodeo, I strongly recommend you avoid the “record & edit everything before you release” method. Creating in a vacuum is dangerous, and Podcasting is a two-way conversation between the creator and the audience.
The important thing here is finding a frequency to which you can comfortably commit. That frequency will be related to the intensity of the content you create and the format you choose. So the next thing we need to consider is, of course, your format.
Choosing Your Format
There are an endless number of formats you can choose for your show, but for the sake of sanity and simplicity, let’s stick to the main three segments: Solo, Interview, and Narrative.
Solo series are definitely some of the most challenging to create. Remember what I said about creating in a vacuum? You’re basically creating and producing everything yourself. Maybe you’re a prolific writer or you can improvise new content on the fly. If that’s you, awesome! …But wait until you hear yourself back for the first time. Even if you’re in love with the sound of your own voice, you’re almost guaranteed to find something you’ll not like and want to re-work. Having a good editing team or other people to run your content by is important if you’re doing solo content. I make sure to do this myself even though I’ve written, edited, and produced all these episodes. I still do my best to run the content by my team (and my wife) to make sure I’m creating interesting content. You’ll want to do the same.
Also, if you’re going to write every script and read it out like I’m doing for this show, then you absolutely need to make sure that your schedule allows you the time to do that. Each episode I write will be around 1,500 to 2,000 words. Broken down at a normal talking pace between 130 and 150 words per minute, that’s roughly 10 to 15 minutes of audio. If you want to do an hour? You’ll be writing 7,800 to 9,000 words per episode. A novel is considered to be a story over 80,000 words… so in roughly 10 episodes, you will have a novel.
That’s awesome if you plan on writing a book. Or if you’re Dan Carlin from Hardcore History… and to that point, look at how often Dan comes out with a new episode/series of that show… it’s not often.
Interview content, on the other hand, is much easier to create. I know folks that can sit down with a complete stranger and a few talking points and come out with a fantastic show. Their experience in the industry or on the topic and their personal ability to improvise allows them to do this really well. Of course, that’s not everybody, but with practice, this becomes easier and easier… and we’ll get into this in more detail when we discuss creating a framework for your show.
The challenge with interview podcasts is finding guests. If you don’t already have a guest list being built for your interview show, start now. It takes time to get on people’s schedules, and things always come up that will slow you down if you’re not already ahead of schedule.
Narrative content is… a beast. Not only do you have to write content, but, depending on the series, you’ll need to interview people, review the interviews, and decide how those interviews inform your narrative. Then you have to take all that, write the narrative, record it, and then edit the audio together. We’re currently producing a couple of these series at HumblePod, and I can tell you firsthand that it ain’t easy. I definitely do not advise trying to create a narrative series on your own. Build a team. Even if it’s one other person, they’ll do more to help you get past those creative barriers than you can do on your own.
The Structure for Your Show
Once you’ve decided which of these three segments your show is going to be in, it’s time to build the structure of your show. The structure can vary quite a bit between segments, so for the sake of keeping this simple, let’s pretend we have an interview show.
There are three basic sections for the show. The Intro, Body, and Outro. When I approach a new show, the first thing we typically do is decide what the intro and outro are going to be. This is important because this will set the tone for the rest of the show. If you’ve been keeping up with the show so far, you’ll already have your messaging and positioning ready to go, and here’s where you’ve already got some work done for you.
For the intro to your podcast, we’re going to utilize a couple of pieces we’ve already developed. Specifically, the show’s name (because we need to identify what show this is), and the one-sentence show description since it’s a simple and succinct way to describe what your show is all about.
The formula for your show is,
“Welcome to the [name of your podcast here], where we [insert one-sentence show description here].”
In the case of this show, it’s:
“Welcome to the Humble Podcaster. The podcast where we help you follow through on your dreams of creating your own show by providing practical knowledge, tips, and tricks on podcast production.”
Of course, you can get way more creative with it than that, but you should always make sure that your one-sentence description is at the beginning of your show in some way shape or form if you’re doing a solo or interview formatted podcast.
The reason you do this is – you guessed it – positioning! This allows you to make sure each time your listeners hear the show, they are reminded why they’re here and why they’re listening. It’s also important because you never know what episode someone will listen to first. This allows your first impression to very clearly state the purpose for your show and engage your listener.
On the other side of the track, we have the outro, its purpose is to be your “closer.” This is what you want to say at the end of every episode to make sure people know where to find, follow and subscribe your show. I highly recommend you make this a pre-recorded segment, or at least script it for every episode so that you don’t forget to include it.
The outro follows a similar format to the intro. If you’re looking for a template, here’s what I recommend as a starting place:
“Thank you for listening to [podcast]. You can keep up with the latest on the podcast [website] and be sure to follow us on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen to podcasts. If you want to connect with us on social media, you can find us [social media links]. We’ll see you next time! [or insert show tagline here].”
The outro for the Humble Podcaster is:
“Thank you for listening to The Humble Podcaster. You can keep up with the latest on the podcast at humblepodcaster.com, and be sure to follow us on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen to podcasts. If you want to connect with us on social media, you can find us AT humblepod on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. And remember: Stay Humble. Stay On Course. And keep on podcasting!”
Now that you’ve got the scripts written, you’re probably going to be ready and raring to record. But, before you run off to record, please know there’s still more to cover here, and there is still a lot to consider before picking up the mic. If you want to save yourself some time and sanity, you can wait to record until we’re through with the next few episodes in this “How To Start A Podcast” series.
Choosing Your Music
Now that we’ve addressed that, it’s time to choose some music. As you consider what music to have, think about your audience and what kind of music they like. Think about the tone you want to set for your show, and pick some tracks.
One pro tip here: Put your intro & outro recording on a loop while you sample music. It might be a tad annoying, but it’ll let you sample a bunch of music without having to download each song you think you like and test it in your recording software session.
When considering music, the other challenge you’re going to face is, “Will I face copyright infringement for this song?” In general, if you’re going to use a pop song, the answer is almost certainly, “Yes.”
Yes, I know many folks will talk about the “30-second rule” where you can supposedly use up to 30 seconds of audio before it’s copyright infringement when it comes to podcasts. And, sure, in general sharing a podcast isn’t as restrictive as posting content to YouTube in that you won’t get immediately DMCA’d, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be careful.
The best explanation of this that I’ve read comes from the Broadcast Law Blog. In an article titled, “Using Music in Podcasts – Talk to the Copyright Holders – Why You Can’t Rely on Your ASCAP, BMI, SESAC and SoundExchange Licenses,” they discuss the challenges with their own broadcast licenses and podcasting. The TL;DR there is that, “BMI controls only a portion of the rights necessary to use music in podcasts.”
Now you may be saying to yourself, “Well, that sucks for broadcasters, but how does that apply to my podcast?” The article dives deeper into this and says that if you want to use any pop music,
“…Podcasts – even when streamed – are made available on demand, [therefore] the rights to the reproduction and distribution of the words and music of a song must be obtained. These rights are obtained… directly from the copyright holder – usually the publishing company with which the songwriter is affiliated.”
So… in short, you must get your license from the license holder. If you really, really, want that song, you’re going to have to get it licensed from the owner of said license… This can be harder than it sounds, because not only do you have to find the original writer of the song, but you’ve gotta find out where that license is housed and then negotiate with said company for the license. To that, I say, good luck!
Okay. That covers the legality of mainstream music, but what about an artist you know personally? If you can get permission from them in writing, then I say, “I am not a lawyer. Ask a lawyer.” The key is that you want to make sure you’re as above-board with the content as possible. Should your show start to garner a large following and bring on advertising, you’re going to want to be sure you don’t have a lawyer looking at your profits and deciding that you owe their musicians for the music on your show.
As for legal music, I recommend using a licensing service. My personal favorite is SoundStripe, but there are tons to choose from out there. Just make sure to pick one with music you like but haven’t heard in other content before. Similar to how you pick a stock photo. As with everything, differentiation is key.
Once you’ve got your music selected and your intro and outros complete, you’ve got some re-usable content for each episode. Great job getting to this point, by the way. We’re really close to being able to put this show out into the world.
For your homework, I want you to get your intro & outro written and the music selected. If you’re not ready to record yet, don’t worry. We will cover the basics you need for recording and editing soon… well, as much as you can on a podcast. For now, just having everything ready to go will be enough. Extra credit for those of you who do get it all done before next week.
In our next episode, we’re going to dive into how to structure the body of your podcast and create what should be everyone’s first episode: the trailer.