How do I start my own podcast?
July 31, 2011 7:21 AM   Subscribe

I want to start my own podcast, and I want to do it right. But I am not sure where to start, any advice? The podcast will be a comedy related one, and may have a co-host, and would have a weekly guest. Here are the things I've been thinking about.

1. How do I get my podcast online? I would want people to be able to listen to it off of a website, as well as getting it from iTunes.

2. I want it to sound good. Any advice on how to set that up on my Macbook? Some kind of sound board system? Good quality mics, or audio software that would help control the levels. (It's very important to me that the sound quality is great)

3. Are you allowed to play music on your podcast? Is it possible to play a clip from as song, say for an intro, without having to pay for that. Is that a thing?

4. Should there be some kind of consent form I should have prepared for my guest to sign?

5. Is something like Skype a good method for interviewing guest who are out of town?

6. Is there anything I am not thinking of that you think I should know?

Thank you so much in advance for any help, I am really excited to start this. :)
posted by ImBitman to Computers & Internet (14 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
Dear Leader (mathowie/Matt Haughey) wrote up a post aptly titled "Everything I've learned about Podcasting" awhile back on one of his sites. It covers everything he's learned doing the Metafilter podcasts over the last several years.

I think it answers a whole bunch of what you're asking (including being Mac-centric), if not all of it. :)
posted by empyrean at 8:11 AM on July 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Audionotix has a lot of stuff on YouTube in a variety of styles. I haven't listened to every single track, but it seems to be almost entirely instrumentals.

Dan-O's stuff has more of a rock focus, but also has more songs with vocals.

Incompetech has more of a computer made feel to it due to the use of drum synthesizers, but is still pretty good if you ask me.
posted by theichibun at 8:12 AM on July 31, 2011

1. Getting it online and getting into itunes are hugely different. Either way you'll need to pay for hosting and figure out how to store the files online as accessible to various feeds. There are also podcasting sites that let you upload and host stuff for free or for a small fee. Or you can just upload to Divshare or some other audio hosting site, but then people can't really subscribe to it.

2. The details of this question are beyond me, my buddy who is a sound engineer makes mine sound nice. The more you spend though, the better it sounds.

3. No you're not allowed to play whole songs without permission. Less than 30 second clips as intros though I believe is within fair use.

4. Nah.

5. It can be, or it can also be horrible. Besides the recording equipment, make sure you both have immaculate connections.

6. Don't just sit there and talk nonsense, make it about something. Listen to this new podcast reality show from Earwolf: The Challenge. A lot of great advice therein for beginning pod-casters trying to be funny.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:19 AM on July 31, 2011

I don't podcast, but can those who do tell the OP about how much it costs? I don't remember how much it does, but I've definitely heard complaints that this seems to be a more expensive than you thought it'd be hobby.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:24 AM on July 31, 2011

I have never podcasted, but I listen to a ton and whenever someone writes in to ask about using Skype, the podcasters recommend it highly but, have everyone record their own audio track locally while Skyping, then send it to you. This way, you can edit to local tracks together and you don't have to worry about bad connections.

It will require a little setup for your guests so you may not want to always do it, but if you have a co-host on regularly have he/she do this.
posted by InsanePenguin at 8:34 AM on July 31, 2011 [3 favorites]

3. No you're not allowed to play whole songs without permission. Less than 30 second clips as intros though I believe is within fair use.

I think that's generally allowed, but it wouldn't be a bad idea to try and contact the artist just in case. My Brother, My Brother, and Me was sent a cease and desist from ABBA because they used a 15 second clip as their intro.
posted by InsanePenguin at 8:38 AM on July 31, 2011

PLay it safe with music and use some creative commons-licensed music.
posted by bluedaisy at 8:43 AM on July 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

3. No you're not allowed to play whole songs without permission. Less than 30 second clips as intros though I believe is within fair use.

I don't think any amount of a song is "fair use." In fact, using a snippet as an intro is listed as Example #2 here as not being fair use. Get a lawyer's advice if you want to do this, but I wouldn't lay down any money on a bet that this scenario counts as fair use.
posted by msbrauer at 8:49 AM on July 31, 2011

You can join ASCAP and pay royalties and legally use all kinds of professional music, but their rate structure is a bit weird. This is how radio stations use the bumper music without worrying. Better to spin a song up yourself in Garageband or hire someone to create a jingle. There's a difference between Fair Use and "will I get sued?" Chances are no one will ever come after you for the use of a song, but why risk it?

I would suggest getting this package from pair. I have been hosting with them for over 10 years with minimal problems. You can step up into more expensive plans later. What is nice here is that if your podcast gets slashdotted or dugg or whatever you don't owe $9,000 in bandwidth fees. You just go dark. Some people would rather have that bill, so do what you like.

Here's a breakdown from Apple on what it takes to make a Podcast.

I'd get a decent audio interface. Pick one that's at least $100 and has a brand you at least have heard of. I use a Tascam (I'm not by it, otherwise I'd give you more info). They don't make the one I use anymore, but pretty much any decent one will work.

If you go to a music store and tell them what you are wanting they will set you up with an interface and compatible mics. You want XLR vocal mics that are phantom powered. I'd get spend here. Like $200 if you can afford that. I like Shure mics.

Audio files cab get big, so spend some time learning how to smash them down. Also decide what formats you will support. AAC, MP3? Ect.

Don't let things overwhelm you. It's not as hard as this is all going to make it seem. If it were that hard there wouldn't be that many podcasts.
posted by cjorgensen at 9:21 AM on July 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Generally the 30 second thing holds true (this is how iTunes can offer 30 second preview samples of songs in the first place) but I would not use the same 30 seconds of some song you love for intro music. If I were the artist and found out you were doing it, I would be pretty steamed. Once to show off a cool bit of a song is one thing; but profiting from using it as a regular part of your show is another.
posted by carlh at 10:31 AM on July 31, 2011

Actually iTunes can offer the 30 second clip because that's what Apple has licensed. That's a red herring and has nothing to do with Fair Use. You'll also notice next time you look that the Apple precious are considerably longer than 30 seconds now because that's the deal they signed with the record companies. Cite. Everyone always wants to quote an acceptable amount of a song, but there isn't a specific amount that is allowed. This is why there are court cases over these sorts of things. It all depends on the use. It's not an easy thing to get correct. Even if you have a lawyer and cross your eyes and dot your teas you can still get this screwed up. That's why I'd advise creating your own or commissioning one. Or use a Negativland song. Those guys never sue anyone (I kid!).
posted by cjorgensen at 12:25 PM on July 31, 2011

This is Dan Benjamin's equipment advice, but my husband has found that the white iPhone earbuds give plenty good sound for his remote guests who don't have equipment of their own.

We use Dreamhost and have plenty of bandwidth. If you hit it super-big, you may have to look elsewhere for hosting but that would hold you for a while.

Skype works fine and lots of people who have remote hosts or guests use it. It's best, as others have mentioned, to have the guest record their own file and send it to you. I know of one person who, at least not that long ago, actually had dedicated computers for recording each participant's sound file so he didn't have to depend on other people to send their files in. That's not really something everybody's equipped for, though.

You can't use other people's stuff for free, and you shouldn't want to. That's bad karma and bad reputation.

It doesn't have to be perfect the first time. In fact, you might plan to record 3-5 episodes that will never air, so you can nail down your structure and sound. But even after that, getting it online is how you get it out there; lots of people have great ideas that nobody ever hears because they haven't bought the perfect microphone yet.

It's not a free hobby. It doesn't have to be ghastly expensive, but it's going to cost you money up until you have enough of a listenership to monetize it in some way. Don't expect that to happen right away (or at all).
posted by Lyn Never at 3:41 PM on July 31, 2011

1. How do I get my podcast online? I would want people to be able to listen to it off of a website, as well as getting it from iTunes.

The way a podcast is a subscribe-able podcast and not just a collection of audio/video files is the feed. Unlike a regular RSS feed a podcast feed supports enclosures, which is what gives the users direct access to the rich media. Popular CMSs have plugins that will generate this feed automatically when you publish. Drupal has a few options and I'm pretty sure Wordpress does too.

The key to the hosting is bandwidth. Storing the podcasts online is trivial (just FTP it up) but when people start downloading the rich media, even a little popularity can cost a lot of money in bandwidth overages and/or slow or completely shut down your site. If you are of the technical persuasion you may want to set up a CDN for your files in conjunction with a website, with Amazon S3 or something similar.

If you want something that just works "out of the box", you might want to take a look at LibSyn. All they do is podcasts. They'll host your files, provide you with a fairly basic website, generate a feed you can submit to iTunes, and with the higher-priced plans, smartphone apps. They provide nice statistics you can check out to see how many folks are downloading. They also have unmetered bandwidth, so you don't get punished for popularity. And if you decide you just want to host the podcast files with them and build a fleshed out website elsewhere, you can use the feed sync option.

The big drawback with LibSyn I've found is unlike a general/traditional web host they provide no phone number, and it takes a long time (well over a day and sometimes more) for them to get back to you via email. The help documentation is a little lacking so if there is anything tricky about your use case you will need to contact them. But they are nice, the hosting is reliable, and there are no surprises when the bill comes. And many, many podcasts you have probably heard of use them for hosting files, so they must be doing something right over there.

No matter where you host your files or your feed, I would highly recommend submitting it to Feedburner and submitting your Feedburner feed to iTunes, not the direct URL to your feed. The main benefit is if you ever need to move your podcast to a new URL, it is much easier to log in to Feedburner and change it than make iTunes AND all of your existing subscribers aware of the new URL.
posted by Famous at 9:33 PM on July 31, 2011

I'm a podcaster.

We host a Wordpress site with the podcasting plugin on the "Tiny" package from ASO and host our mp3 files with Libsyn. I've been very happy with both (though libsyn's stats reporting has issues sometimes).

For recording we use a Zoom H4N with two external mics attached (Audio-Technica AT2020s). This gives us four tracks (two internal mics on the H4 and two external). You'll want windscreens or pop-filters on the mics (the H4 comes with a windscreen) and get mic stands to that the three devices are nice and close to your mouths. We find this setup works well for 3 people and could probably expand to 4 since the H4 records a pretty wide angle (120 degrees I think).

We edit in Garageband with help from Levelator (for levelling) and Audacity (because it can do things like splitting stereo tracks and eliminating noise that Garageband can't). For music we've been pretty happy with IODApromonet, which has great selection of commercial podsafe music, but a crappy website.
posted by JPDD at 7:39 AM on August 1, 2011

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