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Lessons Learned After 60 Podcast Episodes

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Updated as at November 2022 :)


Although I've been podcasting for more than ten years, my current podcast is the first one related to gigging and keyboards, so I've found I've learned a lot over the first sixty episodes. So I thought these learnings might be useful for anyone considering starting their own podcast (I still hold out the hope that someone may start one :D ). Here are five of them (wow I've just made a listicle!! ) 


1. Securing guests


As you could imagine, approaching potential guests with an unsolicited message only has a certain hit rate. Of the 33 great people who have agreed to take part, there's at least another 30 I've approached who I've never heard back from. From experience that's actually a great hit-rate as some of those 30 are bucket list guests who are likely to never see the message as there are twenty PR people and personal management staff between me and them.


I've only had one 'no' and even that was from a viewpoint of not liking to do interviews at all. Some guests can take weeks or months to secure. Currently I have one guest that always says they are keen, we arrange a time and then when i call I get their voicemail :D - all par for the course with this stuff. When I was doing freelance writing for a computer magazine (interviewing musicians on their use of music tech), I remember it taking a year to finally secure an interview with Cyndi Lauper. Even then, on the day I got in the car to drive two hours for the interview I wasn't 100% sure it would happen.


Longevity of your podcast plays a role here. Even if your aim is to get huge names on your show (which isn't the aim of my podcast), until you have some big names on your episode history it will be a battle. It's an old vicious circle but i find it a pleasant one as it leads to you interviewing people who may be less known but as a rule have more interesting stories. That's why securing 'big names' is not an aim, although I still target some people because I know listeners would love to hear them. Also, the challenge is fun :)


One last thing: take your listeners' guest suggestions seriously - a bunch of the episodes so far have come from listener suggestions. Over the last 25 episodes or so we've been asking guests themselves who THEY would like to see interviewed, which also works well and a few guests have coming via that route.


Lesson: don't underestimate the time it takes to secure guests, but it tends to get easier the more episodes you have live.



2. Guest audio quality


If you've listened to a handful of episodes of my podcast, you'll easily notice some significant variability. I've talked to people on landlines, cell phones and Skype. Some get the need for using headphones, others don't. I've recorded an episode that took some serious work as far as audio quality, whereas some require near zero tweaking. I never claim to be great at this, but still put in time to get it as good as I can. I actually envy those that have their guests in the same room as them, as you can control some of that variability. I literally listen back to the whole interview from end to end and there's no way to avoid that if you want to do a decent edit.


Lesson: like music, the recording is only step 1: expect to spend time EQ'ing.



3. The pauses



The guests I've had so far have varied between reserved and manic, which makes doing interviews so fun. I will spend up to 90 minutes editing the guest interview and the length of time it takes depends on the amount of pauses. Because there are definitely pauses that you don't hear in the final product. Some are literally just the pause i.e. 6-7 seconds between a question and answer or vice versa (when I'm unsure if they've finished what they wanted to say). Sometimes i don't cut them because of what's been said, but each episode I'll cut a handful of them out. The other 'pauses' are where the guest gets lost or doesn't understand my question (yes, sometimes due to my accent), so we will stop and I will repeat the question. That all needs editing but across the 60 episodes this has occurred less than 15 times.


Lesson: Listen for the conversation flow and pull out pauses where you need to. Think of the listener who's likely to be wondering why things have paused for so long.




4. Know what you don't know


Don't pretend to be an expert. I do the podcast to talk to interesting keyboard players about their lives and work. For those that have listened, there's definitely gear talk (which I love) but compared to 80% + of people on this forum, I know diddly squat about the intricacies of synthesis etc. I was particularly nervous about this when interviewing Lisa Bella Donna as she knows synthesis to a level a lot of people will never experience. But - that interview went great as who needs me to demonstrate expertise when the show is about the guest. I absolutely have my comfort zones in relation to keyboard knowledge, but even then I try to avoid talking about it (I don't always succeed). If you were running a podcast on gear exclusively, I could see you're going to need some deeper expertise.


Lesson: it's not about you and you don't need to know everything. Let the guest tell their story.



5. Be regular


Yes, definitely keep your fibre up but I mean in relation to releasing episodes. I've learnt the hard way from previous podcasts that letting your schedule slip loses you loyal listeners. I set out to make this podcast fortnightly but have reverted to roughly once every 3 or 4 weeks due to the realities of pulling it all together. When COVID-19 really hit I've tried to put episodes out more frequently so some have only been 7-10 days apart. I will definitely miss the odd deadline in the future but I'm determined to keep it at a minimum. One way to minimise the issue is to have an episode or two in the can ready to go. I usually have the next episode underway with editing when I post a new episode.


Lesson: like music, be disciplined.



I'd be more than happy to answer any other questions about how the show has gone so far - and I will add to this list as I go on as there's lots more I've learnt. :)

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Great post, Dave! I've seen some podcasts come and go, and I quickly realized they are like blogs. You may think you have enough material to keep going, but for one reason or another it fizzles out. That could be the blogger or host's interest, the subject wasn't as deep as they'd thought it would be, or something else. Since you're doing interviews, you need to always have one in the can to keep it going, but it's not like you have to "make up" a topic. However, you need to keep pursuing people to interview, and any struggle to do that as well as produce the podcast has to be outweighed by the desire to keep at it.


I know, I have a few blogs scattered around the web and a couple of them are dear to me, but I haven't updated them with any significance in ages. This is why I haven't touched the subject of doing a podcast. I'd like to do one in theory, but I don't have any ideas, much less sustainable ones.

"I'm so crazy, I don't know this is impossible! Hoo hoo!" - Daffy Duck


"The good news is that once you start piano you never have to worry about getting laid again. More time to practice!" - MOI

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Thanks Dave D, my pleasure ;)


Joe you make a great point that I hadn't thought of: podcasts are indeed like blogs! I too have done the odd blog, one for around 3 years with nearly daily output, and you're dead right about the discipline involved.


What keeps me going with this podcast is knowing that previously I've kept a podcast going for 143 episodes over 7+ years, so I'm hoping I can do the same with this. I may end up pulling back to a monthly release schedule eventually, but am really trying to keep it more regular than that.


You're also right about coming up with sustainable ideas: that's the biggest challenge of all.

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  • 1 year later...
  • 1 year later...

A further bump as have updated to reflect doing this for 60 episodes. Still VERY keen to answer any questions if you're thinking of doing your own podcast (no matter the topic) :thu: 

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