Spring is almost here! With the Earth gradually awakening, I can feel my own mind coming out of its hibernation. I find myself reading more articles, keeping up with current events, and listening to new podcasts.
Speaking of podcasts, the podcast industry has been receiving attention for some time now. I recently had the pleasure of talking with Fela Davis about podcast audio and what it means for the audio industry. Fela has nearly twenty years of experience in the audio engineering industry. Her list of credentials is very impressive. She also produces and hosts a podcast called The Art of Music Tech Podcast with her business partner Denis Orynbekov.
I became aware of the increasing interest in podcast audio after attending the 2019 Audio Engineering Society’s national convention in New York City. I had listened to a few lectures where Fela and a panel of other professionals talked about their experiences. I had many questions and fortunately, Fela was able to answer all of them.
In the past few years, producing a podcast has become increasingly more affordable. Fela mentioned that most students have the bare minimum needed to put together a podcast. Some kind of DAW to record onto, an interface, and a microphone. Even with the accessibility, how does someone make this kind of work profitable? Fela explained that not only does she work on her own podcast, but many others too. Through 23dB Productions audio services, Fela is able to work with clients who need audio and video services. We both agreed, most people have something they want to say and there will at least be one person willing to listen to it. These can be large scale companies or organizations or smaller groups or single individuals.
Being mobile and having your own equipment is important, but with the surge of companies, organizations, and individuals looking to use this form of media, being open to its opportunities is key. As a woman in the audio industry, what really intrigued me was, it’s kind of brand new. Fela and I both laughed, but it’s true. This is a part of the industry where women and minorities have the opportunity to flourish. There are no jerks named bob hiring their best friend over you. The pressure to prove yourself is significantly lessened.
In the beginning, most individuals will be playing the role of producer, host, engineer, and editor. Drew Stockero, a student at Michigan Technological University, does just that with his podcast If It Matters Podcast. Stockero said the podcast is about, “ordinary people having ordinary conversations about the things they find extraordinary.” He takes the time to curate each episode and interviewee, he is the producer and hosts every episode, all while recording, mixing, and mastering. After chatting for a bit about his workflow, he did admit that fulfilling every role for the podcast is a lot of work. Typically, indie podcasts are much smaller and only run by one or two people. But, as Fela stated, the option to use remote engineers is there once you start gaining clients or attention.
Radio was brought up in both of my interviews. Stockero mentioned podcasts being an extension of talk radio. Growing up, my father would listen to a lot of NPR on long family road trips. With the shift from cable television to streaming services, it is no surprise we are seeing a move from radio to podcasts. It was also mentioned that podcasting is making more money than radio broadcast. It is undeniable that there has been a boom in revenue for the podcast industry, but all of this did surprise me. I was starting to have more questions than I started with, and definitely more interest.
I received many great words of wisdom when I asked for advice regarding this topic and its industry. You will want to immerse yourself in the business, or your local chamber of commerce. Networking is always important, but also being someone that has a positive personality and easy to communicate with is just as important. From an artistic standpoint, being passionate about the topics you are addressing through your podcast is essential. It helps keep the information fresh, the motivation constant, and ultimately something others will want to listen to.
This form of entertainment intrigues me. It is a service where, we as engineers, can have a voice or help others have a voice and be heard. I do agree, I think it is a place that women can flourish in the industry. Not only is there a supply of work where women and minorities can be at the top, but we can also have a voice. Having the ability to not only strengthen myself, but the ones around me is an opportunity that I value. More of these conversations, podcasts, and articles need to exist for our current community and the future community. It is conversations and the spread of information such as this, that makes me feel awake and ready to take on the industry.
I hope you all have a wonderful spring and do not forget to check out the wonderful people that I got to chat with for this article. Fela Davis can be found on LinkedIn and her website felaaudio.com. The Art of Music Tech Podcast is available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google, IHeart Radio, and Youtube. Drew Stockero’s podcast If It Matters is also available on Apple Podcasts, Google, iHeart Radio, listennotes, and player.fm.
The Power of Podcasting Roadie Free Radio, and panelists Fela Davis (The Art Of Music Tech Podcast), Lij Shaw (Recording Studio Rockstars), Chris Graham (The Six Figure Home Studio Podcast) and Matt Boudreau (Working Class Audio).
Sarah Calvert is a sound designer and composer based in the midwest. She started a SoundGirls student chapter at Michigan Technological University and was the president for its first two semesters. She also received my undergraduate degree in Sound Design at Michigan Tech. She feels the most satisfaction when mentoring and teaching younger students. She is continuing her education for a masters degree in sound design and another undergraduate degree in music composition and theory. Sarah’s plan is to eventually be a professor.
When designing sound and composing music, she sees herself as a storyteller. Everything has a meaning, no matter how small. Working with other designers and directors to emphasize that meaning in a production or project gives her a sense of purpose. She has been incredibly fortunate to have excellent mentors and advisors that have passed down their philosophies to her, and that she also developed her own. She looks forward to exploring new opportunities and experiences, but also helping those along the way.