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How to make a podcast

December 10th, 2009 · post by Phil Chokeword · Make a comment

I’ve been knocking out a podcast a month for a year now, and even though I’m hardly a pro, I thought I’d share what I’ve learnt in the hope someone reads this and feels inspired. This guide is a step by step guide to how I make Ten Songs Podcast. But like making fanzines, there’s no one, uniform way to make a show. Everyone does things differently and what’s more, as I’m self taught, I’m sure that there are things I do that could be improved on. Take my processes as a starting point – and if you have an idea how to do this better, go for it.

Phil Chokeword – tensongspodcast.blogspot.com
P.S. – Send me the link to your show fukko, I want to listen.

Why do I make podcasts?

  1. It’s fun.
  2. The radio still sucks.
  3. It’s (almost) free to do unlike radio – the barriers of entry are a PC with the internet and a £20 microphone, not a recording studio, a licence and a transmitter.
  4. It gives me an excuse to feel better about buying records I’d buy anyhow.
  5. Podcasts are free to download or listen to online. I like the idea that with access to the right technology (go to the library, log in to a pc, put on your headphones and stream it if you have to), money isn’t a barrier to access.
  6. I believe it’s important to make independent media that expresses challenges and compliments what’s going on in mainstream culture. In the show, I try hard to promote DIY culture made independently by people on their own terms. I make the show along these lines – I play what I want to. No one sets my play list. I couldn’t give a shit if the records I play sell 2 copies or 2000 if I like it. I’m in control, not a music executive telling me what to play. I do this for the kicks, not the green (which is good cos there isn’t any).

Equipment

Preparation

  1. It’s a good idea to get permission to play any songs you want to put in the show. Ignoring the can of worms argument about copyright law (I think you probably legally need to get permission), it’s just a nice thing to do. I’ve found that most people will let you play their songs and are usually pretty pleased you asked so I always make sure I have the permission of either the artist or the label. Plus, I want the show to be a two way thing – if they aren’t happy to support me by letting me play their tune, I don’t want to plug their record either.
  2. I like to create a cheat sheet for all the information I want to include in the podcast. This is so that I can make sure I have notes to hand detailing the artist, song title, album title and label for each track I want to play in one place and don’t have to flip through a stack of 7″s. Its personal preference how much you want to prepare in this way, but I’d recommend thinking about it before you start recording.

Mock up

Compiling the songs you want to play.

  1. Open Audacity. Go to the Project menu and open a New Stereo Track. We’re going to drop all the mp3s into this track. It’s a good idea to generate a second of silence so that the first song is slightly delayed and the listener gets to hear it properly from the very start. So go to Generate menu and then click on Silence to do this.
  2. Go to the Project menu. Click on Import Audio. Use the browser to find the mp3 file you want and click ok. This will open the mp3 in a second Stereo Track. Highlight it using the mouse. Go to Effects Menu and click on Amplify to make it the volume you want (this is a bit trial and error). Then cut the track and paste it into the first Stereo Track.
  3. Repeat this process for all the songs you want to play. Using Silence I generate 30 seconds silence between each set. You can use Effects like Fade In and Fade Out to play around with ways to get the songs to follow better and by highlighting sections and pressing delete on your keyboard you can edit out tape/record hiss or dead air between the tracks.
  4. When you’ve done this for all your tracks save the project using the option in the File menu. Then go to the Edit menu, click on Preferences and there should be an option to alter the bit rate of the mp3. I set it low to keep the file small – around 112 or less should do it. Click ok, then go to the File menu and click Export As MP3 to save the project as an mp3.
  5. Listen to the mock up to make sure all the songs flow how you want them to and to make sure there are no errors.

Vocals

Recording what you want to say

  1. Open a new Audacity project. Plug in your internet microphone and make sure its set up correctly. Click the red record button and talk. This will open a new Audio (mono) Track. Press stop when you are done.
  2. Because I am not very well spoken, I like to break this into manageable parts. So I record three bits – from the intro song to the first set, from the end of set one to the start of set two and the end of set two to the start of the final song. You will find it hellish trying to match different bits smoothly so I’d recommend recording in one take anything not broken up by a sound effect or mp3 file. Its good etiquette to do this in as few takes as possible. Not only does it make it closer to a radio experience, it also makes it feel smoother and less stilted when you listen back to it. A few ums and uhs are no bad thing!
  3. Go to the Edit menu, click Select then Select All. Use the Amplify tool in the Effects menu to make your vocal parts the required volume.
  4. Save the audacity file as “Vox” or something similar when you are happy with them.

Compiling the show

Merging the two files

  1. Open the original audacity file with your mp3s in it. Go to Project menu and click New Audio Track. Because your spoken recording is mono and the mp3s are stereo, annoyingly we can’t drop it directly in between tracks. Use the Silence option in the Generate menu to create silence for the length of the first song in the Stereo track in the Audio Track. A quick way to do this is to highlight the section in the Stereo Track, go to the Silence option and it will drag through the length of the selected section. Click cancel, and then click into the Audio Track where you want the silence to be generated. When you click on the Silence button again and click ok it will create silence the length of the area you highlighted earlier.
  2. Cut the section of vocals you want from the “Vox” file and paste it in to the correct place on the Audio Track. Use the Silence button to ensure that there is no music in the Stereo Track overlapping with your talking in the audio track. Repeat this process until you have copied over the “Vox” into the Audio Track, ensuring that there is no overlap between either track.
  3. When you’ve done this for all your tracks, save the project using the option in the File menu. Then go to the File menu and Export As MP3 to save the project as an mp3.
  4. Listen to the mp3 – and return to edit the show in Audacity if required. This is your finished podcast. Well done!

The blog

I’m going to assume that you know how to post on a blog. Essentially, once I’ve done recording I leave it few days, listen to the mp3 again to make sure I’m happy with it and then post the written content I want on the blogger account – easy. In the case of Ten Songs Podcast, this information can be split into the introduction to what the show is about this month, the track listing including hyperlinks to the labels websites for people who want to buy the records I played the songs from and a disclaimer/technical section. It’s probably best to look at the blog at tensongspodcast.blogspot.com for what this final section entails in detail but for me, the key points are:

  1. A clear note specifying that I have permission to play the songs in case I get any questions about it from the bands and labels involved.
  2. The text that will be converted into rss feed information, ITunes subscription link and the “right click save file” link.

Sharing your podcast

  1. Virus check your file – just in case. It’d be shit to infect all your listeners PCs.
  2. Go to your Blip.tv account and log in. Click on the Upload tab on the top of your screen. It’s all pretty self explanatory – fill in the required fields and follow the online instructions.
  3. Access the old Blip.tv interface by going to blip.tv/prefs. This is much more suitable for audio podcasting. Click on the “share” button next to the title of your podcast. This is where we are going to find the code to put into the blogger account to allow people to download the show in various ways.
  4. RSS feed – The RSS feed enables people to subscribe to your show. This means that not only will they download a copy of the file you’ve just uploaded, but whatever else you upload later to your blip.tv account will be found automatically by their podcast catcher and downloaded to their computer. Having subscription links is a great way as a podcaster to make sure that you have regular listeners who listen to your show month in, month out – and for the listener, subscribing ensures that they do not miss any of your podcasts. You can find the RSS feed link by clicking on the Share icon on the right on the screen. This will then open up to give you the option to click ’subscribe’. Select with RSS and click go. Cut and paste the link into your blog as it is – do not convert this into a hyperlink. This is what non-ITunes subscribers cut and paste into their podcast catchers to subscribe to your show so they need to be able to copy the full address easily.
  5. ITunes Subscription – You can set up an RSS feed to enable your listeners to subscribe via ITunes as well. To get the url to do so, click on the Share icon on the right on the screen. This will then open up to give you the option to click Subscribe. Click on RSS and it will open a list of options. Click on ITunes and click go. This will open a new window. Cut and paste the url from this into your blog as a hyperlink as ITunes works differently from other podcast catchers in that it doesn’t require the listener to cut and paste the URL into it. By clicking on the hyperlink, your listeners can then use ITunes to subscribe to the show.
  6. “Right click save file” link – Click on Files & Links on the right of the screen. This will open a box with two urls in it. Create a hyperlink in your blog for the MP3 Audio address. This will allow your listeners to download the show as an mp3 by right clicking on the hyperlink and selecting the Save As… option.
  7. Inline player – This is the player that enables the listener to listen to the show online without subscribing or downloading the show as an mp3. Click on the Subscribe button, then the Embed button. Click on Show Player then Legacy Player in the list that opens up, and then Go. You can play around with the different players but I use the Inline Player (click on the Player Mode to select this) and change the height setting to 100. Click on Update Embed Code Above button then cut and paste the updated code into the html page of your blog. Easy.
  8. Once you’ve done all this, you’re set to spam your show and let everyone know it exists. Nice one. Before doing so however, I’d advise making sure that all the hyperlinks work right, that the show streams ok through the player and that once downloaded from blip.tv, the file plays ok and doesn’t have any viruses. It’s better to check first than find out it doesn’t work after you’ve told people to listen to your show.
  9. If you want to see how many listens your show has, again log in into blip.tv/prefs. Click on the stats button next to the show title for a detailed breakdown.

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