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Banging The Drum For Music Podcasts

September 9, 2019

What connects Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Frank Turner and the Hockey Hall of Fame?

...one of the many bizarre facts I learnt when preparing for this month's Must-Listen podcast review on BBC Radio 5 Live!

 

I'll reveal what the answer is a little later, the clue is it's something to do with music which turns out is pretty topical in the podcast world right now. Especially after some big announcements this year from Spotify, Podcast Movement, Sony Music and Universal Music Group.

 

Why? Because suddenly the music industry has realised it can no longer ignore the surge in podcast listening. If it wants to have a piece of the pie then it needs to jump on board NOW before it's left behind like many were when streaming took off...

 

By the way - you either watch, listen or read this article...

[This blog post is a write up of the things I said on our broadcast on Monday night. Playback available on the YouTube link below. Or via BBC Sounds here: bbc.co.uk/programmes/m00083cx]

Let me set the scene for you - as a podcast listener, as a podcast producer and general podcast enthusiast. Here's a little more background into what goes into adding a sprinkle of music in a podcast series - and how the landscape is changing...

 

In the UK, the number of people listening to podcasts every week has doubled over the last 5 years. From 3 million to 6 million. And those figures are now almost a year out of date.

I had hoped at this point to insert a comparison of music streaming figures with podcasts listeners but it seems Spotify et al keep their subscriber numbers under wraps.

(Commercially, it's understandable and they're not regulated so I guess why would they put this out into the public domain.)

But it's safe to say there's been a huge rise in more of us ditching the CDs and physical products for playlists streamed via our phone.

 

So when Spotify announced earlier this year it was buying a couple of podcast production companies, it wasn't a great surprise.

In recent months they've updated the app too, when you click on 'home' now you have a choice between your music or your podcasts.

And pretty soon, just like you create a playlist for your banging tunes for a gym workout, walk in nature, or long holiday drive - you'll soon be able to do the same with your podcasts.

 

So naturally, with the overall drive and appetite for more long-form content - it's been great to see more record labels pondering the question over how they can use this to their advantage. 

 

In fact some labels have taken that a step further. Earlier this year both Sony AND Universal announced they were teaming up with podcast production companies too.

 

And during last month's Podcast Movement, news came out about the possibilities of commercial music licences coming soon for those making series in North America. [The event is 

the biggest podcast meet up in the world, and was held in Florida this year.]

 

But the announcement about this blanket music licence was followed by mixed reaction - I won't go into details as PodNews have already done a great job in decoding this announcement.

In short, nothing is set in stone, there's no indication which labels are actually willing to sign up for blanket licenses with no say on who or what their music is used for, and for those of us making podcasts in the UK - it won't be relevant.

 

What is does show though is that at least the conversations between podcasters and music types are starting to happen. Albeit slowly.

 

The music industry has been lagging behind in demand for these type of licenses for a long time. And as podcast producers it's fair to say we've had to think outside the box for quite a while on how we use music during our series. 

 

Right now the only way UK broadcasters and podcasters can include commercial music is via a Limited Online Music Licence with the PRS, but frankly - it's complex and hard to estimate how many downloads you'll have when you first start out. 

 

Instead my advice is to use production music services such as SoundStripe, buy from composers direct [like I did with film composer Thomas Ragsdale] or simply make your own.

 

And if you are a novice about to release your first series, let's be clear - don't think you can use the 'fair use' argument for including even 30 seconds of commercial music.

 

There are podcasts being sued because they ignored the risks. Such as the ongoing PokerNews vs Universal Music Group and 'alleged copyright infringement'...

 

That said - away from the boring licensing talk - music is a fundamental part of audio production. Whether in the background, the theme tune or the focal point of content conversation.

 

So it's no great surprise that in the last 12 months there has been a surge in fantastic podcast series from musicians and their fans.

Therefore I was reet chuffed when we picked 'great music podcasts' as our theme for this month's Must-Listen segment on BBC Radio 5 Live.

 

The timing probably wasn't right before, but it is right now.

And by golly have we seen some absolute belters come out in the last few weeks...

 

So for a bit of inspiration, below is a handful of series I picked as part of our review plus my notes and thoughts on each*, as a place to get your podcast playlists topped right up.

 

*May cause foot tapping, cat like wailing, ear worm and uncontrollable body movements.

Blood On The Tracks: Presented by Colin Murray, BBC Radio 5Live

 

My thoughts: LOVE his guest intros – never heard someone make such a virtue of it! One of my favourite episodes was with Bez and Benjamin Zephaniah. Reminds me of Spotiparties I used to play with housemates back when Spotify was first launched in the UK in 2009. Basically ended up as a game of one-upmanship on who could drop the best song!

 

Love the variety of music genres on this podcast. General idea of who fills or kills the dancefloor - becomes competitive between guests.

 

Have been a big fan of 'At Home With Colin Murray' podcast for awhile – think Colin has really embraced the intimacy around podcasts over radio, doesn’t sound scripted – sounds laidback and real. He’s a great picture painter. Wonder what he considers the difference between radio and podcasts? Also he was one of the ‘early’ podcasters for the BBC, so really interested in his POV on the growth of podcasting in general in the UK.

Listen Up – The Oasis Podcast: Presented by Liz Alker, Cup and Nuzzle Productions

This has just come out in the last month in time for Definitely Maybe's 25th birthday. Already smashing the podcast charts!

 

Found it by accident clicking into Spotify and was on the home page. Listened to the first episode and immediately afterwards played the whole album at maximum volume in my car singing my heart out like I was 11 years old all over again!

 

Features everyone from the cover sleeve artist, Creation Records PR guy, Peter Hook, Clint Boon about Noel’s days as an Inspiral Carpets roadie...

Things I didn’t know until I listened - they never sent a single demo out, never even had a conversation with a record label before signing with Alan McGee after a chance meeting at a gig in Glasgow!

 

First episode out, looks like there’ll be a series.

 

(Another podcast worth a nod to is the long running series ‘The Oasis Podcast’ which is also worth a ponder if you love Oasis)

Also under Matt Everitt’s production company and doing really well in music pod charts worth a shout out….

 

Digging Deep – Robert Plant’s Podcast: Hosted by Robert Plant & Matt Everritt, Cup & Nuzzle Productions

Takes you through moments, people and places that have inspired Robert throughout his career, both with Led Zeppelin and as a solo artist. A smorgasboard of nice conversation with sprinkles of lovely music to wash your ears with.

The David Gilmour Podcast: Hosted by David Gilmour & Matt Everritt, Cup & Nuzzle Productions 

In June Dave auctioned more than 120 of his guitars for charity. The series was to raise profile of that auction and give back story to hear, see, feel some of the stories behind the instruments.

The Jump With Shirley Manson: Hosted by Shirley Manson, A Mailchimp Original Podcast

Featuring Karen O, Courtney Love and Esperanza Spalding...

 

Delves into everything about stigma around mental health, the creative process, being a woman in a male dominated world, and whether the benefits of social media outweigh the negatives...

 

Crux of it is she picks some of her favourite musicians to discuss emotionally and professionally significant songs from their catalogues. 20 minutes simply isn't enough!

Frank Turner’s Tales From No Man’s Land: Hosted by Frank Turner, co-production between Somethin’ Else, Xtra Mile Recordings and Frank Turner

I’d like to talk about the Sister Rosetta episode... I was googling about for more info about her and stumbled upon this. Adore her music and she's an absolute stalwart in musical history often underrated and skipped in top 100 guitarists of the 20th century. Frank's passion for her hooked me in enough to be curious about the rest of his series and to listen t his album released on 16th August under the same name.

The series is dedicated to female spies, nuns and musicians that time has forgotten - collecting the stories of 13 women who don't always get their dues. Including his mum. Released weekly.

Blossoms PubCast: Hosted by Blossoms, produced by unknown.

I have listened to this driving for hours and howled in tears laughing along! Set in a pub (the same one in Stockport they’re named after), Basically it's a band of young ambitious 20-somethings musing about mundane life over a pint or mostly a cup of tea.

 

My favourite bit is where one of the band's members finds an unfinished story in an old school book and then asks listeners to finish it for him a little bit each episode. He’s crap at reading aloud and they use ‘star wars/sci-fi’ type music to build it up. So simple but just hilarious. 

 

They sound like proper northerners, and have even written and made their own jingles. This is a refreshing change from the posh London/Radio 4 clicks.

 

Love the bizarre references to bus routes and train stations only people in Manchester would know about. One’s just bought his own house so bought a mop for the first time, plus there’s the episodic appearances of Grandad Fitzy’s fables including the time he shit himself!

And the answer to the question I posed at the top...

 

Frank Turner was inspired by a singer songwriter John K Samson who campaigned for years to have obscure Canadian hockey player Reggie Leach be honoured in the Hockey Hall of Fame. He wrote a song called 'Petition' and performed it in the foyer of the hall of fame. His wish was granted three years later. When Frank Turner realised Sister Rosetta wasn't in the rock n roll hall of fame he thought he could do the same, so dedicated one of his tracks on his new album to her as his own 'petition'. Problem was by the time he released the album someone else had beat him to it, Rosetta's place had finally been secured in the hall of fame - so he had to tweak his lyrics! Listen to his story in full in this episode right here!

Clare Freeman works as a podcast coach and consultant. If your current podcast series needs a vavavoom and shake up, or if you're stuck at the first hurdle of getting started - reach out to Clare from some one-to-one coaching. Prices start from £99 for 90 minutes. More information here.

 

 

 

 

 

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