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Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Joys And Trials Of An Independent Podcaster

Nearly every night of the week I rush home from work, gobble down my home cooked tv dinner, drink a bottle of Old Dogs Breath Ale and race upstairs to the computer. I eagerly open my e-mail and await the tidal wave of spam inviting me partake in all manner of dodgy dealings. But, among the lies and lures of million dollar lottery winnings, a sparkle of gold occasionally glitters before my eye in the shape of an mp3 file from bands based in such exotic locales as West Bromwich or Rowley Regis and soemtimes further afield.

I am an independent podcaster. I have been producing a podcast called Homegrown now for nearly two years and nearly 100 programmes.

I have had a healthy interest in music radio since an early age. I used to love listening to the likes of Roger Scott, Peel and still enjoy the whispers of Bob on a Saturday night. When podcasting came along a couple of years ago I quickly saw a chance to Indulge myself in my love of the intimacy and immediacy of the medium.

I knew I wanted to produce a music podcast focusing on independent new music, throwing in the odd well known name where I could. My other love has always been the written word, and writing poetry and other bits and pieces. So I decided to mix the music with a healthy dose of poetry and spoken word material, which seems to work really well.

Of course, being a music podcaster, I need to seek permission to play the tracks, which thanks to the likes of myspace and dedicated podsafe music websites such as the podsafe music network, has made a really tiresome chore quite easy. Since I started podcasting in 2005 I have forged some very useful alliances with online music distributers and promoters. I can now source the very wide and eclectic mix which Homegrown encompaces, anything from trad folk, country, blues, rock, electronica and classical, from websites designed specifically to take advantage of the bloggers and podcasters ability to distribute and promote music freely.

In very much the same vane podcasters and bloggers have made very important and unions, for example I am a member of The Association Of Poetry Podcasting, which is a group of growing podcasters who now feature poetry readings in their programming. In fact, the whole poetry podcasting scene is growing at a healthy rate and this is having a strong effect on the slamming and live spoken word scene. Many of which are now podcast in some form or other. I myself have been lucky to interview the Birmingham Poet Lorette in my studio come bedroom set up.

A plus of producing a music podcast is the thrill of finding something waiting on the mat from the postman, it's great to receive CDs and I have never quite gotten used to the fact that I don't have to part with any cash for them, I suppose years of paying £15 for obscure hard to find CDs in HMV has had a detrimental effect on my psyche. It's also lovely to get e-mails from bands who recognise the small contribution us smaller podcasters are making to the local independent music scene.

It's not all plain sailing however. The three P's, Producing, Posting and Promoting, despite being the podcasters holy grail, are a right pain in the bum. Building up any audience is hard enough at the best of times, but when there is so much competition out there it's not easy to make your RSS feed stand out in the crowd. Many late nights posting on forums, messaging myspacers and posting links all of the internet do take their toll. I'll be the first to say that I hate promoting what I do, I'd just love for people to take a listen and enjoy the mix of music. But, they have to know it's there in the first place. So I'm always on the look out for a good opportunity to put the word out and let people decide if they like it.

At the end of the day though. What really matters is that for approximately 45 minutes I get to put together, what I think is a fantastic mix of diverse and sometimes challenging music and poetry. It is the very mixture of this material which makes each of the contributers stand out in their own right. I truly believe that genere oriented programming is flawd, I don't want to listen to two hours of the same song over and over, I want variety and something I haven't herd before. And that is what us independent podcasters are doing. We are allowing artists who might never see the light of day, to be herd within the traditional setting of a radio programme. It's radio for the masses. And while I absolutely love listening to some of the BBC's podcasts and also to the excellent Word podcast, there should be room for us die hard podcasters who have been doing this since the start, and who haven't got a ready made audience waiting to listen. We have had to build our audience, sometimes literally by hand.

Hey, but enough of that, I just wanted to tell you a bit about me and how being a podcaster has changed my life. I'd love to invite you to take a listen to Homegrown, the programme website is www.homegrownpodcast.co.uk - you can listen there online or download the mp3 file. Alternatively you can subscribe through ITUNES, just look up Homegrown in the podcast directory.

Cheers, Nic