Revisited: How Podcasting is Helping Independent Artists

Over two years ago I was involved with Podcast User Magazine. It was an idea that a group of us had to deliver a magazine through PDF format automatically to our subscribers, via RSS. We assembled a group of well known podcasters (and some not so well known) from around the UK and set about creating content that would engage our readers.

As one of the founding members of the mag, I was asked to submit an article centered around my area of “expertise” at the time; independent artists.

Since then I’ve lost touch with a lot of the guys I used to help promote and play on my shows, but I wanted to share the article with you all anyway. Podcast User Magazine is currently on a short hiatus (well, 8 months) but they’re looking to make a return in the near future.

I’m take another look at the indepedent music scene in the near future, but for now have a read of this and let me know what you think.

Picture the scene. Early 2005 in a small, quiet house in central England. A 19-year-old guy who previously attempted to learn to play the drums, and failed, sits at his computer listening to a Podcast for the very first time, amazed that he is able to listen to some guy in the US talk with another guy and play music – their own music. The concept immediately has him thinking of the many “radio shows” he had recorded with a friend while at school. Only this time, there actually might be a chance for people to hear what he had been trying to say.

That was my very first experience of podcasting, listening to Steve Lacey sit down and have a chat with a friend from his band; Spank. They talked about everyday things, podcasting, music and their band’s impending CD-release party. I was immediately bitten by the podcasting bug and wanted to know more. How did it all work? What did I need to do to get my own one out there? These answers were quite hard to come by, but after about a week I managed to hastily cobble together a very quiet podcast entitled “El’s Thoughts”.

After the first show was complete and uploaded, I decided to do some research into the independent music scene. I obviously wasn’t the only person doing a podcast concentrating on music that wasn’t in the mainstream, but as I started to find and email bands via UKBands.net, I discovered that a lot of the UK scene had absolutely no idea what podcasting was. A good portion of the emails I sent out to bands were left unanswered, either because they had no idea what I was talking about or because they just weren’t used to people emailing them with a request to play their music.

As the weeks went on and the emails to bands around the world started flying out of my small flat just outside Birmingham, I started to see a lot of local bands realising that getting their music played on a podcast would allow them to open it up to a very large audience.

Typically, many bands around the UK have a website; some even have their CDs available to buy online, so the amount of material available to Podcasters is almost never-ending. Since the launch of the Podsafe Music Network last year, it’s now even easier for bands that have their music available as an MP3 to enable Podcasters from around the world to promote their music for them, absolutely free.

Quite a few bands have gained a lot of publicity from having their music listed on the Podsafe Music Network. The Scotland-based bands Hotrod Cadets, Amplifico and Hollow Horse are just a few that have been heavily featured on podcasts from around the world over the past six months.

Although not a major factor for a lot of bands, podcasting has definitely proved that it has the potential to sell CDs for those that are featured. Earlier this month I interviewed Jay Moonah from the Toronto-based band Uncle Seth. A few days after the show was available for download, I found a review of the show in which the owner of the blog found the interview and music so compelling that he went out and brought the album straight after listening.

As we put the first year of podcasting behind us, it will be very interesting to see how many bands actually manage to carve themselves a deal with a record label from play on Podcasts alone. With increasingly easy-to-use and affordable recording tools available, we are already seeing some artists using podcasting not only to promote their music but also to allow their fans to join them backstage on tour, at a recording session for their new album or to an exclusive performance of their gig.

Cardiff based singer/songwriter Pippa Rogers has been podcasting monthly since late 2005, sharing her knowledge of the music industry and playing tracks from local artists. Similarly, Barnsley-based izzie Voodoo has been able to secure a regular replay of her monthly podcast on ExtremeIndieRadio. New York based quartet The Lascivious Biddies have gone one step further and enabled listeners to follow them all over the world, recording songs and talking about issues that affect their everyday lives.

Record labels are also beginning to understand the potential that podcasting has for their artists. Earlier this month a number of labels submitted music to the Podsafe Music Network, enabling podcasters to play, among others, The Subways, Tom Waits and Marianne Faithfull. Time will tell if the ‘majors’ will allow the same to be done with acts that they have signed, but it’s definitely the opinion of many podcasters and musicians that the longer the music industry ignores podcasting, the more naïve they will appear.

A revolution is in progress, welcome aboard.

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