Marguerite Salon on launching a creative podcast

On Monday 22 July, we hosted our Marguerite Salon at Second Home Spitalfields on launching a creative podcast. Founder of @thegreatwomenartists, Katy Hessel spoke with Art Historian and Art Matters host, Ferren Gipson and Deputy Editor of Riposte Magazine and co-host of magCulture Podcast, Liv Siddall. They shared their practical tips on the equipment you need to get going, the reality of editing your own voice, the real cost of launching your own podcast, whether getting sponsorship is really doable and so much more! Food and Theodore Gin cocktails were served! Read on for highlights of the discussion …

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Ferren and Liv on the format of their respective podcasts and how they came up with the concept…

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Ferren: “I have a spirit podcast that I will not name but I liked the format of. It helped me to figure out what was normal and what wasn’t because I had no idea when it came to podcasts; it gave me something to emulate and make my own. It started as a normal conversation with my guests, and then Beyoncé did the Ape Shit video and everyone’s lives changed! This was the first time that I had something that I wanted to contribute to the conversation ... It was less of a straight conversation and more of a radio format. It did well and my director liked it so we made it the new format … I prefer it as I feel it’s more professional and more organised. It’s allowed me to add my own thoughts into what a guest is saying.”

Liv: “The format for magCulture is easy because Jeremy works in a magazine shop so there is never going to be a time when we have nothing to talk about as people are always going to send us stuff, so that’s the format which is easy … I just think it is important to have an idea that you can tell someone within one sentence – and if you can do that then that is enough… It has to be something very simple, and I think the best podcasts work because people are experts in those subjects.”

Liv on how to prepare for a weekly podcast…

“It’s best to just have bullet points. We have a big Google Docs that we add points to throughout the week. Without that it would be an absolute mess, because we’d just be talking absolute bollocks – it has to have some sort of structure.”

“I think there always has to be a lead host that is leading the conversation. If you have a great host, that is the key – someone who is going to ask the right questions, do the right things and say when things are going a little bit wrong.”

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Ferren on how she prepares for her podcast, Art Matters…

“The podcast topics are driven by my own curiosity. I hunt around and find out if there is something there, are there articles or subjects to support this? Is there an expert? When possible, I like to have a conversation with them [the expert] ahead of time – very light though as I don’t want to take away the feel of the conversation when we are actually recording … I have a set of questions when I’m recording to go through, but it is also important to let it feel like a conversation and let the conversation go where it will. I always try and say that to my guest as I don’t want it to feel like an interview, I want it to feel like a conversation.”

Ferren and Liv on how to contact potential podcast guests…

Liv: “I think people tend to find time … anyone will be willing to talk about themselves for half an hour, especially if they are really passionate about the subject matter that you go into.”

Ferren: “Email. I just believe in being really crazy and emailing people you never thought would talk to you, you will be surprised! I have got episodes waiting from producers of The Simpsons and other people that I never thought would talk to me, you just have to ask.”

 Liv: “We tried to get loads of guests to come in but they said no because they couldn’t be bothered to come to the shop. We then realised that we were talking about magazines that are made all over the world by different people. What we do now is send them a question and get them to send back a voice note, which we then put into the podcast – it’s so easy! What they don’t have is time, but what they do have is a phone so they can just reply to a question in a minute and then you have a voice in the podcast, it’s very hard for them to say no because no one is that busy!”

Liv’s advice on what to consider when creating your own podcast…

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“Everyone around you you can talk to and have a conversation with, and if you start recording them, you can make a podcast. I think where it gets difficult is relying on someone else. For example, with magCulture I am relying on Jeremy and we are both relying on Lucy [our producer]. We all have to be free on the same day each month, and that’s once a month which is difficult, which is ridiculous! … Once you are doing it with someone else it’s very reliant on them, which can be something you need to bear in mind, as it could slow things [down].”

 “We were discussing briefly earlier the idea of a podcast not being an on-going thing for the rest of your life and when companies came to me I’d tell them to think about it in a series of six. We’ll do six hour-long episodes with a theme and then decide what we are going to talk about in each episode. This will then give you a budget which will give you options, and is something I recommend thinking about if you are wanting to start a podcast.”

“If you are going to make a podcast, definitely go with quantifying it. Then you can think about if it’s an interview podcast you will probably need a producer, who will have a day rate, which will include recording and editing time. On top of that, you will also have your own fee in terms of time spent planning and recording. And then if it’s a massive brand or small brand you would up/lower it accordingly. If you want a jingle you will have to buy your own music, whether that is through a musician or online. Thinking about an image and commissioning a logo for the podcast – involving potentially an illustrator or designer. So if you are going to a client, you just have to think about adding up costings.”

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Ferren’s advice to those thinking about launching a podcast…

“I kind of encourage you to start out with what you have, because if you put all this pressure on yourself and think you need to have all of these things first, it puts these barriers in place that prevents you from just starting. You don’t know if you are going to like doing it, if you are going to have time to do it - you don’t know a lot. So I just say you should forge ahead and get started and then build your equipment and software as you go.”

Ferren on producing her podcast herself…

Ferren: “Mine are every other week and I think that consistency is really important. I do all the editing myself, which does take a lot of time and it depends on how you’re editing. When you are doing the interview style and a conversation back and forth you are usually just cleaning up filler words. In this storytelling kind of format that I do, the way you hear it on the podcast is almost never the way the conversation happened. I also have to then go in, research and write the sections that go in-between, and pick out the music that goes under it. I then also write up an article version of the podcast as well to accompany it, which has images and is a written version for anyone that doesn’t want to listen to it. So it takes about two and a half to three days per episode.”

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Liv on how she makes time to create her podcasts…

“Last year it was very easy because I had nothing else to do. Now it does tend to fall to the bottom of my to-do list, partly because editing your own voice is a living hell! And because some of them are more hobby-based so it doesn’t seem to be the most important thing to do, and it’s quite laborious … When I work with brands or companies they are always so shocked at how lengthy the process is … I feel like in the very near future we are going to see much less of the interview format podcast, and hopefully see the more in-depth documentary style podcast.”

Ferren and liv on the diversity and inclusivity of podcasts…

Liv: “The nice thing about podcasts is that a lot of teenagers are making them because they can. I feel like that’s a good thing because it’s very fair in that you can make it cheaply, like zines were back in the day. You can just make something because you want to, and I like that aspect of it a lot.”

Ferren: “There is an acknowledged issue of diversity of podcasters, women in particular and people of colour. Therefore, I think there is a desire to see them. In terms of how I see my personal guests on the show, I’m usually so focused on the topic that I need to convey that there isn’t a ton of people out there who have written about it as it’s a focused area.”

Ferren and Liv on the rising popularity of creating your own podcast…

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Ferren: “My main question is always “to what end?” What is your main goal? Are you making a podcast so you can be famous? Or do you want to explore your own interests and see where it goes? You have to think about what your aims are as you set out to do this because it makes you more purposeful in the things that you are doing. This links to people linking podcast topics to their brand - what is your objective?”

Liv: “I think for a lot of brands at the moment they just want to be seen to have one … there is nothing wrong with making one but if you are going to put something out, you need to make sure you are really proud of it.”

Ferren and liv on how to promote your podcast if you don’t have a budget…

Ferren: “It helps to have an existing audience in some way – either you have a network or are doing it for a company or an organisation with an existing audience. Otherwise it’s a lot of hard graft really. One way of growing your own audience is to be on other people’s podcasts and promote each other.”

Liv: “If you want to make a podcast [and you aren’t established] it is probably best to go to a company and ask to make one for them. I think people need to lower their expectations on how many listens is a good number of listens, as people expect thousands and thousands when actually that’s very rare.”

Liv on the future of podcasts…

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“The audience is outweighing the number of people making podcasts. Compared to music or books, where there are millions of consumers, at the moment podcasts are very imbalanced. There is lots of room for new podcasts to come in as the audience want more and it’s nowhere near saturated. There is enough room for everyone but only the good ones will prevail.”

“In terms of equipment availability it is likely to get easier, as podcast apps will probably become a thing. I think it will become easier to make them therefore there will be more, whether that’s a bad thing or not, I don’t know. I think the more the merrier and in terms of podcasts being good - the standard will have to creep up and things will have to be more experimental, less formulaic and more surprising in terms of format.”

Photography by Kaye Ford.