Why Every Musician (And Anyone Building A Brand) Should Be Podcasting

It's not just the album release anymore. It hasn't been about that for a long time. Check Spotify. Check iTunes. Most of the stuff that gets released are piecemeal singles that may or may not become part of a larger album or EP.

Chance the Rapper won a Grammy without an actual album release. It was a mixtape. 

How quaint. 

This isn't a secret to people who live and breathe music. The sea change has been evident for a long time.

The idea around the album, at least from a fan's perspective was anticipation. Remember when we looked forward to going to the movies on Friday night? Remember when new releases came out on Tuesdays and we'd rush to Tower or Virgin or wherever and grab any listening station that was available?

What am I doing here, besides aging myself? Where am I going with this?

The album was an anchor point for audiences to engage with artists they wanted to support. You'd queue up to listen to them, buy them, play them endlessly on repeat, devour the disc jacket, and organize the album against your broader collection. It was an intentional experience. You were synchronized with one particular artist for however long that album resonated -- or at least until the following Tuesday.

Where can audiences find intentional experiences like that today? On a weekly basis? Live shows are great. But they're a revolving door of acts. They're not sticky. They're not top-of-mind. I talk about top-of-mind a lot but that's really what it's all about. That's the game.

Releasing songs weekly or monthly is one way -- and certainly one of the most common mechanisms today. But if you're not into the track or if it's a remix, it quickly passes through the ether and you're onto the next thing. Your attention is quickly diverted. You forget.

If you're an artist, that's bad. It's bad for any brand building an audience and long term equity.

Here's where podcasts are key.

They're one of the fastest growing mediums because they're opt-in, intentional, and niche. Audiences are loyal. Most set their watches to new episodes. Consistency is key. Apps like Overcast have become platforms. Its creator, Marco Arment, recently converted the app into a platform where context relevant ads are inserted. Why? Besides having an audience large enough to justify it, he was early to realize that the podcast environment is ripe for contextually appropriate advertising.

That's because podcast audiences are all in. It's binary. If listeners don't like what they hear, they're out. But if they do, they double down. The numbers back this up. Look at Mary Meeker's 2017 Internet Trends Report. Podcast advertising rates are rising every year. Ads are becoming dynamic. And old content is evergreen. Ads can be inserted on backlogs and sound fresh to new listeners, no matter when they listen.

There is a reason that technology and strategy and venture capital is going into building this pipeline out. There's a reason why a podcast like Startup led to the formation of venture-backed Gimlet Media.

There is tremendous opportunity. Especially for artists or any entity with fans or supporters.

Most artists are guests on podcasts. Some are lucky enough to be KCRW favorites or be invited to do Tiny Desk Concerts. And all of that is great. But, there, the barriers to entry are very high. You have to be discovered. You have to have the distribution that gets you to those stages.

Artists should have their own podcasts. Whether or not they produce it themselves, they should retain creative ownership of it. There are so many artists that should have podcasts but don't. There are so many artists that would KILL it on the podcast mic, but it's just not happening yet.

So what would an artist podcast look like?

For starters, fans would love to know what music you're into. What's on your heavy rotation right now? What's on rotation at Christmastime?

Next, can we hear what a recording sesh sounds like? What are you working on now? What tracks are on the back burner? What was it about your B-sides that made them B-sides? Who are you collaborating with? Who do you want to collaborate with in the future?

Then, can we be flies on the wall? How about some fireside chats with your managers, your producers, your handlers, and whatever member of your team that can bring it?

I could keep going. But here's a few more. What are you reading? What are you watching? Who are influencers, inside music or out, that you can interview, engage with, and share with your audience?

By now the point should be clear. Podcasts are parallel mediums to music releases and can keep you top-of-mind in your audience's media diet. Deliver value when you're not delivering tracks. Always deliver value period. When you are ready to release or announce a tour, your army of fans will be battle ready to fully support you and spread the word.