By Bob McMahon
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The show took off through word-of-mouth and namechecks from prominent podcasts. Today it's one of the most popular music podcasts: Ibbott estimates that he pulls between 10,000 and 15,000 listeners per show, and the majority aren't podcasters -- or, at least, "they were not podcasters when they started listening to my show."
Many podcasts cover the same broad swath of independent and imported music you normally hear on college radio. Englishman William B. Swygart, one of the rotating podcasters on a roster created by Stylusmagazine (www.stylusmagazine.com/stycast), is a genuine college DJ at the University of Leeds. For his podcast, Home Taping Is Killing Music, Swygart airs UK chart hits from Art Brut and Rachel Stevens, dissecting or eulogizing the artists in a soft voice that makes him sound like he's trying not to wake up a roommate.
"The best part is just getting music that people wouldn't listen to out there and into their ears," explains Swygart via e-mail. "I do want to work in 'proper radio' one day, but the opportunities for that are quite obviously limited given the nature of the medium (limited frequencies, stations, adverts, broadcasting restrictions, lack of ways to get yourself started and so on). The podcasts give you a greater amount of creative freedom, but you have to try and make sure that doesn't spill over into becoming, for want of a better word, wank."
Maintaining a show week after week demands effort and patience. It takes work to stay at the top of the "most popular" lists and to handle the mail, paperwork and hosting issues. Podcasters also have to license -- or get away with not licensing -- the music they play. Some podcasts get permission directly from the artists, and others work with the traditional agencies. For Coverville, Ibbott has stayed in the clear by shelling out $600 a year to the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) and Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI), but even then, he says, "It's still a huge gray area as far as what kind of licenses are required and how much of what I'm doing is legal."
With the hassles and the pressures of running a show -- plus the fact that no matter how many of their friends say they're listening, their grandmothers still don't understand what the hell podcasting is -- one has to wonder: Don't all music podcasters secretly hope to land DJ slots? Would they jump at the right offer, and will the stars of podcasting get those offers before podcasting takes off on its own?
Or is podcasting already a better deal? Instead of hanging around the radio at a certain time every week to hear a show, listeners can download it from anywhere in the world and play it whenever they want. The podcaster gets the creative freedom of acting as boss, producer, talent and editor, and the market can sort the geniuses from the "wankers." But beyond the practical upside, podcasting offers a different and special experience for the listener. Radio was already an intimate medium -- a lone voice coming from an imagined face, whispering in your ear -- but with a homemade podcast, that voice sounds truly alone, as removed from the world as you are in your earbud headphones.
After all, if podcasts catch on strongly enough to launch the next Howard Stern, John Peel or Terry Gross, then why bother listening to the radio? Soon there will be an MP3 player in every car and kitchen in America -- and perhaps a podcast out of every home. -- Chris Dahlen
Brokers. Convenience fees. Secure parking. Here in the R&D division of B-Sides Inc., we understand the dilemmas you face when buying concert tickets. So we've developed the Ticket Utility Reality Determination System to calculate what those tickets you're about to plunk down your next paycheck to purchase are actually worth. Check it out. -- Ian Froeb