Dale Rasmussen edits a podcast; photo courtesy YabYum Music + Arts

Pod People

Written by Jason Keil Category: Valley News Issue: September 2018
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Local podcasting blasts off with the Valley’s first dramatic podcast and first podcast network.

Carly Schorman thought it would be tough to fill two audition sessions for the first season of her upcoming podcast Confessions from the Nocturne Nebula: The Bar at the Center of the Universe. She put out a call on Facebook to cast 22 spots for Phoenix’s first – to our knowledge – dramatic podcast, described as a “retro-futurist space noir.” In a delightful surprise, Schorman and co-writer Dale Rasmussen quickly assembled a ton of local talent, including musicians, a Shakespearean actor, a puppeteer and a Soleri bell maker.

It was an indicator of how podcasting has surged in Phoenix. There are hundreds of audio programs here, from news and sports shows to comedians recapping sitcoms.

With its pulpy storyline and intoxicating jazz soundtrack, Confessions from the Nocturne Nebula follows in the footsteps of dramatic podcasts like Gimlet Media’s glitzy, Hollywood actor-voiced Homecoming. Schorman thinks the serial will be more successful than her other creative undertakings, but right now it’s a labor of love. Each actor, musician and crew member signed a contract guaranteeing them one dollar and recognition for their time and talent, plus a percentage of any sponsorship revenue.

Jared Duran, host of Valley arts and culture podcast Limited Engagement, was unaware of other local Valley productions when he started his long-form interview podcast in 2015, so he went in search of a community of fellow pod-heads. Eventually, he found some shows he loved, but most fizzled.

Duran felt Phoenix podcasters were lacking a support system. In response, he pivoted the focus of Hoot ’n’ Waddle, the publishing company he created with partner Janell Hughes, to be a place where Valley podcasters can produce their own work and receive the tools they need to create engaging content and grow an audience.

“If you have your own fanbase, they are coming to find your show but also seeing other shows they might like,” Duran says of the networking potential of a conglomerate.

Duran doesn’t know of any local podcast, including his own, breaking even right now. In addition to finding advertisers for his shows, Duran is soliciting support on the crowdfunding platform Patreon and looking into a subscription model that offers exclusive content.

Similarly, Schorman is working with her Tempe-based team at YabYum Music + Arts blog to build a diverse podcast network that will bring in new traffic.

Local podcasting is not a format exclusive to creatives. Valley entrepreneurs are putting out content to build their brands. Phoenix-based Bayless Healthcare CEO Justin Bayless just started Relentless Mentality, a podcast featuring discussions with guests from a variety of fields, including basketball player Jason Kidd. Mike Arce, founder and CEO of the Scottsdale-based fitness ad agency Loud Rumor, uses his podcast, The G.O.A.T. Show, to have meaningful discussions with businesspeople he admires.

“If I can ask the questions I want to know the answers to with the people who have already done it, this is the easiest way to skip the line and get to talk to them,” Arce says.

While Bayless and Arce see their shows as an extension of their businesses, not a way to financially sustain them, Schorman’s and Duran’s focus is making the best podcasts possible – and hopefully getting paid sometime. Schorman sees unlimited creative potential in the format.

“One of the things I like about podcasting is also one of the things I like about Phoenix,” she says. “There is so much space to do whatever the f— you want!”

SO YOU WANT TO MAKE A PODCAST?
Do you have your own podcasting aspirations? Podcasters Jared Duran and Carly Schorman have some tips for you.

Look for what you need
Duran invested nearly $500 in equipment, including a USB mixer ($50) from a local resale shop and three Shure SM-58 microphones (around $105 each), but he says spending $5 on foam windscreens for his microphones greatly improved the sound quality of his podcasts.

Use open-source software
Schorman and Duran have used affordable sound-editing software to keep costs down. Duran recommends Audacity (free) and Reaper ($60).

Surround yourself with knowledgeable people
Because of her work with YabYum Music + Arts, Schorman had musicians and audiophiles at close hand to help develop unique, quality podcasts.