I can’t tell you how many people ask me how to start their own podcast but are too intimidated when it comes to thinking up an idea and running the tech to get started. Buying and configuring the audio equipment can be a little daunting and getting the episodes onto platforms so that friends and fans can listen isn’t all that simple. (Trust us, we know.) Therefore, we, at FDB, want to help alleviate these potential headaches by providing recommendations on format, tech, and distribution, to help you get started on your own audio adventure.
So, you already got over the first hurdle of coming up with an idea for a podcast. Great. Wonderful. You’re killin’ it so far. But now, what next? Once the idea is settled in your noggin, the next step is coming up with a format for your episodes. This will act like a blueprint for your podcast that outlines segments which remain consistent throughout each episode. Everyone has a tendency to talk and get off the rails. Create markers that bring you back and serve as checkpoints for wrapping up the current segment and starting the next. This is especially helpful if you have a time limit. Watch any talk show. They usually begin with a monologue, then a comedy bit, then interviews with talent, a guest band or comedian, then the closing. (If not this, something very similar). A clear-cut format that helps guide them through the episode but still allows for fun and spontaneous moments.
Don’t let this process scare you - the format CAN change. As you evolve, you’ll find segments you like and segments you want to switch up. Don’t be afraid to test things out and see how they work for you, especially in the beginning. If you listen to our first episode, you’ll notice distinct differences between that episode and our current ones. Change is natural. Embrace it. Love it. Live it.
It reminds me of the story of when Ryan did stand up for the first (and last) time. He performed a 5-minute set at the HA HA’s open mic in North Hollywood and had prepared 5 minutes of material. Upon getting on stage, the nerves got to him, he spoke too fast, and he ended the set at 3 minutes with the line “Oh the red light isn’t on…”
The point of this story is that you’ll always talk faster than you intend. Our tried and true advice is to create more content and add more items to your rundown. You can ALWAYS edit things out, but it’s much harder to add them in.
Before we get into the tech – really think about your needs. I always try to future proof my setup. Another factor to keep in mind is that while 3 microphones may seem like too many now; if you eventually want more guests, you’re going to want to at least have the ABILITY to add that third microphone when you’re ready.
Disclaimer: Many blogs give you 30 options of equipment for every category. I won’t do that. I’ll give you what I think to be the best bargain for the best equipment.
The tech is broken down into the 4 areas you'll need:
Step 1: Computer and DAW
Step 2: Audio Interface
Step 3: Microphone(s)
Step 4: Headphones and Monitoring
Step 5: Things we forgot about (except I did remember to put it in, so...)
STEP 1: COMPUTER AND DAW
DAW stands for “Digital Audio Workstation” and is a fancy way to say “This is a computer program that will record your audio, then let you edit it afterwards.” Most of you have a laptop or computer workstation at home, so use this to record and edit your tracks. *Side-note - Best practice is to use Mac or PC based machines. Chromebooks while great for some things, are web based, so you'll need a USB 3 external hard drive if you wish to move forward.
The programs I recommend are:
1. Hindenburg Journalist (For Windows & Mac) $95
2. Adobe Audition (For Windows and Mac) $20.99/Mo FDB RECOMMENDATION
STEP 2: AUDIO INTERFACE
Now that you have your DAW, you need a device that connects your microphones with your computer. This is where the “future proofing” comes in. Really think about how many inputs you need. (Remember, a phone guest counts as an input, too.)
Audio Interface Recommendations
One Microphone: M-Audio M-Track 2X2 - $99
Two Microphones: Focusrite Scarlet 2i2 (2nd Gen) - $150 FDB RECOMMENDATION
Four Microphones: Tascam US 4X4 - $200
Eight Microphones: MOTU 8pre USB - $549
STEP 3: MICROPHONES
LET’S TAKE A MOMENT TO SHIT TALK USB MICS
A really popular thing lately is the use of USB powered microphones. People are drawn to the price point and suspected ease of use. However, where the complication arrives is when you plan on using 2 or more USB microphones in unison. While it is POSSIBLE to isolate multiple USB Mics in your DAW, it gets very tech oriented and complicated rather quickly. I’d recommend saving yourself the headache and sticking with Analog Microphones. That being said, if you plan on recording with one microphone ONLY, then a USB Microphone is a great alternative to save some cash. No audio interface needed.
Here are my recommendations on microphones. I’ll price them low to high. Please note that the more expensive the microphone is in this situation, the better it will sound in relation to quality, directionality, and minimizing surrounding noise.
1. MXL 990 - $96 w/ Shockmount (purchase separately)
2. Rode ProCaster - $268 w/ Shockmount (purchase separately)
3. Heil PR-40 - $327
4. Shure SM7b - $400 FDB RECOMMENDATION
5. Electro Voice RE20 - $450 FDB RECOMMENDATION
STEP 4: HEADPHONES AND MONITORING
A big vibe thing about recording a podcast is the ability to hear yourself and the guests. This becomes especially important when you have a phone guest. Regardless, when a guest can hear themselves on headphones in your living room, it becomes a much more personal atmosphere. It is no longer 10,000 listeners – it is just you and them. Here’s the two items I recommend for this.
Headphones Amplifier – Only needed when you need more than one pair of headphones
You and the guest now have full control over the volume of your headphones
Behringer MicroAmp HA400 - $25 FDB RECOMMENDATION
AKG K240STUDIO Semi-Open Studio Headphones - $60 FDB RECOMMENDATION
· 1/4” TRS Cable to go from Audio Interface to Headphone Amplifier – Trust me, you need it! - $8
STEP 5: THINGS WE FORGOT ABOUT
2. XLR Cables for Microphones – Decide how far you will be sitting from your audio interface. Typically, 25ft is a safe distance. All microphones listed above will need XLR cabling. - $19/Each
3. Headphone Extension Cable – If you plan on being more than 6ft away from the audio interface, the headphone cable will get pulled and stressed. Make it easier by adding an extension so that your guest can comfortably sit where it makes sense. - $10
Your podcast episode is recorded, edited, and exported as an MP3! You’re ready to post. Now… how do you do that? Well, you need a Podcast Host that will provide you with an RSS Feed. The Host acts likes a home for your podcast and the RSS Feed talks to podcast platforms like Apple Podcasts, Google Play, and anywhere else you want your podcast heard, and says, “HEY, here is where my podcast lives – please automatically put the new episodes into your feed as soon as I upload it on my host site.”
SoundCloud – Plan: Pro Unlimited - $15/Mo
This will provide you with your RSS feed, give you unlimited upload time, and has the ability to do scheduled posts. So, if you want your podcast to post every Monday at 6AM sharp, this is a great tool. FDB RECOMMENDATION
There are other hosts that you can look into, but for price and ease of use – save yourself the trouble and go with SoundCloud.
That’s all there is to it! If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to the contact page of FriendsDrinkBeer.com and bounce ideas off us! If you don’t know about us, Ryan and I are hosts of Friends Drink Beer, a weekly podcast where we try a new craft beer each week and invite you the listener to sit at our table and enjoy a conversation among friends. We’d love for you to listen and sit with us when you get a chance. Good luck on your podcast! We can’t wait to hear about it!