…let me rephrase that.
Starting Self-producing a podcast with a best friend who films a reality show at odd hours of the day while you maintain a full-time desk job is hard.
I’ve read a lot of HOW TO START A PODCAST WITHOUT REALLY TRYING articles around the internet that were only slightly helpful, usually outdated, wholly devoid of personality. So, here is my journey. I hope it’s helpful to someone.
Ariana Madix and I have been bosom buddies since college and both moved to LA around the same time. She’s an in-front-of-the-camera kind of gal and I’m more behind-the-scenes. We’ve got a Liz Lemon/Jenna Maroney sort of situation, if you will.
No, but…it’s pretty much exactly like that. Hair color and all.
Five years later, she’s on a Bravo show and I’m working for a television network. Because of her stardom, she’s been on a few podcasts. Because I’m friends with her and happily ride in her wake, so have I. We both enjoyed our experiences with the format and decided to enter a venture together.
We settled on a NPR vibe, but a little zippier, a little edgier. Pop culture. Current events. Sharing our favorite things. A little bit of travel. Some of our friends. All we had to do was buy equipment, record, edit! Done! So easy! Ariana would foot a majority of the bill and I would do the heavy lifting.
We had a gentleman’s agreement.
Mistake – “We’ll buy some cheap mics! Hey look, these have okay reviews!”
I’ll preface this by saying that neither of us are audiophiles but we are tech savvy. It was important to me that each person on the podcast be recorded on a separate track for cleaner editing (since I was going to be the one doing that). I have light video and audio editing skills which have been honed almost exclusively in Apple software.
Our original set up, and why:
- CAD U1 USB Dynamic Recording Microphones (3)
- I thought that buying USB microphones was going to be the smartest idea. They seemed friendlier and cheaper to connect, as I didn’t want to buy a mixer. A mixer seemed like a big commitment! A big $300 commitment!
- AmazonBasics 4 Port USB 3.0 Hub
- I would use this to plug those three mics into my Macbook Pro (which only has two USB ports) and then create an aggregate device to record in…
- I’m a slave to the Apple machine.
I recorded a pilot pod with Ariana. It went well! I edited it in a day and it sounded okay. My mom liked it!
I bought some additional equipment, as I didn’t like the sound that the mic cord picked up as we lazed on the couch. Holding microphones wasn’t the best set up for us, clearly we needed mic stands.
Our First Episode
We booked out first guest, Molly McAleer! We bought lots of snacks! Ariana lit some fragrant-but-not-overpowering candles! What could go wrong?
Well, first of all, I couldn’t connect the three mics to my laptop for reasons I still don’t understand. I got over this by plugging each mic into a different computer (thank goodness there were three computers in the room) and I painstakingly united the three tracks in one project later. (Also, two of those computers had old versions of Garageband on them, so that gifted me with another set of technical difficulties. Wheeee!)
Secondly, we drank too much. The conversation got loud. We got off track. A great time was had, but I don’t think any of us expected that it would end in Ariana’s boyfriend shooting Molly with a BB gun.
I should note that he loaded the gun with a Q-Tip and not an actual BB. Does that make it better?
Thirdly, no one monitored the recording. The volume was too high and the mics fritzed out; they were all defective. We lost a lot of good conversation.
I’d planned on editing and releasing this episode in a week. I played with the audio for almost a month before I realized that it was futile. It was a real blow and I lost a lot of creative steam.
Lesson: Save your money and buy something a little bit nicer than you anticipate you’ll need, especially if you’re not working solo. If it’s just you and you trust yourself, you can watch your levels and sit very still in front of a cheap mic. If you’re looking to do a chill show and chat informally with some pals while you drink wine? People move around. People get loud. This affects your end product.
Also, having structure isn’t a bad idea, even though I’ll be the first to admit that at this stage of game it’s hard to know exactly where you’re going to land in terms of format. Blank white sheets of paper, be they literal or figurative, are intimidating.
Also, maybe don’t open the second bottle of wine until you’ve finished recording.
Back to the Grindstone
When things go wrong, you can stop doing them or you can put the pedal to the medal. In this case, the latter meant spending more money. I talked to some friends who record professionally and I accepted the fact that in order to produce a high-quality show, we needed better equipment.
I’ll pause here to say that Ariana and I are in a unique position; the TV show she’s on is popular, so we’re going to debut this podcast with a bigger audience than most beginner podcasts have. If I produce a shitty-sounding show, it’s ammunition for tabloids and the Negative Nancies that inhabit her world. I care about her, so I’m not going to let that happen. It’s a lot of pressure but thankfully I work better under pressure.
And so! We set out to buy fancier equipment.
We set up in Ariana’s living room for our third “first” recording. The audio was fantastic and we were more nervous this time than we had been in the past because that mixer and those heavy mics made things feel entirely more real.
The intention was to record a mini episode, but after listening to it and doing a little bit of research, we decided instead to create something along the lines of long commercial for our first release. At this point, we’re about to upload that commercial, have an episode with a guest in the can, and are in the process of scheduling out the next few weeks of programming.
I’m sure that we could have avoided a lot of these missteps. We could have bought fancy equipment from the get-go. We could have sought sponsors to pay for everything out right. But by going this route no one is controlling our message but us, it’s something that we arrived at together, and it’s something to be proud of. Plus, I learned a lot. And really, that’s what’s most important, isn’t it?