Traditional thinking leaves podcasts to the pros, as a method to catalog recorded episodes of NPR programs and the like. But over time, serial audio recordings have evolved beyond a tool for professional broadcasters and into something the average person--without an audio/visual background--can make their own.
Memphis has become a hotbed of DIY recording activity, with novice broadcasters embracing the medium as a mechanism to share their interests and insight with the city--and possibly beyond.
The equipment and manpower required for each show vary wildly from operation to operation. Some are housed under independent networks (like Shut Up and Listen, Relay FM or OAM) with producers and are recorded at Minglewood Hall orWUMR at the University of Memphis. Others are recorded more modestly, from home studios or simply with a sparse laptop and microphone setup. What each podcast on our roundup list has in common is the contribution of a unique voice and perspective.
Much like magazines, podcasts are inherently niche, and this reality is apparent in Memphis' suite of locally hosted podcasts. Shows broadcast from Memphis include live recorded storytelling sessions, current events, comedy, interviews and live game shows, just to name a few.
I Love Memphis
Blogger Holly Whitfield said she had wanted to do a podcast ever since she took over the I Love Memphis blog project, and co-host Kevin Cerrito was interested in branching out from his sports radio work. Whitfield was already a monthly guest on his MemphiSport Live Saturday radio show
"The I Love Memphis podcast is different--and a good complement to the blog, in my opinion--because it brings in other voices," Whitfield said. "It's easier to get deeper into discussions when you're having a conversation in real time."
Since releasing the first podcast last March, a new 45 minute to one hour episode has debuted each month. Each episode features a different guest representing some aspect of Memphis culture. Past guests have included WMC anchor Joe Birch, kid entrepreneur Moziah Bridges, chefs Andrew Ticer and Michael Hudman and Memphis Flyer editor Bruce VanWyngarden.
Another podcast featuring each episode's guest as the central topic is Creative Memphis, a podcast hosted by Billy Nation and Andrew Lebowitz.
As suggested from the name, each episode features a creative Memphian. Previous guests have included rapper Marco Pave, entrepreneur Elizabeth Lemmonds and photographer Joey Miller. Nation and Lebowitz try to select a guest from a different creative field each week.
"We have an overarching theme which is, broadly, creative people," Lebowitz said. "There are people we view as doing new and unique things in whatever their field is, in Memphis. We try to get a well-rounded perspective of what they do, who they are, and try to get their points of view and their perspectives on things."
As two creatives themselves (both employees of marketing communications firm ODEN), the pair decided to make their podcast a place to promote other local creative people and their projects.
"We both felt that the unfortunate part of being a creative person is that you sometimes have a hard time promoting yourself, regardless of where you are," Lebowitz said. "So we wanted to provide that platform."
Rather than push the conversation, the two let their guest push his or her own agenda.
"We want to start doing T-shirts," Lebowitz said. "So we'll have catchphrases that come out of each episode, like 'The Church of Chicken of Beer.' I take those as design challenges because they are short things where I can be creative. So we were trying to think of some ways that we can make some Creative Memphis collateral."
Nation tracks users through Facebook analytics and downloads from the website. Over 2,000 people have downloaded Creative Memphis episodes since it started in April.
"The reality completely blew our expectations out of the water," Lebowitz said.
The Game Show
Several area podcasts fall under the OAM network, created by Gil Worth.
"I wanted to start a network where it wasn't just interview podcasts," Worth said. "It wasn't just people sitting down and having one-on-ones with musicians and folks around town. I wanted it to be something where you'd listen to it no matter who's on it."
Under this network is his popular program The Game Show.
In 2012 Worth launched a podcast with a friend and cousin, which featured the traditional interview format but concluded with a trivia game. The finale quickly became his favorite part. "We always got the most joy out of people when we played the game," Worth said. "The competitive nature brought out people's personality more than just the interview."
The Game Show podcasts start with a short interview and then go on to some sort of game with a heavy audio component (because viewers, obviously, cannot see what is going on). Contestants represent opposite spectrums of creative fields, such as a local comedian versus a musician.
The segments are broken up by free advertisements. Worth schedules guests so that they can promote upcoming appearances as well.
Black Nerd Power
Black Nerd Power is a recently developed weekly podcast produced by Gil Worth and hosted by Markus Seaberry and Richard Douglas Jones. The hosts discuss technology, science fiction and fantasy from the black nerd perspective. Each episode starts off with a discussion of some new technology, and then the conversation moves on to topics like comic books or superhero movies.
"The goal, for me, for Black Nerd Power is to speak to and/or speak for a neglected demographic," Jones said. "Nerd culture has been around for a long time, and it's something that's not just exclusive to white people. I know tons of black people who like all of the things that would be considered nerdy. But nobody speaks to us and nobody speaks for us."
Through a compelling Twitter campaign, Jones and Seaberry recently managed to convince actor, political commentator and comedian D.L. Hughley to be a guest on the show during a scheduled appearance in Memphis.
"He was like, 'I can't believe I'm hanging out with nerds,' and by the end of the interview he admitted he was a nerd," Jones said of the interview.
The Bottom Line
Former Memphian Johnathan Gibbs created the Edugaytion website as a hub for all things black and LGBT. On his website are blogs and The Bottom Line, a program borne from conversations that he and friend Garrett McQueen started recording.
YouTube clips of the show are available on the website; audio from the recordings is available as podcasts via iTunes.
Besides Gibbs (who now lives in New York) and McQueen (who splits time between Memphis and Knoxville, where he plays for the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra), other cohosts are located in St. Louis and New York. "We really go for the multi-city aspect and the multi-community aspect when it comes to all of our discussions," McQueen said.
The group records via Google chat on Wednesday evenings. Gibbs edits and puts up the clips every Saturday. McQueen selects topics of discussion from news and entertainment to pop culture to personal relationships and social issues.
Connected (formerly The Prompt) is another locally recorded podcast that incorporates co-hosts and guests from outside the Bluff City. Started by Stephen Hackett, Connected is a weekly show discussing Apple Inc. and the impact of related technology. His other co-hosts are based internationally, in London and Rome.
Hackett is moving the show to a podcast network he co-founded, Relay FM.
"I started podcasting in 2011 to expand the conversation," Hackett said. "As much as I enjoy writing, a conversation between friends about a shared passion can lead to more interesting ideas."
Hackett first encountered Mac products during his time compiling his high school newspaper. He worked professionally as a Mac Genius for a few years in college and started writing about Apple when he left the company in 2008.
Hackett records episodes on Wednesday evenings in a spare bedroom of his house. The episodes are released the same night.
The Spillit podcasts are event based and so are created directly from recordings of the themed live storytelling events. Each story is 10 minutes long.
"Releasing the stories for podcast is a nice way of including people who aren't able to attend the event, and is especially great for those who live outside of Memphis," said Spillit founder Leah Keys.
Keys said that all the stories shared at the live event are released at once in the two weeks following an event.
"Spillit stories have appeal across the world because of the podcast," she said. "I have to admit, I don't keep up with the stats at all. I've never looked at them. The podcast is really a courtesy for those who can't be there. But I'm told daily in person, via text, email or phone call that someone took some time to listen, and they really enjoyed them. They felt connected, they felt human and they want more."
Local podcast mega-producer Gil Worth's wife Carla Worth has caught the recording bug as well. She began her own podcast, 901 Paranormal, in May of this year. Like Spillit, this podcast is pinned on an event and focuses on a story of sorts. Each episode chronicles "hauntings" in Memphis and surrounding areas.
"My interest in other worldly phenomena started when I was young," she said. "I had a few experiences I couldn't make sense of. As a teenager I sought answers by finding reportedly haunted buildings and doing 'hunts.'"
Along with her husband, a "ghost hunter" from Memphis-Midsouth Ghost Hunters, and psychic medium Abigail Noel, Carla has gone into the Sears Crosstown building twice for a podcast productions. In the future, Carla said she would love to be able to podcast live from the Tennessee Brewery, the Magevney House and the Woodruff-Fontaine House.