Podcasting for the love of local music
Scott Tinetti leans forward, closing in on his mic, and dispels a few sentences on yet another local band, who in turn benefits from his unfortunate hobby. I say unfortunate, because podcasting is truly a labor of love. Sitting quietly next to the host of Insomnia Radio SF, while he creates an episode, is like watching a kid hover over a baseball card collection. He reads CD liner notes, surfs MySpace pages and gathers data on the fly, then presses the record button and shares his findings with the world.
I’m on a mission to uncover the mystery behind one of the Bay Area’s most noble creatures, the podcaster. In this case, I’ve tracked down the voices behind Insomnia Radio SF and The Bay Bridged, two podcasts burning the midnight oil (despite demanding day jobs) to help you identify local bands, who would otherwise be faceless entities in some weekly event listing.
Deciphering through the weekly rubble was essentially what drove Christian Cunningham and Ben Van Houten to start The Bay Bridged.
“We’re trying to be more of a resource. Someone can check the site, hear a little blurb about a band and see if they’re worth checking out,” says Cunningham.
Of course the perks make their job a lot more manageable. Let’s not forget, they are music fans first.
“All the perks are just getting to listen and preview music,” he adds. “I think 80% of what I listen to is local music.”
At the core, podcasting is a hobby. But, The Bay Bridged and Insomnia Radio SF have shown that it’s somewhat of a new model for finding undiscovered local talent. Aside from one DJ’s quest to bring unsigned acts to mainstream radio (thanks Aaron), podcasting is a vital way to hear wonderful local bands. And people all over the world are tuning in.
“I have listeners in Germany, London and Beijing. That’s because it’s under the Insomnia Radio umbrella, which was one of the very first music podcasts out there,” says Tinetti. “I mean, before I did my first show, I instantly had subscribers.”
For the guys at The Bay Bridged, podcasting allowed them take on a more active role in the music community.
“It gave us the ability to come from just enjoying music to participating in the San Francisco/Bay Area music scene,” admits Cunningham. “Podcasting allows anyone to participate in what they are interested in.”
“The technology of podcasting helps keep people listening, while building a regular audience,” adds Van Houten.
There’s nothing more charming than a podcasters home studio. CDs stacked in a corner, papers strewn across a table and rock posters tacked to walls. Cameron Crowe couldn’t stage a better scene. Christian and Ben settle into chairs, crack open a few beers, and riff off each other’s remarks. Their studio looks like a glorified closet.
“It has all the makings of a regular business, except we don’t actually make any money,” laughs Van Houten. “The actual podcasting itself is cheap. But it can take a lot of time.”
You wouldn’t know it by the sound, but a podcasters’ setup is fairly basic. In most cases, the only requirement is a microphone and a computer (well, Apple).
“The Mac has long been known as idiot proof. Out of the box you get the software you need,” says Tinetti. “Garageband is really basic, but it’s got everything I need to record a voice and multi-track.”
Both local podcasts follow their own rules and guidelines, and through trial and error, have developed a system of creating a unique episode.
“I usually do eight or ten minutes of music before I start talking,” says Tinetti. “I’ve listened to a ton of podcasts where they started talking and five minutes later they played a song. By that time I’m like come on already.”
The Bay Bridged crew prides themselves all exposing locals only music, but also maintaining a neutral stance.
“We have an ethics policy. We’ll never be a review site. We’re never going to cast our opinions,” says Cunningham.
“The only sort of review we give, is by putting the episode out there, we’re essentially saying, we like it,” adds Van Houten.
Perhaps Tinetti sums up the allure of podcasting best.
“Podcasting or internet radio, call it what you want, is all about the amateurism. Who knows, maybe the listener can identify with someone who is fumbling around or doesn’t always say the right thing.”
One thing is certain: both crews have found a way to connect with their listeners. It’s like hanging out at a friends house, and having him play you his favorites.
Go here: The Bay Bridged
Go here: Insomnia Radio: San Francisco
Other notable podcast: