Welcome to the twenty first instalment of Monday #MusicMatters as part of the JAMS Canada PRO Series – “Here’s What I Know”.
We caught up with Ryan Murphy for his insights on Podcasts, Patreon & Gaming
Can you explain podcasting and some of the pros & cons for musicians to consider?
Podcasting is the process of preparing, planning, recording, editing, publishing, and marketing an internet radio show. Sometimes a podcast will have a specific topic or niche, or can focus on telling a story. Normally a podcast is available as an audio download, but some podcasts have video components as well to maximize viewership. Being available as a video allows you to expand into websites like YouTube, and get more creative with how you display your discussions to viewers. In explaining podcasting as a part of my work to people who have never heard of the medium, I find it best to describe it as a scheduled radio show but for the internet!
Podcasting is a great way to get your long form thoughts and feelings on a specific topic out to your audience. As a musician, you could take the opportunity to break down a song, discuss the story behind it or it’s development. It gives you a chance to provide more context to your listeners, and provide craved for behind the scenes peak for loyal fans. Podcasting can also help a musician reach a new audience. I listen to two shows that feature indie music that is submitted by musicians from around the world. The Morning Stream by Scott Johnson and Brian Ibbott, and Coverville by Brian Ibbott, both feature great indie music.
How do you set up a podcast? What are some of the investment costs? How do you monetize your podcast?
These days, setting up a podcast is easier than ever, but if you want to invest more time you can expand upon your setup to benefit your listeners and expand your reach. There are several podcasting services that will take care of hosting and serving your show for you, like Anchor, Podbean, or Blubrry. If you’re a bit more technical, you can self-host (like I do) using a WordPress website and the Blubrry PowerPress plugin. There are many ways to host your podcast, but the path you take will vary depending on your technical skills and how much money you want to spend.
For getting started on your podcast, you’ll need to take care of a few things before launching your first episode. It is important to have a good understanding of what your podcast is going to be about. This is normally the trickiest part, because this involves coming up with a subject, a name for your show, podcast album art (branding), whether you’ll have co-hosts or guests or going solo, and your cadence (release schedule). Sorting out these key details will be important, as they will drive your podcast for years to come.
Next you’ll want to sort out your recording setup. This can be as simple as having a Windows or Mac laptop, a USB microphone for recording, and headphones. Really, you just need a way to record and edit your audio, but more can be required when you expand to having guests or co-hosts. The best free application for recording and editing is Audcacity, which is available on Windows and Mac. Adobe offers an audio recording and editing application called Audition, which offers more options and settings if you’re looking for something a bit more technical.
If you’re recording your podcast over Discord, you can use a free service like Craig to produce separate recordings of yourself and your guests. If you don’t use Discord and would like a simple way of recording yourself and guests over the internet you can check out Zencastr, which allows you to send a link to your guests and it records separate tracks for each person. Zencastr does have a free tier that you can check out, where limits on guests and monthly recording time has been removed during the pandemic.
There are MANY options when it comes to recording and editing, so to list them all here would be tough, but this should give a good starting point. If you’re curious what I use for recording and editing, I’ve included my hardware and software line-up at the end of the article.
Once you’ve picked a hosting method, you’ll want to be sure your podcast is being listed by the three most popular podcast repositories which are Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Google Podcasts. There are a lot of podcast repositories, but these three are the best place to start.
Now that the setup is out of the way, what is this going to cost? The investment costs of starting a podcast basically boil down to hardware, software, and hosting. Additional costs may pop up, for example, if you need to hire a designer to do your podcast album art. You’ll find these investment costs can balloon pretty quick, so I recommend starting small. Try out the medium and make sure it’s a good fit for you. If you’re enjoying podcasting, invest in increments! Buy a new microphone, upgrade your recording/editing software, commission some sweet new podcast album art.
Now that you have your podcast setup, and you’ve invested some money into the project, you may be wondering how can I monetize my podcast. It’s important to note that a podcast is a lot of work, and for the most part, many podcasts won’t even break even. Advertisers require a podcast to reach a certain level of engagement and listeners before offering their money in exchange for you sharing their product with your audience. However, when just starting out, using Patreon can help you to recuperate some of your costs while rewarding loyal listeners.
What are the pros & cons of joining Patreon? How do you generate a revenue stream? What does the platform charge?
I use Patreon for two of my podcasts, and all of my pledges on Patreon go to podcasts. I find it’s a great way to get more content from my favourite creators, and to give back so they can keep the content rolling. Win, win!
When using Patreon (or a similar service) it’s important to understand what you’re getting into. The best part of Patreon is that it provides you with a platform to offer your listeners some rewards in exchange for their pledges. You can set up Tiers that allow you to offer more rewards in exchange for higher pledges. An example would be at the $1 level you get a thank you on the show, whereas at the $5 level you get a thank you and early access to the podcast. You can also offer up Goals to encourage more Patrons to jump on board to upgrade or enhance your podcast. The biggest con to fully utilizing Patreon that I’ve experienced is that there is a chance of feature creep. You need to be sure you’re balancing what you’re offering, with what you have the time and energy to do. When setting up your Tiers and Goals, make sure that the income you’re receiving from Patreon accurately matches the work you’re going to have to do to fulfill.
Patreon is a business, so it does take a cut from each payout you receive. With each monthly payout, Patreon takes a percentage, plus payment processing fees. The Pro plan is the standard recommended plan as it includes the Tiers discussed above, which is 8% plus payment processing fees. Be sure to check out the Patreon website for a more detailed breakdown of their pricing.
How does a musician get their music to video game companies? What kind of music genres do they normally use? What would be a good example of the music you listen to you while you game?
I don’t have experience with creating and supplying music to video game developers, however smaller developers normally don’t have an inhouse composer for their projects. Never hurts to start small and reach out to local indie developers and PR companies specializing in indie video games for devs that may be looking to contract the music for their video games.
What I do know is what kind of music is in video games, because I play a lot of them. Well, I try to these days in my limited free time. The easy answer is that all music genres can be found in the medium of video games. Music has evolved past the bleeps and bloops to the point where a Western could feature a classic country melody to the newest version of DOOM featuring a hardcore metal soundtrack paired to demon slaying. There are even video games that feature all kinds of music, just look at Beat Saber which features everything from hip hop, to indie rock, to K-POP while you slice your way through a borderline Disney lawsuit waiting to happen.
There are many types of video games, and sometimes there are games that I like to refer to as “treadmill games”. These are games that you’ve played before, have repeatable content, or offer up as just a quick fix distraction. A great example would be World of Warcraft, a massively multiplayer online role playing game that has players moving through a vast world completing quests and interacting with others. This is a game where many players will be completing their tasks while engaging with another form of media. For me, this was an opportunity to listen to some of my favourite music, or more recently, catch up on podcasts! I only do this once I’ve experienced the content, because music is one of my favourite aspects of video games. Funny enough, I’m listening to a video game soundtrack as I type this!
How has COVID affected your life?
Before COVID-19 restrictions were put in place, my wife and I were expecting our third child, so the plan was always for me to go on parental leave starting at the end of March. When restrictions were put in place, I was moved from an office to working from home full time until the arrival of my second daughter. I have friends and family who are working from home while balancing their kids and personal life, and it can be a struggle. I’m incredibly lucky to be on parental leave as it has allowed me to focus on my family. That being said, we’ve had to be more creative in keeping the kids busy over the last six months. As of this writing we’re gearing up to put my oldest into his first year of Kindergarten. We’ve opted to do remote online learning, which should be interesting! All and all, COVID has kept us home, but hasn’t stifled our creativity in keeping the kids busy and active or with personal projects like my podcasts.
Ryan’s hardware and software used for podcasting
- Google Sheets or Docs
My name is Ryan Murphy, I live in Peterborough, Ontario with my wife Ashley and three kids. I grew up between Reed and Marysville, but most folks don’t know where that is until you narrow it down to “Near Deseronto, down the 401 from Belleville”. I went to Loyalist College for Computer Programming, then took a transfer to Trent University to get my Bachelor’s in Computer Science. Upon graduating, I started work at Parks Canada as an Internet Content and New Media Officer. My main responsibilities revolve around managing social media accounts, producing content, and maintaining our websites. In my free time, when I’m not wrangling three kids or spending time with the family, I co-host four podcasts and manage a small website design business. You can find all the information about what I do at RyanMurphy.ca.
Find out more about Ryan on his website www.ryanmurphy.ca, on his Facebook page @ryanmurphy3 and Twitter @RMurphy
Each year I raise money for SickKids Foundation in Toronto through my work with Extra Life. This year will be my 11th supporting this great cause, and over those years I’ve been able to raise over $8,000 dollars for SickKids. Extra Life is a global initiative where gamers work to raise funds for their local Children’s Miracle Network Hospital. Donations stay local to fund critical treatments and healthcare services, pediatric medical equipment and charitable care. If you’d like to help this great cause, please check out my Extra Life page at bit.ly/extraliferyan. I have a lot of fun plans for the rest of the year to help raise funds for SickKids, so please join in on the fun!
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