Having previously worked as professional musician (Chris here), I was recently asked to provide a document, detailing the equipment needed to start a business podcast. In fact, it was an entire podcast facility to be used by a range of businesses.
After producing that document, we at The Marketing Optimist thought the topic of “what equipment do I need to start a podcast for my business”, would make a very useful blog. After all, podcasts have quickly become not only a hugely popular entertainment source, but a powerful marketing vehicle, for all kinds of businesses.
Don’t feel like reading a bible-sized blog full of techy jargon? I wouldn’t want to write one.
In this blog, I’ll simply outline the tools to transform podcasting, from a funny idea your intern had, to a viable and accessible marketing tool.
One final note before we get into it, all product links are from Thomann, Europe’s biggest online music retailer. Think Amazon, but better.
Do I need visuals for my business podcast?
While this blog is more specifically aimed toward the equipment required to record quality podcast audio, if you decide to film your podcast (which is a great way to build awareness of your brand, business and initiatives across YouTube), there are a ton of options available.
Starting with any recent smart phone. Many of the cameras on our phones today, boast specifications like that of most action-cams, such as GoPro etc. Why not start by using a good smart phone camera, a tripod, and spend time considering framing and lighting, rather than the technology? When you’re up and running, you can feel more justified in splashing out on the latest SLR.
If you happen to be going down the video route, we can recommend apple’s default video editor iMovie, which we use at The Marketing Optimist to produce video content for our clients, or Premiere Pro, but there are thousands of programmes out there. The latter is the bee’s knees of video software used by movie studios all over the world and made by Adobe. It’s likely far too full featured for your needs, and even for your average genius to wrap their head around, but if you want to assure quality, or throw some money around, it’s an industry standard.
What laptop should I use to record my company podcast?
For businesses using apple products, you’re going to find life much easier in the audio world. Windows users don’t fret! Recording audio using a Windows operating system is possible, it’s just less commonly done, and as a mac user myself when it comes to audio, that’s where my experience lies.
When it comes to the audio recording software, or DAW (Digital Audio Interface) as they’re known; the programmes most commonly used commercially are Pro Logic and Pro Tools.
Recording in studios since I was 12, back when we recorded to reel-to-reel tape (ah the good old days), I remember DAW’s appearing in studios, and since that point, I’ve only known them to use either of these two programmes.
For your business, Pro Tools is a deep-editing dream, and completely unnecessary here. Logic is simpler, more intuitive, but would still provide more features than you actually need.
Windows users can’t run Logic, and Pro-Tools (as silly as it would be to buy for such matters) requires computers of very specific specifications.
For Mac Users, there’s the beautifully simple, but high-quality programme, GarageBand, which comes free with all products, iPhone, iPad, Macbook, iMac.
My advice, in the original document I produced for an organisation running Windows exclusively, is to invest in an iPad purely for this purpose. You can then access GarageBand right away and get started for free. If you’d like to invest later, you can purchase and run Logic on iPad too, for only £199.
For those going down the iPad route, it’s wise to invest in an external hard drive to save your files to, and a USB-C Adaptor that allows USB inputs. I’d personally buy one with 2 or more inputs. One for the before-mentioned external hard drive, and the other for your soundcard input.
What on earth is a soundcard and why do I need one?
I could get really geeky here and begin to gush about the soundcards that feature the sweetest microphone preamps, but I won’t bore you with that.
Simply put, a soundcard is how you connect microphones to the device you’re using to record (laptop, iPad etc), and how the device processes this information. They range in price from “don’t waste your pennies” to “we’re not opening capital studios!”, but the key is to find the soundcard that’s on budget and processes audio information well, otherwise you could risk experiencing latency.
For almost anybody, audiophiles included, that are not loyal to an audio gear brand, there are reviews.
Submit a google search surrounding the words “Soundcard”, “Affordable”, “High-Quality” “Recording”, and you’ll see the words Focusrite Scarlett.
This range of soundcards are the go-to at the moment, and the brand will be familiar to almost anybody who has set foot in any number of professional studios.
Before making your soundcard purchase, you need to consider how many microphones you want to record at one time.
Will the show always be a one man show? Will there be guests? Will it be a group of 4, with a changing line-up? Get this wrong, and you could make a very expensive mistake.
For most businesses embarking on creating their own podcast, I assume a 4-input soundcard would suffice. If this is the case, I recommend the Focusrite Scarlett 18i8.
Got bigger aspirations? Perhaps the Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 with 8 inputs, and the same reliable, infamous reputation, is the soundcard for you.
Microphones for podcasting
When it comes to microphones, searching for the right one can be headache inducing. There are millions of them out there, and unless you have some experience with a particular model, or understand the specs, it’s hard to decipher which is best for your application, especially with prices differing enormously between models.
As a big podcast listener myself, having recorded the human voice for years, and having a fair knowledge of microphones, you’d be best served opting for broadcast mics.
Many of the biggest podcasts use broadcast microphones, which are built to reproduce the characteristics of the spoken voice, whereas many other microphones are designed to amplify and accentuate the frequencies within a song vocal, or even for amplifying instruments, or amplifiers.
Broadcast microphones are also a lot less temperamental than other options. With many of these other types of microphones, I’d advise that you have a rules list on the wall to protect them.
Which broadcast microphone would I recommend for your podcast?
I’ve had great success using the EV RE20 RE-Series broadcast microphone, and this would be my personal choice. It’s also the choice of a number of popular podcasts.
Fancy a sing when the team leave? I used this microphone for vocals on a Jazz record I made, it’s versatile, affordable, and brilliant at reproducing the exact voice it’s capturing.
EV also make a more affordable version of this microphone, the EV RE320, however I have no experience with this particular model.
Similarly, a famous-podcast favourite is the Shure SM 7B. I have no personal experience with this microphone, but the brand are industry giants, and if it’s good enough for the big-hitters of the podcast world…
When making your purchase, be aware that you’ll need multiple microphones, one for each input of your soundcard, which has been purchased with the number of speakers in mind.
Finally, buy enough pop shields for the number of microphones you’ll purchase. These are inexpensive things which dull the spike and punch, of plosives: P’s B’s, D’s etc. This sounds like a tiny detail but there is nothing more annoying when it comes to spoken word, and it can’t be treated in the edit.
Microphone stands and the podcast environment
I think when many of us think of microphone stands, we think of the simple vertical stand adopted by famous front men and women, or the boom mic stand used by our guitar-wielding favourites.
Business podcasts are a different kettle of fish (or …tofu) entirely.
Are your speakers, or hosts, going to be sat around a table? It’s advisable. Sofa podcasts always sound awful, it’s unnatural for people to talk to one another whilst not facing each other.
Turn to face your co-host on the sofa beside you, turning from the microphone in front of you, and I promise you, you’ll annoy your entire audience – and upset me in the process.
Your speakers should be seated facing each other, with or without a table.
Due to my knowledge of audio equipment being routed in my career in music, I’m less knowledgeable regarding these kinds of specialist microphone stands. However, small table-top microphone stands, stands that clamp under the table, and the more sophisticated designs that swing around from the side, would be where to focus your search.
What I can tell you about microphone stands, with absolute certainty, is that if you buy cheap, you buy a thousand times. My advice would be to give Thomann, the music-gear super-store, Amazon of the music world and Europe’s biggest music retailer a call, they have phenomenal customer service.
Want the best stand for your exact podcast set-up? Run it by them, they’ll give you the answer.
The other benefit to putting in this call, is to ensure that the kind of stand most appropriate for your application, is one that can hold the weight of your chosen microphone.
I know this is sounding faffy, but a simple quick call regarding mic stands and you’ll be off.
What leads do you need for a podcast?
Now for the really boring bit that no sane person could possibly get excited about, microphone leads. I’ll make this quick.
The same is true about price here. I personally buy leads with a lifetime guarantee, because other leads break so frequently. My advice, don’t scrimp here.
Take note of the size and set-up of your podcasting space, as you need leads long enough to reach without tension (to avoid the hazard of a tight stretching lead across the room), and at the same time, you don’t want loads of slack all over the floor (also a hazard).
Is the soundcard and laptop/iPad going to be placed on the desk your speakers are seated around? On a unit to the side of their table? Or in the space between your speakers? Thinking about maximising the longevity of your equipment, whilst taking into consideration your set-up, will help you select microphone leads of the right length for your application.
To begin your search, here are two examples, of different extremes.
- Perhaps look at the Planet Waves PWM25 option. I use guitar leads by this brand, for the guarantee that comes with them. I’ve only experienced one of their leads break in my entire guitar playing life (16 years). The same will be true of their microphone leads.
- Alternatively, you might wish to go down the more affordable route, and perhaps double up on your mic lead purchase for peace of mind. If this sounds like you, check out the Cordial CTM 5.
Making your business podcast live
Once you’ve taken the plunge, and you’ve recorded your first episode, how can you get it to the eyes and ears of interested people?
As I’ve already mentioned at the start, YouTube is the home of podcasts with a visual accompaniment. Be sure to create a channel, taking the time to brand it appropriately, and promote your new episodes across social media, email marketing and even PR initiatives.
For audio podcasts, and even those who wish to widen the audience for their video podcasts, audio can now easily be released across the stores and platforms you consume music on today, iTunes, Spotify etc.
Now, this is where I will absolutely stand by my experience. Finding the aggregator/distribution company that offer the best services, features, royalties and payment options, used to be a total nightmare. Today, there’s one simple and obvious choice, Distrokid.
While I’ve used others in the past, I released music through Distrokid throughout my career as a professional musician and still to this day.
Enabling you to access EVERY digital store and streaming platform, and providing the best reporting element I’ve ever experienced with digital aggregators, they’re the obvious choice. What’s more, they don’t take a cut.
If you need further help on the matter of how to release your podcast to stores, there are hundreds of available articles online.
For those who want to keep it simple and grassroots, there’s SoundCloud. Nice and simple, you can deploy your best marketing chops to make your episode uploads fly. Unfortunately, I’ve found their app to be problematic on my iPhone, and frankly, this really isn’t what the platform is for, so it’s likely not the best option for audience uptake.
My advice – Stick it onto the major stores, and push away. And just like that, you’re essentially a Rock Star.