There are a lot of catch phrases and buzzwords floating around these days in regards to podcasting. One of the most common is that podcasting has lowered the barrier to entry by offering an affordable option to reach the masses. What I love about this is that marginalized communities will now have a slightly more evened playing field when it comes to having a seat at the microphone. Communities can use podcasting to spread messages, raise money and unify people. It’s a beautiful and unique opportunity that we have never seen before.
However, what’s missing from this conversation is the actuality of the cost of creating and maintaining a podcast that will have impact and provide value. There is no shortage of articles telling you that you can start a podcast with just a few dollars but there is an assumption the reader has a laptop or computer or even a place to record. There is a lot missing from the reality of the idea that podcasting doesn’t cost. If you have all these things, we can even call them privileges, then sure, podcasting can be a cheap buy in.
You have to ask yourself, how will my podcast provide value.
If we compare the mentality of the cost of the barrier for entry and not the value we can easily get lost in the obvious gaps. All you need is a pen and paper to write yet that doesn’t mean the barrier for entry to be a great journalist or writer is the cost of the pen and pad. One can buy a great camera or even get one as a gift, that doesn’t mean the barrier of entry to be a great photographer has been met. Equipment won’t give you a plan or a timeline. Equipment is simply equipment, nothing more.
“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Ben Franklin
Whenever I am meeting with people who want to start a podcast the first thing we cover is their plan and goals for their podcast. The number one question I ask them is “will your podcast provide value and how”. We live in a noisy world, if you want to have a podcast but you don’t know what to talk about, please don’t. Anyone can get an anchor account and record a podcast from their phone but that doesn’t mean anyone is going to listen to it.
Podcasting is all about audio, sometimes audio & video, but mostly audio. If your audio isn’t good you are done before you’ve started. You cannot pay me enough money to listen to bad audio, I don’t care what you are saying. You could be telling me where to find free money and if your audio is bad I cannot turn it off fast enough and I don’t think I am alone. I think that telling people anyone can start a podcast because of the low cost of the equipment is setting people up to fail and quite frankly, that ain’t cool.
Creating a podcast is hard work and it requires a commitment. Without a plan you will almost certainly burn out and while I love a good failure, there is no reason to willingly walk into one especially if there is a voice that truly needs to be heard. We want those communities to have a voice and we want you to create a podcast but we want you to understand the reality of what that means.
Let’s pretend you are starting a podcast and start from the beginning…
First we need to consider the environment in which you will be recording and how many people you will be recording. A lot of people have the plan to start small and buy bigger later, which I think is shortsighted. You should only have to buy your equipment once so it’s important to get the right gear. There is no one size fits all, it really depends on you and your set up.
Will you be recording in a studio that is treated?
Will you be recording on the go in loud places?
How many people will you be recordings?
Will you have people calling in or will they always be in person recordings?
Will you have an engineer or assistant to help you?
Do you want to incorporate video into your podcast? (The answer is yes)
Lots of people like to buy expensive mics but then run into issues when they want to add someone else but can’t afford another microphone. I run my entire studio with AKG D5s and they work great. They are affordable and reliable and perfect for loud spaces. What gear you use depends on where you will be using it. If anyone is telling you what equipment you need without asking you about the environment its a sure sign they are either trying to sell you something or they just really don’t know what they are talking about. What works for someone else might not work for you.
Let’s talk about the true math of creating, hosting and marketing a podcast.
- Hosting: $180 Yearly ($15 Month)
- Website: $180 Yearly ($15 Month)
- Canva Subscription: $144 ($12 Month)
- Editing Software: $252 Yearly ($20.99 For Adobe Audition)
- Video Editing: $252 Yearly ($20.99 for Adobe Rush)
Annual Cost: $750-$1,008
You will need to host your podcast with an RSS feed and you will want a website, these are both very low quotes for both. Yes, you can go with Anchor or another free hosting service but trust me, you get what you pay for and the party will eventually end. You should also read the fine print very carefully to make sure you aren’t giving up the rights to your content with that “free” plan. The devil is in the details, for real.
These subscription costs are assuming you will be doing all your own editing and mastering. If you don’t plan on doing that you need to account for post production costs which are anywhere from $20-$100 per hour depending on where you live and what access you have to people who do this for a living. If you plan on doing your own work you also need to calculate what your time is worth as well. Unless of course your time is absolutely free and if that’s the case please hit me up, I could use some help around the studio 😉
- Mics: AKG D5s $99 (using these as a reference, not as a guide)
- Headphones: Audio Technica has really great bundles, you can get a 3 or 5 pack and both come with a special pair for the engineer. 4 Pack $199 & 5 Pack $299.
Total Cost: $767-$3200
You will need a computer to do all of the editing or at the very least to upload the files to it and send them to your engineer. You can use a chrome book for the lighter stuff but if you plan on editing your files yourself you will need something a little heftier. If you have one already you can take 200-$2000 off the cost listed above.
You will need a mixer of some sort. The Zoom L12 is a solid piece of equipment and has 8 inputs and 5 headphone lines. This will allow you to record up to 8 people with ease. This is such a great mixer, we cannot love it enough. Alternatively, the Rodecaster Pro is a straight up beast. It’s so simple and does so much. If you are going to have call ins or mobile guests, this is the best choice without question. However, you can only have 4 mics with this mixer so if you plan on having more, the H12 is the better bet. Lastly, the Zoom H6 is the smallest, baddest, most functional little mixer on the planet. It fits into your pocket, they would have to be pretty big pockets but it’s not impossible. You can record 4-6 people with this mixer and it has a built in memory card so it’s incredibly portable and awesome.
Why do multiple mics and inputs matter you ask? You want to record every voice on a different channel. If you have one guest who speaks low and the other who is loud you will have an editing nightmare if they are both on the same channel. Sharing a mic is a rookie move for so many reasons, don’t do it. Cutting corners on the production will add so many hours to your back end of this production. Pay now or later, the choice is yours.
Mics are very important. Don’t spend $400 on a mic, there is absolutely no reason for you to. Your content will be heard on earbuds or in cars, not at Madison Square Garden. This is not the Grammys, keep it simple. You don’t want a mic that will pick up everything, I promise. Unless of course your podcast is about throat noises and mouth sounds. Fingers crossed that this isn’t your plan, pretty sure that is a very niche audience but hey, maybe that’s your jam.
Headphones….don’t forget about the headphones. Even Joe Rogan wears cans on his show, wanna know why? Quality control. Everyone instinctively moves away from the mic, it’s science. If you or your guests are wearing headphones they will know when they cannot be heard. There is nothing worse than spending 8 hours editing a 1 hour podcast because someone was off the mic the whole damn time. Trust me, it’s the pits.
Production & Marketing:
Here is a list of the items you will need to have to market your podcast.
- Podcast Website
- YouTube Page
- Instagram Account
- Facebook Page
- Patreon Page
- Twitter Page
- Show Description
- Segments & Outline
- Show Intro, Outro & Call to Action
- Bitly Account
- Show Hashtags & Tags
- YouTube Cover Art
- YouTube Thumbnail Template
- Social Share Template
- Sponsor Pitch Deck
- Approval from iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify, Etc
- Highlight Videos or Audiograms for Social
- Release Schedule & Content Calendar
- Email Marketing
- Halo Marketing Template for Guests
Have I completely overwhelmed you yet? I guess that is kinda the point. You can do this, I believe in you. But I also want to set you up for success, another buzz phrase of the hour. But really, you want to know the reality of this right? The good news is you can get grants and you can get sponsors to help with the costs but the time you will spend will be much greater than any of these costs. It takes time to produce a quality podcast. You will need to spend hours every week marketing your podcast. You will have serious learning curves throughout the entire process, you will never stop learning. You will be challenged in ways you didn’t think possible. Low key, it’s going to be a true test of your constitution.
Hate rejection? Don’t start a podcast. It’s going to take time to get traction, no matter how good your content is. I believe life is all about exercising the right muscles. I don’t want to walk into a set up, and I don’t want to send you down that path either. So, if you are thinking about starting a podcast understand that it’s going to be a lot of work and quite possibly the most rewarding thing you can do for yourself and your brand but it’s not going to be easy or pretty.
Next time you are listening to a podcast and you really value the content please consider supporting that podcast. Maybe now you understand a little more how much work was done to get it to the point of making its way to your ears. Find their Patreon page or just send them a few bucks through paypal. Creating space for marginalized communities isn’t about Anchor or cheap equipment, it’s about supporting the things that matter to you and who you are in your community. That’s where the real magic is, that is why all of this matters.
I love talking about podcasts and would love to answer your questions too. I want you to succeed. I want you to have a great podcast that provides value. I want you to understand and harness the power of information to make the world a better place. Let’s do it together, it’s the only way any of this is going to work.