Producing content for online platforms has tremendous benefits for independent artists. You can easily disseminate your work nationally and internationally, as well as broaden your audience to include individuals who may or may not attend live performance. Instead of pitching your performance project by sending a script, you can send potential programmers an online link, which can be an exciting way to showcase your work and incorporate important creative elements into the experience.
But producing a podcast isn’t as simple as recording a play reading. Radio-dramas and other creative podcasts are their own artistic form, a form that focus on creativity and story-telling through sound. It’s important to keep this key factor, and the specific needs that will arise because of it, at the centre of your planning.
Do you have permission from the playwright/creators to use the work? If it’s not your creation, you’ll need to contact the creator (or their representative) to secure rights to use/adapt the material. Be mindful that some aspects of stage plays or theatre pieces may need to be adapted/adjusted in order for the story to make sense when told only through sound. The Playwrights Guild of Canada (PGC) offers a Digital Recording Rights Guide to its playwright members and the Canadian theatre community. The guide is meant for engaging in work as a playwright for digital means, which may include radio, film screenings, TV broadcasts, podcasts, and more.
Are you using elements of a pre-existing sound design, or commissioning a designer to create a new score? Do you want to use music to underscore the work? If so, you will need to incorporate licensing fees/royalties into your budget planning.
Who will edit your podcast? Depending on the length of your radio-drama or podcast, be aware that your Editor will be doing a considerable amount of labour mixing all the sound elements together.
Are you recording a piece that has already been produced? Can you hire the same cast, or is this a new project? Be realistic about how much rehearsal time you’ll need to prepare the actors before you record. Consider inviting your editor to sit in on rehearsals so they are familiar with the piece. This will make your recording day run smoothly.
Are you using performers who belong to ACTRA? Online media, including podcasts, are part of ACTRA’s collective agreements. If so, you will need to use one of their contracts stipulating fees and working hours. ACTRA rates will impact your budget considerably.
Are you using performers who belong to CAEA? Consider engaging under an Indie 2.2 workshop contract for ease if a few days of rehearsal are needed.
It is important to remember that by recording a play for podcast, you are shifting mediums. A lot of radio-dramas don’t include the reading of stage directions, and sound effects play an important part in how your piece will be received by the listener. It is important to consider the following creative and technical elements when producing your piece:
- Stage Directions: How do you plan on translating this information to the listener?
- Sound Effects: How will these be generated? By your performers do them on-the-day, or will your editor post-production?
- Equipment: Are there headphones and playback available at the recording venue? This can be helpful for the actors so that they can hear themselves through headphones as they record. Are there music stands at the studio? Is the script ready, not just creatively, but practically? Consider printing a “podcast friendly” version of the script, with double spacing, larger-reading friendly font, annotated sections for sound effects, and don’t double-side your reading scripts. This may not be very environmentally-friendly, but audio recording will pick up the sound of paper pages turning. This will reduce the number of times you will have to re-record sections on the day, saving you time and money.
- Actors: Have your actors worked with microphones before? You may need to spend some time in rehearsal or on the day getting your actors comfortable and familiar with the equipment and recording process to make your session go more smoothly. Remind the team that jangly jewellery can ruin a take, and anything that makes noise can interrupt your recording. Finally, audio recordings can take a lot of effort! Be aware that your actors (and voices) may get tired. Green apple is great to have on hand when doing voice recording work, as is hot tea, honey, and lots of water.
Sound Proofed Rooms Matter. You have spent a lot of time and energy rehearsing your piece, bringing the team together, and finding the revenue to do so—so don’t let your record day get spoiled by noisy neighbours, or ventilation systems you can’t turn off in that empty room you thought would be quiet enough to record in! It’s important you and your sound designer and editor can agree on a space that you can have some sonic control over. If you can’t source or afford a proper recording studio (typically they rent for $75-$150/hour), consider finding a space where you can hang masking to absorb sound. You want to be able to work efficiently on your recording day, so the more control you have over your venue, and the more suited it is to audio recordings, the better. A good recording room will save you time and money on record day, and later, in editing fees.
How long is your podcast? This is important to consider when booking a space. On average it takes about 4.5 hours of studio time to record 60 minutes of content (not including lunch breaks).
Perhaps most important is how are you planning on reaching your listeners? It is important to consider what your intent is for this project to know what platform will suit you best. Know that the media files for pieces like this are very large, which will affect how and where you can host the file. Here are a few free and paid options to consider:
- Dropbox/Google Drive: (Free or Paid) Good for one-to-one interactions with your listeners, for example, sending your piece to a potential programmer. Can also be accessible place to store your file affordably, depending on its size, as Dropbox gives you 2 GB of free storage, and Google Drive 15 GB. This is a relatively controlled or private way of sharing your work, as in, the greater public will not be able to hear or access your work without receiving a link, but do note that this method can be difficult for preventing listeners from downloading and resharing your work. In Dropbox’s case, means upgrading to a Business or Professional Account (a paid service). You can read more about managing your shared files for Dropbox here and Google Drive here.
- WeTransfer: (Free or Paid) Good for one-to-one interactions with your listeners, for example, sending your piece to a potential programmer. Free for transfers of files up to 2 GB in size. WeTransfer gives the option to send the file in the email or as a link, and also allows the sender to set an expiration date for the transfer. WeTransfer also will send you an e-mail notifying you when the receiver has accepted the transfer. Note that recipients are able to forward the transfer email for others to download up until the transfer expires, which does not generate a download notification email to you, which can make re-sharing very difficult to track or control. Also note that this option does not provide you online access/storage, so you will need to find somewhere for the file to live.
- Soundcloud: (Free or Paid) Good for private or social sharing. Soundcloud’s basic account gives you up to 3 hours of upload time with basic embed controls. For more upload time, check out their paid plans here (https://soundcloud.com/pro). Soundcloud has a lot more versatility on how you can share your files, and with whom, and also can be linked to Podcast Apps if you choose to distribute your sound through an RSS feed. They also have a very comprehensive page that breaks down the different ways you can use Soundcloud to share your work here
- iTunes: (Free) A public platform for sharing your work where listeners can access your project for free. iTunes does not accept podcasts with Password Protection. You will need an Apple Store ID to use Podcast Connect, as well as a web-browser that supports HTML5 and CSS3 standards, and an RSS Feed. hosted on publicly addressable server with byte-range requests enabled. Learn more about creating and submitting your podcast here https://help.apple.com/itc/podcasts_connect/#/itc1723472cb and Podcast Connect here (https://itunespartner.apple.com/en/podcasts/overview#podcasts-connect-basics)
- TuneIn: (Free) A public platform for sharing your work where listeners can access your project for free with a TuneIn account. Available on the App Store, Google Play, and Windows Store. You will need a XML/RSS Feed URL and email address to submit your podcast here.
- Stitcher: (Free) A public platform for sharing your work where listeners can access your project for free with a Stitcher account, and from the mobile app. To have your show hosted on their site, Stitcher asks you to apply here and a team member will contact you.
- On Your Company Website: Be aware that your media file will be very large. You may need to pay a premium fee to host the file on your site for your audience to access. Check to find out what your plan includes, and whether rates for more space apply.
Many podcasts are available free to listeners. As of yet, there’s not much significant revenue generated through podcasts, except through selling advertisements and sponsorship. What are the non-financial benefits you’ll get by creating and disseminating your piece? How are you intending on generating revenue off of this project? These are important things to consider when building your budget.
- Playwright’s Royalties – For use of work
- Playwright’s Adaptation Fee – If text needs to be adapted for radio version
- Performer’s Rehearsal Fee – If you aren’t making a recording of a current stage production (i.e with a cast that already knows the work) consider building in 2 or 3 days of rehearsal to get cast ready to perform the work on record day.
- Performer’s Recording Fee - If you are using non-union performers, this can be built into the performer’s rehearsal fee, however, if you are using ACTRA contracts, recording fees are on average are an hourly of $135/hour per actor (including fringes and benefits).
- Director’s Fee – For rehearsal, and/or recording day.
- Sound Designers Commission/Royalty –For a new work, specifically created to be a podcast, you may want to hire a sound designer to compliment the audio experience. If it has been previously produced and you want to use the sound design from the stage production, you will need to pay a royalty to access the design.
- Editor’s Fee – An hourly or flat fee depending on length of podcast. Remember, this is a large amount of labour, it should make up a large portion of the Artist Fees.
- Producing & Administrative Fees
- Scripts – Reformat and print audio recording friendly versions of the script
- Music Licensing Fees – If you will be sourcing music or sound effects, you may need to pay licensing fees for their use
- Rehearsal Venue – Find a space suitable to do simple table/script work in
- Recording Venue - Consider sound-proofing when sourcing a venue, or the added costs of making a venue sound proof.
- Equipment / Foley – Rental costs of microphones, headsets, recorder/editors laptop, music stands to hold scripts, and any key prop elements to create live foley on record day
- Transport – Moving your equipment to and from venues
- Online Hosting Fees – Where your listeners will find your podcast
How to Start a Podcast and Make it Work by Marco Timpano covers the Foundations for a Podcast and Monetization: creating value from your podcast. Preview below: