This year marks the 3rd Annual NYC Podcast Festival, now 3 days, which will take place Fri. Jan 9th-Sun. Jan. 11th. Things kick off at the Bell House with 2 staples in the podcasting universe. RISK! and The Flop House. Here’s our recent interview with the festival’s founder and co-producer, Jeremy Wein.
The NYC Podcast Festival has now expanded to 3 days. How big do you see this or would you like to see this get without losing the charm of the intimate setting and individual feeling a podcast supplies a listener?
I would love this event to get to the same level as something like UCB’s Del Close Marathon or the New York Comedy Festival, just a staple of the community. I think podcasting like any other performance or art form deserves a platform equal to the like of standup or sketch. We always want to keep the intimacy, even if we have our opening night at a 350 person venue like we are this year, something about essentially being in a basement with someone like Wyatt Cenac in a 90 seat room just feels very punk in a way and I always want to retain that even if we get to the point where we are hosting shows at for example The Best Buy Theatre or Gramercy or Bowery Ballroom. We will always have shows in small spaces as part of the plan. This festival is going to be ever changing and probably won’t ever be the same from year to year. One year we could just do 5 nights in a row, one in each borough, or maybe add an expo or convention component to it. What’s exciting is it’s still in the infancy stages and right now we are teaching it to walk and talk and prepare it for the harsh realities of life.
What are some of your stand out podcasting moments of the 2014 podcasting year?
God that’s tough. I think more than anything the existence of Serial has to be up there. That show has weirdly swung open the door to so many people who have never even heard the word podcast and to me that’s a great thing. The more ears we get on the community the better. Also even though it just restarted this evening, so good to have The Best Show back, that show is so important and I am happy Tom didn’t just walk away after 13 years and let it die. Also it was exciting and then devastating to see several podcast personalities (Pete Holmes, Nikki Glaser, and Sara Schaefer spring to mind) get shows on Television pretty much on the basis of their podcasts, that’s exciting, unfortunately they didn’t last as long as they deserved to. But it definitely shows that executives at networks are keeping an eye on the community. Also the Harmontown documentary was cool, because it’s an entire documentary about a live multi-city podcast tour.
Besides visual, what value do you think the “live” taping concept of podcasting adds to the traditional auditory only podcast?
I think it alters the energy of almost any podcast. I mean think about it this way, standup doesn’t work without an audience that’s why for the most part standup albums are recorded live. Yes, what the person is saying still might be funny, but that energy from the feedback drives the response and vice versa. I also think it gives shows an opportunity to get their audiences more actively involved on the spot weather it’s through doing live trivia or a question and answer session. I also think for the shows’ producers and hosts it’s a good opportunity to see up close what is drawing a response from their audience almost immediately.
Any “hidden gem” podcasts that you’ve come across that you’d suggest to the average listener?
The K Ohle with Kurt Braunohler immediately springs to mind. It’s a podcast that’s essentially its own podcast network with several different formats. It’s exactly the kind of podcast I expect from Kurt and more people should be talking about it. The Bitter Buddha with Eddie Pepitone is great, we had it at the festival last year, Eddie just has such an interesting world view and it just comes across in his podcast. Also a show we’re excited to have in the festival this year is Ding-Donger with Matt Braunger. That show’s format is so interesting. It started as just like 15 minute check ins from the road, no guest, no games. Just Matt talking about what’s going on with him for a bite size chunk of time. He has recently expanded it to 30 minutes, but I’m super excited to see how it works in front of a live audience.
If podcasting existed throughout all of history, what historical figure’s podcast do you think would be the best listen? And what guest would you love to hear them have on?
I’m going to cheat this answer a little with an actual show pitch idea. How amazing would The Dead Presidents Podcast with George Washington be? I mean it would only be a run of like 40 episodes but imagine George Washington interviewing Abraham Lincoln. I recognize this is an incredibly nerdy idea.
Not unlike tv shows and their crossover episodes, what podcast hosts would you like to see take over someone else’s format and “guest host”?
You’re very good at your job, another tough one. Ironically the one I really wanted to happen already did this year in a sense which was that amazing live Thrilling Adventure Hour / Welcome To Night Vale crossover. Seriously I hope they do more of those. I would love to see a version of the Nerdist podcast hosted by Aisha Tyler, Jackie Kashian and Julie Klausner. That seems like it could be awesome.
What do you think are the most important elements to becoming a successful podcast?
I don’t think there’s a successful formula. Let’s be honest, a lot of successful podcasts are the products of people that already had huge pre-established fan bases. But I think ultimately if there has to be a formula it comes down to three things. One, be consistent. People get hooked on shit and don’t want to wait 5 weeks between episodes, because they will move on. Two, be aggressive in your guest booking. I mean look at whose doing the Nerdist right now. Benedict Cumberbatch was on this week! Don’t be afraid to go big on getting people on your show! And three, be aware of your audience when your creating your show. Sure you might find it fun to create an entire podcast around Leonard part 6, but all of 14 people are going to even know what that is. For some reason at age 24 I know what that movie is.
With so many great podcasts available, it’s nearly impossible, if not impossible to listen to everything. Do you listen to your podcasts at regular speed or bump it up to x1.5 or even x2?
Nope because a lot of podcasts don’t have good mixing to start with and adding on Alvin and The Chipmunk style talking doesn’t help matters. But yes, god it’s both wonderful and daunting at how much there is. As awesome as Alec Baldwin’s podcast is, does Alec Baldwin really need a podcast? Alec if your reading this come do the festival.
What is the craziest podcast concept or theme you’ve come across recently?
Chris Laker hosts a podcast with Myka Fox called This Week In Jackin which is all about what people masturbate to. I mean it goes to some funny places but it also goes in a really strange direction, really fast.
If someone is new to podcasting as a listener, where do you suggest they start?
Nerdist and WTF would be a great starting point because that’s pretty much how anyone starts at this point. Definitely Aisha Tyler’s podcast Girl On Guy. It’s just so honest. I love Harmontown. That’s a real look at the behind the scenes of a guy’s life podcast that I’ve been fortunate enough to see live several time. The Best Show, Judge John Hodgman, The Pod F. Tompkast, RISK!, I could go on for a while on this one.
Podcasts do well in the world of merch with t-shirts etc. What are some of your favorite shirts or products the podcasting world has to offer?
I don’t own a lot of podcast merchandise myself, but I own logo shirts for The Dork Forest, Sklarbro Country, Nerdist, Harmontown. I’ve never bought it but I think its funny andawesome that there is a WTF coffee blend. I mean off the top of my head I can’t think of anything else that’s strange, but it seems to usually be shirts or the hosts stand-up CD’s etc.
For the complete line-up and tickets head over to NYC Podfest ’15