December 11, 2019 I Feature
Cashing In On The Podcast Boom
What to stock, tips to sell it & how to start your own
By Katie Kailus
Have you listened to a podcast yet today? If not, statistics show there’s a very good chance someone close to you has. The growth podcasts have seen in the past few years has been staggering, with just over half the population — 144 million Americans — having listened to at least one podcast in their lifetime, according to Podcasting Insights. One in three Americans listen to a podcast once a month, and fueling these listeners is a boom in content. Podcast Insights further reported that in 2019, more than 750,000 podcast titles were available — up considerably from 550,000 in 2018.
With podcasts popping up by the literal thousands, MI dealers already stocking audio equipment have a new revenue stream and a burgeoning customer base to tap into. In recent months, Music Inc. has spoken to many MI retailers across the country who have seen an increase in podcaster traffic at their dealerships.
“We’ve experienced a fair increase in traffic from podcast customers,” said
Keith Grasso, owner of Island Music Co. in La Plata, Maryland, who also runs his store’s own podcast “Determination & Overdrive.” “It’s a growing segment of the audio and recording market, and it would be wise for retailers to get out ahead of this trend as it won’t be going away any time soon. More and more folks are getting involved in podcasting. You can almost equate it to the ukulele boom we saw a few years back.”
Dan Hughley, marketing manager for Focusrite, said podcasting is currently one of the fastest-growing mediums in audio.
“Talking to our field trainers, and through experience myself at trade shows, more than 50% of people are asking about our gear for something other than music creation,” Hughley said, adding that podcasting is part of that percentage. “It’s something retailers should definitely get behind. Podcasting is not even the future. It’s happening now.”
Anthony Thompson, pro-audio manager and purchaser at Alto Music in Middleton, New York, said he’s seen a noticeable uptick in the amount of customers looking for podcast gear in the last year alone and attributes this to a slew of new products aimed at podcasters.
“Products like Rode’s RodeCaster Pro and [its] PodMic line have [put] pro-quality podcasting within reach of the home user,” Thompson explained.
But Rode isn’t the only audio brand creating products that cater to podcasters. In recent years, Audio-Technica, Blue Microphones, Zoom and a bevy of others have filled podcasters’ audio needs. Just this past October, Zoom launched its LiveTrak L-8 Mixer, which features eight input channels and a multi-track recorder capable of recording up to 12 tracks simultaneously.
“The L-8 lets you record a finished product right out of the box,” said Samuel Greene, Zoom product specialist. “It provides you with a stereo file that you [can] upload or it will give you individual tracks that you can put on your computer and mix. The ease of use of this product bridges the gap between two types of podcasters: The person [who] has an idea for a podcast but knows nothing about audio, and the audiophile [who is] either starting a podcast themselves or is being paid to produce a podcast for someone else.”
The amount of podcasters Blue Mics saw gravitating towards its Yeti USB microphone led the company to create the Yeticaster; a podcasting bundle that features a Yeti mic, Compass boom arm and Radius III Custom Shockmount.
“With this bundle, podcasters don’t have to do the research,” said Adam Castillo, Blue’s head of marketing. “Instead of them having to figure it out, we’ve put it in a box for them. They just have to set it up and go.”
Also in the bundle game is Audio-Technica which released four packs in 2018 — the AT2005USBPK, AT2020USB+PK, AT2020PK and AT2035PK. Each pack comes with a mic, boom arm and a pair of Audio-Technica’s ATH-M20x professional monitor headphones.
“The boom arm comes pre-threaded with the appropriate cable for a neat appearance and clutter-free workspace,” said Gary Boss, Audio-Technica’s marketing director, adding that the packaging itself makes it easy for podcasting customers to find it in an MI retail store. “The packs display the term podcasting on the box and show exactly what’s in it so it’s easy for these customers to navigate.”
Jeff Hawley, American Music & Sound’s (AM&S) marketing manager and a podcaster himself, said creating bundles is an easy way to sell to those inexperienced in audio gear.
“One cool way to get folks engaged online is [through] curated bundles of products that work well together, creating a complete podcasting setup,” Hawley said. “[Retailer] Broadcasting Supply Worldwide has done a great job at this, up to and including a dedicated top-level podcasting tab on its website that points to ready-made packages at various price points.”
With many first-time podcasters having little-to-no professional audio background, MI dealers are in the advantageous position of not only supplying them with audio gear, but also positioning their store as an educational resource.
“[We make sure to have] a 15-minute conversation with a podcasting customer to understand what it is they’re trying to accomplish and help them formulate a solution from that info,” said Alto Music’s Anthony Thompson. “I like to get this type of client into a product that will not only work for them now, but will also be useable as their needs grow. Knowing this client will have to come back and buy an entirely different product in six months is shortsighted on the part of the salesman. It may ensure another sale for your company, but it’s not a good way to gain long-term customers [who] trust your advice.”
Island Music Co.’s Keith Grasso said to attract more traffic, he created a small, podcasting-specific department within his store.
“An actual department helps podcasting customers find what they need without having to dig around the entire shop,” he said. “We don’t treat podcasting like it’s an afterthought. It’s a legitimate part of the market.”
Zoom’s Samuel Greene echoed Grasso’s setiments, sharing that creating a mini podcasting audio rig helps shoppers better visualize their gear needs.
“Set up a rig so a customer can see the end product,” Greene said. “For someone who doesn’t know about audio recording, it’s easy to show them and say, ‘Take a look at this. Here is a setup in which two people can be recording a podcast.’ When you connect those dots, it’s a lot easier for the customer to believe they’re buying the correct products.”
Anthony Mantova, owner of Mantova’s Two Street Music in Eureka, California, said he and his team help those who are inexperienced in audio equipment by asking for a photo of their setup.
“I like to encourage podcasters to take pictures of the gear they already have so that I can sell them the right stuff,” Mantova said. “[Inexperienced] podcasters are typically reliant on whatever they research online. As a result, they often ask for a specific brand of mic. If you can hold their attention long enough to discuss mic options, then you usually get the sale.”
Before Norman Harris, owner of L.A.-based Norman’s Rare Guitars, started “Norman’s Rare Guitars, The Podcast,” he said he felt the same skepticism he initially felt about social media.
“I was skeptical with social media at first, but we reach so many people with our YouTube channel. It surprises me how many people from all over the world are knocked out over our videos,” he said. The store’s channel currently has 385,000 subscribers and more than 149 million views on a wide range of videos, including celebrity clientele, instrument showcases and live streams.
But, in mid-September, on the advice of his daughter, Harris and his team launched their podcast. The weekly show features notable “friends of the store,” including Vince Gill, Dweezil Zappa and Joe Bonamassa. After its first week, the podcast had already received 10,000 listens.
“We talk about guitars during the show but we also talk about our history together as they’re all customers of mine,” Harris said. “It’s different than a reporter interviewing a rock star. We’re friends, and it’s kind of like the listener is eavesdropping in on a conversation. It’s off-the-cuff and fun.”
Featuring a rather simple gear setup — a Rode Rodecaster Pro, three Shure SM7B mics and an AKG room mic — Harris’s team records the podcast and uploads a new episode every Tuesday. A video recording of that week’s podcast goes up on the store’s YouTube channel a few days later.
Harris advised retailers to consider starting their own podcast if they’re looking to grow their customer base outside of their immediate area.
“Anyone can do it, and it creates a world market — just like YouTube,” Harris said. “You might get someone listening in Australia, New Zealand or China, and every music store should have some local players they can promote.”
Harris’s tip for content? “Don’t make it an advertisement,” he said. “We talk gear, but it’s not a direct sales pitch.”
Since Keith Grasso started Island Music Co.’s podcast, “Determination & Overdrive” — which has featured such notable artists as Greg Koch — he has seen an uptick in podcasters drawn to his dealership.
“We can give them advice beyond gear; such as how they can get their podcast out there,” Grasso said. “Once we started the show, we demonstrated to our customer base that we were serious about the medium and that in turn drew more podcast customers into the store.”
In May, Donovan Bankhead, president of Springfield Music in Springfield, Missouri, launched “Music Retail Podcast” — a show targeted specifically at music retailers providing better-business tips through interviews and discussions with MI industry members. Bankhead suggested that after six months of experience, aspiring podcasters focus in audio quality and producing though-provoking content.
“Make sure all participants wear headphones to keep the audio quality high,” he advised. “If [you’re] doing an interview-type of podcast, really think through what you’d like to learn from your guest.”
While you might not be looking to be the next podcasting superstar, AM&S’s Jeff Hawley said stocking basic essentials can expose your MI dealership to new revenue streams.
“Stocking a wide array of podcast-centric products — or at least positioning a subset of your existing product mix as being great for podcasting — is just a no-brainer given the existing podcast market’s size and forecasted growth.” MI