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Making Your Podcast Sound Professional

by Glen Emerson Morris
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Making a podcast sound professional is essential to its effectiveness as a sales generator. While most podcasts are amateur productions, and sound like it, your company's podcasts need to sound as professional as national radio spots. Your company's image is on the line, and it's hard to get consumer's dollars if you don't get their confidence first.

Podcast production goes well beyond commercial production. A podcast is an entire program, and as such, it has, or should have, the additional elements of an opening and closing theme, an announcer, a program host, an ID and, if needed, a musical score and sound effects. Once, the hardware required for this alone would have cost a small fortune, but these days two or three thousand dollars can buy a high quality computer-based multi-track recording system. The rest is not hard to get.

Given the number of layoffs in the broadcast industry, it should be easy to find radio announcers and production talent available for contract or part time work. Getting a good voice to record an opening and closing should be easy. Finding a suitable program host might be a little more difficult, but worth the effort.

Getting quality music for your podcast's opening and closing themes is also easy, but quality always comes at a price. Today there are hundreds of music production companies selling a wide assortment of music bed libraries. The main difference is in the quality of the compositions and the quality and quantity of musicians performing them. Less expensive production music is frequently produced on a synthesizer or sampler, with few if any live musicians. Top end production music is done with live musicians, and sometimes a lot of them. Usually, the CDs feature full length cuts and/or broadcast length cuts of 60, 30 and 15 seconds. Podcasts will need a variety of music bed lengths.

Sources for high quality production music include OmniMusic (, DeWolfe (, Valentino ( and Bruton Music ( These are companies whose music is often heard on national radio and TV commercials. Their music is ideal for producing high quality programming, especially on the Internet since several have special rates for Internet only (or non-broadcast) productions. In some cases, this rate is significantly less than the commercial broadcast license. While rates vary, a common price for an annual Internet-only license is $2500. This entitles the buyer to a number of CDs (usually between 50 and 100), and the right to use any of that music as often as needed for a year. Usually anything produced in that year can be used forever.

It's not always necessary to buy an annual license. Many of the major production companies offer one-time licenses, with the cost being determined by the size of the market the production is targeting. Again, there are usually special rates for Internet only productions. Some companies also offer special rates for music used as themes.

Another source of production music is eBay. While quality varies, it is possible to find some good production music at a reasonable price there, like TracksNow ( the Seagate Library. Both of these are sold as buyouts and not licensed, meaning the music is yours to use for the rest of your life. TracksNow is usually available for a "buy it now" price of $54.95, and includes four CDs of very good quality music. The Seagate library is more difficult to find, but it's worth the effort.

Occasionally eBay features someone selling a collection of major name music bed CDs claiming the music is copyright free. Almost always, this is incorrect. Major production companies like OmniMusic and DeWolfe never sell their music on a buyout basis. A few of the majors have special "economy" priced sets that are offered for buyout, but these are not the same quality as their best music. It is also important to consider that most buyout licenses are not transferable, so even it the original buyer purchased a buyout license, it can't be resold to anyone. The only reason these purchases should be considered is for personal listening, or evaluation of the music.

For program IDs, nothing beats Radioactive Noise ( The company produces CDs with an assortment of short sound effects that can be edited together to make unique sounding IDs. Some of the sound bits include radios being tuned, static, modems, drum intros and drone sounds. Several CDs with different themes are available, including drones, drums, space and bombs. List price is $300, but they're usually $59.99 on eBay.

A good sound effects library is also a good thing to have. Unlike production music, sound effects libraries are usually sold on a buyout basis. The mother load of sound effects libraries is a company called Sound Ideas (, which offers over 120 distinct SFX libraries. Sound Ideas sells its own SFX libraries, which are some of the best in the business, and SFX libraries made by major studios including Warner Brothers, Hanna-Barbera, Lucas, Disney, Universal and many other platinum level names.

The Sound Ideas General - Series 6000 is billed as the world's largest sound effects library and is widely used in film production. The 40 CD set lists at $1495.00, but is sometimes on sale for $995.00, There are five extension sets available, based on different themes. Most contain 10 CDs for $495.00. Sound Ideas periodically sells SFX sets through eBay at steeply discounted prices, If you can afford to be patient, eBay is the cheapest place to buy them.

Another SFX set available on eBay is a six CD set of 6000 sound effects from Janus. It's sold under the title "6 CD Sound Effects Library for Film/Video" for around $35.00. The sound effects are first rate and the CDs are both Mac and Windows compatible. Software in the package allows the sounds to be exported as WAV, AIFF or Macintosh SND in either 44kHz/16 bit or 22kHz/8 bit formats.

Some ten years ago I wrote a column titled "A Better Reason for Tuning In," which predicted that high speed Internet connections would eventually offer businesses the ability to have their own Internet radio and TV stations. While video is still a few years away, Internet radio is a reality now. It's showtime. The amateurs are already on stage. Now it's time for the pros.

Glen Emerson Morris has worked as a technology consultant for Network Associates, Yahoo!, Ariba, WebMD, Inktomi, Adobe, Apple and Radius, and is the developer of the Advertising & Marketing Review Data CD.

Copyright 1994 - 2010 by Glen Emerson Morris All Rights Reserved

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