Greetings from Washington, D.C. where extremes are not exclusive to the poor state of our national political discourse; the weather here is absolutely extreme. The air quality is so poor that one can see the air, and, pop-up severe thunderstorms are a daily event. We love summer, but not THIS.
Summer 2019 in D.C. is infernal. And how about that Climate Change?
This week, after a seven-month absence, I returned to the microphone to record the first episode of our new season of The Tightrope with Dan Smolen podcast. Being behind the mic is a happy place for me; I thoroughly enjoy interviewing people who make a big, positive difference doing the meaningful work of their dreams—work that is profound, protects the planet, empowers people and communities, and is fun to do.
When I started podcasting in the summer of 2016, I immediately found myself limited by my way-too-basic podcast technology and a lack of proximity to my interview subjects. As was my routine then, I interviewed all of my guests by phone (never in-person). And while I was generally satisfied with the content of the first episodes produced, I knew that the audio quality and interview experience were lacking and they had to improve.
After my first podcast season ended, I channeled my knowledge of, and past experience in, radio. I studied my streamed episodes and found two things that I had to fix right away: first, I knew that I needed to place myself face-to-face with as many of my interview guests as possible. Second, I knew that I had to up my game, to boost the sound quality of my presentation to professional standards.
With the help of Drew Foster, my amazing sales engineer at Sweetwater, I built what I call my mobile podcast studio, that includes: four broadcast quality microphones; a portable mixer; Cloud Lifters which clean up boo-boos like echoes and lip-pops; extra-long mic cables (so that I can work easily with any size or configured recording venue), and; headphones for my guests and me. My portable mic mixer, which is the size of a cigar box, nestles in its own shock-proof carry bag; everything else, including my Mac computer—which runs my digital recording, mixing and editing software—store in a standard size college-style backpack that I can place easily in an overhead compartment or under an airline seat.
Having a mobile studio means that I can bring the show right to my guests’ venues—their offices, homes, an outdoor café, a pizzeria, you name it. That also means that I can take the Tightrope anywhere in the U.S. Being in familiar settings, my guests open up to share interesting and little known aspects of their lives and work that they may not be inclined to share over the phone. Not all of our episodes are recorded that way, but I am happy to say that our Skype-recorded sessions sound great, too.
I’m also putting a lot of time into editing the raw interview audio. Some podcasters don’t edit their raw product much, others edit it too much. Over four to six hours of time, I take a Goldilocks approach, to create a final edit that sounds natural and is enjoyable to listen to.
Last, we moved our podcast episode stream to Blubrry, the premier host for podcasts, to boost our reach and distribution. Now, our stream can be picked up wherever our listeners prefer to listen, including Apple Podcast, Spotify, or our new [The Dan Smolen Experience] website. Finding us, and listening to The Tightrope, has never been easier!
Yes, the production of The Tightrope with Dan Smolen is time-consuming. A time-study done last podcast season found that—from pre-production to streaming—I invest about 10-12 hours of effort per each podcast episode. It’s a lot of work for one person to invest, but in time I intend to bring on board production talent to help me get our episodes produced and streamed faster. Doing that will also free me to produce more podcast episodes.
And now a word from our sponsor: soon, you may hear advertisements in our episodes. You can well imagine that The Tightrope is an expensive endeavor. We will use the revenue generated from advertisers to help us market, promote and distribute our episodes better; hire talent to help us with the production; and increase the value of the podcast experience as high as we can take it.
Living my podcasting life is the most fun that I’ve had in a long time. It is my mission to bring my amazing guests’ stories to you, to inspire you to do the work of your dreams—meaningful work.
And what that happens, our best days lie ahead.
Do have a happy Fourth of July holiday. And stay safe, everyone!
DAN SMOLEN is founder of The Dan Smolen Experience. He is also the executive producer and host of The Tightrope with Dan Smolen podcast. Listen and subscribe to us by keywording “The Tightrope with Dan Smolen” on Apple Podcasts. Also, please rate us and offer suggestions for future guests and topics.
Image credits: Washington Monument struck by lightning, iStock Photo; Podcast set-up, Dan Smolen; Dan Smolen portrait, Peter Henriquez.