I recently had an article about podcasting published in The Scroll, which is the Illinois state journal for the American String Teachers Association. Titled Podcasting with Midwest Young Artists, it is a piece both about why podcasting is a good fit for a youth music program and why podcasting is a good thing in general (I’m starting to sound like a broken record on this topic!). I produce a weekly podcast for Midwest Young Artists which can be found at WMYA.FM.
Since The Scroll has no online component that I can find, and since I wrote the darn thing, I’m going to repost the article here:
(from The Scroll – Winter 2009)
Podcasting with the Midwest Young Artists
Why Midwest Young Artists needs a podcast
I love music and I love podcasting; probably spending the bulk of my time doing both of these activities. I have also acted as a teacher and section coach for Midwest Young Artists’ orchestras for many years. After becoming involved with this top-notch youth music program, MYA quickly became my recommended musical outlet for my most promising students. The positive and nurturing learning environment MYA provides motivates my students like no other experience I’ve seen.
Since I’m both a podcasting fan and an MYA fan, when MYA director Allan Dennis approached me at the beginning of 2008 to help develop and produce a podcast for this organization, I was overjoyed to help out. Contrabass Conversations, my own podcast about the world of the double bass which I both produce and host, has successfully aired for quite some time. As a result, I have learned quite a bit about the perils and pitfalls (as well as the joy and excitement) of producing this kind of distributed Internet content.
Midwest Young Artists is an organization that is perfect for podcasting. Featuring dozens of ensembles ranging from symphonies and jazz groups to choral and chamber music programs, the variety and frequency of performances is staggering. But that’s not all! Dozens of internationally recognized clinicians and guest artists work with the MYA students as well.
Wouldn’t it be great to feature them in an easily accessible format and give students, parents, and the public a glimpse into these sessions? After all, even the most intrepid parent or student would be hard pressed to take in all these events in person! Through the creation of an MYA podcast, WMYA, people now have the option of watching and listening to these events at home which greatly expands potential audiences for MYA concerts, clinics and events!
Before going further into all the benefits of podcasting for MYA, we’d better get one thing straight:
What on Earth is a podcast?
Some readers may be unfamiliar with what the term “podcast” means. Contrary to popular opinion, you don’t need an iPod to listen to one! A podcast is a program (either audio or video) that is distributed over the internet rather than broadcasted over radio or television. Podcasting (also referred to as webcasting or netcasting) began in 2005 and has skyrocketed in popularity, with millions of Americans (and many more worldwide) listening and watching their favorite shows as a podcast. While many early podcasts were geared toward the tech-savvy crowd, major news networks like CNN, NBC, HBO, and NPR quickly adopted this distribution model as a supplement to their traditional broadcast channels.
In very short order, podcasting revolutionized the way that people access and listen to content. Much like the VCR in the 1980s and the Tivo in the early 2000s, podcasting allows people to listen to or watch their favorite shows when and where they want. It even goes a step further than the VCR or Tivo–these types of capture devices record content through traditional broadcast networks, meaning that you still have to press record (or have Tivo do it for you) and still wait for the show to play in real time.
With podcasting, a show is produced and then made available worldwide over the Internet, allowing for access through any device that is somehow connected to the internet, including your computer, cell phone, Tivo, Xbox, cell phone, or any other product with an Internet connection. Shows can be watched through any of the aforementioned devices or downloaded for even more flexibility. Once you’ve downloaded the show, you can transfer it to an iPod, iPhone, Zune, Blackberry, or other portable device and burn it to CD to listen to in the car or hand out to friends.
Advantages of podcasting over broadcasting
In addition to offering listeners and viewers more flexibility in choosing when and how they consume their favorite shows, this distribution model is perfect for individual organizations interested in having their own media channel. Instead of paying for an hour a month of airtime on a local radio station, why not take the money and instead use it to set up your own media channel for your organization? This is precisely what Midwest Young Artists has done with WMYA, creating their own personally controlled audio and video podcast, and it offers immeasurable benefits and flexibility.
1. Cheaper than broadcasting – Podcasting gives content a wider audience reach (anywhere in the world, as long as there’s an internet connection) at a fraction of the cost. All you need is a place to host your shows and a website.
2. Access it anytime, anywhere – Once a show is released, it “lives” in perpetuity online, so it can be downloaded one week, month, or year later. No muss, no fuss–just a simple way to get a show when you want it and where you want it.
3. More flexible than broadcasting – Podcasting allows for multiple means of accessing content, ensuring that there are enough different options to satisfy a wide variety of people. Do you access everything through e-mail? Simple–just enter your e-mail address and a link to each show will be sent to you as soon as it’s released. Do you use iTunes for your music? No problem–click a link and you’re automatically subscribed. Do you use a news reader in your computer? How about your Blackberry? We’ve got that covered as well. Want to get shows on your Tivo, Apple TV, or Media Center PC? Already taken care of–you get the idea.
4. Easy to share concerts with friends and family – Would you like to share a concert with grandma or grandpa? Piece of cake. Just e-mail a link to the show online. Your relatives can click it and watch their darling little grandkids in an instant. Worried that grandma doesn’t even know where the power button is on the computer? Just burn a CD of the show and drop it in the mail. No CD player at grandma’s house? Even that is taken care of. You can call a special phone number that will play podcasts over the phone!
5. Total Control (your own radio or television station) – Groups with a podcast quickly come to a profound realization: they now fully control their own distribution channel! With a podcast, MYA can put out as much content as they like. Want to put out a show a day? No problem. Worried about concert length when getting ready to put out a live recording? It doesn’t matter whether a show is 30 minutes or three hours.
6. Combines audio, video, print, and more in one channel – Podcasts can intermingle audio, video, print, images, and more all in the same distribution channel. This channel (called a podcast feed) can take all kinds of files and put it out seamlessly, meaning that you can distribute concert programs and information along with actual shows. Very cool!
7. Perfect for behind-the-scenes features – Since there isn’t a ceiling to how much material can be put out on a podcast feed, why not record some rehearsals and release them as “behind-the-scenes” features? What a terrific way to show friends and family the rehearsal process!
8. Great way to further profile artists – Doing interviews with guest artists, faculty, and students is a great way to deepen the musical experience, and a podcast is the best way to release this kind of material. Parents and students can check out the concerts and then hear some of the personal thoughts of the artists.
I am a huge believer in podcasting and the incredible flexibility it gives an organization like Midwest Young Artists. As we continue to incorporate both digital entertainment devices (high-definition television, Apple TV, Tivo, Playstation 3, XBOX 360) and portable electronic devices (iPod, Blackberry, Palm, iPhone, Zune, micro laptops) into our daily life, we will access more and more content through the Internet rather than through traditional broadcast channels. Television, radio, and print media are already feeling the pinch as this change occurs.
By creating WMYA as a privately operated distribution channel, Midwest Young Artists is positioning itself as a leader in how we all interact with audio and video content. Go MYA!