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Creating a Podcast

A guide to the basics of creating a podcast.

Creating a Soundscape

Podcast styles vary widely: from very simple interviews with little to no editing or sound production to large productions with multiple voice actors, sound effects and musical scores. For any of these styles, it is important to think about the soundscape that you are creating.

Staying Simple

If you choose to go with a simple style and production, you may use the tools below sparingly. It is unlikely that you'll be 100% happy with no additional audio at all. Whether it is simply combining multiple recordings or adding layers of other sounds, you will want to incorporate some minimal audio to enhance your podcast. For example: a simple intro with a few bars of music that fades out as you start talking; recording your intro/conclusion separately and mixing it in to the rest of your production later; or using audio markers to let your listeners know when something is happening, like coming back from commercial or skipping ahead through an abridged interview.

Building an Audio World

On the other end of the spectrum, you may envision several different types of audio being used in your podcast. Perhaps multiple songs for different segments, simple sound effects to go with narration (e.g. if you are talking about playing soccer, having the sound of feet running on grass playing quietly in the background), or even recording multiple spoken parts that you then edit all together later. If this is sounds like your ideal option, keep in mind that the post-production phase will entail a lot of work. A lot.

You can still keep it simple when you are building this type of project by being organized and rehearsing your recorded parts so that you can minimize the recording phase and concentrate more energy on adding new audio rather than editing and enhancing your recordings. No matter how you do it, though, keep in mind that you will be spending 2-3 times more energy and work on the post-production editing than you do in recording. Two ways to approach a big project like this are to:

  • Start small with your first podcast and add more ideas as you go so that you don't overwhelm yourself on the first try.
  • Develop a simplified basic plan that you can add to if time permits. For example, if you ideally want to have several sound bites, develop a plan that will work if you use only one or two and once you have those down you can decide if you have the time/energy to add more.

Getting More Audio

There are two ways to get the audio that you want to add to your podcast: record it yourself or use already existing audio. Recording it yourself will obviously add more time to your production but if you are really picky about what you need and how it should sound, this is the way to go. Again, just be sure to keep it simple at first and then as you get more comfortable, add more.

Creative Commons (cc)

Openly Licensed Audio

If you don't plan to start up a band to record the perfect song or can't go out to record the sound of rain, don't worry -- there are many people who record music and different sounds so that they can share them people like you. Check out the resources below to find the audio you need. You may need to be a bit flexible with this option because you may not find exactly what you're looking for.

For educational projects you can use content that is under copyright within the classroom context. However, if your podcast contains audio that you don't have permission to use and you upload it to public services like YouTube or SoundCloud, you may get a take down notice. If you use audio without permission, be sure to keep it in Canvas or just share via private services like email or Google Drive links.

The good news is that you have access to a lot of content that is openly licensed, meaning that you have permission to use it without asking. For the most part, openly licensed content will fall under two types of licenses:

  • Public Domain: this type of content is not covered by copyright. You don't need permission and can use it however you see fit. Legally, you do not need to give attribution to the person who created the content
  • Creative Commons: this is a type of copyright that gives anyone permission to use the content as long as they follow some basic rules. Whenever you use creative commons (cc) licensed content, you need to give attribution to the creator (BY). Aside from that, there are some other requirements that may or may not apply:
    • Non-commercial (NC): you cannot use their content to make money. For educational purposes, you can use any NC content.
    • No Derivatives (ND): you cannot make any changes to the content. This is most often a deal breaker for use in a podcast: you can't use only a section of a ND song, you can't use ND audio in the background, you can't have any other audio playing while the ND audio is playing, etc.
    • Share alike (SA): you need to give your content the same license as the content you're using. For example, if you use a sound clip of waves crashing on the shore which has a BY SA license, you will need to give your podcast a BY SA license (meaning that other people can use your podcast content as long as they give you attribution and give their content a BY SA license).

These requirements can be layered to set the criteria that the creator is comfortable with. It can get confusing and you can learn more at the Creative Commons site, but here are examples of cc licenses you may come across and how to interpret them for your podcast:

  • CC BY -- you have to give the creator attribution. This is the most flexible option. For example: you can use just a short clip or play it backwards or add an echo effect; you can charge people to listen to your podcast; and you can copyright your podcast so that no one can use your content without express written permission.
  • CC BY-SA -- you have to give the creator attribution and you need to give your project a CC BY-SA license.
  • CC BY-ND -- you need to give the creator attribution, but you can't make any changes to the content. If it's a song, it has to be played in it's entirety with no other audio over it. Note: with any music under copyright, you can use short snippets without too much worry of violating copyright. Keep this to a minimum (e.g. if you're sampling for music, you are more likely to get in trouble; if you play a 5 second clip of a 5 minute song once, you are likely fine, especially if you are not making money off of your podcast).
  • CC BY-NC -- you have to give the creator attribution and you can't make any money off of your podcast.
  • CC BY-NC-SA -- you need to give the creator attribution, you can't make any money off of your project, and you have to give your project a CC BY-NC-SA license.
  • CC BY-NC-ND -- you have to give the creator attribution, you can't make any money off of your podcast, and you can't make any changes to the content you're using.

Openly Licensed Music

You can use other people's music for your project as long as you have permission or if it is openly licensed. These resources below are great for finding music that is licensed for reuse. Be sure to provide attribution to all content you use that was created by someone else.

Openly Licensed Sounds