How music can bring your podcast to life.
When it comes to anything with an audio element, whether it’s a short film, a cereal advert, or a youtube mini series, you need to carefully consider your soundtrack. This is even more pertinent when it comes to podcasts, as you have to really paint a picture using sound alone.
So, what do we mean by a soundtrack?
A soundtrack is the combination of the different audio elements underpinning your show.
Well, that wasn’t much clearer was it?
Essentially, soundtracks can include everything from original music, to spoken word, to sound effects to silence. Yes, silence. You may argue that silence has no place in a soundtrack (maybe you’re not a fan of John Cage’s 4’33”), but silence within a score can be one of your most important tools; it can add gravity to your words or indicate a shift in tone, so should not be underestimated.
With a podcast, you are working solely with audio, meaning that each element of your soundtrack becomes all the more important. Far too often, however, while many podcasters have a clear vision of the direction they want to take: the title, the format, the theme, maybe even some potential guests - they leave the score as an afterthought.
A score will help bring colour and depth to your podcast, guiding your listeners reactions and highlighting important themes. It’s a powerful tool when it comes to how you want your story to be interpreted, so it should always be taken full advantage of. A well written score can be key to your story arc, leading listeners in an interesting direction that they wouldn’t have otherwise taken, and underpinning your message. Music can also really help break up a show. Podcasts often call for light and dark, especially those with only one host or narrator. Listening to an entire episode featuring just one person puts a lot of pressure on the host’s ability to captivate their listeners entirely, which can be a struggle for even the best of the best.
A score is very different to a theme tune. All shows should include original theme music to draw listeners in, bookend each episode and give their show a sense of brand. However, if you are looking to deliver a high quality, polished and overall more emotionally engaging listening experience, a tailored soundtrack will give you that all important edge.
Now, it’s worth mentioning that this isn’t true across the board. Some podcasts call for an underproduced feel, where music is often an unnecessary element. These tend to be panel or interview based shows that benefit from an ‘in the room’ feel. If done well, this can add a very personal touch to your podcast, but one particular pitfall to avoid is negating to spend the time and effort on both well recorded spoken word and post-production, under the misconception that no soundtrack means no editing. If anything, these elements will need even more consideration, as often a score can be used to hide a multitude of sins. If you have recorded in a room rather than a studio, or with a low quality mic, music combined with skilled post production can really help disguise these flaws. In the end, it also comes down to personal preference, so go back and listen to some of your favourite podcasts, and see what approach they take.
Ultimately, the music used to bring colour to your show should never distract from your story, and should always be driven by your content, rather than the other way around. This is a difficult balance to strike, which is why the creation of a score can seem a little daunting at first, especially if you don’t come from a musical background. So, if you’re interested in outsourcing this task, why not contact us today?
Next week we will be looking in more detail at how to build the perfect score from the bottom up.
Happy podcasting! From the Green Barge Audio team.