Friday, July 20, 2007

AMP'd Off!

If you're a podcast listener (not just Average Joe Radio, but any podcast), then you've possibly heard mention of the term New Media . It basically refers to the craze to put content on the Internet, where listeners can download what they want when they want and listen whenever they want as often as they want. It includes such things as Leo Laporte's TWiT network, the Podsafe Music Network, and, really, almost any podcast you can find in iTunes.

New Media is supposed to be all the rage. It's supposed to be this great new way that independent content producers can distribute their shows over the Internet to the entire world. It should mean that we can find more interesting content whenever we want, without the constraints of being forced to tune in to our favorite TV show when the networks decide to air it. It means that even an Average Joe like myself can share his thoughts (and some great music) with anyone willing to listen without the high costs associated with traditional media.

Yeah, right.

I recently sent a request for membership to the Association of Music Podcasters, an organization that I guess is supposed to help promote New Media through supporting music podcasters and independent musicians. When they receive a request for membership (which isn't free), they ask other members to review the podcast content of the requester and make recommendations about membership. Yesterday I received this response (all spelling and grammatical errors from the original email):


I'm sorry to inform you that you application to the Association of Music Podcasters has not met the requirements needed for membership at this time.  Current members have reviewed your podcast and found that it did not fulfill the standards that AMP represents.

Reviewers came to this decision based on the quality of your podcast.  AMP strives to offer great music as well as podcasts with good production quality.  The audio quality of the music you play might be O.K., but members often cited that your vocals being the main source of their decision. 

You can submit another application for AMP membership at a later time when you feel like you have altered your podcast enough to warrant a re-review.  However, at this time, your podcast will not be considered for membership to the Association of Music Podcasters.

Good luck on future endeavors with your podcast.

AMP Membership Coordinator

Now, to be honest, I expected such a response. Why? Because my podcast is not a professional quality podcast (oxymoron, paradox -- but more on that later). I'm an Average Joe, and Average Joe Radio is an Average Joe's podcast -- something that anyone with the desire to share their thoughts and some great music should be able to do from the comfort of their own home. That's what podcasting is supposed to be all about.

They say "the audio quality of my music might be OK." The music I feature comes from several sources:
These are all sources providing professional quality independent music. These are musicians, as good as anyone you can hear on the radio today (better, in most cases). You won't find higher quality music anywhere. But this, AMP says, "might be OK" quality.

They also cited my "vocals being the main source of their decision." Fine. You know, I can deal with that. Because my "vocals", as they call it (commentary), is of average audio quality . I am damn proud of that! That's what makes me the Average Joe podcaster. Because I'm average. Unlike many, many other podcasters (I won't share with you my opinion of any other podcasters specifically, just in general terms), I didn't go out and spend hundreds to thousands of dollars on professional recording equipment, mixers, and boom mikes. I didn't build little sound boxes to put my fancy, expensive mike (I don't have one) in to make my voice sound radio quality when I record. I don't have a special room in my home designated as my "studio" to record on. I don't pay high hosting costs to cover the bandwidth to share my content with my listeners.

I record Average Joe Radio on equipment that any average American would have access to
. I use a handheld recording device and record in WAV format. I then import my commentary and the music into Audacity for mixing, editing, and encoding in MP3 format, using a Windows Vista notebook computer. I then upload my music for free hosting to the Internet Archive, and post my show notes at Average Joe Radio using Blogger -- all for free. Anyone with a computer and an Internet connection can produce their own podcast, just as I do.

And what really strikes me as funny is this: I listen to other music podcasts from at least five members of the Association of Music Podcasters:
All five of these podcasters use professional quality equipment in a specially designated studio to produce their shows. Both Rich Palmer and Matthew Ebel are musicians, and it is understandable that they would have professional quality recording and mixing equipment already available for use in their podcasts. C.C. Chapman runs a media company, and it's understandable that he might have such equipment. P.D. Love produces several podcasts, and Ed Roberts at least two. But all of the five listed above put out their show on such an erratic timeline that listeners never know when to look for the next episode (Thank God for RSS, or they wouldn't have any listeners). They have all gone at least a month between shows some time during the past year. Most of them frequently go more than a week between shows.

Again, I'll make some exceptions for some of them. Matthew Ebel (whose music and podcast I thoroughly enjoy) is currently on tour, and it's understandable that his show would be irregular at this time. Rich Palmer has frequently said that his podcast will not be produced on a regular basis because he highlights independent musicians who are not getting the publicity from the sites I mentioned earlier, and it can take time to find and coordinate schedules with the artists. As for the others mentioned above, I cannot remember when I last heard an episode of their shows in which they didn't apologize profusely for their lack of timeliness in making the episode available . They blame it on summer, family obligations, business obligations, equipment problems, and whatever else they can think of at the time. I ask you, when was the last time you didn't find a new episode of Average Joe Radio or Song of the Day on your music player? My show is up consistently, and has been, since it's inception on January 1.

But that's not all. More than one of the podcasters I mentioned above (sorry, guys) will tend to babble on like an idiot talking about things that I can't imagine anyone else possibly caring about. They fill their shows with commercial fodder about events for podcasters and the like. You rarely hear a promo played on Average Joe Radio, and when you do, it's in support of another great podcast I enjoy, or an independent musician. Unless you choose to subscribe to my show using the podshow feed (which I don't recommend and only use to increase public awareness of the show), you will never hear the annoying pre-roll ads that Podshow forces into the shows of all the podcasters they host. I recently listened to an episode of one of the above listed podcasts, and fully the first two minutes were nothing but pre-rolls, ads, and affiliation announcements.

Affiliation announcements? Here's where the oxymoron or paradox I mentioned earlier comes in. I am an independent podcaster. I play independent music. Many podcasters join associations (like AMP). All of those mentioned above have done just that. How can you be both independent and affiliated with an association at the same time? By definition, if you're affiliated with an association related to what you do, you are no longer independent. You are affiliated. You are associated. But you are definitely not independent.

So New Media is quickly going the way of traditional media. With the exception of the factor of availability (which they now call "time-shifting"), you can't tell much difference between the radio (traditional media) and most music podcasters (so-called new media). They have the same expensive, high-quality audio gear. They play equally annoying promos. They babble on about nonsense. And somehow, they seem to attract listeners.

At the same time, I record an Average show for the Average Joe. I don't waste your time with mindless drivel and annoying promos. I deliver great music and interesting commentary . I even have contest sponsored by such great artists as William Brooks, Dead Rock West, the Truckee Brothers, Mike Errico, and Jeremy Rowe. If the audio quality of the commentary doesn't meet up to your standards, please, don't listen.

As for the other 200+ regular daily listeners who enjoy Average Joe Radio, thank you! I hope you'll keep listening.

Please send me your comments, via email to , via phone at 206-600-4JOE, or via voicemail using the Odeo recorder to the right.

Thanks! And thank you, AMP, for keeping me independent!


1 comment:

Matthew said...

Um... I'm an AMP podcaster? When did this happen? I never signed up with AMP, and I'm not on their registry.

I'm glad you dig the quality of the show, though. I could honestly put on a show of this quality with nothing more than a $100 Blue Snowball mic and my 7-year-old Mac G4, the pro equipment isn't really that important. I also record in my bedroom. Seriously. There is no "designated studio area" other than the room I sleep in.

If you came to BootCamp PGH (or are planning on attending PodCamp Boston or PodCruise Miami), you'd see me educating folks on how easy it is to produce an NPR-quality show on a PBR budget.

Again, I do appreciate that you dig my music and my show, but don't drag me into this without checking first! =)

(Oh, and I don't think CC's part of AMP anymore either, hasn't been for a while.)

Matthew Ebel

Average Joe's Review Store