Ask a Member: Podcasting with Peter Beeston

13th March, 2018
Peter Cornucopia

We sat down with our member Peter Beeston to hear what it takes to become an accomplished podcaster and what people need to think about if they want to start their own podcast.

Who are you and what do you do?

I’m Peter Beeston and I’m a podcast producer. I run a local Sheffield group called ‘Cornucopia Radio’ which creates a wide mixture of different comedy/drama podcasts. We also run our own internet radio station, which rebroadcasts all of our previous audio productions (as well as work from other podcasters from around the world) I’ve also setup the ‘Sheffield Podcasters Network’ to help other podcasters in our city.

‘Cornucopia Radio’ has been going for 10 years and our shows have been downloaded over 700,000 times during that period. We’ve also been rebroadcast on radio stations across the world, taken part in numerous radio festivals and won a ‘British Public Radio’ award in 2013.

Our main podcast is simply called ‘The Cornucopia Radio Podcast’. This is our anthology drama/comedy podcast featuring different scripts and performers from around the world. We also run the comedy improv podcast ‘A Little Bit Racey’ and this year started a new SciFi sitcom called ‘Pod To Pluto’

What do you think makes a good podcast?

A good podcast is anyone that I want to listen to immediately once a new episode becomes available. It becomes an old friend that I want to hang out with again and again. 

I think that’s because for most people, podcasts are often listened to when you’re alone. Either when you’re working, walking or driving. So when they work best, it feels like you’re being invited into an intimate private conversation between your closest friends. Even if the podcast has a million listeners; it still feels like it’s a conversation between just you and the podcast hosts.

And if they’re having fun and enjoying making the podcast, why wouldn’t you want to get involved in a conversation like that? 

What equipment/software do people need to get started?

At the most basic level; all you really need is some kind of microphone to record the audio and some simple audio software to edit out any mistakes and then overlay some music or sound effects. 

A good microphone to start with is the USB Blue Yeti (this is the microphone that most podcasters often start with). It’s fairly cheap but very powerful and will work just as well for recording a single voice, or a whole group of people sat around it. It also comes with a bunch of different settings for most recording circumstances, so should be able to cope with whatever you throw at it. 

You can edit your audio on either Audacity (which is free and again is what the majority of podcasters start off with) or if you have a bit more money, you can use software like Reaper or Adobe Audition.

Keep in mind, that you can’t use commercially licensed sounds or music on your podcast. So you’ll want to use work that’s been released under a creative commons license. For sound effects you can use freesound.org and for music, try either ccmixter.org or freemusicarchive.org

Lastly, you’ll need a service that you can host your podcast on and which can create an ‘RSS feed’ for you (that’s what allows your podcast to be automatically shared on web directories such as iTunes). Beginners will often start off using a free service like Soundcloud, but once you’re ready to really start growing your audience and becoming more professional; you’ll want to move to a paid service with more options like libsyn.com or podbean.com

Any things to avoid?

Make sure your show is sustainable beyond it’s first few episodes; as it can be easy to quickly run out of content and become dispirited (leading you to struggle to put out regular episodes, in the industry this is known as ‘podfading’) Make sure you’ve chosen an idea and style that will allow you to easily keep on creating content. If your podcast is about a particular subject, is there enough regular things happening within that field on an ongoing basis; or will you run out of things to talk about after two shows? If your podcast relies on different external contributors or guest interviews, will you be able to continually find new people for each show?

How should an absolute novice begin?

Start by listening to an awful lot of different and varied podcasts! Take notes about what you like or dislike about them. Try to understand the mechanics of how they’ve developed their own style. Become a podcast lover! 

Once you feel you’ve understood what makes a good podcast; record yourself a test ‘pilot’ episode. Don’t worry about equipment, just use the microphone and recording equipment on your phone if you have to. Export the audio to your computer and do a little basic editing in free audio software such as Audacity (edit out those occasional mistakes and all the ‘errs’ and ‘umms’ that will make you cringe when you hear them back, lol) Then just upload the audio to a free site such as Soundcloud and ask friends and colleagues for their real honest opinion. Make sure you’re open to all useful constructive criticism that they might give.

Once you’ve made these first steps, you’ll be ready to purchase a better quality mic and find a good podcast hosting site to officially launch your podcasting adventure. Safe in the knowledge that you’ve already done all the groundwork (and made all your mistakes in private) to be as successful as possible!    

What are your favourite podcasts?

Being someone who creates a lot of audio-drama podcasts, I often gravitate to similar podcasts doing the same thing. One of my favourites is called ‘The Truth’ which is always trying to find new, unexpected and interesting angles to tell one-off narrative stories. The writing, acting, editing and directing are always amazing. I’ve often found myself thinking, ‘why didn’t I think of that as an idea for a story?’ when listening to new episodes.

I’m also a fan of ‘The Bright Sessions’ (a audio-drama about supernatural therapy patients) ‘Wooden Overcoats’ (a sitcom about funeral directors) and Twenty Thousand Hertz (a documentary podcast about sound design)

Where should people look to learn more?

I run the ‘Sheffield Podcasters Network’ which helps different podcasters across Sheffield work together and promote their shows. I’ve created a really useful ‘Podcasting Guide’ on that site which explains how to start podcasting in much more depth. We also have a Facebook group in which you can ask more questions and lastly, people are more than welcome to send me an email to studio@cornucopia-radio.co.uk. I’ll happily give help and advice to anybody wanting to start their own podcast!    

I also recommend this podcasting Faceboook group, run by Helen Zaltzman from the ‘Answer Me This’ podcast. You’ll get tons of great advice on there from some of the best podcasters in the UK (and news of useful events and competitions to enter) 

Also, if you’re interested in starting a more narrative style podcast like the ones that I create, the ‘Audio Drama Production Podcast’ is an invaluable resource covering all aspects of writing, recording and creating audio dramas.

You can connect with Peter or learn more about his work by checking out his Guild profile here