There was a time two or three years ago when it was unclear whether or not the podcast movement would gain any traction on a large scale, but those days have long since become a distant memory. Following the success of This American Life’s true crime series Serial last year, the world was unable to deny the increasingly large audience for podcasts, as well as the increasingly crowded marketplace of shows being created. Unlike radio, which comes with standards and practices everyone must meet, not to mention the high cost of equipment, podcasts are something anyone with even a passing interest in radio can create themselves using the microphone and internet connection found in their cell phone. The barriers to entry are as low as possible, both for content creators and those who enjoy the entertainment they provide, so there is no reason you should be missing out.
I have been listening to podcasts for the better part of five years, but it was until 2014 that I began to enjoy programs that were created for any purpose other than pure entertainment. There is nothing wrong with listening to a carefree show, of course, but as someone who is passionate about learning I wanted to know what kind of education and/or thought-provoking series may be in existence that I had never previously known. The answer I found is that there are many great podcasts filled with useful information to share on essentially every topic imaginable. If you want to learn about human history, there are shows for that. If you want to listen to people discuss every episode of The X-Files one episode at a time there is also a show for that. If you want to be better about how you spend and save your money, there are a ton of shows addressing that topic. If you are into…Okay, you get the idea.
Surprisingly, the world of music and music business is one of the small circles in podcasting today, but it’s growing at an unbelievable rate. It is unlikely anyone could find time to enjoy every show in existence today, but I have done my best to experience as many as possible, and below I’ve highlighted the 12 shows that stood out to us as being both entertaining and informative on a regular basis. Some are hosted by bloggers, while others are hosted by musicians and/or industry professionals. Each has something great to offer, and if you’re willing to pay attention you’ll more than likely learn something for each as well.
Hosted by Ray Harkins, this podcast features in-depth interviews with music professionals young and old from the independent music scene. Our own James Shotwell has been on the show in the past, well as people like Shane Told (Silverstein), Jim Adkins (Jimmy Eat World), and Buddy Nielsen (Senses Fail). If you want open and honest conversations about what leads people to the world of music, or if you just want to learn more about the people who shape the independent scene, this is the show for you.
Claiming something created by NPR is not worth your time is not exactly a shocking revelation, but that doesn’t make it any less true. NPR actually has a number of great podcasts currently being offered, but Tiny Desk Concerts is the one I make sure I never miss. Each episode, a different artist hunkers down at Bob Boilen’s desk and performance a short set of songs for the NPR staff, as well as the audience at home. The show has a video component if you wish to see such a thing, but listening to the audio is just as good.
This is one of the many podcasts to feature PropertyOfZack founder Zack Zarrillo, and it’s the one I recommend you never forget. Co-hosted by producer extraordinaire Jesse Cannon, this show focuses on current events in the music industry, as well as emerging trends in technology and they way it applies to the world of entertainment. You never know if an episode will be lighthearted throughout or filled with information that could change your career trajectory. Either way, you will walk away entertainment.
Modern Vinyl has become the go-to site for vinyl news and release information that literally everyone I know visits on a regular basis. The site’s podcast, which is hosted by founder Chris Lantinen and frequent contributor James Cassar, adds to the experience with even more record talk, as well as special guests, and a healthy amount of self-deprecating humor.
I have always been fascinated by the way music impacts different people in different ways, so it only makes sense that I would love a show that makes exploring that phenomenon the entire purpose of its existence. Your Favorite Album, which is hosted by Adam Santiago, each episode features a different guest discussing their favorite record. It’s a simple concept, but the way each conversation evolves is entirely unique. I have found many great records listening to this show, and I’ve also learned to appreciate some titles I already loved in new ways.
A lot of websites have podcasts these days, but AbsolutePunk was one of the first alternative outlets to get a show that is actually worth listening to off the ground. Each week, founder Jason Tate joins longtime contributor Drew Beringer and (more often than not) Thomas Nassiff for an in-depth look at the week in music. The guys often discuss other topics as well, usually relating to discussion that were popular on the AbsolutePunk forum. Whether you’re a regular visitor to their site or not, this show offers unparalleled insight in the latest happenings in the alternative realm.
Interviewing musicians is a fine art that takes many hours of work to master, and longtime freelance writer Jake Denning is one of the best working today. This Is What I’m Into finds Denning speaking with a variety of musicians he enjoys about their careers and where they hope to find themselves in the future.
Tom Mullen is an emo god. With this podcast, Mullen seeks out and interviews the people who were responsible for the emo movements of the 90s and early 2000s. In a time where everyone seems obsessed with the here and now, Mullen uses his show to trace the roots of the emo genre, and along the way shares the real life experiences of those who laid the foundation for the music scene we enjoy today.
No one ever said it was impossible to laugh while also learning something worthwhile. With Who Charted?, funny people Howard Kremer and Kulap Vilaysack review the most popular music and film with special guests like Reggie Watts or Paul F. Tompkins. The educational value isn’t quite as great as some of the other shows on this list, but it does offer some (often hilarious) insight into what’s popular in our culture right now.
The only thing better than reading an album review is listening to two critics debate the same album for upwards of an hour, right? If you agree then you may need to add Sound Opinion to your podcast schedule right away. The show, hosted by critics Jim DeRogatis and Greg Kot, reviews music new and old. There are also guests, interviews, and surprise in-studio performances. If you want to be a better critic, listening to how these two talk about music will certainly aide you in that effort.
Originally called ‘Outside The Lines with Rap Genius,’ The Cipher is a hip-hop oriented podcast featuring interviews with legendary and contemporary favorite from every corner of the rap world. There is a shockingly small market for hip-hop podcasts that aim to dig deeper into the music, but The Cipher does just that. Previous guests include Scarface, Smoke DZA, 88-Keys, and Sage Francis.
Matt Pryor and his bandmates in The Get Up Kids made music history with the release of their album Something To Write Home About, so it only makes sense that Pryor pay homage to that iconic record with the title of his music-centric podcast. Each week, Pryor interviews one of the many interesting people he has met over the course of his time in the music industry. Some are punk celebs, while others are people who may never have been brought to your attention without a show like this first existing. Pryor’s experience as an artist gives him a unique perspective on interviewing others, so no matter who joins him you know the conversation will always be good.
BONUS PICK: Inside Music
Did you know we also have a podcast? Each week, Haulix marketing coordinator James Shotwell welcomes guests from around the world of music to discuss their careers, their advice for others, and where they see themselves headed in the future. It’s an open dialogue that can go wherever the guest chooses to lead, and we think there is a lot to be learned from the experiences of those we choose to have on the show. James says he wants the show to be the Marc Maron’s WTF of music podcasting, but we don’t think he’s there quite yet.