How to create a podcast and get your DJ mixes online to promote your music

Wednesday, March 25, 2015
by Keith Boynton
How to create a podcast and get your DJ mixes online to promote your music

Getting your name out there and getting yourself noticed is probably more difficult than ever these days. Back in the day I remember I used to go through the club listings at the back of Mixmag and find every club I thought might enjoy the music I played. I'd sit in my lounge with a mountain of jiffy bags ready to send out my latest mixtape in the hope just one of the club would take me on! These days it's much easier to reach a bigger audience but of course with that comes much more competition. One way you can try to stand out and reach people is by doing a podcast, here's how it can be done effectively...

Recording your DJ mixes

I could write a whole article on this bit (and may yet do) but I'll leave the details of your DJ gear setup, track selection, beat/harmonic mixing and programming for another day. After all that's what makes you "you" isn't it :)

However, I do think it's worth talking about recording the mix and preparing it for uploading, because that's a process which can be somewhat formularised and is especially important for broadcasting. Firstly, you'll need a Digital Audio Workstation platform to get it into a digital format, personally I use Sony Soundforge but there are plenty of others out there and a free one which I hear good things about is Audacity.

When choosing your platform try to pick one that can handle plug-ins so you can do some post production work on the recording like compression and EQ. Of course you could get your recordings professionally mastered in a studio by someone like Kettridge Mastering but I'm going to assume you want to do this on a budget and don't have reams of cash to throw at it.

Recording to digital using Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) software

  • When connecting your mixer output to the DAW try to get as clean a signal as possible, I use the optical output of my mixer to the optical input of my soundcard. There's no interference and it gives me a nice clean balanced signal. Try to avoid the analogue output if you can.
  • Don't redline it anywhere, not on your mixer or within your DAW software, peaking at around 0db on my mixer and just below 0db in the recording software during performance works well for me. No red anywhere please, you don't want any clipping.

Making it sound radio quality with post production work

After you've danced around the decks for the time it's taken to perform the mix, remembering to actually hit the record button first, yes I've done that a few times and been gutted I didn't capture my finest moments :) I try to do some post production work on the mix. Namely, compression and EQ to get it sounding bright, balanced and in your face. I don't have the expertise to give a full tutorial on mastering but suffice to say it's about making it sound clear and punchy for your listeners. There's some great resources on the internet where you can learn about compression and EQ. I'd recommend some effort in this area so your mixes really grab your listeners. There's some further reading at the end of this article, I'm still learning this too!

When you're happy with how it sounds then export it as an MP3 at 256kbps, this seems to me to be a nice balance between sound quality and file size based on the players your listeners are likely to be using.

Tagging the MP3

Tagging the MP3

Once you've got the sound right and it's ready to upload for broadcast then it's worth tagging it so anyone who downloads it gets a nice file with a title, author and genre etc. It's also an opportunity for you to make it look professional when it's playing in an MP3 player in someone's car etc. Plus, folks see your name more and you can also tag your website/online profile in the comments for that extra bit of promotion. Don't forget to make some nice cover art for it too, pretty pictures and a logo always help give you a visual brand that your followers will recognise.

I use MP3Tag to tag my files and I add the following common tags:

  • Title - The name of your mix
  • Artist - You :)
  • Album - The name of your mix
  • Year
  • Genre
  • Comment - Stick your website and and any other interesting info in here
  • Composer - I put "Various" (unless it's all your own music)
  • Cover Art - JPEG or PNG format is preferred with a resolution of 300 x 300 pixels

Where to host your podcast files

So, you've got your dj mix (in the podcast world it's called an episode) ready for sharing but where the hell do you store it so you can share it? I did some research and there are a few places you could store it, obvious ones being Mixcloud, Soundcloud or some other free hosting service. As I have an existing website I decided to use my web hosting package to store and share (serve) them because then I'm fully in control, I own my podcast and can do what I like with it. Plus, if you want it on iTunes (which believe me you do!) you need to use a host that supports byte serving/byte range requests, without going into technical details that basically means it will stream your DJ mixes. Initially I was going to use Mixcloud to store the mixes but I found that iTunes didn't like media served by Mixcloud, the exact reason I'm not sure (maybe byte range requests) but I didn't bother researching it further because I discovered it was going to be a better choice for me to host it myself. Just make sure you've got a hosting plan that supports unlimited bandwidth and comes with a reasonable amount of storage, most do quite cheaply these days. How much storage you need depends on how long and frequent your podcasts will be, I'm doing one and a half hour mixes every two weeks so I'll need around 4.7 Gb of storage a year.

Reaching your listeners using RSS

Here's possibly the most technical part but it's the bit that makes it possible to submit it to iTunes and share your DJ mixes through podcast clients. I reckon this bit is the secret sauce, RSS is an old format historically used to share news in a way which allowed people to choose which kind of "news reader" they wanted to use. This format was adopted and extended by iTunes and is a great way to share your podcasts and allow your listeners to choose which "player" (or client) they use to subscribe and listen to your episodes. You can read more about RSS if you're interested but I'll just go ahead and tell you the important bits you need to know to get your Podcast on iTunes and the other podcast services...

The RSS file is an XML file which contains the following information about your podcast:

General show information

Show information

There's just one of these sections and it contains general information about your show.

  • Title
  • Description
  • Publish date
  • Link to your main podcast page
  • Author (iTunes specific)
  • Subtitle (iTunes specific)
  • Summary (iTunes specific)
  • Image (iTunes specific)
  • Category (iTunes specific)
  • Explicit (iTunes specific)

Episode information

There can be as many of these as you like and they include information about each of your episodes.

  • Title
  • Description
  • Publish date
  • Link to the episode page
  • Link to the episode MP3
  • Author (iTunes specific)
  • Subtitle (iTunes specific)
  • Summary (iTunes specific)
  • Duration (iTunes specific)

Here's what the RSS looks like:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?> <rss version="2.0" xmlns:atom="http://www.w3.org/2005/Atom" xmlns:itunes="http://www.itunes.com/dtds/podcast-1.0.dtd"> <channel> <title>Your Podcast Title</title> <atom:link href="http://www.yourdomain.com/rss.xml" rel="self" type="application/rss+xml" /> <link>http://www.yourdomain.com/podcast</link> <description><![CDATA[A description of your podcast show]]></description> <pubDate>Fri, 20 Mar 2015 13:00:00 GMT</pubDate> <generator>http://www.yourdomain.com/</generator> <language>en</language> <itunes:author>You</itunes:author> <itunes:subtitle><![CDATA[This appears in the description column in the iTunes podcasts subscriptions page]]></itunes:subtitle> <itunes:summary><![CDATA[This appears on the podcast page in iTunes]]></itunes:summary> <itunes:owner> <itunes:name>You</itunes:name> <itunes:email>your@email.com</itunes:email> </itunes:owner> <itunes:image href="http://www.yourdomain.com/YourMainPodcastImage.png" /> <itunes:category text="Music" /> <itunes:explicit>clean</itunes:explicit> <image> <url>http://www.yourdomain.com/YourMainPodcastImage.png</url> <title>Your Podcast Title</title> <link>http://www.yourdomain.com/podcast</link> <width>144</width> <height>300</height> </image> <item> <title>Your podcast episode title</title> <link>http://www.yourdomain.com/podcast/link-to-your-episode.html</link> <description><![CDATA[Description of your episode]]></description> <pubDate>Fri, 20 Mar 2015 13:00:00 GMT</pubDate> <enclosure url="http://www.yourdomain.com/media/your-podcast-episode.mp3" type="audio/mpeg" length="172417803"/> <itunes:author>You</itunes:author> <itunes:subtitle>This appears in the description column in iTunes</itunes:subtitle> <itunes:summary><![CDATA[Summary appears on the iTunes store page for your podcast]]></itunes:summary> <itunes:duration>01:29:48</itunes:duration> <guid>A unique identifier for this episode that always stays the same</guid> <itunes:image href="http://www.yourdomain.com/YourPodcastEpisodeImage.png" /> </item> </channel> </rss>

Once you've created your RSS file you can check whether it is valid at W3C Validation Service and Cast Feed Validator.

Upload your MP3, Artwork and RSS file to your host and provide a link to the RSS so users can subscribe to your podcast. It's important that once you've uploaded it you don't change the RSS location otherwise your listeners will lose your show. Every time you release a new episode just update this file and all your users will be automagically be informed. Make sure you remember to update the publish date (pubDate) for the channel and not just the one in the latest episode (item). Apple also recommends keeping the unique identifier (guid) of each episode permanent so don't change them.

There is a web publishing mechanism called Ping which seems to be more directed at blogging but appears to be getting taken up by podcasting now too, it's something I'm looking into at the moment. This Podcast Ping Service looks interesting and is worth a look.

Be kind and do a track listing

Be kind and do a track listing

I think it's very important to be kind to the producers and artists who have created the music you've so lovingly crafted together, so spread the love! I always include a track listing in two places; 1) in the itunes:subtitle so it gets displayed in iTunes and 2) on my website along with links so people can buy the tracks. That way people get to discover the music you're sharing in your mixes and the artists get their royalties, everyone's a winner and after all that's what it's all about.

Submit it to iTunes and other Podcast directories

I fought this for years, no idea why but iTunes has a massive share of the market so it would be a mistake to ignore it. Once you've got your first podcast episode and validated RSS uploaded then it's time to submit it to iTunes. There are few things to pay attention to before submitting it to iTunes; the Channel and Episode images should be JPEG or PNG format with a minimum size of 1400x1400 pixels and a maximum size of 2048x2048 pixels if you want even the possibility of being featured in their New and Noteworthy section. Also, double check that all the iTunes special tags are present. Here you'll find Apple's official podcast guide.

It's worth submitting it to these places too:

You may well find more and I'd love to hear about them too :)

Promoting it

I'm still working on this, promotion is a continuous evolving and learning process anyway as new places and new opportunities to promote your podcast will pop up all the time.

  • At first spread the word with your friends and fellow DJs through Facebook, Twitter or your chosen social media platform.
  • Make it easy to subscribe to your podcast by placing prominent links to iTunes and your RSS feed in your podcast, online profiles such as Soundcloud and also your email signature.
  • I think it's also a great opportunity to interact and connect with your listeners so I also added the ability for listeners to comment on my website, Disqus is an easy way to add comments to your podcasts if you're hosting it yourself but I'm sure Wordpress has options for this if that's the way you go.
  • A good friend of mine kept harping on about Email for ages and I fought that but I was wrong there are still people who like to follow things in that way so I'd recommend adding a "follow by email" option too, MailChimp is an easy way to add this but again I'm sure Wordpress has options for it if that's your way.
  • Rave about it constantly and at every opportunity!

Conclusion

Creating a podcast doesn't have to be a black art that you pay through the nose for and it's definitely a great and accessible way to get your music out there. Sure it takes effort and there is some technical knowledge required but hopefully this post has given you a nice head start and helped you understand how it can be done. Of course you don't have to do everything listed here but if you tackle what you're comfortable with you can have a successful podcast and take advantage of a fantastic way to promote your dj mixes online.

Checkout the Trackhunter DJ Mix Podcast and see a great dance music podcast in action

Further reading


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