November 29th, 2016
RTA 907: Sound Media was a very impactful course for me this semester, and one from which I will certainly draw upon in my future projects. As a Creative Industries student, Sound Media was a course I enrolled in to help complete my Music Industry module. While I’ve gone into previous RTA courses with a music-oriented mindset, I started this course after a summer in which podcasts became my new favourite medium, as discussed previously in my blog. Not only did this course further my consumption of podcasts, but also provided me with tools, ideas, and opportunity to become a podcast producer.
The first two classes of the course brought the idea of soundscape to my attention, and broadened my understanding of audio. I was already familiar with Michael Chion’s modes of listening, but I truly enjoyed the listening activity related to his theory that we completed as the first blog entry.
The third and fourth classes were easily my favourite class in university. Firstly, we were introduced to How Sound, which is now one of my favourite podcasts and my introduction to Transom, my Podcasting bible. Secondly, we discussed podcasting as a medium in depth, which was thrilling and thought-provoking conversation for me. Listening to my classmates brought me a lot of insight into why I enjoy podcasts so much, as well as the perceptions non-listeners hold of the medium. Finally, we were given articles on podcasting and I read FiveThirtyEight’s article on Podcast advertising. This article was a breakthrough moment for me as it was my first introduction to the podcast industry. I had learnt a bit about the topic in an early Startup episode, but that pre-dated my intense interest. Since reading this article, I’ve subscribed to the HotPod Podcasting Industry newsletter, begun listening to WolfDen (Midroll’s podcast about the industry) and attended panels at the HotDocsPodFest, to increase my knowledge further.
As well, an opportunity was offered after the third class to sit in on a talk with Dan Misener, a teacher in RTA and the creator of the beloved Grownup’s Read This They Wrote As Kids podcast. This talk was incredibly valuable to me, and I ended up taking pages of notes about editing, narration, marketing and the business at large. Dan was the first person I’ve met who has launched a very successful podcast, and his insight was fascinating. I ended up seeing him speak again at a panel discuss at the HotDocsPodFest.
My favourite part of the course was the opportunity to create my own podcast for the final project. While the podcast assignment also offered me this chance, my group was somewhat dysfunctional and we did not produce something I was proud of. For the final project, I wanted to channel everything I’d learnt inside and outside of RTA 907 into a podcast that I was proud of, and could use as a portfolio piece. I’m very proud of what I was able to make, and intend to put it out. I do think, however, that I learnt more from what I failed to do than what I did. The majority of audio pieces we listened to in class made great use of atmospheric sounds. From the soundscapes, to the podcast in which the host took us under a bridge, there were many examples of sounds ability to transport us to a location. In recording my podcast, I only had my Zoom on record during interviews or during my standup sets. I missed some great opportunities to record background noises, and the audio equivalent of B-roll. I also think I could have taken the opportunity to develop more of a sonic brand. I only used two pieces of music in my podcast, and easily could have gone further.
I leave this class with a full head of podcasting steam, and a lot of new ideas about audio. I’ve started a podcasting property that I will continuing with two new episodes planned, entitled “Privilege” and “The Grind”. I’ve learned about atmospheric audio and sonic branding, which I intend on incorporating into my future work. Finally, I’ve realized that podcasting is a natural intersection of my two modules: Music Industry and Storytelling in Media. As I finish my degree at Ryerson, I will take every opportunity to develop my ability as a podcast producer, through both courses of study.