The Angel of Vine

On November 14, 2018 the Forever Dog Podcast Network (which according to their website produces innovative podcasts and limited series from next level comedians) quietly dropped a new audio drama: The Angel of Vine.

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The Angel of Vine

By Matthew William

On November 14, 2018 the Forever Dog Podcast Network (which according to their website produces innovative podcasts and limited series from next level comedians) quietly dropped a new audio drama from production company Vox Populi: The Angel of Vine.

And the cast, ladies and gentleman, is incredible.

Joe Manganiello from True Blood is joined by the likes of Misha Collins (Supernatural), Mike Colter (Luke Cage himself!), Alfred Molina (too many credits to list, of which Doc Ock from Spiderman 2 is the most well known?), Khary Payton (Ezekiel from the Walking Dead), Alan Tudyk (Firefly, Rogue One, and countless other voice roles), and Constance Zimmer (UnReal).

This is in addition to some truly veteran voice actors – Travis Willingham (Roy Mustang in the English dub of Fullmetal Alchemist), Matthew Mercer (involved in the English dubs of various anime, as well as cartoons, films, and video games), and Nolan North (Nathan Drake from the Uncharted series) to name just a few.

This is easily the most stacked cast for narrative podcast we’ve seen (heard?) since 2017’s Homecoming, which starred, among others, Catherine Keener, boring Han Solo Oscar Isaac, and Ross from Friends David Schwimmer.

And if the cast alone wasn’t enough to convince you to download, here’s the synopsis:

The Angel of Vine is a noir tale told in true crime style. The “podcaster,” a journalist named Oscar Simons (Oliver Vaquer), is fascinated by cold cases. One of the most infamous is “The Angel of Vine,” a gruesome murder in 1950s Hollywood. Young aspiring actress Marlene Marie Evans was found in a parking lot, her body mutilated and posed, with evidence either nonexistent or destroyed when she was discovered by a stampede of curious onlookers.

The police gave up with no leads, and the case would never be closed… or would it? Ex-cop and private detective Hank Briggs (Joe Manganiello) may have solved the case, but he never told a soul. It’s up to Oscar to search through Hank’s mountain of tapes and clues from more than 60 years ago to uncover the killer.

All in all, a strong hook and a stacked cast. What more could you ask for?

The show straddles the line between a true crime show and an Audio Drama perfectly, and the gritty story line is enough to keep the most demanding listener begging for more.

Shows like this are beginning to prove to the world that Audio Drama is truly coming back with a vengeance. The first season is complete and can be listened to here.

Time Bombs

Written by the dynamic duo behind Wolf 359, Sarah Shachat and Gabriel Urbina, Time Bombs has everything one could want in a miniseries: a tight, compelling story line, some intense nail-biting moments, and plenty of wisecracks. And what’s more, it was created in a week!

Can You Make a Podcast in a Week?

by Alex C. Telander

If you’re a big fan of audio dramas, chances are you’ve come across the fantastic show Wolf 359. If not, it’s a engrossing science fiction podcast about a distant space station orbiting the star Wolf 359, and the various antics the incredibly talented cast get up to. The show ran for three years, was nominated for a Webby Award, has an untold number of fans and listeners, and is still a big favorite for many. Then a year went by and some of the writers and cast members decided they really missed working together, and started a new project together with a seemingly impossible – or perhaps just insane – premise:

To create, write, record, produce and release a podcast in just one week.

Welcome to the wacky and very unpredictable world of bomb disposal with the three-part show, Time Bombs. Enter one Simon Teller (voiced by Peter Coleman), a trained professional in the fine art of “explosive ordnance disposal.” It’s New Year’s Eve and the rest of the crew would rather be anywhere else, except for Teller who’s looking to disarm a certain number of devices before midnight and beat a “coveted departmental record.” Along for tonight’s oh-so-memorable ride is Tatiana Sobrero (voiced by Cecilia Lynn-Jacobs), a reporter doing a profile on this dangerous life. Will Mark Midland (voiced by Noah Masur) graduate from trainee before the new year rings in? Will Sobrero get the exposé she’s looking for? And will Teller set a new anti-explosive record before midnight chimes in?

Written by the dynamic duo behind Wolf 359, Sarah Shachat and Gabriel Urbina, Time Bombs has everything one could want in a miniseries: a tight, compelling story line, some intense nail-biting moments, and plenty of wisecracks. Since the cast have worked together before, they have no problem forming a cohesive crew. The fact that the whole project was completed within one week simply boggles the mind. The good news is, Time Bombs is the first of hopefully many shows under the new flagship network, Fear of Public Shame. Shachat, Urbina and Valenti have also started a weekly show called No Bad Ideas, as they challenge each other to turn a bad idea into a decent story within thirty minutes, and then spend the rest of the show talking about their creative endeavors.

Time Bombs is a great place to start in giving these talented people a listen and from there you can start consuming their growing collective of great podcast.

The Deep Dive Into…

Some 400 years into the history of the New Earth – or Edict Zero as it is officially designated – the first act of terrorism has been committed by one Mister Cooke.

Edict Zero – FIS

By Lex Scott

Ever since I started getting into scripted podcasts, I’ve wished I could find proper full episode reviews and breakdowns. I could never find them, but that might because I never looked in the right place. So, when Podern Times started up and I was asked what I wanted to work on, that was of course the first thing I said. I was recommended a show to check out and review and it was off to the races.

The show was terrible. I thought “I don’t think I can stomach listening to two more seasons of this show”

It turns out it was a joke! I was supposed to hate that show (ed: SORRY! ) and there was something far more substantial, and of significantly higher quality waiting just up next in my podcast queue. The second recommendation: Edict Zero – FIS.

Here was a show that, at eight years old, is still held up as a benchmark of quality for audio dramas, and is regarded by many in the community to be one of the best the medium has to offer. And that’s not just in sci-fi: every new show, regardless of genre, is measured against the astounding quality of writing and production design on display here. And yet no one has really broken it down or analysed it before.

It was everything I’d been hoping for, and almost everything it’s reputation promised: big long meaty episodes roughly an hour each. Excellent technical quality and absolute masterful sound design. I knew, if I could get into the story there would be plenty to sustain a series of articles of analysis, conjecture, and gushing over this veritable audible feast.

So, please join me as I take a long journey, episode by episode, deep into the future of New Earth and the Federal Investigative Services, as presented by Jack Kincaid and Slipgate Nine Entertainment.

And of course, spoilers ahead.

Prequel/ Episode 1, 2415 Part 1

Some 400 years into the history of the New Earth – or Edict Zero as it is officially designated – the first act of terrorism has been committed by one Mister Cooke. An interesting if overly hostile character, our time with him in this episode is sadly very brief.

He unfortunately is emblematic of one of the main issues I had with this episode though: an overly wordy talker, unnecessarily hostile to everyone he meets. It’s a trope I’ve seen time and again in every medium imaginable and I always find it tiresome, because it’s just not believable.

People just don’t get to be that openly hostile to others and still interact with them. He’s rude to the butler who ushers him through the building, he’s rude to security doing his job, the only person he’s not rude to is the girl he rescues.

Side note: I’m assuming both Cooke and Melissa Parker survived, otherwise the entire opening is pointless.

Maybe Cooke’s whole demeanor is meant to make him one of these “characters you’re supposed to hate” but I’ve never bought into that trope. Either engender sympathy for your hero’s plight to make us hate the villain as an obstacle, or make us fear the villain for his actions. Making a vaguely hostile and oddly verbose character just takes me out of the moment and reminds me it’s unrealistic.

Near the end of the episode we learn that Cooke was involved in procuring mystic items for this now deceased mob boss. I’m inclined to believe this suitcase bomb was one of these Paradox Artifacts, and can probably be used more than once. My guess is some sort of black hole or gravity distortion bomb. And the fact that Cooke and Melissa probably survived indicates he probably has more than one in his possession, likely one for some sort of teleportation. It’s debatable whether he also actually does possess the Hex Gate Disc he was supposed to trade for Melissa Parker’s life.

Edict Zero is on the whole an extremely impressive piece of literature. On a technical level it is nothing short of astounding, with sound effects, music, and background noise all expertly layered together to form a truly impressive soundscape that really does build a picture in your mind of where you are. Every scene transition is smooth and flawless without being unnecessarily telegraphed. There is the occasional robotic voice telling us of our new location when it’s necessary or pertinent, but it always feels like it too is part of the world.

It actually feels like an automated train announcement, telling us what stop we’ve just arrived at. This even gives us an extra layer of subconscious detail by subtly telling our brains that time has passed while we travelled here.

Another scene transition that blew my mind in its simplicity was a simple change in audio quality. There are a few instances where a character is on the phone with someone, and we hear their voice as though through a phone. Now in video you can quickly switch back and forth, showing the different locations, but here we slowly transition from hearing one character through the phone’s distortion to the other. And we end the interaction now following the second character, in the new location.

It’s an incredibly subtle change, and I doubt most listeners would pick up on it consciously, but  no one would fail to realise that we’ve suddenly changed perspective.

It’s simple, almost consciously imperceptible, and impressively effective.

There were unfortunately a few times where they spent too much time setting the scene, and the whole thing felt a bit too audibly busy, with sound effects and background noises building and bustling. But, as this is the first episode and almost a decade old at this point, I’m expecting this to be improved as the series progresses.

Our second major character is another trope I’m generally a bit tired of, but in this instance I’m more bothered by the people around him than the actual character.

That is one agent Nick Garrett, an example of the Sherlock type character. He’s studied it all, is well versed in the various sciences, but lacks the intuitive understanding of actual people that most develop in their early years. He lacks the “correct” emotional response to most situations, and comes at everything with a critical, analytical mind.

As this character trope goes he’s not bad, but it’s the others around him that make it aggravating to me as an audience.

He lacks any hostility or superiority in his tone to be truly rude, but everyone he meets acts as though he’s the foulest most offensive thing they’ve ever had the displeasure of enduring. Though admittedly this seems limited to FIS agents, in particular those who seem to really lean on their authority and positions. The son of the murdered mob boss seemed to be pretty reasonable in talking to him. This leads to us immediately distrusting most of the other (non-pov) agents. In particular one Agent Whiteman of the organised crime division.

Side note: in regards to Whiteman, they spent so much time showing us how incorruptible he is that if he doesn’t end up being a traitor I well be genuinely shocked.

A counterpoint to the Agent Garrett character is presented in the form of Agent Kircher, and the way she’s treated by the narrative/ other characters is troubling.

In the briefing scene there are two people interrupting Agent Whiteman: Garrett, and Kircher. While Garrett is removed from the room and verbally dressed down, he’s otherwise allowed to continue his own personal investigation. Meanwhile, Kircher is tolerated in the room but later simply removed from the case entirely.

She’s not given the same opportunity to pursue her (entirely relevant) leads, or even confronted about her somehow “disrespectful” behaviour. She’s simply removed without ever being given the same opportunity to defend her position. This is unfortunate but probably unconscious gender politics on display, and the complete difference in the way their actions were responded to warrants further thought and discussion. I don’t believe this was a deliberate or even conscious choice by the writers, but in 2018 it really sticks out.

We close out the episode with a final scene introducing us to our major lead in the case: the homeless, probably mentally ill “Captain” Socrates, an associate of Mister Cooke.

This scene with Socrates is honestly one of if not the single weakest in the entire episode. I know people say in acting you make a choice and it’s better than not making a choice, and Jack Kincaid – the creator of this show, and actor of this role – certainly made a choice.

The trouble is I think that choice was bad.

It’s a tired and, once again overly verbose, caricature of a mental patient from the 1950’s. Speaking in a pastiche of upper class gentleman explorer vernacular, he seemingly speaks in an interminable mashup of movie quotes and pop culture references that lose all meaning when jammed in next to each other. I get that this is probably the aim, presenting an unhinged character with a scattered brain and neurons firing every which way all at once, but it is so world breaking it completely takes me out of the moment every time I hear it.

I cringe, every time, and not in the way the writer probably intended.

Conclusions/ Predictions

Overall I like this show. It is a master class in audio presentation and mixing, truly the most complex and technical show I’ve ever had the pleasure to hear and I genuinely feel like I learned a lot about the craft just by listening to it. The world building is top notch and genuinely engaging, and I really am looking forward to hearing the next episode and knowing what happens to our characters.

One of my favourite things about finding a new (to me) show with a big back catalogue spanning years is getting to see a kind of time lapse of their skills, as the creators grow and develop as people and artists. Getting to go back to the beginning of a journey and looking for all the kernels of promise present right from the start; crossing your fingers and watching them tease out their problematic or tired tropes into well defined thoughts is always engrossing.

I am genuinely looking forward to continuing with this series and seeing where it leads. And, hopefully seeing them outgrow some of these things that bothered me.

Go download Episode 2 right now, and join me next time as I continue my Deep Dive into Edict Zero – FIS.


Girl in Space

The last man on earth concept is a popular one in science fiction. I am Legend, The Omega Man, and Oblivion all spring immediately to mind, but my personal favorite is a relatively new addition to the subgenre: Girl in Space.

By Lex Scott

The last man on earth concept is a popular one in science fiction. I am Legend, The Omega Man, and Oblivion all spring immediately to mind, but my personal favorite is a relatively new addition to the subgenre: Girl in Space.

This radio play is frankly an astounding achievement, and a testament to a medium many would dismiss off-hand as dead or irrelevant. At times heartwarming, tense, and funny, this show is everything you could want shoved directly into your earballs.

“Abandoned on a dying ship in the farthest reaches of known space, a young scientist fights for survival (and patience with the on-board A.I.). Who is she? No one knows. But a lot of dangerous entities really want to find out…”

This is how we are introduced to the girl we’ll come to call X, and it is so wonderfully compelling you wouldn’t believe. It sucks you in with concept, and hooks you with it’s superb acting and excellent execution.

Let’s talk about that execution.

Girl in Space is written, produced by, and stars Sarah Rhea Werner, a professional writer, speaker, and podcaster She left a decades long marketing career, (why are all us writers former/current marketing professionals? I mean, there’s some crossover skill-wise but still…) to pursue her creative passions. I personally believe that move has paid off tremendously. Sarah’s performance is so rich in emotion and honesty that it alone is enough to pull you in. Acting is hard, and voice acting is even harder. I seriously cannot heap enough praise on this performance. It is nothing short of mind blowing.

The writing itself is fantastic. Polished and tight without any real wasted time, while simultaneously feeling very raw and off the cuff. The character of X is one with no filter: on a space station alone, and encouraged from an early age to vent her free-flowing thoughts into a portable recorder will do that to a person. So her character needs to do a lot of free association and be allowed to let her mind wander, (even in life or death situations; let’s just say that her mouth gets her in trouble a few times). This gives X a very charming, naive quality that’s never boring or off-putting. I’m not usually a fan of “naturalistic” dialogue; I always say if I wanted to hear natural dialogue I’d just go outside. I always want tight, focused speech from characters, a heightened reality. But coming from X and Sarah’s performance it is such a perfect character choice. Like having a friend who talks all the time, but in such a pleasant way you can’t help but be charmed.

The sound design is a triumph. Filled with subtle ambient ticks to truly sell the out of this world atmosphere. We hear the whir of Charlotte’s (the ships irascible A.I) hydraulic arm as she moves in and out of the story, subtle music cues filling in emotional beats and pauses in the narration masterfully used to convey the almost wistful stream of consciousness present throughout the entire show.

The overall production quality is excellent. The actual voice recording is professionally crisp and clean, no pops or odd spikes in volume. Each sound, from speech to music to effects, are entirely clear; in many podcasts I find myself manually tweaking the volume as I go to adjust for someone suddenly becoming inaudible (through moving to far from the mic or to account for extra noises going on in the show) but I never found myself doing this with Girl in Space. Even at its most busy (and that’s never much, it is a very laid back show) I never found myself struggling to make out words over effects or musical cues.

The writing itself is amazing in its simplicity. In essence it is a stream of consciousness narrative: X, the eponymous girl in space, is alone on a space station. We know this, and we can infer from certain clues that she was there with her parents until one day they weren’t. From a young age she was given a recorder and encouraged to share her thoughts with it, both as a useful log of events (and a helpful training tool for scientific recording) and as a diary to stave off loneliness and provide a creative outlet. This leads to a character essentially with no filter, who’s spent her entire life (approximately 24 years by my count?) venting a stream of unfiltered thoughts into her diary.

You might think this would make for a boring character but surprisingly it doesn’t. The stream of consciousness is endearing and well presented, and helped along by being thoughtful and emotionally honest. It provides a genuine and narratively consistent window for us to experience her life as an audience.

Girl in Space is the only piece of literature I can think of that is absolutely perfectly suited to the medium it inhabits. Pretty much everything we consume, movies books television, can be (and often is) presented in any kind of medium. Any movie could be presented just as well as a book and you wouldn’t lose anything of the core content in the translation. Sure many movies or books do take advantage of their respective mediums, and any adaptation will by its very nature focus on different things, Harry Potter the book is not fundamentally different when experienced as Harry Potter the movie.

Not so with Girl in Space. It could not exist in any other form without being fundamentally, unrecognisably, different. Not just that it would lose something in the translation, but that it would not be Girl in Space anymore.

At every turn Sarah takes full advantage of the fact that her audience can only hear what’s going on, that she’s not limited by words on a page or the budget required for visual effects. She paints a rich landscape of emotion, futuristic setting, and engaging characters, all while only engaging a single one of our primary senses. This alone is enough for me to recommend this show to everyone I meet.

Girl in Space makes great and successful efforts to maintain a clean rating, and was intentionally created for all ages to enjoy. I never have any qualms about recommending it to any even remotely mature acquaintance. However if you are squeamish about slightly disturbing imagery such as descriptions of wounds and blood, and sci fi gun violence it might give you pause. Also it is very um, let’s say science friendly, and you should definitely be prepared for such graphic words as coagulation, narcissism, and epigenetics.

I might already have mentioned I’ve actively recommended Girl in Space to every thinking, breathing person I have even a brief interaction with. Quite frankly I think this show is a marvel and a tremendous achievement on every level. It succeeds technically, from sound effects and recording, to presentation and performance, and of course is narratively gripping and compelling in a way you just can’t believe until you listen for yourself. Do yourself a favour and check it out, I promise you won’t regret it.

Serial Meets Moonlighting – Arden Podcast

It seems each and every #audiodramasunday there’s a new podcast dropping about an unsolved murder where the killer is discovered and brought to justice within ten or twelve episodes. These types of shows – audio drama crime shows – are riding on the huge success of “true crime” podcasts such as Serial and S-Town and many others that continue to grow in popularity. And then there’s the Arden Podcast . . .

Serial Meets Moonlighting: The Arden Podcast

By Alex C. Telander

It seems each and every #audiodramasunday there’s a new podcast dropping about an unsolved murder where the killer is discovered and brought to justice within ten or twelve episodes. These types of shows – audio drama crime shows – are riding on the huge success of “true crime” podcasts such as Serial and S-Town and many others that continue to grow in popularity. And then there’s the Arden Podcast . . .

It began as an idea in 2016 when Todd Vanderwerff (Vox, A. V. Club) pitched his writing partner, Christopher Dole (National Theater Institute), with the tagline: “Serial meets Moonlighting.” Dole was immediately on board, and the two then brought in comedy writer Sara Ghaleb (Ruby LA House Team The Burbs), who apparently isn’t familiar with Moonlighting, but was just as excited. The result is a show that is in some ways like other crime dramas, and in many others completely unique and compelling.

The story is set within the glitz and riches of Hollywood stardom.

Ten years ago the renowned actor Julie Capsom ran her car off the road on a rainy night in Northern California, far from the safe and familiar environs of Los Angeles. No sign of her was ever found, she appears to have disappeared into thin air, while a headless corpse of an unknown man was found in the trunk of her car.

Now two unexpected people have decided to solve the case and explain it to the world on the podcast Arden.

There is Bea Casely, a reporter who knows how to follow the rules, but also knows some rules need to be bent every once in a while to get what you need. Brenda Bentley is a former police officer and now turned private detective, who has seen it all and very much wants to find out what exactly happened to Julie Capsom. The two, while not necessarily actual friends, are certainly acquaintances, and very competitive, but ultimately are willing to put their prejudices and feelings aside to work with each other towards this common goal.

Arden podcast is extremely well produced with limited but key sound effects, music that goes well with the dialog and moves the story along. The two main characters – Bea (performed by Michelle Agresti) and Brenda (performed by Tracey Sayed) – have a rapport and dynamic that is unique and special, and at the same time like any well-performing duo. The delivery of the lines, the acting, and the way they feed off each other is hilarious and makes the listener stop whatever they’re doing just to focus. Along with the rest of the cast, every actor is strong and compelling, so there is never a dull moment.

And to “cap(som)” it all off, Wheyface Industries – “the good people” – who owns the radio station and a good chunk of Hollywood, cuts in with some very interesting advertisements in each episode, such as an ad for Wheyface Industries itself [Arden Wheyface Industries Sound File], or the Wheyface Industries Dehydrated Drinks for Adults [Arden Dehydrated Drinks Sound File], or the new dating app Wheydate [Arden Wheydate Sound File].

In the style of the Amelia Project, A Very Fatal Murder, and The After Disaster Broadcast, Arden Podcast is an enthralling murder mystery that has ample humor and a dynamic cast that will leave you wanting more at the end of every episode. Do yourself a favor and download and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.

Alex’s Best Podcasts of 2018

I started listening to podcasts over five years ago, so narrowing down a best-of list is never easy, though I decided to make it a little easier by only picking shows that started in 2018.

By Alex C. Telander

I started listening to podcasts over five years ago. I began getting hooked on audio dramas around three years ago with the likes of Welcome to Night Vale, The Black Tapes, The Message, and Limetown. Since then I’ve had a continuously growing download list of audio dramas that seems to increase every week. Some shows I try and they don’t grab me; others I hang on for a while and then they lose me and I stop listening; and then there are the many that I devoutly wait for a new episode to drop each week.

The hashtag #audiodramasunday helps me a lot in finding new shows and makes me look forward to every Sunday, and not just because it’s a guaranteed day off from work for me: Creators and fans recommending on Twitter are a big way I discover and try out new shows. It helps that podcasts are a booming media and there are new shows starting every week.

Narrowing down a best-of list is never easy, though I decided to make it a little easier by only picking shows that started in 2018.

A little easier.

So here, in order of when they debuted, are my top six podcasts of 2018 (because I couldn’t get it down to a nice five).

“Desperate to find meaning in his life, troubled Matthew Leads takes a job as the caretaker of an Antarctic Research Facility. An atmospheric isolation horror following his struggles with mental illness, a broken heart and the suffocating presence of Station Blue.”

Created, written, and directed by Chad Ellis, who also voices the main character, Station Blue is a haunting show on many levels. Both the imagery and the tone of the show are icy and cold that helps to create an evocative atmosphere. There is of course the terror-filled nature of a man alone at an Antarctic Research Facility surrounded by miles and miles of ice and no other human beings, but the underlying subject the show wrestles with is mental illness.

Leads has never had anything come easy to him in his life, and to say he’s gone through a lot of shit doesn’t do it justice. Ellis imbues the character with life and empathy that leave the listener often moved to tears in his portrayal. With plans for two more seasons, I look forward to seeing where this show takes its characters (and me) next.

“A city of nightmares, horrors and shifting streets. I Am In Eskew is a fortnightly horror podcast, taking place in a nightmarish and ever-changing city. This show contains frequent scenes of body horror, bloodiness, and disturbing behaviour.”

When I listen to I am in Eskew, I am reminded of the “Hotel California” lyric: “You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave.” There is no place like Eskew, where every horror you can imagine comes alive and is possibly waiting for you around the next corner, or behind the next door. It’s a town where it always seems to be raining and you never want to end up in. It is the story of David Ward who is stuck in Eskew and must live its everyday horrors. A British audio drama that not only features familiar English weather, but a sense of supernatural horror that fans of the late bestselling author James Herbert will appreciate.

“We Fix Space Junk follows seasoned smuggler Kilner and reluctant fugitive Sam, as they travel the galaxy, carrying out odd jobs on the fringes of the law.”

Another engaging and very entertaining British audio drama, We Fix Space Junk has the whole package, from a great logo and catchy sound effects and theme music, to impressive acting, and a great storyline that gives listeners an unpredictable episode every two weeks. Kilner and Sam get up to all sorts of adventures across the universe, working for the omnipresent and domineering Automnicon. It’s a fun show that always leaves listeners endlessly amused.

“A podcast about podcasting”

Wil Williams (if you’re a podcaster and you don’t know who she is, you are seriously missing out and need to get that fixed right away) and Gavin Gaddis (The Pod Report, Red Light Library, Standard Docking Procedure) teamed up in the spring of 2018 to do a podcast about podcasting, which doesn’t begin to cover the depth and insight this show reaches.

With 20 episodes in the can, Tuned in Dialed Up runs the gamut from “Spoilers Ahoy!” episodes, to numerous featured guests (the likes of Lizette Alvarez, Elena Fernandez-Collins, and Erin Kyan), to incredibly important episodes on casting calls to ethics in podcasting to monetization.

Sometimes TIDU can get dark and bleak, but that’s because sometimes podcasting needs to, to talk about incredibly important subjects from trans representation, how creators should treat fans and how fans should treat creators, to listeners and actors with disabilities. I avidly await each new episode TIDU, because I always know I’m going to learn a lot.

“Arden Podcast: Arden is a scripted audio drama that’s both mystery and comedy. The 12 episode first season follows Bea Casely, a journalist, and Brenda Bentley, a detective, as they work together to solve the 10-year-old disappearance of starlet Julie Capsom.”

Definitely one of the highlights of the year for me. The Arden Podcast began with the tagline “Serial Meets Moonlighting,” and recently wrapped up its first season (yes, you do find out what happened to Julie Capsom). Bea (performed by Michelle Agresti) and Brenda (Tracey Sayed) have a rapport and dynamic together that is up there with Cagney and Lacey and Kirk and Spock. Timeless and forever entertaining.

Humor is always present to add a levity to the grim subject, and the sexual tension between the two feels at times veritably palpable. There are plans for another season and I can’t wait to see what case this dynamic duo tackles next.

“Of course there are bad ideas. Like, a lot of them. But any idea can become a good story.”

As a writer, it can feel somewhat condescending to hear bestselling authors talk about writing and how you get it done when they’re not too worried about where next week’s paycheck is coming from. No Bad Ideas is a different sort of writing advice podcast. It features a trio of greats from the hugely (and still) popular Wolf 359: Zach Valenti, Sarah Shachat, and Gabriel Urbina.

The first hour is spent turning a terrible idea scoured from the Internet into a compelling and entertaining (and always amusing) story. The second half of the show has the three talking about the state of their creative endeavors and it is always so insightful and humbling as none of three hold back and confess to fears and worries all writers have on a daily basis.

And there you have my top podcasts for 2018. Have you listened to them all? You should really check them out. Have some favorites of your own from last year? Let me know what they are in the comments below.

Stocking Fillers

Unwind with some amazing yuletide specials from your favorite podcasts!

Stocking Fillers

by Dōhai

It’s that hectic time of year again where all you seem to be doing is running around like a headless turkey looking for those last minute gift ideas for your in-laws. So do yourself a favor… stop.

Take in a deep breath…

Slowly release…

Now put in your earbuds, and let these festive Christmas specials carry you away from all that stress.

Pop into the nearest department store and get them a food hamper full of preserves and a bottle of Prosecco. Job done.


Please feel free to add your favorite Christmas specials in the comments below if it’s not there already for all to enjoy!

We here at Podern Times hope you all have a joyous and peaceful Christmas and wish you all the best for 2019.

The Parsec Awards

So the winners have been announced…

And then there was talk of an award being rescinded, due to “an uncomfortably high amount of emails” regarding one of the recipients and their behavior within the audio drama community.

A letter from the editor:

So the winners have been announced!

And then there was talk of an award being rescinded, due to “an uncomfortably high amount of emails” regarding one of the recipients and their behavior within the audio drama community.

Then of course the Parsec committee decided the award would stand as their task is to judge only the work presented.

This of course led to many in the community to sound out their grievances on social media.

A post from the admin of the Audio Drama Production Podcast Facebook community page explained that they had cause to remove this person from the group in the summer due to his “vitriolic” conduct towards other members of the group.

The person at the sharp end of all this commotion is Edward Champion (The Grey Area), and this is not the first time these charges have been issued.

First in the literary community some years ago, and now here in the audio drama community, many have come forward to give accounts of their dealings with him.

I have personally been witness to quite a lot of his vitriol: I have seen unsolicited emails telling the recipient they should go and seek professional help, as clearly their attitude doesn’t conform with societal norms; I have been sent screenshots of  Facebook and Twitter posts (that have then been rescinded) that use phrases even Donald Trump would blush at; I have heard threats of physical violence at podcast conferences, stalking and intimidation of creators AND their families, and some seriously heinous name calling just because a post wasn’t retweeted! All of this mounting up over the last twelve to eighteen months.

Not only are the community finally calling time on his behavior, but many are also looking to the arguable failings of the Parsec Awards. In their defense, it is made up of volunteers, but there are a number of basic checks and balances that need to be addressed here.

The following is an op-ed from a member of the audio drama community that felt compelled to step up and tell his story, as well as others that came forward in his support. They do so with a calmness that belies the gravity of the issue, something I would not afford it.


#NotMyChampion

If you closely follow the Audio Drama industry, this week has had some surprises. On December 16 The Parsec Awards Committee sent out an email listing their 2018 winners, a little more than 24 hours later they sent a second email stating that they’re deliberating on rescinding an award from a creator, and on December 19 the committee sent a third email stating that they will honor the original recipients and no award will be rescinded.

In the third email, the Award Committee stated:

It is the goal of The Parsecs to judge solely on the merit of the content and not on gender, heritage, religious belief, sexual orientation, politics, or other factors not in the podcast as presented to the audience.”

It didn’t take long for members of the audio drama industry to take to Twitter voicing their concern, and opposition for Parsec’s choice.

In defense of the award committee, they stated quite openly that they’ve never had to handle a situation like this before, and while many will be quick to anger, this seems like an opportune time to educate the audio drama industry as a whole to the repeated actions of a toxic creator. The purpose of this essay isn’t to shame the Parsec Committee, but rather to inform them of the scope of one individual’s harmful actions, and ensure that this creator isn’t able to abuse or harass others in the future.

Before I continue, I’d like to be upfront about a few things. First, this essay is to inform other creators and members of the Audio Drama Industry of the events that have transpired over the course of the last years, and the potential danger of letting these actions go unchecked. Second, I’ve been attacked by the individual in question in the past (I go in detail about this further into the essay). Lastly, I’ve included the accounts of other creators who interacted with the person, some of these accounts will have names tied to them, others will be anonymous as per their wishes.

Finally, before I dive in, I’ve been grappling with how to open this story, or how to begin, and even if I should attach my name to this piece or write under a pseudonym. I might receive flack for this piece, it could be deemed unprofessional and slanderous, it could really come back and hurt me and my loved ones. The person I’m writing about has attacked me in the past, and come after many of my friends and fellow creators. I was on the fence, but after discovering how many people have been attacked, and seeing Parsec’s decision, I’ve decided this story is necessary. I’ve decided the best approach is to speak honestly, and publicly.

For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Pacific Obadiah. I’m a college student and in my free time, I make audio dramas. I’ve been creating audio dramas for almost three years now, with friends I met on my university campus, and fellow creators I met in the audio drama community.

A close friend of mine was excited to see the new Parsec Awards Winners, but when they saw Ed Champion’s name on the list, they knew they had to write to Parsec and inform the committee of the unprofessional manner Champion had interacted with them. My friend then reached out to another person who he knew had negative interactions with Champion, it wasn’t long until several people, myself included, had emailed Parsec expressing their concern over Champion’s award.

Shortly thereafter, a discussion was sparked in a forum for audio drama creators. It was here that I found a surprisingly high number of creators had very negative encounters with Champion.

I first talked with Travis Vengroff about his experience with the award winner. Full disclaimer, Vengroff was nominated in the same category as Champion. Vengroff first met Champion when he put out an all-call for the second season of his show Liberty: Critical Research. Vengroff remarked that

“There was one actor in particular who was a perfect fit for a couple of parts. His name was Ed Champion, and he had a chicken in his recording studio, which I thought was pretty funny ‘cause in some of the outtakes with him he tells his chicken to shut up, which was really ridiculous and funny.”

While things started off well, this didn’t last.

A while after Vengroff and Champion met, Champion launched his own podcast, around the same time Vengroff’s wife, Kaitlin Statz, launched a social media campaign, #ADPodBingo. The purpose of #ADPodBingo was to promote audio drama shows within similar genres, such as Sci-Fi, Horror, or Fantasy. The first few boards became pretty popular, and creators began reaching out to Statz requesting to be on the next board. Champion’s was one of the many requests.

Champion first requested to be apart of the ADPodBingo before his show had launched, having only released the first trailer. Statz decided to focus on shows with released episodes and didn’t include Champion on the next board. A month later the couple released a Sci-Fi themed board, and received a letter from Champion expressing his resentment about not being included on the Sci-Fi board, even though the couple believed Champion’s show (now with only the first episode released) didn’t fall into the Sci-Fi category.

The next board followed another genre, and Champion’s show wasn’t included because his show didn’t fit that genre either. As Travis put it

“Every [board] we did, his show did not meet the genre, and he was upset he was not in it, and eventually he blew up into this Twitter rant about how horrible Kaitlin was, which was upsetting to me, because she’s my wife, and she’s literally done nothing to the guy. [Champion] blew up further and sent [Kaitlin] a really mean-spirited message on Facebook.”

Vengroff messaged Champion and explained to him why he wasn’t included on any of the ADPodBingo boards so far, and despite Champion’s decorum, and attack on Statz, Vengroff tried to clear the air. Everything seemed to be okay until a few weeks later: Champion sent Vengroff a Facebook message, upset that he wasn’t included on another ADPodBingo; This caused Vengroff to block Champion, and later, pushed Vengroff to scrap recordings Champion had created, and recast multiple roles he’d already edited into a then-unreleased podcast.

Similarly, another creator, Lauren Nelson, had a negative interaction with Champion. Nelson first worked with Champion on a side project that later fell to the wayside. Though her interactions with Champion left a bad taste in her mouth, Nelson remarked

“Initially, I wrote off [his] strange behavior as a given when you’re working with creatives. But he was overly familiar, and I should have known better. Knowing more about his history now, I cringe at the memory of sharing personal details with him. I wouldn’t be surprised if he used them against me eventually.”

Nelson likely would have moved on from the whole situation, until the recent series of emails she received from Parsec, and seeing other creators discuss Champion’s actions. Nelson felt moved to take action. As she put it

“I take great pride in crafting a strong female character, and there’s no world in which Addison [The protagonist of Nelson’s show] would approve of me giving someone like Ed a broader platform. I cut ties and made a public apology for not better researching my cast.”

Nelson posted on Facebook, talking about the choice she made to not work with someone who has abused people in the past, and it wasn’t long until Champion messaged her.  

“The reaction was swift. Though I had already planned to write [Champion] out of the show, he sent a threatening email about using his voice. The threats were baseless, but intimidation was the point. I also received a string of text messages, one of which said I was “pure evil.” No idea what will come next.”

Nelson hopes that by speaking out, she’ll save others from Champion’s, and other toxic creators harmful messages.

“I’m hoping that breaking the silence helps others make more informed decisions, and helps keep a community that matters greatly to me a lot safer.”

My own experience with Champion is quite similar to the two aforementioned incidents. Not long ago I was a member of an independent audio drama network, FateCrafters. We were a small and tight-knit group of creators who promoted one another and often collaborated. From time to time, we would open our network to prospective shows looking to join, and during one of our open application seasons, Champion applied to our network.

While my NDA restricts me from talking too much about our process of approving or denying shows, Champion’s show was voted on, and rejected. Shortly after being notified of his rejection, Champion took to Facebook and on both his personal and a group page (both posts are now deleted), he spoke negatively about our network. While I had never had more than brief, and wholly positive interactions with Champion up until this point, after seeing his posts putting down our network, I made the decision to personally stop retweeting Champion’s posts.

Champion reached out to me, asking if I was “… carrying out a FateCrafters omerta against me.” I responded honestly, informing Champion that I did decide to be less vocal in my support of his show after his negative posts, to which Champion responded with a tirade comparing me to a Klansman. For those interested, I’ve included screenshots of our short interaction.

Ed’s first message
Ed’s second message

While my interaction was quite mild (and trust me, this is comparatively mild), not everyone was so lucky.

What perturbed me most was the scrutiny Champion put on our social media interactions. #AudioDramaSunday is a popular hashtag that many fans and creators use on a weekly basis to discover new shows, and it was over the course of a few short weeks that Champion paid close attention to if and how I was interacting with his every post before deciding to confront me, and as I learned, many other creators.

Jeff Van Dreason and Alexander Danner told me of their experience with Champion. They said Champion had messaged them, stating that he noticed they usually liked any post that mentioned their show, but not the posts Champion made. Then Danner said it was like Champion was…

“… counting our Twitter likes to track whether we were paying attention to him or not. I think that was the thing that set him off–we never liked his tweets.”

One day, Van Dreason was commenting on a post in a public forum, and Champion lashed out, claiming Van Dreason never heard his side of the story- It’s worth noting, the original discussion had nothing to do with Champion. Van Dreason decided not to engage. A while later Champion sent a long letter to the creators, Danner said:

“It was like the sort of thing you might send to a former friend who you’d had a bad falling out with if you wanted to salvage the relationship without actually admitting you did anything wrong.”

Van Dreason felt similarly, stating:

His demeanor was as if we were super close friends who had suddenly ghosted him, which of course wasn’t the case. I’m not sure I’d even call him an acquaintance. We spoke very little before all of this, which made the way he was acting out even stranger to us.

Some of these interactions do reach past the screen: one creator told me they opted not to attend a live community event that he had bought plane tickets for after he learned that Champion was going to be in attendance.

I’ve only provided the accounts of a handful of people, but there are many more that Champion has gone after and harassed for matters big and small, or perhaps just because he felt like it. I hope that by publishing this essay, more will stand up and allow their voices to be heard, to hold Champion accountable for his actions. It’s not too late to improve, Ed, but there’s no way you can continue down this road.

It seems Champion feels entitled to the audio drama community as if he deserves the likes, the promotion, and the work. Yet those creators Champion has worked with haven’t been given the respect or professionalism, they deserve. I worry that Champion’s recent laurels will open more opportunities for him, which will lead to his continued harassing of those in this growing industry.

I urge the Parsec Award Committee to put a policy in place to prevent abusers from receiving their award in the future.

Pacific S. Obadiah


Since editing this article, dozens from the audio drama community have taken to social media to publicly announce their stories of harassment, and their regret at not coming forward sooner, including one of the voluntary judges for the Parsec Awards.

This community is a bastion for inclusion, and a powerhouse for social justice. One can only hope that this boil, in it’s relatively young existence doesn’t need lancing again.

How are my Levels?

Auphonic is an online company that has made normalizing and equalizing your audio file as easy as a few clicks, a short wait, and then downloading your perfect sounding audio file.

Podcasting 101: How Are My Levels?

By Alex C. Telander

 

One of the most inviting aspects to making your own podcast is that there’s not really a rule book to follow. There’s no publishing house vetting what type of podcast you want to make, whether you’re doing it right or wrong, and the audio drama community is welcoming and incredibly inclusive and supportive.

So you’ve got your well written script, a variety of impressive sound effects, some great original music, and your talented cast of voice actors spread around the world all with their own microphones. The first episode you’ve just finished putting together sounds great and you feel you’re ready to hit the upload button and make your podcast a reality . . . except you just did a final listen and you noticed not everything is at the same volume.

You’re using three actors in this episode and in the dialog scenes one person sounds louder than the other; the music is too quiet, and the sound effects are too loud. You just want everything to be at the same level. You’re not really sure how to do this, and definitely not without it taking a long time . . . and you’re exhausted. You’ve been working your butt off the whole last week and you’ve got to be in to work early tomorrow. So what can you do? Enter Auphonic.

Auphonic Productions is an online company that has made normalizing and equalizing the many parts of your audio file as easy as a few clicks or taps, a short wait, and then downloading your perfect sounding audio file. And the real awesome thing about it is it’s basically free.

Auphonic was started by founder Georg Holzmann when he was at university, working on audio processing, signal processing, and audio engineering. He had been listening to a lot of podcast creators telling him the most difficult part is always the audio post-production. Holzmann started working with a podcast creator, looking to ‘automate his work flow’ and make the post-production easier. He worked on creating elaborate algorithms, especially with [the] adaptive leveler, which matches the loudness of different parts of a podcast, as well as developing other tools involving encoding, tagging, and the distribution of the podcast.

Holzmann decided to make a product out of it and applied for a grant in Austria, where he’s based, and formed a team. The first version of Auphonic was released in 2012 and was originally completely free, but once the grant expired, it was necessary to introduce a pricing model.

The beauty of Auphonic is you can create an account for free, and by doing so you automatically get two hours of free audio processing time per month. There’s a lot you can do with the many settings of this free account, but I’m going to concentrate on a quick and easy overview for now.

Auphonic’s Goal

The goal of Auphonic is to automate all the audio post-production once you have your music and dialog recorded, as well as making the steps after the audio recording is complete easy and efficient. The adaptive leveling algorithm classifies different segments for different speakers, as Holzmann explains, creating a balance between the speech and music parts, and when the two are playing together, “otherwise one would destroy the inner dynamic of the music.”

Auphonic is looking to make it so none of the post-production audio work needs to be done manually. It has also expanded its capabilities to include working with audio not just in podcasting, but also with radio stations, conference recordings, lecture recordings, and even television and film. Pretty much wherever dialog is mixed with music, Auphonic can be used.

Ever since its release, Auphonic has become a popular audio editing program to use, whether it’s with the online version, or the desktop app version. Users range into the hundreds of thousands.

Auphonic Quick and Easy

So you’ve got your free account all set up, you’re ready to make the most of your two hours of processing time, and you just want to make that first episode sound balanced and even. Where do you start?

You go into the New Production menu. Choose what file you wish to upload. Make sure ‘Leveler’ and ‘Loudnorm’ boxes are checked, choose your Loudness Target – there’s a setting for Podcasts and Mobile – and hit Start Production. And that’s pretty much it. You’ve done the hard work. The next screen shows an upload bar, as it uploads your audio file, and depending on its length this can take a couple minutes at most.

Then you wait a little longer. You can close the screen if you want and you’ll get an email when you’re audio file is all ready to download. A few minutes later you’re following the link to the page with a clear download link for your audio file. And below that is a cool looking graph showing where the volume was raised and lowered in your audio file. You can even click on an option to see the original version superimposed over the new one to show what was changed.

That’s it. Download your file and you’re ready to go. You can relax, knowing you’re audio now sounds leveled and great.

Auphonic’s Advanced Parameters

There’s a lot more you can do with Auphonic depending on your experience level and comfort with audio processing. The beauty of the program lies in the interface: you have the option of a very simple and clean layout that’s quick and easy to use, or a much more in depth display where you can customize exactly how you want your audio processed.

Firstly, your file can be either audio or video (here is a list of all the supported audio and video file types for Auphonic).

When uploading your file, you can choose to upload your audio via your computer or device, or via a website. You can choose a specific intro/ outro to add to the beginning/ end of your audio file through the same upload methods.

The next category is Basic Metadata, where you can choose the title for your audio file and select a file image to upload that will be attached to it permanently, along with details such as Artist, Album, and Track. Extended Metadata lets you create a subtitle, choose a genre and year, and create a Summary. After that you can add details about the publisher, URL, license, license URL, and Tags. You even have the option to create your own license.

Next section is Chapter Marks, where you can either import specific chapter marks that you already have in your audio file, or add your own. Once this has been done you can choose what format you want the final version of your audio file to be, along with choosing the Bitrate, adding a Filename Suffix if needed, as well as a few more tweaks.

There is also a handy section on Speech Recognition, which offers affordable speech recognition in 80 languages. You can register a speech recognition service and get it added easily; more can be found out about that here. Publishing/External Services such as Dropbox, YouTube, SoundCloud, and Libsyn (to name a few) can also be registered and added.

The final section, and perhaps most important, is the Audio Algorithms section. There are six options to play with in this category; the first four can be checked or unchecked, while the last two can be adjusted with a drop-down menu.

Adaptive Level: Corrects level differences within one file between speakers, music and speech, etc. to achieve a balanced overall loudness.

Filtering: Classifies the lowest wanted signal (male/female speech, base in music, etc.) and adaptively filters unnecessary/disturbing low frequencies in each audio segment.

Loudness Normalization: Adjusts the global, overall loudness to the specified Loudness Target (using a True Peak Limiter), so that all processed files have a similar average loudness.

Noise and Hum Reduction: Classifies regions with different backgrounds and automatically removes noise and hum in each region.

Loudness Target: Set a loudness target in LUFS for Loudness Normalization, with higher values resulting in louder audio outputs.

Reduction Amount: Maximum noise and hum reduction amount (in dB), with higher values removing more noise. In Auto mode, a classifier decides if and how much noise reduction is necessary (to avoid artifacts).

When I’m using Auphonic for adjusting audio files for Ostium I have all four options checked, with Loudness Target set to -16 LUFS (Podcasts and Mobile) and the Reduction Amount set to ‘Auto.’ And when I download the edited audio file, it sounds just perfect.

Auphonic Range

If you find that the two free hours per month for your audio work is not enough, there are two main options you can choose to add more time: you can pay a monthly, recurring fee of $11 for 9 hours, or $23 for 21 hours, or even higher totals of hours depending on what works best for you. Alternatively, you can get one-time credits of 5 hours for $12, 10 hours for $22, and a number of higher options. And if you’re looking for some Auphonic software to acquire and download, such as desktop apps, there are options for that too, which can be found here.

Auphonic Future

For the future, the team behind Auphonic is looking to build new leveling algorithms, with more detailed parameter settings, as well as building new desktop applications. They’re looking to develop the levelers to be more universal and not limited to just podcasts or speech audio. They are really looking to push the audio envelope: to work on improving and creating new things with audio.

Whether you’re a professional sound engineer or a complete novice when it comes to things that make noises, I definitely think you can’t go wrong with choosing Auphonic to magically make your work sound great.

PodernTimes and Alex C. Telander are not sponsored by Auphonics in any way.

PatreCon 2018

Chad Ellis went along to PatreCon 2018 to learn more about monetizing and gaining financial independence through your art.

PatreCon 2018

By Chad Ellis

So two weeks ago I was at PatreCon 2018 in Los Angeles, and as the name suggests this is a conference hosted by Patreon. It first kicked off back in 2016, with the aim of bringing creators together in a collaborative and educational way, to help everyone grow and build creative and financial independence for their projects.

The 3-day, invite-only conference was a relaxed mixture of lectures and workshops that ran from the 1st to the 3rd of November. Aimed at giving you the skills, tools, and mindset to take your creative business to the next level. To build alternative monetization streams, hiring and support for your workforce, and much more, all through the lens of industry experts and peers who have walked the walk.

With almost fifty speakers, a mix of Patreon staff and creative peers such as Amanda McLoughlin, Broke-Ass Stuart, Bryanda Law, Jackson Bird, Steven Ray Morris, Lauren Shippen, and Zach Valenti to mention just a few, you can imagine not only did we get some great insight into raising up our products, but had great fun at the same time.

PatreCon was as inspiring as it was unexpected for me. I first heard of it from some guests at my Halloween party, and after an entire articles worth of serendipity, dive bars and roof top haunts I had an invitation from Julia Schifini of the Multitude collective. I arrived with the intention of capping off a wild week by hanging out with some podcast friends, and I walked away with a fundamentally changed viewpoint of the relationship between creator and fan.

How do you get paid as a creator?

It’s a difficult concept for a lot of us to wrap our head around. There’s impostor syndrome (why would somebody want to pay for something I made?), there’s over politeness (I can’t ask people for money), there’s self limitation (I’m already making $100 a month, it can’t go higher than that!) It’s difficult to value our work when we’ve grown up in a culture that only values art that’s already successful. One minute we’re tripping over ourselves to get a picture with a celebrity, the next we’re asking the person who says they’re trying to make it as an actor what their day job is, as if they are defined by the thing that pays the bills.

Let me set the scene. You enter one of the most Blade Runner looking buildings in Los Angeles holding a box of donuts. The donuts are important. You pass couples pushing strollers and rocking baby bjorns, turns out there’s a New Parent convention going on in the upper levels. You’re directed down a staircase to the basement. What could easily be a sterile, windowless environment is lit up in gentle reds and blues.

You almost collide with a familiar face. Parasocially familiar. It’s the star of that one YouTube series your best friend is a fan of. They comment on the donuts. You walk by a wall covered in the stages of the creative journey. You see a list of events. They say things like “Building Community” and “Navigating Financial Independence”. You take in the event space, the perfect amount of room for just over 300 people. Their badges all read the same thing. “Creator”.

This is PatreCon. A place for established creators to speak honestly and intimately about every aspect of existing as a Capitol P Person on the internet, and getting paid while doing it.

I found my people in the corner, other figures in the Audio Drama world. Creators, writers and actors of shows like Ars Paradoxica, The Far Meridian, Tides, Bright Sessions and Wolf 359. I exchanged hugs and set down the donuts. They had so much to tell me. There was a guy who made a suit that plays music based on your movement. There was a woman who’s making a podcast reviewing all of English apocalyptic fiction in chronological order. Zach Valenti is typing notes on this wild retro-future keyboard.

The donuts start to work their magic. A stranger eyes them. You gesture to the open box. They come over and introduce themselves, followed by the go to question of the weekend. “What do you create?” This happens again and again. Ice broken. You’re ready to dig in to the Con.

Between panels, workshops, and talking with other creators there was a lot to take in over the weekend, so I’d like to share my biggest takeaways with you, and after that, there’s a link at the bottom to Patreon’s YouTube channel that has over seven hours of video content from the conference.

“Your 1,000 most hardcore fans”.

A popular topic of conversation from a panel the day before. The idea is that in a world of several billion people there are 1,000 fans who would pay you $100 a year to create what you wanted to create; you just need to find them.

For people who don’t want to do the math, that will net you $100,000 a year, a seemingly unattainable amount of money… until you start breaking it down.

On an individual level $100 a year is just over $8 a month. And most creators don’t need $100,000 a year. Could you find 500 of your biggest fans? 250? I’ve always assumed I’d need to reach a small countries worth of people to make any kind of creative living. Now I’m focusing on reaching that one fan at a time and providing them with attractive Patreon perks to stick around.

“Let people give you money. Don’t limit yourselves.”

Hanging out with other creators doing completely different work and reaching completely different fan bases definitely stretched my idea of support potential. It’s not up to you to decide what other people spend their money on. And if they want to give some of that money to you? You should let them. Patrons were giving one guy I met $5,000 to write a daily fiction story online. A YouTuber I met makes 2-3 no frills videos a month and has thousands of Patrons. I’m not saying that you’ll make a solid living off of Patreon. I am saying that there are no rules, and there might be a lot more people out there who will happily throw you a few bucks a month if they like what your doing. Let them.

“Be true to yourself. Niche is good.”

Sounds a bit cliche but it’s the best thing you can do to build a dedicated fan base. I follow my favorite creators works no matter what they’re making. A book? I’ll read it. A video? I’ll watch it. A podcast? I’m already listening. You’re not going to get that kind of following if you’re constantly chasing what you think will be successful instead of making the thing that you really want to make. The creators I met at PatreCon were passionate about the often very niche thing they were making. Your values come through in all of your work, your fans will identify with those values and the hardcore fans will follow your lead.

“Pay attention to the cost/benefit of what you’re offering”

Creating a thing is a lot of work. Adding more to that thing could lead to burn out, and it might not even be helping you that much. Are your Patreon rewards sustainable? Do they get in the way of making your main thing? Are they attracting new Patrons?

What about merchandise? I really want to make enamel pins for my show, but the minimum order costs hundreds of dollars. Am I reliably going to sell all of those pins and make my money back? I have a great idea for a shirt but that art for it will cost me $90. Am I confident that I will be able to sell enough shirts to cover the costs of making them?

Some people like paying for signal boosts on platforms like Instagram or Facebook. How many people are you reaching with that boost? How many of those people are likely to turn in to fans? Is there a better way you can spend that money?

One size does not fit all, an effective strategy for you will likely differ from your peers. It’s good to check in every few months to make sure you and your Patrons are getting the most out of your relationship.

“You have value. Your work has value.”

My musician friends are often baffled by the kind of support people can pull independently via something like Patreon. In the words of my roommate, you grow up thinking that you don’t have any value until a Label picks you up and decides you’re worth investing in. It took attending PatreCon to shake him out of this mindset. And it’s a difficult thing to shake. Later on in the Con he commiserate with Jack Conte, a musician and the founder of Patreon. Jack shook his head and said “Yeah. I hate that”.

A screenwriter doesn’t need to wait for a show to pick them up. An actor doesn’t need to wait for a Director to cast them. And a musician doesn’t need to wait for a label. We’re living in a time where you can build a direct relationship with your audience and where that audience can support you. It’s not easy, but the power is yours. You just need to figure out how to reach them.

The convention ended with a great big party, the perfect way to spend time with the people we had met over the weekend. The question of “what do you create?” persisted at the open bar and between sessions at the photo booth, but now the conversation went beyond that: how are we going to apply what we’ve learned? So while creators piled into the Karaoke room to belt Bohemian Rhapsody, I walked away with a lot of changes in mind for my own Patreon.

 

I hope that this overview has given you some food for thought for your project, and if you need some more convincing, or just want to watch some really insightful and motivating video, then check out their video contributions of the conference on YouTube!