Sex and Podcasting — my new podcasting gizmo

I'm late into the game — podcasting's 5 months old, but I'm there now.

This blog has been neglected for the last couple weeks while I've been getting things pulled together, but I'm there now and this is an entry to record what I've learned.

I’m late into the game — podcasting’s 5 months old, but I’m there now.

This blog has been neglected for the last couple weeks while I’ve been getting things pulled together, but I’m there now and this is an entry to record what I’ve learned. It’s going to be another really long one, so I’ll put topic headers and keywords (for Google) “above the fold” and leave the gory details for the “read more” section…

Sex and Podcasting — what it’s about, why I’m doing it, why I transmogrified Lorenzo’s “Sex and Broadcasting” book title into my site’s name, plus some of the interesting current developments in the podcast world like Adam Curry’s Podshow.com.

Licensing — I’m going to play RIAA licensed music. At least I think so… This section is where I’ll explore the differences between ASCAP/BMI performance rights licenses, Harry Fox Agency mechanical rights licenses and SoundExchange federal copyright licenses and how I’ve decided to proceed — the short version is; I’ve got a BMI license for the performance rights, and will work with Harry Fox on mechanical rights when they decide what to do.

Equipment — hardware/software plus construction. I got a couple cool new toys — some nice mics plus a really neat Marantz PMD660 digital recorder (which i wound up getting in preference to the Edirol R1).

To learn more…

Sex and Podcasting

I’m a community radio guy from way back in the days of the formation of The National Federation of Community Broadcasters. A little known fact is that I was the first President of the federation — my term lasted about 10 minutes until we realized that it would be better politics if we had a woman President and elected Nan Rubin instead.

One of the folks that propelled us forward was Lorenzo Milam, pictured there in a pose that doesn’t surprise anybody who knows him well. Lorenzo wrote a book called Sex and Broadcasting which captured a lot the spirit of what we were all trying to do — and encapsulated a lot of the ideas that he was trying to impress on us. Heck, I’m in there somewhere…

My Sex and Podcasting site is about a lot of the same stuff — exploring how the Internet changes community “radio” while some of the core lessons/values remain the same. For those of you who have eyebrows up at your hairline – I checked with Lorenzo to see if I could use the name.

Very recently podcasting has started to see the emergence of “commercial podcasting” in Adam Curry’s PodShow site, and “Christian podcasting” in Fr. Roderick Vonhogen’s GodShow site. So why not a place for “community podcasters” to hang out and do their stuff, eh? That’s what Sex and Podcasting wants to support — community podcasting…

Using Licensed Music in a Podcast

One of the things that makes community radio great is the variety of the music that’s played compared to commercial radio. Lots more variety, lots more ethnic music, etc. I’d like to do the same on Sex and Podcasting, but before I can start I need to get squared away on licensing. I’m in the “pay the musicians” camp. Period. No problems with paying license fees.

So I set out to learn what I ought to do. First stop? ASCAP and BMI the two outfits that you go to in order to get permission from song writers and performers to play their stuff. All is good so far — both of them have licenses that cover small podcasters like me and their rates are very similar (around $290/year) . Here comes the first dilemma — which one to subscribe to? They both basically cover the waterfront so I decided to go with one — at least for a while. Normally, I’d go with ASCAP because it’s owned by the artists whereas BMI is owned by the broadcast industry — but ASCAP has this horrible, paper-based (you know, pen? ink? print-out? fold up? put in envelope? stamp? post-box?) process whereas BMI has a (slightly punky) online sign-up/credit-card gizmo. So I went BMI. If ASCAP has an online thingy next year, I’ll consider switching.

But that only gets half the job done — I also need permission from the record labels to include their recordings in my podcasts – and here things get quite murky. The DMCA was written before podcasting had been thought up — and was aimed at “webcasters” — people who basically streamed live ‘casts over the Internet. One outcome of all that was the formation of Sound Exchange, which has the job of issuing licenses and collecting fees from webcasters. BIG fees — like, starting out at $2000/year and heading north from there. Ouch! But, do I fit into the profile of a “webcaster” (streaming a bunch of stuff like a radio station)?

Well, not really — I’m really an “interactive” service. You have to click on the link to get my podcast (or point your aggregator at my XML/RSS feed and let it do the clicking for you). And, when the content gets to your computer, you can manipulate it (unlike a stream). So I’m really more like K-Tel Records, making copies of the songs and making them available for you to download. In that case, what I really need is a “mechanical” license, and the place to go for that is the Harry Fox Agency. I checked out their web site and discovered that, according to their current rates, I’d have to pay almost a dime for each download of each song in my podcasts. YIKES! If I have 5 songs in my podcast, and you download it, it costs me almost 50 cents! Panic time.

So, on March 31, 2005 I let my fingers do the walking and I talked to the (very helpful) folks at Harry Fox. I told them what I wanted to do and asked their advice. The fellow on the other end told me that their publishers (that would be the record companies) are not looking for mechanical licenses from podcasters right now. They’re monitoring what’s going on, and when they have a better feel for the situation, they’ll put together A Plan. But at least for now, I’m ok in their eyes.

WHEW!

Open-source software – makes the for-money stuff look sick

I’ve had as much fun fooling around with the gear as I did doing the home-brew TIVO/PVR project. There’s a lot to rant about, but this post is getting too long, so I’ll hit the high spots. There are two pieces of software that really got me.

The first, Mixxx is just darn nifty DJ mixing software — use it to mix up a brew of your favorite songs, do a mash-up, etc.

But the real star of the show is Audacity. Absolutely phenomenal audio mixing software that makes editing together a podcast something to look forward to. Very intuitive interface, fast as the dickens… Makes me think we could train up a whole generation of community podcasters and have ’em pumping out radio goodness in no time flat.

Hardware

I decided to build a new machine to do the audio work on — none of my machines were less than 3 years old, and none of them have a current-generation CPU, disk drives or memory. So I built up a new machine and stuck are really cool sound card in it — an M-Audio Delta 1010LT 10 external inputs, 6 “internal” inputs and 10 outputs. Amazingly, I’ve filled up all the inputs what with all the hardware and software synths, and a mixer…

But the other cool piece of hardware is a little Marantz PMD 660 digital recorder. No moving parts — writes directly to compact flash so it’s quiet as a mouse. Writes MP3 files in addition to WAV, so the 1 gig CF card gives me 35 hours of recording time at CD quality if I record in mono (great for the interviews) and half of that in stereo.

I have a pair of Marshall MXL 2001s that I used to use for all kinds of stuff, and I dragged them out of retirement for this project. I’m doing the voice work in a huge lively room (an attic, basically) and the room reverb works out pretty well with those mics.

I’m a little chagrined to report that, after all the fussing around building the new computer with the nifty sound card, I’ve wound up doing all the voice recording directly into the digital recorder and only using the big box (and the Audacity software) for cutting the shows together. So all the voice tracks in Sex and Podcasting have traversed the digital recorder on the way to your ears.