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Friday, July 20, 2007

AMP'd Off!

If you're a podcast listener (not just Average Joe Radio, but any podcast), then you've possibly heard mention of the term New Media . It basically refers to the craze to put content on the Internet, where listeners can download what they want when they want and listen whenever they want as often as they want. It includes such things as Leo Laporte's TWiT network, the Podsafe Music Network, and, really, almost any podcast you can find in iTunes.

New Media is supposed to be all the rage. It's supposed to be this great new way that independent content producers can distribute their shows over the Internet to the entire world. It should mean that we can find more interesting content whenever we want, without the constraints of being forced to tune in to our favorite TV show when the networks decide to air it. It means that even an Average Joe like myself can share his thoughts (and some great music) with anyone willing to listen without the high costs associated with traditional media.

Yeah, right.

I recently sent a request for membership to the Association of Music Podcasters, an organization that I guess is supposed to help promote New Media through supporting music podcasters and independent musicians. When they receive a request for membership (which isn't free), they ask other members to review the podcast content of the requester and make recommendations about membership. Yesterday I received this response (all spelling and grammatical errors from the original email):


I'm sorry to inform you that you application to the Association of Music Podcasters has not met the requirements needed for membership at this time.  Current members have reviewed your podcast and found that it did not fulfill the standards that AMP represents.

Reviewers came to this decision based on the quality of your podcast.  AMP strives to offer great music as well as podcasts with good production quality.  The audio quality of the music you play might be O.K., but members often cited that your vocals being the main source of their decision. 

You can submit another application for AMP membership at a later time when you feel like you have altered your podcast enough to warrant a re-review.  However, at this time, your podcast will not be considered for membership to the Association of Music Podcasters.

Good luck on future endeavors with your podcast.

AMP Membership Coordinator

Now, to be honest, I expected such a response. Why? Because my podcast is not a professional quality podcast (oxymoron, paradox -- but more on that later). I'm an Average Joe, and Average Joe Radio is an Average Joe's podcast -- something that anyone with the desire to share their thoughts and some great music should be able to do from the comfort of their own home. That's what podcasting is supposed to be all about.

They say "the audio quality of my music might be OK." The music I feature comes from several sources:
These are all sources providing professional quality independent music. These are musicians, as good as anyone you can hear on the radio today (better, in most cases). You won't find higher quality music anywhere. But this, AMP says, "might be OK" quality.

They also cited my "vocals being the main source of their decision." Fine. You know, I can deal with that. Because my "vocals", as they call it (commentary), is of average audio quality . I am damn proud of that! That's what makes me the Average Joe podcaster. Because I'm average. Unlike many, many other podcasters (I won't share with you my opinion of any other podcasters specifically, just in general terms), I didn't go out and spend hundreds to thousands of dollars on professional recording equipment, mixers, and boom mikes. I didn't build little sound boxes to put my fancy, expensive mike (I don't have one) in to make my voice sound radio quality when I record. I don't have a special room in my home designated as my "studio" to record on. I don't pay high hosting costs to cover the bandwidth to share my content with my listeners.

I record Average Joe Radio on equipment that any average American would have access to
. I use a handheld recording device and record in WAV format. I then import my commentary and the music into Audacity for mixing, editing, and encoding in MP3 format, using a Windows Vista notebook computer. I then upload my music for free hosting to the Internet Archive, and post my show notes at Average Joe Radio using Blogger -- all for free. Anyone with a computer and an Internet connection can produce their own podcast, just as I do.

And what really strikes me as funny is this: I listen to other music podcasts from at least five members of the Association of Music Podcasters:
All five of these podcasters use professional quality equipment in a specially designated studio to produce their shows. Both Rich Palmer and Matthew Ebel are musicians, and it is understandable that they would have professional quality recording and mixing equipment already available for use in their podcasts. C.C. Chapman runs a media company, and it's understandable that he might have such equipment. P.D. Love produces several podcasts, and Ed Roberts at least two. But all of the five listed above put out their show on such an erratic timeline that listeners never know when to look for the next episode (Thank God for RSS, or they wouldn't have any listeners). They have all gone at least a month between shows some time during the past year. Most of them frequently go more than a week between shows.

Again, I'll make some exceptions for some of them. Matthew Ebel (whose music and podcast I thoroughly enjoy) is currently on tour, and it's understandable that his show would be irregular at this time. Rich Palmer has frequently said that his podcast will not be produced on a regular basis because he highlights independent musicians who are not getting the publicity from the sites I mentioned earlier, and it can take time to find and coordinate schedules with the artists. As for the others mentioned above, I cannot remember when I last heard an episode of their shows in which they didn't apologize profusely for their lack of timeliness in making the episode available . They blame it on summer, family obligations, business obligations, equipment problems, and whatever else they can think of at the time. I ask you, when was the last time you didn't find a new episode of Average Joe Radio or Song of the Day on your music player? My show is up consistently, and has been, since it's inception on January 1.

But that's not all. More than one of the podcasters I mentioned above (sorry, guys) will tend to babble on like an idiot talking about things that I can't imagine anyone else possibly caring about. They fill their shows with commercial fodder about events for podcasters and the like. You rarely hear a promo played on Average Joe Radio, and when you do, it's in support of another great podcast I enjoy, or an independent musician. Unless you choose to subscribe to my show using the podshow feed (which I don't recommend and only use to increase public awareness of the show), you will never hear the annoying pre-roll ads that Podshow forces into the shows of all the podcasters they host. I recently listened to an episode of one of the above listed podcasts, and fully the first two minutes were nothing but pre-rolls, ads, and affiliation announcements.

Affiliation announcements? Here's where the oxymoron or paradox I mentioned earlier comes in. I am an independent podcaster. I play independent music. Many podcasters join associations (like AMP). All of those mentioned above have done just that. How can you be both independent and affiliated with an association at the same time? By definition, if you're affiliated with an association related to what you do, you are no longer independent. You are affiliated. You are associated. But you are definitely not independent.

So New Media is quickly going the way of traditional media. With the exception of the factor of availability (which they now call "time-shifting"), you can't tell much difference between the radio (traditional media) and most music podcasters (so-called new media). They have the same expensive, high-quality audio gear. They play equally annoying promos. They babble on about nonsense. And somehow, they seem to attract listeners.

At the same time, I record an Average show for the Average Joe. I don't waste your time with mindless drivel and annoying promos. I deliver great music and interesting commentary . I even have contest sponsored by such great artists as William Brooks, Dead Rock West, the Truckee Brothers, Mike Errico, and Jeremy Rowe. If the audio quality of the commentary doesn't meet up to your standards, please, don't listen.

As for the other 200+ regular daily listeners who enjoy Average Joe Radio, thank you! I hope you'll keep listening.

Please send me your comments, via email to , via phone at 206-600-4JOE, or via voicemail using the Odeo recorder to the right.

Thanks! And thank you, AMP, for keeping me independent!



Anonymous said...

Heya, Joe... thanks for the interesting commentary and critique. I see your point on many of the issues you stated.

A couple of clarifications for you. Accident Hash WAS a member in the very early days of AMP, but he chose to leave the organization for his Podshow affiliation. He's not been in the organization for quite a long time.

High Orbit is not an AMP member show. The list of current member shows can be found at

You are correct in the statement that I do not produce my show regularly. I used to do a weekly show. I saw the quality degrading, the type of content less than consumable and VERY LOW numbers of subscribers and listeners. My show was just not reaching people. I didn't see that as a benefit to the artists that invested their time with me, so I changed my biz model.

Since taking time between shows (yes, sometimes over a month) I've seen individual show numbers quadruple. I've seen that 80% of my show deliveries are to subscribers of the feed. And, I've had feedback from the artists that listeners are indeed contacting them to say how much they enjoy the music and to thank them for being a guest on Audio Gumshoe. This has resulted in song and CD sales. Ultimately, I'm meeting my mission for the show.

I agree... some people have higher quality standards and some have higher quality equipment. You would be surprised just how rustic my setup actually is. I do have a high quality mic (Audio Technica AT4040), but it isn't up to most studio standards for recording musicians. My FX rack consists of two items: A very old Alesis Microverb III and an ART SC2 compressor/noise gate. Almost all of my production is done within a very out-dated version of Cool Edit Pro. My "studio" is a hijacked bedroom in my house without sound dampening or partitions. I channel my mic and fx through a $100 Yamaha MG 10/2 mixer.

I've found that my sound quality on my show is no more improved in many ways since the days of using my $88 Behringer B2 mic fed straight through an Edirol sound capture card. Regardless, I can get, what I think, are some high quality recordings with a bit of sweat equity and finesse.

Anyway, keep up the good work on your show. I do listen in from time to time, but don't have the time to consume every episode of every weekly show. (I don't believe the majority of my listeners could, either. Especially if they were consuming a number of other shows.)

And, don't sweat the AMP declination at this time. I'm a regular participant to the group's review process -- and we DO have some high standards. It's not for everybody for many reasons. I wouldn't expect it to be such. And, based on your comments about why you are happy to be "Average Joe" it wouldn't make sense for you to dilute your process just to be a member of an association. It sounds like you have a good biz model of your own. Keep it up and continue to enjoy the fact that you can, indeed, produce a show -- as can anybody with the desire to do so.

Finally, thanks VERY much for playing my music on your show from time to time. It is absolutely and greatly appreciated.

Average Joe American said...

Thanks so much, Rich Palmer, for your greatly appreciated comments! I made an audio feed of my post that will be on the site tomorrow. While recording that file I realized that maybe Matthew Ebel wasn't a member of AMP, and said so.

Your comments, insight, and understanding are very much appreciated. Just to be clear, I never intended any negativity toward your show. As I said, you have frequently stated that you don't produce a regularly scheduled show for what I think are good reasons.

I very much enjoy the five shows that I mentioned (and appeared to slam) in my post. I mainly mentioned them for contrast.

Thanks again, for your comments, your great show, and your great music!


C.C. Chapman said...

Very interesting commentary. Just wanted to fix a couple of things you got wrong.

a. I'm not a member of AMP.
b. I wish I had my own studio. I record on my desktop PC with a mixer, microphone and CastBlaster that cost me all total $200 in my home office.

GLSmyth said...

Joe -

The vetting process is one that was decided upon long ago to ensure that anyone listening to a podcast that was associated with the Association of Music Podcasting would achieve a certain set of standards. One thing that was not in the email that was sent to you (and should have - I will see that this happens in the future), was an offer to help you improve your show so that it would meet the standards. It was determined that the vocal quality did not meet the quality we felt was necessary, but we should have extended a hand to help in this regard. If you have the sound you wish then you should keep it, as nobody should be telling you how to produce your show. However, if you feel that you would like to improve the quality then there are numerous individuals who are members and would be willing to assist. FWIW, the microphone I am using cost $45 on eBay and I have used it for well over 100 Eclectic Mix shows and 160 One Minute How-To shows. There is definitely no reason to spend hundreds of dollars on equipment to produce a quality show, many of us just cannot afford that. However, there are small dollar investments that the average person probably can afford that will dramatically improve their show's quality.

As far as being independent is concerned, I just have a different spin on that. AMP understands that members wish to be as independent as possible, so the choice of music has never been an issue. The only requirement we have is to place a link to AMP on your website/blog and play a 10 second AMP bumper somewhere in your show (I place it at the end). True, this means that there are minimal requirements, but the idea is to promote one another, promote music podcasting, and promote the artists. By joining an association with that as part of their mission statement (, you are strengthening your own show, which of course starts the circle of support over again. It is my opinion that one can remain independent as long as any requirements being placed on their show does not take anything away from it. The choices remain all yours.

So I apologize for the email not extending a helping hand to you. If you still have an interest then we would be willing to work with you to improve things to the point where the quality would meet our standards. We have done this in the past with other podcasts, and as I look at the long list of other shows that have been turned down for membership, I would tell you that you certainly are not the first to receive such a letter.

Cheers -


Graham Holland said...

Hi Joe,

I understand what you're saying about just being an Average Joe doing a podcast the way you want to do it. However, when I listened to the show I was put off by the audio quality of the spoken sections. You said "If the audio quality of the commentary doesn't meet up to your standards, please, don't listen." For me this is a shame. Yours is the kind of podcast I listen to on a regular basis, and I'd listen to yours if the sound was better.

You seem to be under the impression that AMP requires its members to have professional quality sound from high-spec setups. This couldn't be further from the truth. You don't have to spend a fortune or build your own recording studio to get a good quality sounding podcast. My mic cost £20 and is fed straight into an IBM ThinkPad laptop. As for the rest of my expensive gear... I paid for Castblaster because I wanted to record live (rather than record then edit), and I pay Libsyn for my hosting. Er... and that's it.

Averge Joe Radio is what podcasting and new media is all about. You play great music, and you have plenty of interesting things to say. I sincerely hope you can solve the mic problem and re-submit to AMP. You'd certainly get my vote if you did.


Average Joe American said...

Graham (et. al.),

Thank you all for your feedback and input. Maybe I was a little too hasty in my criticism of AMP and defense of the quality of my audio.

I do, in fact, have a USB microphone now that should give me quite acceptable quality audio throughout my show. The mic will make it's debut in episode 35. I hope you'll tune in and listen again.