best music podcasts

The Best Music Podcasts for the Aspiring Musician

Every musician and their mom has a podcast nowadays. Do a quick Google search of “best music podcasts” and you’ll get a ridiculous number of results. My point: how can you even know where to start?

Start with this post. I’ll direct you to what I think are the best podcasts you should begin with if you’re in the music industry.

In no particular order, our picks for the best music podcasts are:

  1. And the Writer Is…
  2. Song Exploder
  3. The Third Story
  4. Questlove Supreme
  5. Disgraceland
  6. Stay Free: The Story of the Clash
  7. Mogul
  8. Broken Record
  9. Songs and Writers
  10. DIY Musician Podcast
  11. Don’t Keep Your Day Job
  12. Music Production Podcast

Why Music Podcasts?

Out of all the mediums, why should we be listening to music podcasts? Blogs are easy to skim and get the gist of the author’s idea. Well-done videos can be both entertaining and informing. Books are timeless.

So why podcasts?

Well, first, you can listen to a podcast while you’re doing other things. And while it’s true the human brain literally can’t do more than one thing at a time[1], you can do a task that mostly requires bodily movement instead of using brainpower. For example, you can do the dishes, organize your recording studio, or drive somewhere, all while listening to a podcast that helps you become a better musician.

Second, you get tips, advice, and life lessons from artists you’ll probably never speak with in real life. If you think about this, it’s pretty amazing. You can hear directly from Bono and The Edge on how they created one of their tracks. Almost none of us will get the chance to sit down with those two at the local coffeehouse to talk music production. Podcasts offer the unique chance to hear your favorite Songwriters and musicians talk about their creative process.

Third, some podcasts tell stories about past musicians. We can listen to a Journalist or storyteller share about musicians who have risen, fallen, and risen again — and we can learn a lot from another artist’s experiences. And maybe we can avoid similar pitfalls and pursue similar successes.

And lastly, podcasts can encourage us to make better music and more music. There’s something inspiring about hearing an artist’s voice sharing what they know. Plus, if a podcast is done well, it can use the power of music to tap into our emotions, motivating us to keep going.

So here are the best music podcasts for any musician who’s looking to better themselves.

Interviews with Musicians

These podcasts have a host-interviewee setup and feature some of the most talented Songwriters, artists, and Producers today.

And the Writer Is…

Even though ATWI is thought of as a “Songwriter’s podcast,” it’s great for any musician looking for an inspirational story. Each episode, multi-platinum Songwriter Ross Golan talks with his fellow Songwriters about what goes on behind the curtain of the music industry. The Songwriters Golan sits down with include people like Ryan Tedder, Andy Grammar, Teddy Geiger, Charlie Puth, Julia Michael, and a bunch of others[2].

Where you can listen: Apple Podcasts, Stitcher.

Song Exploder

If you love the process of writing and recording, Song Exploder may hook you. As its website says, it’s “a podcast where musicians take apart their songs, and piece by piece, tell the story of how they were made.” It’s hosted and edited by the founder Hrishikesh Hirway. He uses the individual tracks from the song, isolates them, and takes the listener through how the artist put the pieces together. You can hear the breakdown of songs from U2, Fleetwood Mac, The Cranberries, Metallica, Yo-Yo Ma, and so many other super talented folks[3].

Where you can listen: Apple Podcasts, Stitcher.

The Third Story

The Third Story podcast is about “the stories we never tell.” It’s where art meets the craft, where people’s lives meet their professions. Each episode, host Leo Sidran talks with all different types of creative people, many times musicians. It’s meant to compel the rest of us to create stuff. Stories can do that to us — get us moving toward our creative goals[4].

Where you can listen: Apple Podcasts, Soundcloud, Stitcher.

Questlove Supreme

Questlove Supreme, hosted by Questlove, the drummer of The Roots, includes interviews with other artists (not just musicians), conversations about pop culture, and plenty of humor. So far, some of the guests have been Solange, Maya Rudolph, and Q-Tip. Any podcast where you learn while laughing is a keeper, as is this one[5].

Where you can listen: Pandora.

Music Documentaries

These podcasts are in the realm of music history or stories about music. Not only are they interesting, but they’re also inspiring in that they show us how to be and not be a successful musician.

Disgraceland

Using a play on Elvis’ ranch home in Memphis, Disgraceland is all about “musicians getting away with murder,” so to speak. Basically, any time a famous musician falls from grace, it becomes potential material for this podcast. Each episode explores a new and crazy celebrity centered story involving criminal activity. If you like music history, pop culture, and true crime, you’ll probably enjoy these 30-minute stories[6].

Where you can listen: Apple Podcasts, Stitcher.

The DIY Musician Podcast from CD Baby is full of tips for being a musician, mainly focusing on the business and marketing side of things. The hosts, Kevin Breuner (musician/the main host), Chris Bolton (search marketing for the CD Baby), and Chris Robley (co-host/solo artist), take the listener through how to promote your music and just generally keep going.

Stay Free: The Story of the Clash

In Stay Free, you’ll learn a lot about The Clash, but you’ll also learn about Public Enemy, another politically charged and rebellious band. The host, Chuck D., co-founded Public Enemy after seeking to become “the hip-hop version” of The Clash’s drummer. So if punk music is your thing, this podcast is your type of venue[7].

Where you can listen: Spotify.

Mogul

Mogul is the story of hip-hop and the people within those stories. It’s no longer active because the host, Reggie Ossé (AKA Combat Jack), passed away in December 2017 from colon cancer[8]. But, through the handful of episodes they released, Ossé takes the listeners through the life and murder of hip-hop giant Chris Lighty. Lighty managed Missy Elliot, Busta Rhymes, LL Cool J, 50 Cent, and many other Rappers. Sadly, he was found dead in his home in 2012. This podcast is the story of Lighty[9].

Where you can listen: Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher.

Broken Record

Hosted by best-selling Author Malcolm Gladwell, Broken Records is all about the liner notes. For decades, it was the main way (besides the actual music) that people experienced albums. This podcast is trying to relive those days by telling stories of that music. It creates its own liner notes in a way, just in audio format instead of written. Plus, the two people collaborating with Gladwell are Music Producer Rick Rubin and former New York Times Editor Bruce Headlam[10].

Where you can listen: Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher.

Music Tips and Advice

These podcasts get right to the point: how can we musicians be better at what we do? How can we reach our musical goals? They mostly involve one or two hosts talking through an idea, and sometimes they involve an interview with an artist.

Songs and Writers

Songs and Writers is one of the most unique podcasts I’ve heard of in a while. The hosts, alt/folk duo Michael Dale and Tom Harrison, challenge Songwriters to write a song based on instructions they make up. It could be a certain four chords, a lyric, or even just a theme. Then the Songwriters record themselves through each stage of the songwriting process. It sounds like a neat look into the varying ways different Songwriters create music, and something that may be inspirational to you[11].

Where you can listen: Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play.

DIY Musician Podcast

The DIY Musician Podcast from CD Baby is full of tips for being a musician, mainly focusing on the business and marketing side of things. The hosts, Kevin Breuner (musician/the main host), Chris Bolton (search marketing for the CD Baby), and Chris Robley (co-host/solo artist), take the listener through how to promote your music and just generally keep going. Any indie musician should give this podcast a try because we all need to know how to do the no-so-fun stuff[12].

Where you can listen: iTunes, Stitcher.

The Music Production Podcast explores the “technique, philosophy, gear, creativity, and productivity” of producing music. It’s hosted by Brian Funk, AKA AfroDJMac. He sits down with music people who really know their stuff, or he goes solo to share his knowledge of making music, plenty of which he has.

Don’t Keep Your Day Job

Any musician who’s looking to get paid for making music (which is all of us, right?) should check out Don’t Keep Your Day Job. Host Cathy Heller, a Singer-Songwriter and founder of sync licensing company Shoot The Moon, offers her knowledge of the music industry. She gives practical steps we musicians can do to make a living in music. She’s very extroverted and passionate, so it seems like an energizing podcast. She also interviews other musicians who have lots of expertise to offer to the listener[13].

Where you can listen: Apple Podcasts, Soundcloud, Stitcher, Google Play, Spotify.

Music Production Podcast

The Music Production Podcast explores the “technique, philosophy, gear, creativity, and productivity” of producing music. It’s hosted by Brian Funk, AKA AfroDJMac. He sits down with music people who really know their stuff, or he goes solo to share his knowledge of making music, plenty of which he has. He’s not only a solo artist, but he’s also played in various touring rock bands and he’s an Ableton Certified Trainer[14].
Where you can listen: iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play, Spotify, YouTube.

What to Do Now

I’m not expecting you to listen to every single one of these podcasts. But here’s what I would suggest: pick one podcast that sounds compelling from each category and start with those.

I’m betting you’ll be inspired.

References

  1. Adama, Chris (17 February 2019.)“Can People Really Multitask?” ThoughtCo. Retrieved 18 July 2019.
  2. “Meet the Team” And the Writer Is…. Retrieved 14 July 2019.
  3. “About the Show” Song Exploder. Retrieved 14 July 2019.
  4. “About.” The Third Story. Retrieved 14 July 2019.
  5. “Questlove Supreme (Last updated 12 May, 2019).” Wikipedia. Retrieved 14 July 2019.
  6. “Story.” Disgraceland. Retrieved 14 July 2019.
  7. Larson, Sarah (6 March 2019).“Three Podcasts to Listen to in March.” The New Yorker. Retrieved 14 July 2019.
  8. Bromwich, Jonah Engel (21 December 2017).“Combat Jack, Hip-Hop Lawyer Turned Podcast Pioneer, Dies at 53.” The New York Times. Retrieved 14 July 2019.
  9. Larson, Sarah (17 June 2017).“‘Mogul’ and the Rise of the Biographical Podcast.” The New Yorker. Retrieved 14 July 2019.
  10. “About Broken Record.” Broken Record. Retrieved 14 July 2019.
  11. “About.” Songs and Writers.. Retrieved 14 July 2019.
  12. “About.” DIY Musician Podcast.. Retrieved 14 July 2019.
  13. “About the Podcast.” Don’t Keep Your Day Job.. Retrieved 14 July 2019.
  14. Funk, Brian.“About…” Music Production Podcast.. Retrieved 14 July 2019.

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