Over the last few years, the podcast has been solidified as a storytelling genre all unto itself. While some podcasts have more in common with the Victorian novella than with how we imagine a ‘traditional’ radio program, others prefer extended interviews, while others again do brief and informative investigations into curious topics.
Topics and themes range as wide as human imagination – from stuff you missed in history class, to no-holds-barred love and relationship advice.
They can be phenomenally popular – like Serial, an investigation of a 17-year old murder case that attracted more than 80 million downloads and became a character in its own narrative.
Audio storytelling is a big thing. This is why the Audiocraft Conference on 10 June is highlighting opportunities for Australian radiomakers and podcasters. It will cover everything from what it takes to survive as a freelancer, to navigating through personal, political and culturally sensitive themes, to diving into the immersive world of sound.
We chat to Audiocraft’s headline speaker Megan Tan, creator and host of Millennial, a popular podcast about coming of age by Radiotopia, out of Portland, Oregon.
What inspired you to create Millennial?
Millennial kind of happened by accident. I graduated from college in 2014 with a degree in photojournalism. But even with a degree from a prestigious program, I left school not really knowing what I wanted to do.
I was in an uncomfortable transition period, working as a waitress in a department store. Before and after work and on my days off, I would find myself analysing narrative-driven audio stories. That’s when I decided I wanted to become a radio producer and tell long-form stories. The only problem was that I had never created a radio piece before.
Millennial started as a passion project where I would document my life during this anxious time of being in your 20s and make it into a podcast.
When I finally got my first job at a public radio station, I continued to make the podcast and it became its own independent show!
What kind of creative thinking is involved in writing a podcast?
The majority of my creative brain is torn between working in the present and working toward the future.
Take the work that I do to create a Millennial episode. I make editing decisions, structure the story, write narration, interview people, figure out what questions to ask, choose the best music for the piece, and mix and design the audio.
Millennial releases every other week so at the same time, I need to be looking to the future. What episodes are we going to be making after this? What stories do we want to tell?
Why do you think millennials from countries other than the US listen to your podcast, even though their worlds are seemingly different?
At Millennial, even though each episode is connected to my life and I happen to live in the US, we try to make each episode touch on a universal theme that is connected to coming of age.
For instance, there are episodes on getting rejected from your dream opportunity, or why it’s uncomfortable to have your partner make more money than you. Then there are more menial experiences like buying your first car.
Most of the episodes have to deal with asking yourself big questions about your life, making a decision that scares you, or confronting deep insecurities. We hope the podcast resonates with anyone who has had these types of experiences, regardless of age.
Our fourth-highest downloads are actually from Australia. We’ve had a lot of positive feedback too. For example, someone from Australia once wrote, “There is something both strange and wonderful about having your painful thoughts reverberated back to you through your headphones in another person’s voice.”
Can you recommend your favourite arts / cultural podcasts?
Sure. I like Another Round, She Does, FreshAir, and Song Exploder.
Audiocraft Conference 2017 is on at UTS on 10 June. Buy your ticket now.