Wednesday, April 08, 2009

WJMA, DCD Records, and the transparent podcast

I've spent a lot of time talking about WJMA's podcasts, pointing out areas where I think they might more effectively do their job. So what makes me such an expert? Fair question.

Well, since February 2006 I've been writing, producing, and hosting the podcast for DCD Records (where I serve as president and chief bottle-washer). Like WJMA, we're distributing "The DCD Classical 'Cast" podcast for a reason.

I want to reach classical music listeners (and more importantly, classical music buyers) in a way that's both economical and efficient. The goal of our podcast is to showcase the classical releases from the independent labels we carry on our website, raise awareness of our brand, and spur sales. Has it worked? I think so.

Let me take you behind the scenes a little and you can judge for yourself.

Format: The podcast is approximately 30-40 minutes in length. We play complete movements, but almost never a complete work. The idea is to whet the appetite, not satiate it. (Listen to our current episode, and you'll see what I mean).

There's always an "ad" in the middle of the podcast. I simply reminds listeners that everything they hear is available from, and if they type a certain code into the coupon field, they'll receive a ten percent discount off their order -- even if other special offers or discounts have been applied (sorry, I'm not going to provide the code here -- you'll just have to listen).

I also ID the podcast after every piece of music. Why? Because repetition is the key to memory. Over the course of a podcast, the listener will hear our brand name mentioned at least four times. After a while, it will stick.

Metadata: I want each episode to be as effective as possible, so I pay attention to the metadata. I make sure the following are filled in:

Name: DCD [three digit show number] - [show title]
Album: DCD Classical 'Cast
Year: [year of release]
Composer: [Me], host
Comments: This program we play: [composer - work]; [composer - work], etc.
Genre: Podcast

And yes, there's artwork attached.

Note the name. Even though we're only up to show #64, by using a three-digit number we ensure that the programs all line up properly in numerical order on media players and software. Without it, shows nos. 1,5, 10, 11, and 20 would line up as 1, 10, 11, 20, and 5.

And the choice of placing our e-mail address in the artist field was deliberate. If nothing else gets displayed, Name and Artist do. So I want the most important info front and center.

Distribution: We continue to seek out podcast directories to place our program with. You can find us on iTunes, InstantEncore, Feedburner, Mefeedia, Podcastblaster, Podcast Pickle, ZenCast, and many others. We also just recently set up a Twitter feed and a Facebook fan page to help generate interest in the podcast and our brand.

So what's been the result? Well, we started off with a monthly podcast and now produce an episode every two weeks because of a corresponding growth in audience. We've seen a definite link between product sold and product featured on the podcast. No, not everyone returns to our site to buy, but that's OK. Because we also have a store on Amazon, and we're the exclusive supplier of many of our labels to -- so chances are, if you're purchasing something we carry, we'll see some money from the transaction regardless of the site you buy it on.

Subscription rates (it's free, by the way) continue to grow at a steady rate, especially over the past year. We've had over 34,000 downloads, and currently average a little over 500 an episode (although our more popular episodes run into the thousands). Now granted, this is small potatoes compared to say, "This Week in Tech" or a more general interest podcast.

But classical customers only make up about 7% of the music-buying market. And this market's small in other ways, too. Many classical titles -- even from the major labels -- only sell a few thousand copies. Add to that the fact that public radio stations airing classical music have an extremely slow rotation -- it's not uncommon to have six months pass before a track is played again. And most classical record review magazines seem to average a circulation of only around 10,000 readers.

So given all that, I'm very happy to have placed our audio calling card/sales catalog directly into the virtual hands of 34,000+ potential customers (even if they only listen to the podcast once, it's still better than the odds for radio). And outside of the recording gear, there's been almost no expense, save time.

I don't have to eat the cost of promo copies and the postage to ship them to 100+ radio stations where they'll sit and gather dust. I don't have to pay for ads in magazines where at a good response rate of 3% I'm looking at an outside total of 30 sales -- doesn't even cover the cost of the ad. I don't have to bother with the expense of trying to place the product in the shrinking racks of record retail stores (nor worry what happens to my inventory when they file Chapter 11).

We're talking directly to our potential customers, and they're responding either through purchases on our site or through one of the sites we supply.

So that's where I'm coming from when I say that WJMA's podcasts aren't living up to their full potential. Even at this stage of the game, their subscription and download numbers should leave us in the dust. If they're not, then something is seriously wrong. Which is kind of my point.

- Ralph

Day 3 of the WJMA Podwatch.


  1. WOW amazing. Thanks a lot for sharing great resources with us and your wide experience too. As being in the modern age podcast is fast growing technology and one must have sufficient knowledge about it. I am again thankful to you for sharing your great experiences with us.

  2. I know another great site of podcast. It is a free podcast directory where on can surf, submit podcast or can broadcast oneself for free.