Songs for the Struggling Artist

An Applause Button for Podcasts

When I started my first podcast six years ago, I quickly discovered that it was a low engagement form. Podcasts aren’t easy to share and the platforms that they’re on, and the medium they’re made of, don’t make it easy for people to respond. If you’ve ever been listening to a podcast and felt the impulse to share it, you know how challenging that can be. My listeners manage it with tweets and retweets and Facebook comments – but there’s no direct way to tell me they liked it or to share it with others. (Apparently we can blame Steve Jobs for this – but maybe that’s just a rumor.) As a theatre maker who is used to instant gratification and applause, I find this one of the most challenging parts of podcasting. And I somehow find it even more challenging with my audio drama than I do for my blogcast.

The blogcast, I sort of toss off. For the blogcast, I read something I wrote a few weeks before (like this!) and play a song I’ve usually spent a week or two learning and rehearsing. If no one responds to the episode, it’s not really devastating. There is a sense of routine around it that means I just keep going whether anyone engages with it or not. It’s a weekly practice, a light dusting of art, a quick expression. The audio drama, on the other hand, is the culmination of years of work.

I started writing this second season two years ago, began planning for it last year, and the production began earlier this year with the actors and sound designer. There’s a whole team of people involved. We are still in process, even as we start to release our work. It’s not just me in a room. It’s a whole web of artists.

This time around, I made a big deal of the release date and tried to create a little buzz. After all that, after finally releasing the first episode of the culmination of two years’ worth of work, guess what kind of response I got?

Nothing. Absolute silence. Not a word. Not until the next morning, about 33 hours after I set the thing loose into the world.

I work pretty hard to not take this kind of stuff personally but my theatre heart craves instant gratification and 33 hours is certainly not instant. It is very easy to fall down a hole and tell one’s self a story about how the work isn’t as good as you imagined it to be and what a big mistake you’ve made and so on and so on with other very un-useful thoughts.

Not long after this anti-climactic opening, I was talking with a friend who eased my mind on the subject and recorded some applause for me for the podcast. (I have listened to it many times, not gonna lie.) She also suggested that podcast apps really ought to include a CLAP BUTTON so folks could just push the button on a show they liked, to give it some virtual applause. I think this is a great idea. First, I’d very much appreciate some extra claps. And second, as an audience member, I’d love to leave my appreciation for the makers. In listening, there’s no way to distinguish between the podcasts I really admired and the ones I just let run while I did some task because I didn’t care enough to stop them. All the apps reflect is whether or not a show was downloaded. The only way to register your approval is to rate it and/or review it in places like Apple Podcasts and very few people can or will take the time to do that. There are a lot of things in the way of that happening. It’s not a smooth action. An applause button, though. That’s as smooth as it gets. And I think it would make a huge difference to me as both a listener and a maker. There’s a clap button on Medium and those claps, when I get them, mean something.

We need the same for podcasts – a way to let folks know we heard them and we’re giving them applause. In fact, I’d especially love it if we got notification of those claps as an audio file so I could hear some good old applause directly.

I’d like for this to be on every podcast app so I could push it and register my appreciation.

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They also bring you the podcast version of the blog.

It’s also called Songs for the Struggling Artist 

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Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are on Spotifymy websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes


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