How much does a podcast cost? Or rather, much does it cost to produce a podcast? What else should you be budgeting for in your audio plans? Are you wondering why the answers to this question can be so varied?
There’s a reason that a respectable production company will ask you a few more questions before they answer this one. In this piece we aim to give you a breakdown of the different elements that can influence how much a podcast costs and help you get a clearer idea for your planning.
Before you find out how much it’s going to cost to make your podcast, you need to be clear on the sort of audio programme you want to make and what you are hoping to achieve with it.
For example, perhaps you’re imagining a conversation around the studio table, or in your office. But maybe you have something more dramatic in mind, like a 6-part documentary series, a spoken word eulogy to your coffee machine written by a poet laureate or an immersive sound bath experience!
A podcast can be all of these things, and the beauty of the medium is that your imagination is the limit. Yet whereas the simplest option is often the most affordable, you don’t always have to write off creativity for the sake of a budget.
You see, producing a basic podcast can come in at a pretty set cost range, but if you need help planning, recording, editing, marketing and integrating this creative into your business’s content ecosystem, all that can influence the final bill. And depending on what you want to achieve, all of those elements can have greater or lesser import. You might also want help with how to use audio in your wider marketing strategy.
In this way, podcasting is actually quite a bespoke product, and by working with producers or companies on your big picture, there may be more cost effective ways for them to help you produce your podcast without breaking it into individual costly elements.
With that in mind, here’s a run through the different pieces that go into pricing up a production, which I hope will be useful in managing your expectations before you make that call!
What kind of podcast do you want to make?
The beauty of the podcast medium is that it doesn’t have to be a set format, length, or series run. You can record on location up a mountain, in a top notch broadcast studio or in your offices if you want to. You can feature interviews with guests around the country, commission research or original writing, compose music, take phone calls from your listeners or share one to one conversations with experts.
And you guessed it, all of this can significantly influence the amount of preparation, research, creativity, equipment time and skill required to achieve your beautiful vision. And that’s just for the product itself. If you want advice on how to market this, you’ll need your own content marketing teams on board to ensure the message is just right, or else take the time to brief the producers on how to deliver this in your style.
How much does it cost to hire a podcast studio?
Hiring a professional studio with an engineer to ensure the best possible sound quality can be a great investment, especially if you’re making a simple conversation-based programme. If you’re making talk show, perhaps talking about complex or personal topics, the last thing you want to worry about it unwelcome noises, intrusions or technical hitches. Studios rates vary as much as their location, quality, staff experience and technology do.
Around Central London few come in cheaper than £100 per hour, with the average being closer to £120 and the quality of acoustic treatment and technology can vary. For solo
records, you can find a few self-operated pods available at a steal - I found one as low as £40 per hour - and there are some great four person studios for £150-£170 per hour.
If you’re recording back to back episodes you might even get a discount for a half or full day block booking. Some companies may include extra charges for audio delivery via WeTransfer or Dropbox et al in their prices, so it’s worth checking beforehand.
These days, of course, you might not be able to go to a studio. If your presenters and guests need to record from home for personal safety, this can significantly reduce recording costs as quality conversations can be created safely at a distance thanks to video conferencing and even smartphone recording apps.
How long will I need to hire a podcast studio for?
Crudely-speaking, if you plan to record for 30-45 minutes, it’s wise to book yourself an hour in the studio. If you think you’ll record for an hour, it’s wise to book 90 minutes so you have breathing space to drill down into any nuanced points that crop up, add re-takes, re-record mistakes, introductions or other promotional material. Many studios can afford to keep their rates low by booking back to back, so you don’t want the hassle of having to re-gather your guests and presenters on another day, or worse still, record pickups with different-sounding mics and locations.
Even if you're not recording in the studio, allowing time for this in the scheduled session means your contributor won't be racing to their next Zoom meeting before you're done!
Some studios even promise to clean up deliver your finished ‘podcast’ to you as a ready to post file the same day. If you require minimal editing and just want to remove your ums, ahhh, and the bit where your co-host knocked over their tea, then fair enough, but you might want to consider a little more engagement from an editor for anything more complex. More on this shortly.
Recording in other locations
Plenty of people choose not to record in a studio, but getting a decent sound is still important to conveying a quality brand sound for your business. You can hire a producer to record with guests or interviewees in your office or somewhere else, or perhaps you’re even recording yourself separately to your guest, talking on the phone and recording the responses at either end. It’s possible to hire tape syncers to do this for you. They’ll be able to advise on where they can find the best sound possible within your chosen location and will gather the audio and return it to you or your editor. Generally your producer will be the one to hook you up with a tape syncer if they’re not doing the recording themselves, and there may be a kit hire fee included in the rate. If you’re hiring a recordist directly, it’s always worth asking to listen to a sample of a location recording prior to booking so you can make sure you’re happy with the quality and microphone in similar environment.
Remember, this is just to get the ‘raw’ unedited audio. Many producers will be happy to clean this up for you, or edit it properly for an additional fee.
A note here on producer time: rates can vary for different tasks between individuals and it’s likely you’ll be able to discuss a fee with the company or producer that is far more effective than costing each element up separately, say, as writing, records or edits. All of this depends upon how effectively time can be used in the whole process, which is of course pretty bespoke to every production!
Often production companies will have freelancer producers already on their books, assigning the right specialist to the content, but if you don’t mind doing the legwork for searching independently to a producer, they may charge you a day or half day rate, negotiate a series fee or ask for travel expenses. Freelance producers generally set their own rates, but either way, expect to pay a flat fee for the first hour. The rest will vary depending on the producer and circumstances.
How much does it cost to edit a podcast?
Again, this can vary depending on how much craft is required. If you just want a bit of de-umming, the odd re-take and those bits at the start and end removed, you can expect the rate to be lower than commissioning a fully sound-designed, immersive audio adventure packed with spoken-word poetry, environmental sounds, atmospheric music and blue whales singing.
A producer, editor or sound designer can work with you to devise an ‘audio narrative’: moving sections around, cutting out the waffle, perhaps even writing narratorial pickups to
add clarity. They can adapt the mood and pace with judicious editing. If you have several different features or parts to your podcast expect to spend more time editing and mixing. You may even wish to commission a bespoke piece of music from a composer, so a budget line for that can be worth investigating.
If you’re hiring an individual, the cost of editing your podcast can also vary widely based on the experience and skillset of the producer. Many freelancers have their own websites sharing their skills and experience, or you can search for specific skills on sites like Podcasttalent.co.uk (this is a small talent site where podcast producers can showcase their previous work and hirers can contact them directly. And for transparency, this is run as a non-profit side project by yours truly).
The Cost of Research and Editorial Development in Podcasts
If you’ve started your project with a fully-formed vision, every episode planned, your guests magically booked, and your content strategy lined up like the proverbial bunch of mallards, then well done you!
Chances are though, you may want to take a little advice from programme-makers on how you structure and brand your programmes, prepare your questions and approach your guests.
You may wish to outsource the research and programme design to producers who understand the behaviour of audio audiences day-in day-out, and who can help you design a programme for the context you imagine it will be consumed in. Bear in mind that podcasts themselves are intimate and often listened to whilst the user is doing something else, so your content might need to compete with the bustle of a commute or the demands of a gym workout!
If you are launching your podcast to meet a specific business need, such as brand marketing, engagement along specific audience verticals or education, it could be invaluable to consult with audio producers or production companies on creative approaches to achieving this before you get too far down the line with the idea. And of course just because you’re a finance company offering investment management to high net worth individuals, it doesn’t mean you have to make a programme about investments. There are plenty of creative ways to reach that audience with a programme they’ll thank you for and still assert your values and brand story with ear-catching content.
If your business is new to podcasting, you might also want to build in support or coaching to educate your digital team into the distribution of content themselves, to understand how they can access analytics and reporting to find out how it’s delivering for you.
At any rate, a production of scale might have multiple producers involved, from assistant and lead producers, researchers, editors, tape syncers, composers, sound designers and execs. And because one producer might be able to perform several or all of these roles across a project, a one-size fits all cost for this would surely end up being less than cost-effective for you.
There’s a reason this is often (but not always) quoted as a separate cost to the rest of the production. You may already know the sort of presenter who will work well for your business’s audience, and getting the right personality can certainly be worth its weight in gold, but this isn’t as simple as just picking your audience’s fave celeb. Presenters will at times need to be sensitive, quick-thinking, engaging, curious warm and journalistic, all wrapped up in one brilliantly confident package. Perhaps you have a nascent talent in your organisation waiting to be developed by the right producer, but it’s always worth working with your producer or production company on a range of options to investigate at the outset of a project. The presenter can make a huge difference to the success of your final programme, and if they have a public profile, further negotiation will be required to secure a level of engagement to support the programme’s marketing after it launches. A production company or producer will be used to handling agents and negotiations of this sort in order to get the best deal for you and a happy talent too.
What else can affect the cost of producing a podcast?
Don’t forget that if you want a high-profile guest, or have to travel or stay overnight at your location, or if you wish to licence a piece of music or audio material, all these elements can add up in a production, so it’s worth keeping some budget aside for this. What if you want to make audiograms for social media promotion, or pay for transcription or legal clearance? Your producer or production partner may include some of these elements as part of their quote but don’t forget to check to avoid surprises along the way.
If you’re taking this really seriously, and you want to see some big impact within a target audience demographic for a larger investment, it’s worth talking to your production
company about campaign-design. Not everyone will offer this, but the more commercially-savvy audio houses will have an understanding of how to integrate audio within a wider ecosystem of digital marketing, in order to maximise the reach of your beautifully-crafted content as well as ensuring the engagement figures are as deep as they can be. In the case of Podcast Pioneers, for example, we offer an entire strategic planning package which stretches from advising on how to market your programme to content creation across social, online and live channels.
Hosting costs can also vary. Everyone needs a reliable home for their RSS feed to live. Finding a decent platform that gives you user-friendly analytics and access and makes it easy for your programme to be distributed to multiple podcast aggregators as well as Apple, Spotify et al. Often these charge you a larger monthly fee based on the bandwidth occupied, but new approaches, such as those of the Acast Open platform, offer you scales of hosting with added benefits like advanced analytics, transcription and supports based on either your number of listeners or your ambition.
Finally, don’t forget about advertising! A simple trailer served using dynamic advertising can dramatically extend your reach amongst similar audiences and, although cost varies amongst providers, is usually run on a cost per thousand basis.
The cost of producing a podcast is just the beginning though
With this in mind, I’d like to wrap up this overview of podcasting elements with one more point:
The creation of your audio programme is just the beginning of a successful podcast journey. Given the incredible glut of amazing audio out there for an individual to discover on any given day, no matter how fantastic your show is, no matter how insightful, useful, moving or revolutionary your ideas, if your target audience doesn’t discover it, the value you get back is limited.
So do consider a healthy chunk of budget for supporting promotion, advertising and marketing of your podcast. Maybe as much as 80:20 as a ratio of promotion versus production. There are all sorts of ways to deploy this in a highly-targeted fashion, so my advice is think about content campaigns rather than discrete audio missives that never see the light of day, and you shall reap the rewards with your audience.
So how much does it cost to produce a podcast? Hopefully this blog has left you a little more enlightened on the process of audio development. You can see that all of this depends on the size of your ambition and the creative concept behind your show.
Whether you’re purchasing a microphone and going it alone, or deploying a full-scale independent production company to guide you on an audio odyssey, it’s always worth calling on the experts to help achieve your end goal, and shape something that does you justice. Outsourcing your audio strategy and production can also be a highly effective way of attracting the engagement you want without adding a speed-learning string to the overstretched bows of internal business teams.
Due to the current large freelance market, vibrancy in indies and revival in the audio industry, there is some really super production talent to be found out there, so stay tuned to this blog for our run-down of some of our favourite podcast production companies soon.
I hope this leaves you armed with plenty of ideas and imagination for your podcast conversations hereon in!