One of the biggest happenings in the comedy business over the past couple years has been the rising popularity of podcasts by comedians. At this point, it seems like just about every comedian – from beginners to established stars – has a podcast and collectively millions of comedy fans are regularly (and in some cases, obsessively) listening to them.
But with so many people flocking to create and listen to podcasts, what impact will it have on the business and creation of traditional comedy albums? Here’s a few thoughts I have about the new opportunities and challenges that the rise of podcasts present for comedy albums.
The More Free Content Is Out There, The More Difficult It Is To Charge People For It
Before the podcast boom, the only way you could listen to funny audio (other than on the radio) was to buy a comedy album. Sure, you could illegally download tracks, but there wasn’t nearly as much free comedy audio available as there is now in the form of podcasts. This means that when you release a comedy album now, you’re not only competing for comedy fans’ attention against every other comedy album out there but also against every comedy podcast out there – and most of those podcasts are free!
I don’t have any stats about comedy album sales handy, but I’m guessing that they’ve dropped significantly since the rise of podcasts. People who want to listen to funny stuff simply have so many free options at their disposal now that it makes them much less likely to consider paying for audio content. Yes, I’m sure there are people that will still pay to listen to new albums from their favorite established comics, but they will be a lot less likely to take a chance on a newcomer than they used to be.
The “Topical” Content On Your Album Is Going To Seem More Dated
If you’re planning to put out an album that includes a lot of bits based on “current events,” the chances are that by the time you get around to releasing your album that material is going to seem much more dated than it would have in the pre-podcast era.
Thanks to the Internet and podcasts, there’s a flood of comics out there talking tomorrow about what happened today. If your take on today’s events doesn’t come out for six months, it’s likely going to seem like really old news to your audience who has probably already heard plenty of comedian takes on the subject if they’re a podcast listener – or for that matter, even if they follow comedians on Twitter or other social media sites.
Podcasts May Redefine What A Comedy Album Can Be
The rise of podcasts isn’t all bad news for the comedy album business. I believe that the many forms that podcasts have taken on will also help to broaden comedians’ concepts of what a comedy album can be. As people push the boundaries of podcast format, we’re learning that there are audiences interested in listening to a lot more forms of funny audio beyond just recordings of a comic telling jokes in a comedy club.
I think (and hope) that some comedians will see the opportunity to release different kinds of albums, which in turn will reinvigorate the album format and bring us some cool new genres of albums.
Why Not Release Your Album As A Podcast?
Here’s something I haven’t seen anybody do yet, but seems like a good idea to me. Instead of recording an album and trying to sell it as a one-off product, why not release your album as a serialized podcast? Comedy fans have proven they like the podcast format and enjoy the ease of subscribing to podcasts and getting fresh audio regularly downloaded to them. So, why not take the audio you were going to release as an album, chop it up into smaller bits, and release a new part every week – either as a paid podcast or (even better) for free?
If you did this, you would not only probably get more people to check out your album, but you’d also wind up with subscribers who you could reach with future content or things you wanted to promote. And if you offered the album for free, you could allow listeners, who would hopefully be hooked after several episodes, to donate money to fund more episodes beyond the initial ones you recorded. So basically, you’ve managed to get your audience to pay for your next “album” in advance by drawing them into your first album by releasing it as a podcast.
It’s too early to tell exactly what impact podcasts will ultimately have on comedy albums, but I think it’s a question worth considering. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below…