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  • Tom Kelly

4. How Community Will Take Your Podcast, Your Business, and Your Life to the Next Level

Being a podcaster or a podcast producer can be lonely business. Long nights in your pitch black walk-in closet, the basement, or the forgotten spare bedroom can take its toll on anyone brave enough to enter to wild world of podcasting. The reason so many podcasts fade out after 7-8 episodes (which is so lovingly called "podfading") is because the work can often outweigh the reward, especially when you're just starting out.

Luckily, there's an antidote to podfading and burnout, and it's called human interaction, err, community! I've been self-employed for just under a year now, and there have been entire WEEKS where I haven't left my house and interacted with another soul. It's so easy to get bogged down by the routine we find ourselves in when we don't shake it up a bit. When we join a community, preferably in person, we often come away from the evening reinvigorated, ready to take on the world and we're willing to do ANYTHING to make our podcasts be #1 on the charts. Over time, that feeling may fade and we tumble back into the routines and we face burnout around every corner. I HIGHLY encourage you all to find a local meetup of fellow podcasters, artists, creatives, and storytellers so that you stay inspired and don't let your passions and your projects fall by the wayside.

The other massive benefit of community is you can grow EXPONENTIALLY faster than if you were trying to learn in isolation. Everyone's ideas and values are slightly different, and it's massively beneficial to experience as many different methods as possible so you can better form your own processes and morals and establish what works best for you. If you're alone all day, as I'm known to be, it's very easy to get struck in patterns that are most likely not optimal or good for the human spirit.

If you're not in an area that lends itself to many meetups or gatherings of highly creative people, there are some valuable Facebook groups and forums out there, but not many. Be careful with those. But that leads me to this massive idea. What if WE create our own community that's dedicated to exploring values and ideas around capturing and producing better audio for podcasts?! That's something I'd be super interested in exploring with you all. Please reach out to and let me know if you're down to get some ideas flowing with me and other listeners of the podcast.

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Closing Track:

Harmony by Joakim Karud

My Signal Chain


Audio Interface: Apogee Ensemble

Microphone: Shure SM7b

XLR Cable: Handmade...


IzoTope RX6 De-Mouth Click

FabFilter ProQ3

Waves LinMB

Waves Vocal Rider

IzoTope RX6 Voice De-Noise

Waves L2 Limiter

Waves WLM Meter

Waves Durrough Meter

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For more info, or to ask any questions, check out my website and reach out to


Full Transcript

Hey, what's going on everybody? Tom Kelly here, this is Clean Cut Audio, episode four of the Clean Cut Audio podcast. We are still ahead of launch day here and I'm really excited to get this thing out on the 30th. If you're listening in the future, Hey, what's up man? This is past Tom from January, 2020 saying hello and wishing you the best in your podcasting journey.

If anyone out there with a very keen ear and notices a difference in the audio of this show, dumb dumb over here accidentally recorded the whole thing with the high pass filter on their Shure SM7b because I forgot to switch it back to unity after running some experiments. I'm going to talk about something that is very near and dear to my heart, and something that I think is absolutely critical for becoming a better podcaster, a better audio editor, and a better person in general.

It is community. I think that without community, we, especially as creatives, as storytellers, as people with a passion, we are nothing without community. It's really easy to get bogged down by the isolation of podcasting. Even if you're doing a show with guests every week, typically you are in your spare bedroom, you are in your closet, you are in the basement recording alone. And if you are like me at all, you have blackout curtains over the one tiny window in your room, all the lights are off, a single candle lit. That's my environment on most days. And while I love the vibe of that, it gets lonely, and after a while of really starts to wear on you. Community is important because you can only go so far on your own. It's much easier, if you have a car that stalled on the side of the road, you can try to put one foot out the door and kind of kick it along as you're turning the steering wheel. But when you're in a community, you could have 20 people pushing that car like it's nothing uphill to get it to wherever you need it to go and eventually get it fixed up so you can be cruising along again.

I feel like I'm at this point where the car is stalled and I'm trying so hard to get it moving on my own and it is just not working because I'm only one person. I need a lot of help. I feel like I have gotten as far as I can go on my own and I really need to reach out for help from others. For me, this comes in the form of making my episodes sound better.

It's ironic, I guess this is a little imposter syndrome, but I had to show about podcast audio and I hat the way my audio sounds. I struggle with it every week. And when you're on your own, it's easy to just kind of keep running in circles, throwing stuff at the wall, seeing what sticks, but there's no clear direction, and that is 100% where I am right now.

I'm actually getting ready. I'm heading over to a new friend, heading over to their house soon to check out their studio to get a couple tips and get a second pair of ears on my mixes. They're a very talented audio engineer that I met actually at a local audio engineer meetup in Denver, Colorado.

There is a community here of insanely talented audio engineers, some Grammy winning producers, multi-platinum producers, people that have been doing dialogue and spoken word editing and production for television for decades upon decades. And I need these people in my life in order to not only selfishly get better myself, but I feel like there's probably something I can offer them as well. And that's what community is. I mean, in this group, we get together in a room that has been sound treated as an ideal listening environment. And we listened to audio samples. We have great, great equipment in this room. I mean, top of the top end equipment. And we are getting together, critically listening to not only our own projects, but other things that are commonly known to be good. I think last week they listened to a bit of Soundgarden stuff and compared it to the local talent and just kind of listen with critical ears and hear what you hear.

I can't say that I do that at home on my own, and I can't say that I feel motivated to do that on my own. But in a community setting, in an environment where creativity is overflowing from the pores of every person in that room, we can all get better together at an exponentially greater level than if we were all trying to do this in isolation.

I'm the kind of person that especially needs other people around to inspire me and motivate me. I mean, I work hard on my own, but it's a lot easier when someone is cutting through the bulls**t and saying, naw, this can be a little bit better. And if nothing else, man, like I struggle just again with the EQ of my voice. I agonize over it. I spend hours upon hours every week recording different mic techniques, playing with the EQ. I think I get something great and I'm really proud of it and then a week later I'm like, what was I thinking? This is all bad. Burn it down. I hate it. And that's where, again, a second, third, fourth pair of ears come in.

I'm just going to be spinning in circles if I don't have other people in my corner trying to help me out, and again, it needs to go both ways. I'm excited to see what I can offer them as well. The important thing about community is it's not take, take, take, and it's definitely not give, give, give. There's a certain amount of give and take that has to happen.

And if you live in a smaller town and stuff like that isn't really around, first of all, maybe other people out there are hoping that someone else is going to start the group for them. Maybe it's a case of pluralistic ignorance where there's 20 people in a town that would love an audio engineering meetup in every single one of them thinks there's no other audio engineers in this area. No one's going to start it. I'm just going to wait around. Maybe. Everyone's waiting for the other person to startedit. So maybe you need to be the person to start that community. Maybe not of audio engineers, maybe it's of podcasters, or narrators, or storytellers, or nonfiction, or fiction writers. Any community at all is great and there's room for all of them.

But maybe you are the person that needs to start it. I did a vlog on my Clean Cut Audio YouTube channel about the importance of community, and that is, you can check that out if you want to see kind of a visual of me heading down to downtown Denver, in a local podcast community and recording hub to work on some projects. It was a really great time and it helped me feel really, really inspired. But if having those weekly meetups in your town isn't something that is possible, one option, and it's not a cheap option, but if you are a podcaster that wants to achieve greater things, something that I've really love is podcast conferences and expos.

Two of my favorite, the two that I've been to the most are Podfest, which typically happens in Orlando, Florida in Spring andPodcast Movement which happens in different places around the country, usually later on around August. These are conferences where if you go, if you buy a ticket, it is guaranteed that you will be in a room with a 1,000 to 3,000 people who are doing exactly what it is that you were doing, has the same concerns you have, and also has a lot of the same shortcomings that you have. There are going to be people in that room who are master audio engineers who can teach you a thing or two about audio. Maybe you're the person that has the great Instagram marketing techniques and you can trade your knowledge on Instagram marketing for someone's knowledge on, (laughs) I don't know, anything else.

I mean, there are so many people there is bound to be an expert on something you are interested in, and again, it's not cheap, but for the prices they're charging typically between $200 and $300 for a conference ticket. And then you have to factor in flights, hotels, food for three days, all that kind of stuff. I usually budget for about $1,000. And I'm also going there to find clients so it's a little more reasonable for me cause I'm usually walking away with some clients or some people to work with and it's going to become money later on. But if you're a podcaster that's just looking to learn a couple things, I can see how there is a concern for that amount of money, but I promise you there is in no worldn that spending that money is not worth it.

Again, I understand that we might not all have just a thousand dollars sitting around. I certainly don't. Most people don't. Especially people who are trying to just, you know, make a podcast either for fun or for a living. It's typically not the highest paying profession out there, so I understand, but I promise you that community will pay off 10 fold, no matter what.

Having friends who you can trade off inspiration to each other is always going to be a great thing. And I can promise you if you're looking to grow as a podcaster or as a person in general, getting involved, being vulnerable in a community,is definitely a very good way of "hacking growth".

Again, it's so easy to just get caught in this circle like I'm in right now of self-consciousness, and self doubt, and imposter syndrome of should I really be the person doing a podcast on podcast audio when I think of my own podcast audio sounds terrible? I think that even if I'm not where I should be at this exact moment, and I'm always striving for more, I'm always striving to be better. Again, there is no perfection. There is no end to what you can know in audio. I will be a student until the day I die. I never want that to change. But, it's going to happen a lot faster, you're going to learn a lot more, and you're going to get a lot better if you're getting better with other people and you are helping them and they are helping you.

Success cannot live in a vacuum. It is something that has to be shared with others. There has to be give and take. I cannot get to where I want to be without the help from others and I owe it to them to help them in return in any way that I can. But I cannot expect growth without helping others grow alongside me.

It is very important to get involved in a community, get involved with others, and to help lift others up. Because if you do it selflessly, they will do the same for you and you will find yourself on a much higher plane if you do not try to do it in isolation. I tried to do that for a very long time and now I am in this place where I am not happy with my abilities because I've tried to do it on my own.

Find a community, find others to work with and get better together. I mentioned earlier that maybe you're the one to form the community. Maybe I'm the one to form a community around audio for podcasting. There's a lot of podcast groups on Facebook, and I hate to say it, but I think they're all pretty worthless.

What you see are unmoderated groups where everyone is just posting links to their latest episode. And the thing that kills me is they're not even explaining why you should listen to it. It's just like, here's a link, dummy. Click it! It's so low effort and it's so sad to me. But anyways, there's a lot of that in Facebook groups. And there's a lot of just the same question being asked over and over. I think there's very, very little value in most Facebook groups, especially for people who are maybe a little bit beyond that very, very early beginner stage, and you're looking to do a little more. Maybe I'm the person who needs to make a community around people who are striving for better podcast audio.

Again, I suffer from imposter syndrome every day. I know that there are people better than me at audio. I know that future me, maybe even next week is better than me at audio, so it's hard to put out an episode when I think I could be doing better in the future. Just wait until I'm better. But you can do that forever. Run around circles, yada, yada.

I am committed to building a community of people that really care about their podcast audio. Because I always, I think it's always been important, but it's only going to become more important over time. Again, I will never say that I think audio is the most important factor in podcasting, but great audio is definitely something to strive for.

You know, it doesn't need to be perfect. As I said, there is no perfect. I'm chasing it every day. You don't need to agonize over it like I do. I shouldn't agonize over it. It should be more fun than I make it. But hit me up I want to find a way for people who are listening to this podcast to feel like they are getting more out of it than just listening to me talking. And I definitely want to get more out of it than just looking at a red bar move across my screen while I'm recording. I mean, there are humans listening to this podcast and I want to make sure that I'm serving you the best that I can and I want to make sure, again, selfishly, that I'm growing as much as I can and that you are too., we'll knock around a few ideas about how to get a great community started. I'm very hesitant to go the Facebook group route because of what they all kind of divulge into, especially with loose moderation. I don't know if I want to spend all day moderating every comment that comes in a Facebook group, but I do want to form a tight knit community of people around the world who are passionate about podcast audio because that's the whole point of this.

And I think again, we can only get better if we all get better together. That's a phrase I've been repeating since probably my first video that I put out a while ago, and I really truly do believe that, but I haven't been living that. And that's something that I'm really trying to change, especially in 2020 as we move forward and I'm focusing on exponential growth this year. I can't grow unless you all do as well. So let me do my part and help me knock around a few ideas. Maybe we create a Slack group or something of that nature, a Discord server, something where there's maybe a little bit higher barrier to entry than a Facebook group, but something we're very committed. people are going to come in and discuss some ideas. Again, that email is

Now, as we kind of move forward to getting out of here, the episode's done a few announcements, right? I have some t-shirts for sale, Some kind of fun and snarky t-shirts. Some stuff I've been working on It doesn't advertise the company, it's just fun audio stuff that I'm kind of proud of.

And if you haven't seen my YouTube channel yet, maybe you're here from that, but the URL is I have new shows, new episodes, new videos up every week, helping you achieve better audio for your podcasts and get it done more efficiently with editing tricks and tips. And I have a ton of stuff planned. I have the next two and a half months planned cause I'm going to be out of town for a bit, but if you have any recommendations of topics you'd like me to cover, either on the podcast or on the YouTube channel, please feel free again to send any of those to I'll see all those emails and I'll respond to every single one of them.

It's honestly my favorite part of doing all of this stuff. So, try to meet me over there and we'll get in touch and we'll figure out some ideas of how we can work together to all grow exponentially in the year of 2020.

hank you guys so much. Make sure to subscribe to the show. If you like the stuff happening in this show, if you like the idea of community, please rate and review this podcast on Apple podcasts. Whether or not it helps with discovery of a show, who cares? It is always nice to hear either compliments or criticisms. I welcome both. I want the show to be as good as it can be. So, let me know what I can be doing better. Let me know what you like. Let me know. We are hoping to hear more about, thank you guys so much and I will see you soon.

Have a good week.



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