Interviewing on a Podcast – Tips for Both Podcasters and Guests
Erk from Erk FM writes this blog post about interviewing and gives some great advice to both the artists or “interviewees” and to those podcasters, radio broadcasters, or whomever may be the host or interviewer. Both parties should read the whole post, there is some great information here.
Since starting Erk FM in January 2009, I have played over 2000 bands. I have also interviewed a variety of bands and also fellow podcasters. Interviews are a great way of telling people more about your band, especially if you are releasing new music or are playing a big event.
I’ll give you some interview tips for people on either end of the microphone as either the person asking the questions (the interviewer or the host) or the person answering them (the interviewee, the guest).
Tips and Information for both Podcasters and Guests
The length of the interview is important- is it part of a series of interviews at a gig or festival? Is the interview a short one (up to 10 minutes) or a long one (over 10 minutes). This will help you determine how much time you need to dedicate to the interview. Does either party have time restraints?
Where will the interview be conducted? Is it somewhere at a gig or a festival? Is it a person to person interview? Will it be done over the phone or via Skype? Do you have to go to a studio or other location somewhere? As the host, are you going for the “we are backstage with Band X” feel?
Is the interview being done live to air or being streamed to a live audience? Or will the interviewer be able to edit the interview and play it at a later time? A good guest will not make the host edit too much but my personal policy is that if you say something & you do not want it included in the interview, say so. The host should explain this before the interview.
What does each party know about each other? Does the interviewer know the band well? Even if the interviewer does know the band well, the purpose of the interview is to focus on the band. The host should remember to inform their listeners as if the listeners know nothing about the band. Even if the listeners are aware of the band, give them something new that they have not heard elsewhere.
Tips for Guests or Interviewees
As a host of a podcast, it is in my interest to make you sound as good as possible so by following these tips, you’ll help me to make you sound good & tell people about you. Some of these tips might be specific for podcast interviews but others might apply to other media forms as well.
Do you know the format of the show? Is the show dedicated to you? What are the show’s policies about things like language and content? You might not get invited back if (for instance) you turn the air blue & swear your head off on a family friendly show, if you get put to air at all. If you can, listen to a few interviews by the host beforehand. Often, the questions & the styles will be similar.
While a host should know something about the band, they might not. This is especially true in a festival/gig setting. Have you made things easier for the host by having a good bio on your website?
Make sure you let the host know before the interview if there is anything specifically that you want to include in the interview. The host will often work that into the discussion. Music sales are easier to promote (if you remember to keep in mind that podcasters have global audiences) compared to gigs. Podcasting is not always a time sensitive medium so telling people that you have a gig next month at the local bar might not be of course to someone listening to your interview in 6 months. It is also highly likely that the listeners are not located anywhere near the band & probably won’t be at your gig anyway. Think global (if the interview is for a podcast).
Is the interview with one member of the band (for example, the vocalist) or the whole band? People want to hear from everyone (speaking one at a time, of course!) in the band in a multi- person interview. Some people (including me) will dedicate some time to each person. At the start of an interview, I will often ask each person to introduce themselves and “what they do in the band” so you hear from everyone & put a name to the voice from the outset. Using Foundry Road as the example, the guys would say something like:
Brad: I’m Brad, the drummer
Simon: I’m Simon, I play bass
Scotty: I’m Scotty & I play guitar
eXplain: I’m eXplain. I scream.
Speaking of eXplain & Foundry Road, if a person in the band has a stage name, USE IT. If the band members slip up & use the person’s non stage name, edit that out if you can.
After the interview is done and time permits, I would usually ask for a promo that he can use in future to promote the band on future episodes. While making a promo could be a future tip, the promo should include the band’s name & their website address at the very least. I usually produce a couple of versions, one with the band’s music and one without. Also, each band goes onto a mega promo – like a “Who’s Who” of guests. A good promo could be something like: “Hi, we’re Killing Wayne Softly With A Meat Cleaver & you are listening to Erk FM. Find us online at www.wayneyouaredeadtous.com” – give the band an input into the promo. These promos are often used as dividers between songs on episodes of Erk FM. If you’re going to be interviewed on a show, see if you can come up with a really creative jingle for the host before the interview and let them know you’ve done so. You will make them very happy.
Tips for Interview Hosts
As a host, play some of the band’s music if your format allows it as a part of the interview. If you are doing a live to air interview, the band will have to sit through the song as it plays to people. If you are not doing a live show, offer to play a song or two that you will add in post production. While the band might really like their song “Killing Wayne Because He Shagged My Missus”, they hear it so often when they gig, rehearse & record. Adding music to the interview is a good touch that allows people to identify with the people that they are hearing being interviewed. Assume that a listener is not familiar with the guests.
As the host (especially as a podcaster), promote the interview before and after it is released. When you play the band’s music again, remind people that you have interviewed them in the past and refer the listener back to the interview. The guests should tell their fans about the interview as well on their social networks.
Asking the band how they got their name & how long they have been together are good questions to start off with. Hosts should keep in mind that bands do go through line up changes – some good, some bad. If a band has had a lineup change for a bad reason, don’t be surprised if they only focus on the current members & clam up if asked about former guitarist Wayne who left the band because he was shagging the drummer’s wife. Of course, you may not know that, no matter how well you did your research. If you are in the band, it is not a good idea to bad mouth Wayne even if he nearly did cause the band to break up.
If the interview is a single person interview, also ask the person to mention the other people in the band. Most likely, the person you are interviewing is the vocalist but this might not always be the case. The person you are interviewing might not have been in the band the entire time but often they can still give you a good interview with information about the band before they joined.
A good question to ask a newcomer to the band is “So how did you find fitting in with the band?” – it gives a good guide to the inter-personal relationships within the band. It also gives a good idea about how hard it can be to join an established band. Not only do you have to know the people in the band but you have to also learn their songs which can be difficult.
While a host might have a standard sort of questions to start with, a good host should not be scared to ask a difficult question or one that might sound stupid. Be prepared to work off previous responses and if that leads you somewhere that might not be in the same direction as your next question, go with it (unless the train goes fully off the rails).
Other good questions (especially for whole of band interviews) include “What’s your favourite song on the album?”, musician & songwriting influences, “What’s the most popular song that your fans like” – something that might give you different opinions from each person.
Do you have any other tips for interviews – either from the side of the musician or the podcaster? Let us know! Leave a comment in the comments section below.