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When you picture a successful podcast being recorded, you may imagine the hosts gathered around an array of microphones mounted on swiveling boom arms in a slick broadcast studio, with a full recording console and the iconic red “recording” light shining overhead. While this is true in some cases, the reality is that more and more often, creators are producing the podcasts you love from the comfort of their own homes.
Add the looming fears of a spreading pandemic in 2020, and even podcasts that were once recorded in professional studios are now being made collaboratively from the safety of home studios. Now without further ado, check out our list of ten great podcasts recorded at home.
Armed with little more than a microphone and an obsession with country music, creator Tyler Mahan Coe’s Cocaine & Rhinestones went from just an idea to the number one downloaded music podcast in under a year. This highly addictive podcast takes a deep dive into the history of American country music by devoting each episode to one iconic figure or song, and delivering as much information as possible—including prior developments that set the stage for the story, and how they influenced subsequent generations of performers. In an interview with The New Yorker, Coe said he recorded each episode in his basement at night, “alone in the dark, talking into a microphone.”
Another example of a show with a deceptively simple concept is Beautiful Anonymous. Comedian Chris Gethard started the show in 2016 with a single premise: he’d tweet a phone number and record an hour-long conversation with whoever happened to call him, and he wasn’t allowed to hang up on them. The beauty of the show is in the revelations and honesty offered by the incredibly diverse sample of callers. Gethard himself admits that he never knows what’s going to be discussed in any given episode, and he barely edits the conversations in order to be as unfiltered as possible. You can check out his self-curated list of suggested episodes if you don’t know where to start.
Created in 2013 by Hrishikesh Hirway, Song Exploder has grown its listenership over seven seasons to become one of the most popular podcasts on Apple Podcasts and Spotify. The premise is brilliantly simple: each episode consists of a musical artist explaining the process they underwent to create one song. Hirway edits these explanations, along with audio track breakdowns from the artists, into concise and fascinating examinations of self-expression. Recently, the podcast has evolved into a Netflix series as well, proving the cultural significance that can be achieved by a simple idea for a podcast.
Song Exploder host Hrishikesh Hirway records with Blue Blackout Spark SL microphone.
On the gaming side, Shattered Order is a podcast dedicated to the MMORPG Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes. It began life in a Discord channel for the Shattered Order guild and its following quickly evolved from 50 listeners to a steadily growing audience by word of mouth. Hosts Wink and Dan hold weekly longform discussions on Twitch about theories, strategies and news regarding the game, which Wink then edits into podcast form. Check out our interview with Wink to read about the equipment they use to produce the podcast, including Blue Blackout Spark SL microphone and Compass boom arm.
As unlikely as it seems, a show about historical events with episode lengths in excess of three hours is one of the most successful and talked-about podcasts of all time. Created in 2006 by political commentator Dan Carlin, Hardcore History is a perfect example of what can be achieved with a singular voice, careful research, a little insight and a lot of passion for a specific topic. In addition to earning numerous awards, Hardcore History also shows that people are willing to pay for podcasts if they love them enough.
Created by Cole Cuchna in 2016, Dissect was named “Best Podcast” in 2018 by The New York Times. This serialized music podcast is divided into seasons, with each season dedicated to forensically breaking down a single album from the world of hip hop with a formal analysis style usually reserved for symphonies by Beethoven and Mozart. After producing the first two seasons by himself at home (including in-depth research and self-recorded musical recreations of the songs discussed) between spending time at his day job and with his family, Cuchna received funding from Spotify to produce subsequent seasons, garnering praise and a devoted Patreon audience along the way.
After writing a 2014 article for The Believer Magazine that reinvestigated and shined a new light on the famous scandal involving figure skater Tonya Harding, freelance journalist Sarah Marshall teamed up with fellow journalist Michael Hobbes to create You’re Wrong About, a podcast devoted to reexamining stories involving women that have been widely misconstrued in the public imagination by the media. Marshall and Hobbes each record themselves in their own homes, but still manage to deliver an engaging series that was called the “Second Best Podcast of 2019” by Time Magazine.
If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to be an unsung hero in the music industry, Working Class Audio is a podcast that portrays interesting characters in the world of music production. Created and hosted by producer/engineer/drummer Matt Boudreau, the podcast is a treasure trove of interviews with both high-profile and relatively unknown audio engineers, all from a working class perspective. But the questions aren’t just about gear and “What was it like to work with so-and-so”—topics often include business practices, mistakes, financial advice, work/life balance and family.
Started in 2009 by standup comedian Marc Maron, WTF with Marc Maron has consistently ranked as one of the most popular podcasts for an entire decade. Even if he likely has the budget to record in a professional studio, Maron instead chooses to record most of the episodes in his garage—though he has also recorded in hotel rooms while on the road during comedy tours. In each episode, Maron hosts various actors, directors, comedians, writers and musicians in his home studio for deeply personal and revealing interviews.
When filmmaker Kevin Smith (of Jay & Silent Bob and Clerks fame) and producer Scott Mosier created SModcast in 2007, it began as a simple weekly podcast in which they met at Smith’s home to discuss current events and non-sequitur topics. But a lot has changed since those humble beginnings—in 2010, the pair launched the SModcast Podcast Network to host a growing number of original shows, including Fat Man Beyond and Jay & Silent Bob Get Old among others. In 2014, they converted a defunct theater into SModcastle, where they recorded multiple podcasts in front of a live audience. Since then, they outgrew the 50-person capacity of SModcastle and took to recording podcast episodes in a variety of venues, much like a band takes their show to different cities on tour.
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Hopefully, these examples have clearly demonstrated that you don’t need a sophisticated recording studio to produce a successful podcast. All you need to do is combine your creativity and original ideas with a simple home setup, and there’s no limit to where your podcast can go.
With an abundance of affordable recording equipment available on the market today, there’s never been a better time to start making your own podcasts. Check out our ultimate guide to starting a podcast to learn how to choose a microphone, software and accessories, as well as tips on podcasting services, monetization and more. For further inspiration, check out our post on what makes podcasts so captivating. And if you plan to virtually host guests by recording your podcast over Zoom, we’ve got you covered there too.