When Clay Groves and Dave Kellam started their podcast, “Fish Nerds,” a little more than two years ago, the initial episodes were not that great, Groves says.
“The first few shows were, although funny, painful to listen to, as far as the sound quality goes,” Groves says. “There’s a slow evolution. By the fifth week, we were starting to add musical intros. … Then we got featured on iTunes … when we were still terrible. We got a huge number of downloads, and we weren’t prepared.”
That was in 2014. Now, 110 episodes later, Groves’ and Kellam’s weekly fishing podcast draws in thousands of listeners, and the show boasts segments from correspondents from all over the world. The Seacoast-based podcasters have had “Fish Nerds” segments featured on Boston Public Radio and New Hampshire Public Radio, and have built up a loyal following.
Podcasts aren’t new — they’ve been available through iTunes and other services for more than 10 years — but they are having a moment. In 2014, the podcast “Serial,” a spinoff of “This American Life” in which creator Sarah Koenig looked at the 1999 murder of Hae Min Lee and the case against Lee’s ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed, became the first podcast to reach 5 million streams or downloads on iTunes. “Serial” was a pop-culture sensation, and podcasts became so mainstream that, in June 2015, President Barack Obama was a guest on comedian Marc Maron’s “WTF” podcast.
The Seacoast is part of the trend. Podcasts in the region tackle topics as diverse as local history, giant monsters, jazz lessons, craft beer, Shakespeare, and, of course, all things fishing. The podcasters are taking over, and they want you to listen in.
In the early days of “Fish Nerds,” if Groves and Kellam wanted to invite a guest to be on the show, they first had to explain what a podcast is.
“New media takes a while to catch on fire,” Groves says. While they still get that question, Groves says, people are now more in tune with podcasts and what they’re about.
A 2015 study from the Pew Research Center found that between 2008 and 2015, the number of Americans who had listened to a podcast within the last month went from 9 percent to 17 percent. The study also found that the number of podcasts have increased — data from Libsyn, a commercial podcast hosting company, found that between 2012 and 2014, the number of podcasts actively hosted by the company went from 12,000 to 22,000.
Seacoast musician Peter Squires produces and hosts “The Family Room” podcast, in which he interviews notable locals from around the region. Podcasts are catching on with both producers and audiences because of the freedom they offer, he says.
An episode “can be about whatever I want it to be about, or what my guests want it to be about,” he says. “For (listeners), it’s a good way to spend a lot of time with ideas or with people that you might have (otherwise) spent just thinking about nothing or listening to background music.”
Spend a few minutes browsing popular podcast services like iTunes, Stitcher, Libsyn, and others, and it’s clear that there’s a podcast for pretty much every subject and in every genre. “Welcome to Night Vale,” a twice-monthly podcast about community radio-style updates from the very strange (and very fictional) desert town of Night Vale, has spun off into a touring live show and a best-selling novel. Whether you want science news or political history or tales of surviving the zombie apocalypse, podcasts have it covered.
“Everyone’s nerdy about something,” Groves says. “Anything about fish we’re all in on, so that’s our brand.”
And that presents plenty of opportunities for creative people.
“The podcast world is like the creative wild west,” says writer John Herman, who’s set to host a “serial mystery podcast” this fall. “There are so many genres working without a set of rules. The quality is all over the place but there are some real gems, and the quality is getting better and better as the audience grows.
Local listeners can learn about Rochester history from the “Bob Griffin Podcast,” or brush up on their Shakespeare with Seven Stages Shakespeare Company’s “No Holds Bard” podcast (which was recently featured on NPR’s podcast discovery site, Earbud). Neoteric Dance Company’s Sarah Duclos has plans to launch a Seacoast dance podcast in the fall, and musician Nick Mainella’s “10 Minute Jazz Lesson” show just hit its 11th episode.
“I think it’s our generation’s radio,” Mainella says. “If you look long enough, someone’s saying something that’s of quality, and podcasting gives everyone a voice.”
Mainella started “10 Minute Jazz Lesson” for a simple reason: He couldn’t find anything like it out there.
“I’m so used to teaching … that I figured it would be a cool way to spread the message a little further,” he says.
Mainella says that each episode should be accessible for jazz musicians at every level. Building an audience can be tough, he says, especially with a niche subject. But Mainella says there are so many people involved in jazz, from students and teachers to musicians and audiences, that the pool is wider than one might think.
“The audience has been steadily growing as I figure out more ways to get it out there,” he says. “One of the tough things about podcasting is that there are so many now that you’re competing with a lot of other quality shows out there.”
That’s part of the beauty of podcasting, according to Squires, Groves, and others. A podcast can be as simple or as complicated as its creators want it to be. Squires and Mainella are both musicians and have professional-quality recording equipment on hand. But for novices, producing a podcast is as simple as recording something on a computer or smartphone, editing it with free software, and getting it online.
“You don’t have to have a ton of audio expertise to get started,” Squires says.
While big-name podcasts have become mainstream phenomena, local podcasts are building community. Squires, who reached out to Dan Beaulieu and Kevin Codardo of “No Holds Bard” for podcasting tips before creating “The Family Room,” says he feels more connected to the Seacoast because of his show.
“It lined up with my own personal realization that I wanted to know people around here better and reinvest myself in being a member of this community,” he says. “That’s what I hope to get out of it, and what I hope people who listen will get out of it: a stronger connection.”
Welcome to Pods-mouth
Everyone knows about popular podcasts like “Serial,” “Welcome to Night Vale,” and “Radiolab.” But there is a wealth of Seacoast and New Hampshire-based podcasts that can make your listening more local. Here’s a brief list:
Bob Griffin Podcast: Each month, Griffin presents a five-minute slice of Rochester history, from the Lilac City’s World War I soldiers to a recap of a large fire that swept through the city in 1947. bobgriffinpodcast.com
Damn That Television!: Matt Triest and Jon Waugh talk TV, movies, books, comics, and all things pop culture.
Seacoast Beverage Lab: Brian Aldrich and a panel of craft beer lovers discuss beer news and interview brewers and other beer experts. seacoastbeveragelab.com
No Holds Bard: Seven Stages Shakespeare Company’s we