Tim Toady

When I was a young engineer, I read Learning Perl, an introductory book on the Perl programming language.  In it, I learned of the concept of TMTOWTDI -- "There's More Than One Way To Do It," pronounced "Tim Toady."  This is a concept where there is no standard way to write a routine in Perl.  Each programmer can write code that is simple or complex, easy to read or indecipherable.  It's their choice, and the creator of Perl embraced it.

As I'm (albeit slowly) releasing episodes of Random Waves, I'm aware that I'm following a pattern in audio making that's pretty standard -- the Transom / This American Life / The Moth method, if you will.  Interesting characters, stakes, and reflection.  Mind you, this is a home run method of radio making.  There's a reason why it's taught and copied over and over.   It works and it works well.

However, I'm concerned that what I'm making is the same old stuff that some many better producers are putting out there.  And I wonder, how can I compete with the likes of Stephanie Foo or Nick Van Der Kolk or David Weinberg?  Right now, all I am is another wannabe who uses Blue Dot Sessions.

I've been thinking about a successor podcast to Random Waves.  A podcast that will have a much more niche appeal.  I remember hearing about Hillary Frank's The Longest Shortest Time, and how insanely popular it was from pretty much the get-go.  Now, part of that is of course due to Hillary Frank's skill as a producer, and from what I've heard, part of that is due to her great network of friends (she publicized the new podcast only really through a mailing list of about 100 people).  But I'm sure some of here success was due to having such a great niche -- the trails and tribulations of being new parents.

So what will be my niche?

I was reading the following passage from Bruce Springsteen's Born to Run tonight...

Friends, there's a reason they don't call [playing music] "working."  It's called PLAYING!  I've left enough sweat on stages around the world to fill at least one of the seven seas... It's a life-giving, joyful, sweat-drenched, muscle-aching, voice-blowing, mind-clearing, exhausting, soul-invigorating, cathartic pleasure and privilege every night...

When I was really young, I didn't have an imaginary friend.  I had an imaginary TV audience, and I was the presenter.  I remember to this day how my fourth grade teacher laughed when I acted as a judge, complete with an imaginary gable banging on the bench.  By the time I got to middle school, I self-stamped out the desire to perform, but it's been showing its head here and there ever since.

In 2012 I think, I saw This American Life live in a movie theater (it was a live show simulcast across the country).  Ira Glass was doing his show opener thing, where he told a story using tape from an interview.  He cued each bit of tape himself, using some sort of controller.  But what was really interesting is that he added a bit of flourish to his arm and hand movements as he pressed each button.  Going from a purely audio to a combined audio/visual performance, Ira added something visual, in a way that was a nod or wink to the audience -- he's really good at storytelling in that it's an art form, so why not telegraph it using flourishes? (You can see a brief second of this here)

Now, I'm not proposing starting a live show.  But I'm thinking working my podcasts like a live show may not be a bad idea.  Instead of painstakingly editing my narration and tape together, why not perform it "live" and put that to tape?  Take an iPad and maybe something like Abelton Live????   If anything, it will emphasize the non-scripty sound I'm trying to have.

Well, in any event, it's something to think about.  I am thankful that Ira Glass wrote about his live setup on Lifehacker, and another producer more recently wrote about his experiences.