“If we could listen to pop icons like him sharing their thoughts today, how much more would we know about the time they lived in? That’s what’s driving my passion for podcasts”, says Stefan Zilch. With his Start-up Vo!cd.FM he is consulting creatives, labels and managements alike, that want to venture into the universe of podcasts.
The Berlin-based company Vo!cd.FM is the first ever podcast network, that is specializing in contemporary pop culture. They cover all aspects of podcasting: from recording the episodes, to the monetization and distribution of the finished product on streaming platforms such as Spotify, Apple Music or Deezer. For “MusicTech Berlin” Stefan Zilch, the former head of Spotify Germany and Regional Managing Director at the Swedish podcast distributor Acast, sat down with us to talk about his new company, Europe’s creative capital Berlin and the podcast as a medium of contemporary history.
P: To kick things off, could you please sum up the idea behind Vo!cd.FM and its mission?
S: In essence, I’m a podcast consultant. I help artists, labels and managements in the music and entertainment industry to turn their idea for a podcast into reality. That often starts with explaining how recording and distributing podcasts differs from music and other forms of art. The world of podcasting is already very diverse, but I’ve always felt there to be a lack of pop cultural voices.
P: How can you explain that lack of “pop podcasts” within an otherwise diverse market?
S: I believe the key to successful podcasting lies within its commercialization, which differs a great deal to what my clients in the music industry are used to. Podcasts can be sold to one of the individual streaming platforms, meaning the platform exclusively buys the content and all the rights to it; similar to what happens between a musician and their label. The other option is to distribute the finished podcast to multiple platforms in order to generate income via streaming services. The important thing to note is that every streaming portal is different and that is where I come into play. I help my clients navigate the world of podcast portals and choose the right option for them.
P: Where do you see the biggest need for consulting newcomers who are new to podcasting? Which are your most frequently asked questions?
S: Artists and labels barely need my help producing a podcast. They all own the necessary equipment and have the technical know-how to produce all sorts of recordings in great quality. My help comes in when deciding what to do with the content.
Do I want to sell my content rights exclusively to a singular platform? Or do I want to be present on multiple platforms at once? The latter often means having to talk to various streaming portals and potential clients for advertising as well as distributing it. All these technicalities can be very overwhelming for someone who’s new to this type of work. I see myself as the enabler in that situation. I love the creative process and brainstorming with the client. Fine tuning an idea into a finished product and then opening the door to successfully marketing is essentially what Vo!cd.FM is about.
P: What benefits does Berlin offer as a location for the podcast scene?
Originally, I’m from the north of Germany, but I’ve been living and working in Berlin, Berlin-Wedding to be exact, for a long time now. I see Berlin as Germany’s creative capital. Sony Music didn’t move its headquarters from Munich to Berlin for no reason. Especially for the young scene of podcasters the city has a lot to offer. National, as well as international players have long called Berlin their home and more are moving here. In the beginning of the year we hosted a podcast meet-up together with Acast and Blinkist which was tremendously successful. We estimated that around 20 people would show up, but what happened was that we were forced to close the registration, because we’d been overrun with requests. Everyone was there: grassroot podcasters that have been streaming for 10+ years, big fish like Spotify, Deezer and RTL with AudioNOW and representatives of tv and radio stations, because by now, everyone has their own podcast department. The demand seems insatiable. Understandably, the wish to network and collaborate is equally as big.
P: If you could get anyone for a podcast about pop culture or music who would it be?
S: There are so many great minds that would be fantastic guests for a podcast. I really don’t want to spoil anybody’s imagination by naming any current artist. Talking to my clients about their podcasts I often hear the question, “Oh, what do I really have to say?!”. And to that I like to ask them to envision podcasts featuring names like John Lennon, Freddie Mercury, Janis Joplin or Rio Reiser. What would it mean for us today, if podcasts would’ve been around 50 years ago or longer? Today, we would consider those recordings a piece of pop cultural history. What is a “snapshot” worth that basically disappears the moment it has been uploaded? We have the means to document the voices and thoughts of the greatest artists of our generation, why not use this opportunity? There are so many stories out there that have yet to be heard!
Thank you, Stefan!