yeah, so i decided i would transcribe the article for archiving purposes and to make it available to the online public. this was originally published on august 18th, 2005, page d8 in the Montreal Gazette (Urban Life page). having spent many bored sundays in my youth learning to type, this only took me a little over 10 minutes to finish, which is why, despite appearances, this was the most effortless way to get this to happen.
i’d like to thank michael citrome and m-c for making it possible for me to get a conservative newspaper to think that what i do is cool (for now, anyway).
By day, Marie-Chantale Turgeon is a Web designer and illustrator creating high-tech Internet software. But a couple of times a week, she plugs a $50 Sony microphone and a pair of headphones into her Apple Titanium Powerbook G4 laptop computer and becomes one of the biggest international promoters of Montreal-made music.
For about half an hour, aided only by a few pages of scribbled notes, she plays five or so songs, mostly by local artists, and talks about bands, tour dates and whatever’s on her mind. Because she’s able to keep track of downloads and subscribers online, she knows more than 40,000 people listen to her podcast every month.
“Podcasts are more spnotaneous than radio – we’re totally free to do it when we want, say what we want and play whatever we want,” said Turgeon, 30, whose podcast Vu d’ici – Seen from Here – was named one of the best podcasts in the world by the July y2005 issue of Spin magazine. It’s currently ranked second in popularity among Canadian podcasts on Apple’s iTunes service.
(The No. 1 spot on iTunes Canada is usually occupied by Dave’s iPaq Podcast, davesipaq.com, a technie show dedicated to the Pocket PC made by Compaq and HP.)
Each half-hour instalment of Vu d’ici features mostly Montreal artists interspersed with tech talk and a few topics from Turgeon’s life. A recent episode began with the bouncy pop of Montreal-New York electrofunksters Chromeo followed by the precision funk of American ’80s nostalgics VHS or Beta.\Only after eight minutes of solid music does Turgeon interject with some bilingual host talk in the same league as a lot of what’s on your radio dial – except Turgeon does this for free, although she’s looking for a sponsor and accepts donations through her Web site.
Some mellow indie-rock from home and abroad follows, courtesy of the Most Serene Republic. Turgeon ends her show with a little rant on the unavailability of legal MP3 downloads of Quebec bands, some heavier, fuzz-tinged rock and her listeners wanting more.
Turgeon says the great majority of her listeners are from outside our city and tune in to hear the latest from the white-hot Montreal music scene, which has been attracting a whole lot of international attention, especially from Europe and the United States.
The word podcast combines iPod and broadcast, because that’s exactly what podcasts are – indie Internet radio shows you can download as an alternative to tuning into whatever’s on the air. Contrary to the name, you don’t need an Apple iPod to hear podcasts; any MP3 player or software will do.
And local podcasters are making waves internationally by playing exactly what the audience is hungry for and presenting it in an innovative way.
“They listen to my show because they want to hear the Montreal artists,” she said.
Turgeon has been doing her podcast since the end of 2004, but in this very youjng and rapidly evolving movement, she’s already a bit of a veteran. Mainstream media outlets like the BBC, NPR and CBC have recently started distributing their own shows in podcast form. Even the Fox TV network announced last week it would be offering special podcast tie-ins to their shows like 24 and Arrested Development.***
It didn’t take Turgeon long to make contact with Julien Smith, 26, another local podcaster whose show In Over Your Head is part of the Podshow network, the 800-pound gorilla of podcasting. PodShow was founded by online media guru Adam Curry, who created mtv.com before most people had even heard of e-mail. Smith calls him “the podfather.”
Smith’s format is mostly underground hip-hop accompanied by the kind of chatter that wouldn’t sit well with the management at a Top 40 station.
“I talk trash – inane stuff, Max Headroom, some dream I had, it’s half standup compedy. The difference is I care about what I do, and a lot of the people on the radio just don’t care about what they’re playing,” Smith said.
When Turgeon and Smith started talking they realized they had a lot in common – in addition to have started podcasting at around the same time, they were both into a lot of the same music and, coincidentally enough, lived about a block away from each other in the Plateau Mont Royal neighbourhood.
They became fast friends and even collaborators – a special 90-minute podcast they put together will air on German public radio next month.
One of the most exciting things about podcasting, Smith says, is its DIY indie aesthetic – anyone can do it. Popular podcasts spread by word of mouth or blog networks.
“I’m ashamed to say almost no production time goes into making my podcast. I record the show and I put it out there. M-C (Turgeon) and I agree that the less production goes into it, the more it feels like spur-of-the-moment and a real person,” Smith said.
“When I did my first podcast, I didn’t have the proper equipment. I just recorded using the computer’s built-in microphone,” Turgeon said.
“It sounded like you were in some kind of small shack,” Smith added, “but all you really need is a $10 microphone and you can get started as a podcaster.”
Alexandre Michel is a 27-year-old Montrealer who’s a regular podcast listener – in fact, Smith and Turgeon’s shows are some of his favourites.
“I don’t think it’s a replacement for radio. I think it’s an alternative to radio. I listen to mostly Montreal-based podcasts, so it’s Montreal people and the Montreal scene. It’s a great way to hear independent unsigned artists,” said Michel, who listens while he works.
“I work in front of the computer all day so I sign up to different podcasts, download them in the morning and just listen to them on my computer during the day. I don’t even own an iPod yet – every month it’s like rent vs. iPod,” he said.
For Michel, podcasts are about more than just being entertained – they’re a way to keep in touch, and are personalized in a way that radio just can’t.
“I hear about stuff happening in Montreal that I wouldn’t otherwise know about because I don’t have time to read through every blog. If I hear something I like I’ll just rewind a little bit and I can write it down.”
The most complicated thing about podcasting may be figuring out what to listen to.
“Before I started podcasting, I used to listen to everything out there,” Smith said, “but now that’s impossible There are too many of them.”
But there are ways to wade through the multitudes and find something you’ll enjoy listening to.
“The new version of iTunes uses indexing, so people can actually tag their podcasts as being indie or electro or Montreal-based and all you have to do is a search, just like you’d do in a regular search engine. The most popular ones are listed on top, so you can download based on popularity or your own interest,” Michel said.
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