Since This American Life spinoff Serial became an instant sensation in 2014, podcasts have increasingly filtered into water cooler chitchat and fueled Internet forum conversations for dedicated communities of listeners. But the art of creating a podcast can be a very solitary affair. Boston’s Public Radio Exchange (PRX) hopes to change that with the PRX Podcast Garage, the city’s first community audio and media arts training facility, which opened on Western Avenue in lower Allston in early August.
“What we’re really trying to do is create an intentional community,” says PRX director of special projects Audrey Mardavich, explaining that many podcasters get started working in bedrooms, with little opportunity to receive feedback on their work. “We hope that this will be a place for people from all over the city, or all over New England, to come and learn some new skills, use the recording studios and meet each other.”
The Garage hosts a large studio, equipped with microphones to accommodate up to four people and connected to an outside control room, and a one-person vocal booth hooked up with a single mic, though Garage members are welcome to bring in their own equipment. Members will also have access to a digital mixer, which they can control from an iPad, and a computer tricked out with all the audio-editing software a podcaster could need: ProTools, Hindenburg, Audacity, Audition and, soon, Reaper. The studio is also set up so that podcasters can Skype in collaborators.
“We really tried to get good stuff that would be out of reach for most producers,” Mardavich says. “The idea of the Garage is that we don’t have a full-time engineer on staff, which makes the rates pretty affordable. But we’re going to be here to help you, we’re going to have manuals, so it’s very easy to use all of this.”
Membership rates will cost about $99 a month and include three hours of studio time. However, Mardavich says the Garage will be open to anyone in the community with interest or questions. To that end, they plan to keep their doors open during the week for walk-in inquiries and have slated a host of upcoming free events designed to encourage community involvement. Those events include a recurring “Podcasting 101” series, which will have established local producers giving talks based upon their specialized skill sets, and a salon series curated by PRX’s Radiotopia executive producer Julie Shapiro that will bring in talent from around the country. On Sept. 12, Radiotopia will also host a Topefest in the Garage’s parking lot, where members of the community can mingle with leading audio producers from around the world.
Mardavich hopes to be able to draw people not only to the Garage—which is part of Zone 3, a Harvard-sparked initiative to bolster retail and programming along Western Avenue—but to the dynamic but often overlooked neighborhood.
“I didn’t even know this, but Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble headquarters is right around the corner, the Harvard i-lab is right down the street,” she says. “It’s insane. You could live here and go to a different thing every night. And a lot of people don’t know that. And that’s [another] goal of mine—I really want to sort of help make all this stuff going on here more visible to the greater community.”
–WBUR’s Kind World “Erika Lantz crafts beautiful local stories about the profound effect one act can have on our lives. They will sometimes make you cry or make you want to hug your neighbor.”
–Radiotopia’s Millennial “Millennial is a podcast about how to maneuver your 20s, but I think it’s a show people of any age could relate to. Host Megan Tan just joined our podcast network (Radiotopia), and she lives in Portland, Maine, so she’ll be spending a lot of time at the Garage too!”
–NPR’s Code Switch “Excellent, honest conversations about race, identity and culture, from the butterfly effects of Ferguson to talking about how LGBTQ people of color dealt with the aftermath of the Orlando shooting. Challenging, enlightening, a must-listen.”
–WNYC’s 2 Dope Queens “If you love funny women—of course you do—then you will love 2 Dope Queens by Jessica Williams and Phoebe Robinson, which features recordings of their insanely funny live comedy show in Brooklyn.”
–Radiotopia’s The Heart “It’s so hard to single out Radiotopia podcasts because I love them all, but The Heart recently put out a groundbreaking miniseries called ‘Silent Evidence’ that focused on one woman’s story of childhood sexual abuse. A tough but absolutely incredible listen.”
–PRX and Transom’s HowSound “Host Rob Rosenthal is an amazing radio teacher, and he plays stories that are both wonderful to listen to and have a lesson to teach about making great radio.”