With so many podcasts in the audiosphere and only so many hours in the day, it can be a challenge just testing the waters, let alone finding one that delivers what you’re looking for. Well, along with Variety’s own illustrious “Strictly Business,” which focuses on music once a month, here is a selective list of 13 podcasts aimed at both music-industry hopefuls and insiders alike, presented in alphabetical order:
American Scandal “Payola – The $50 Handshake”: This particular episode of the Wondery series takes aim at the music industry’s not-so-hidden hidden secret: the way major labels and managers have used “bribes and kickbacks” to get records played on the radio.
And the Writer Is…: Veteran producer/songwriter Ross Golan, who has penned hits for Selena Gomez, Ariana Grande, Justin Bieber, Nicki Minaj, Keith Urban and Maroon 5, offers a definitive look at the songwriting process, interviewing the songwriters and producers behind many hits. Now in its seventh season and sponsored by Big Deal Music Publishing, recent episodes have featured Ricky Reed, pop groups AJR and 3OH!3, Parlophone Records A&R exec Jin Jin and others.
Broken Record: Hosted by Justin Richmond, with interviews led by Rick Rubin, Malcolm Gladwell and former New York Times editor Bruce Headlam, this iHeartMedia podcast is an audio version of liner notes, designed to create conversations “between the artist and the audience and the audience and the rest of the world.” Recent episodes have included John Hiatt & Jerry Douglas, Henry Rollins, Jaden Smith, Daryl Hall, Lukas Nelson, Cheap Trick’s Rick Nielsen, Mark Ronson, Eno, Liz Phair and Peter Frampton.
Creative Juice: Hosted by the ever-curious Circa and his Indepreneur team, this podcast on music marketing is aimed at people pursuing a career in the biz, whether as an artist, promoter, manager or label employee. Circa is an inquisitive, passionate guide who offers valuable career strategies for aspiring musician and industry hopeful alike.
Deep Cuts: Lost and Found: Hosted by renowned music supervisor Thomas Golubić, author/critic Chris Nashawaty and their pals Bill Fidurko, Derek Brain and Rich Eyre, this podcast examines “overlooked, underrated and forgotten music,” starting with 1977, the year punk broke. Topics range from “Were the Sex Pistols overrated?” to “How was AC/DC’s ‘Back in Black’ recorded in the Bahamas?” Artists explored include the Cure, the Clash, David Bowie, Wire, the Damned, the Jam, Buzzcocks (you get the idea). Episodes 1-4 are available now; new installments will be released weekly.
DIY Musician Podcast: CD Baby’s Kevin Breuner and Chris Robley — both musicians themselves — examine the challenges of attaining a successful career as an artist. An eclectic guest list ranges from artists who work with the indie digital distributor to guest speakers at their DIY Musician Conferences. Recent topics include productivity hacks for musicians, tips for getting back on-stage after the pandemic, creating the perfect release plan and how Siren and the Sea’s Cristina Cano managed to grow her monthly Spotify listeners by 2000%.
The Bob Lefsetz Podcast: Love him or loathe him — many do both at the same time — the self-invented industry pundit has always had a unique take on the music business, going back to the days when he was expressing himself via a snail-mailed letter. His range of guests is impressive and he can engage some in revealing conversations, from Irving Azoff and Live Nation chief Michael Rapino to Paul Anka and Harry Casey of K.C. & the Sunshine Band.
Mogul: This Spotify podcast, hosted by journalist/DJ Brandon “Jinx” Jenkins, explores the most iconic moments in hip-hop history, spawning its own spinoff “The Mogul Mixtapes,” featuring interviews with artists and journalists on such hot-button topics as the influence of the late DJ Screw, a fanboy gushing over Schoolboy Q’s 2016 cult classic “Blank Face LP,” or an instant analysis of Kanye West’s Atlanta “Donda” listening parties. Other recent highlights include a conversation with Ludacris during quarantine, in which he revealed that he owns 22 acres of land, a private plane and is a survivalist ready for the apocalypse.
Music Industry Blueprint with Rick Barker: Barker, the former manager of Taylor Swift early in her career, reveals his grass-roots strategies in artist development. His podcast is similarly full of memorable tips and strategies to help one wend their way through the business. Recent interviews include attorney Debbie Egel, “How to Win Big in the Music Business” author Clinton Sparks, and vocal coach Matt Ramsey.
Rarified Heir: While not specifically a music industry podcast, “Rarified Heir” offers a look at life as the child of a celebrity and is hosted by artist manager and publicist Josh Mills (himself the son of Muriel Cigars commercial host Edie Adams and celebrity photographer Martin Mills). Guests have included Shawn Kay, daughter of Steppenwolf’s John Kay; Herb Alpert’s daughter Eden; Eddie Cantor’s granddaughter Amanda Gari; and Elmo Kirkwood, son of the Meat Puppets’ Curt Kirkwood.
Slate’s Hit Parade with Chris Molanphy: Sponsored by the online site, with individual episodes available only to paid Slate+ subscribers, the podcast examines the various elements that make a song a hit, from the artistry of Bruce Springsteen to the evolution of singing in rap, not to mention the enduring appeal of Milli Vanilli …
Song Exploder: This popular and much-lauded podcast, hosted and produced by Hrishikesh Hirway, offers a deep dive with musicians into the various decisions that went into creating their most enduring work. Its popularity has spun off a Netflix series that has featured Alicia Keys, Lin-Manual Miranda, R.E.M., Ty Dolla $ign, Dua Lipa, Nine Inch Nails, the Killers and Natalia Lafourcade. The New York Times enthused, “In the world of beautifully produced podcasts, it is the beacon … a show filled with serious lines of honesty, cinematic production and peeks inside the creative process.”
When Life Hands You Lennons: This one is hosted by Lennon Cihak, a DIY musician who previously worked with Ari Herstand, author of “How to Make It in the New Music Business” and Ari’s Take, a popular blog about succeeding as an indie artist. Recent guests include Adam Small, Saweetie’s A&R/executive producer, who explains how her McDonald’s meal came about; marketing and artist services guru Justin Kleinfeld; Pro Tools expert David Franz; and Anthony Martini, former manager of Lil Dicky and Tyga.