Nashville-based Lij Shaw sure stays busy year-round as an audio engineer and podcast producer!
Recording Studio Rockstars is a #1 iTunes podcast that invites you into the studio to learn from recording professionals so that you can make your best record ever and be a “Rockstar” of the studio yourself. Lij started the podcast because he had loved the excitement of being an intern in the control room during a real session with professional recording engineers and producers. He remembered listening in on the amazing stories they would tell, and realized that he had a chance to help people everywhere have that same experience through podcasting.
Podcasting now allows him to help people all over the world by doing the very thing that he and other producers and engineers love to do anyway, which is talk about making great records in the studio.
During the first part of his career, Lij focused on the idea that a record that he helped to create could impact thousands of listeners. But now podcasting gives the platform to help more people—who love recording—impact many thousands more through their music that he’s been helping them create.
What is mind-blowing is that Lij’s musical and creative impact has grown exponentially through podcasting! We sat down with Lij and asked him a few questions about it all.
Q: How long have you been in the audio industry?
A: I started recording music in my teens with a four-track cassette tape machine, eventually went to MTSU for their college recording program, and have now been recording professionally for 30 years.
Q: How has the audio industry changed since your early days?
A: Recording studios used to be huge industrial spaces that required massive budgets to create and operate with 2” tape machines and wide mixing consoles. Today the recording studio has evolved and shrunk down to the size of a portable smartphone. With a simple laptop, interface, and software you can have a complete professional recording studio for a tiny fraction of what it used to cost. This year five of the top Grammy awards were swept up by Billie Eilish and her brother Finneas O’Connell for producing a record in their bedroom recording studio. Times have definitely changed!
A: I had been a podcast fan for a couple of years listening to business-focused podcasts like Pat Flynn, and John Lee Dumas. In fact, I started listening because I wanted to learn more about running the business side of my recording studio. Pretty soon I thought, “why not start a podcast of my own to talk about making records? It’s what we all do anyway!”I saw a wide-open opportunity through podcasting to bring my expertise and network of music professionals together to create something that I had already devoted my life to: the recording studio. I also realized that many of us making records shared the same feeling of being somewhat in the shadows of the bands and artists we recorded every day. We want to say, “Hey we are Rockstars too!”
So the title, Recording Studio Rockstars, is a nod to the listeners who are “The Rockstars” or would like to be one day, and it is also a compliment to the guests that I invite onto the show who are already there.
Q: How does your first podcast compare to your most recent?
A: My first podcast was terrible! I spent all day trying out different positions on my microphone just to see what my voice sounded like. I recorded my intro ideas over and over again and spent hours mixing one minute of voice and music. I’m sure it sounded like a mess! Then one a long drive I listened to them repeatedly and began to get excited about the possibility that this might actually work.
It took me a few years to finally launch Recording Studio Rockstars. In fact, this is my fourth podcast! My first show was called “Bitcoins and Gravy,” and was all about cryptocurrencies. I created that show with a co-host and we did quite well, getting plenty of press and were quickly added to a growing network of podcasts. But after 8 months of hard work with 30 episodes and 60 interviews conducted the partnership blew up. I had started my podcast with the wrong partner. So I had to start all over again. Plus I realized that I was being pulled in a direction that while fascinating wasn’t really where my heart was in making music.
My next podcast started with a group of four co-hosts and again fell apart after eight months of hard work. This time it just fizzled out because the four parents didn’t have the same vision for the podcast. Partnerships are tough.
Then I started my music podcast called The Toy Box Studio Show and began interviewing producers and musicians but soon realized that the show title and focus didn’t really help anyone understand why they should listen. The title made it sound like the show was all about me rather than all about the listener and helping them in some way. So eventually I got the message and launched Recording Studio Rockstars which has now grown to over a million downloads and over 250 interviews with weekly fans that love the show.
Q: There are so many podcasts these days. How do you stand out?
A: Having an easy to understand title is a great start. Recording Studio Rockstars has two keywords in it that a listener is likely to search for “recording studio.” The interview-style podcast also gains some traction by tapping into the existing networks of many of its guests. And the most important thing of all is the simple act of being unshakably consistent. By publishing on the same day every week and being consistent in the content and message, it allows the audience to know what to expect and feel like its worthwhile to give their time to listen to your show. Treat your audience with great respect and they will likely treat you with great respect, too—by listening to your show.
Q: Do you ever take your podcast on the road?
A: At first I offered to bring my laptop studio over to my guests’ studios to conduct the interviews but quickly discovered that I could be much more efficient if I had the guest come over to my studio. It took me too long to set everything up remotely. But now that the technology for recording a mobile podcast has improved so much I am looking at using new portable options like the ones offered by PreSonus.
They’re now making the AR8c portable USB interface/mixer that would easily allow you to have a professional podcasting studio in any location.
Using their high-quality, built-in Class A XMAX mic preamps, you can connect it you a laptop to record multiple mic inputs for group podcasts, and add bumper music in real time for fast-paced podcast production… OR simply record in stereo directly to an onboard SD card for convenience that doesn’t even require a laptop!
The ioStation 24c gives you a simple interface that would allow you to plug in your mic, and one for your guest to record to Studio One on your laptop. It also doubles as a powerful single-fader control surface. Plus you can record in high-quality resolution: 24-bit/192kHz.
Q: What’s your favorite podcast right now?
A: I certainly have some podcasts about music and recording that I enjoy like Working Class Audio, Six Figure Home Studio, The Mastering Show, Roadie Free Radio, Produce Like A Pro, Bobby Owsinski’s Inner Circle, and Song Exploder. Some of my favorite business-related shows are Smart Passive Income, Entrepreneur On Fire, and the Graham Cochrane Show. And there are many other great marketing podcasts like The Art Of Paid Traffic, and Perpetual Traffic. But I also love listening to podcasts that have nothing to do with my usual work topics, like The Singularity, FM podcast, or Data Dash and Crypto Zombie.
A: Get very clear on who you would like to help with your podcast and why they would want to dedicate many hours of their life to listening to you. I have fans that regularly will tell me they have listened to nearly every episode of my show. That means they have literally spent hundreds of hours listening to me interview my guests. Wow!
So, why do they do this? Because it helps them name better records. Why will your fans want to give you that much of their time? Also, why do you want to do the podcast in the first place?
It takes a huge amount of effort and time and you will definitely get to the point where you are completely sick of creating your own podcast and wish you could just take a break. But you don’t want to take a break if you are trying to be consistent. So you want to pick a topic that you absolutely love that will carry you through those very difficult moments.
Lastly… be very clear with yourself whether you want this to become a business and learn how to outline the path from a fan listening to your show all the way to you offering them the massive value that you could make the foundation of your business. What is your mission statement in one or two sentences? Get clear and then get even clearer. And then take your topic and narrow it down further. Then take that focus and narrow it even further until you have something very specific for your audience.