Odds are that if you’re just getting into the podcast production game, you’re not supported by a bottomless pit of money. In the effort to help you keep that podcast budget down – like at about zero – the following is a list of free software and other downloads you can use in zero- to low-budget productions.
• Audacity or GarageBand. Getting any kind of software that’s convenient, intuitively used and free seems impossible today, but incredibly enough these two applications are all of the above. And not only are Audacity and GarageBand the most popular audio recording software, they’re also the easiest and most appropriate for podcasting. GarageBand is still available for Mac only, but the open-source Audacity, originally solely a PC-based product, recently became available for use with Mac. No matter: The console for both applications is essentially the same and what we might call the scalability of either allows one to plug and play, making a simple podcast production using solely the cut and paste functions. And necessary features such as noise reduction and fade in/out are simple enough for the novice.
• Skype. Wait! We know what you’re thinking: Something along the lines of “Why use Skype when so many readily available options exist?” True enough in the time of coronavirus, every telecommunications app from Zoom to Facebook Chat have increased in popularity as well as the skill level of the average user. Any number of podcasts and other entertainment forms have been recorded though Zoom, Twitch, etc.
But for recordable interviews, Skype has a couple of advantages over other telecom-type software. First, free calls may be made to anywhere in the world if both parties are Skype users. Though Skype can also be used as a mobile app, the reception (and therefore recording quality) if both parties are using computers is really second to none.
• MP3 Skype recorder. If you’re using Skype, be sure to download this handy, Spartanly-named MP3 Skype Recorder. When active, MP3 Skype Recorder monitors your Skype and instantly begins recording when an incoming or outgoing call begins, saving an MP3 recording of the file automatically in a designated folder. Even beyond its simplicity, the best feature of this app is that its default settings record each speaker on a different track – ultra-convenient for sound editing.
• Zamzar. Say you’d like to sample a few seconds of a YouTube video or an MP4 file you’ve got; unfortunately, most audio mixing software (including Audacity and GaraageBand) disallow the importation of video files into a project. The website Zamzar.com is a quick answer to this problem. To convert a video file to audio format, visit Zamzar.com and follow their easy three-step instructions of upload, choose format, download and voila: An MP3 file on your hard drive. The only problem with Zamzar is that the number of files and file sizes for conversion are fairly limited in the free version of the software, though subscription prices are very reasonable.
• Free Sound. At FreeSound.org is a database of sound effects and incidental music that is augmented by users daily. While selection will obviously be limited by contributions, the Free Sound bank is incredibly varied and useful. Best of all, absolutely no registration or subscription is necessary, though the website forums might be useful for tracking down or requesting a particular effect.
• Free Music Archive. Those who have been podcasting for a while will be heartened to hear that most of the catalogue at FreeMusicArchive.org has been restored. In September 2019, after 10 years of providing visitors with original free music, the FMA website was sold to Tribe of Noise. For several months, visitors were told that the website was undergoing construction. In March 2020, however, the website was back as before, as though nothing had ever happened.
FMA is loaded with hundreds of thousands of songs and ambient f/x tracks, all of which are absolutely free. The music are typically original tracks produced by independent bands, though a smattering of old public-archive tracks may be found. In all, a fantastic resource for theme songs, bumper music and the like in any podcast.