Radiotopia will hold its first-ever DC live show Wednesday. So what does a podcast network do with an audience and a stage? We sat down with Radiotopia’s executive producer, Julie Shapiro, to find out.
First off, what is Radiotopia?
Radiotopia is curated network of podcasts. We started as a very story-driven network, but we’ve since branched out. Now we have stories that are long form and deeply reported, others that are deeply sound-designed. And our shows cover a range of topics–you have 99% Invisible, which goes deep into design, and Song Exploder, which analyzes a different song every episode and what it means.
We are smaller than a lot of networks–we only have 17 shows–and all the producers own their shows. As a network, we help distribute and market the shows, and sell ads. We really formed like a collective, so there’s a lot of internal support and community between the producers of the different shows.
Why a live tour? Could this be likened to how the music industry has shifted more to rely on touring as the way to make money?
Well, the live tour can be a potential revenue stream, but it’s an expensive thing to do. A lot of the live audio shows out there right now are just one show, which is a much less expensive endeavor, but we are taking several shows on tour at once. But our last tour had sponsorship and we do make money off the ticket sales.
We really see the value in meeting the community of listeners and getting in front of the fans, they’re an important part of the community. Tours are also a great way to get people in front of sponsors who get to see how into it the fans are, and how dedicated the listenership is.
It’s really fun. We are often compared to a punk or indie record label and we found with our West Coast tour that our fans don’t bat an eye about coming out to the show, the same way you’d have loyalty to a band. And because we’re a network and we have some smaller shows, this lets us get those shows in front of the audiences for some of the larger shows.
There is a big push toward “live journalism” and live events. How is Radiotopia Live going to be different? What can attendees expect?
A lot of podcast shows that sell out are interview shows. It’s two people on a stage in front of an audience and is recorded live and then released later as a podcast. Our shows are for the people in the room, our super dedicated fans who we know will appreciate this. Some of the producers may even try out stories that will end up as podcast episodes later on.
The show itself will feature stories from each show and, without giving too much away, there will be props, visuals, sound design–it’s highly produced. It becomes more like a variety show; we don’t just press play and sit there. There’s definitely an arc throughout the night. We produce the show and we think deeply about how to open it and sustain the energy, there’s intermission. It’s a real theatrical production. We really want to stress the experience of it all and we hope that we introduce a sense of humor, thoughtfulness, and mystery.
Radiotopia Live will feature stories from 99% Invisible, Benjamen Walker’s Theory of Everything, Criminal, The Kitchen Sisters Present, Radio Diaries and a special joint performance from The Bugle + The Allusionist. Doors open at 6:30 PM Wednesday at Lincoln Theatre. Tickets are $40.