The creation and consumption of music podcasts is at an all time high. As “let’s start a podcast” has become an almost comical statement given its overuse in recent years, it is surely the exact phrase that resulted in the creation of 1.9 million new podcasts since 2020. Likely a product of COVID and accessibility to recording equipment, the rise of podcasting continues to breed more creators and listeners. Today, over 90 million Americans listen to podcasts on a weekly basis.
Though exciting to have such a vast selection of pods to choose from, it also makes decision-making painstakingly difficult. How do we filter the good from the bad, the useful to us from the potential waste of time? Luckily for music lovers, that’s what we’re here for. As avid music podcasts listeners, we’ve selected our 5 favorites to share with you, and specifically what might make them valuable to you as well.
With every episode, host Cole Cuchna performs an almost surgical analysis of a popular song, using his knowledge of music theory and literature to walk us through its every element. Lyrical meaning, chord structure, and emotional themes are explored in depth in this narration-style show, as each section of a song is studied and replayed to give the listener a fresh perspective on some of their favorite music. Cuchna’s incredible analytical ability is undeniable, as he weaves historical references, English language structure, and music theory into the breakdown of each song he discusses, even providing alternative choices the artist could have made to better emphasize the significance of their final decision – something that would make any music nerd giddy.
Dissect operates seasonally, with each season focusing on one album, and each episode focusing on a single song. The show is currently on its 11th season and has covered albums such as Flower Boy by Tyler the Creator, Lemonade by Beyonce, and Blonde by Frank Ocean, to name a few.
In between season-long album examinations, Dissect has off-season series which see Cuchna taking on different formats of song study, either on his own or with a co-host. “Last Song Standing” is a debate-style series that attempts to crown one song from an artist’s entire discography as their single greatest song, breaking down each one before letting listeners vote at the end of season. “Lyrical Masters” is a line-by-line analysis of one song by each of some of the most lyrically adept artists in music, touching on every genre and time period. Recent episodes have covered Lil Wayne, Little Simz, and MF DOOM, amongst others.
Though not everyone’s music can be analyzed to Cole Cuchna’s level, it is the job of many industry professionals to listen carefully, critically, and honestly. If you want them to hear your music, you can find them on Groover’s main platform.
Frequency of episodes: Once a week
Average duration: 45 mins (regular season), 1 hour 30 mins (Last Song Standing), 1 hour (Lyrical Masters).
2. Tape Notes
If you’re a producer, Tape Notes might be for you. Tape Notes is a conversation-style album study that shines a particularly bright light on the production of an artist’s project. Host John Kennedy sits down with the artist and producer (who are sometimes the same person) behind recently-released albums, asking pertinent questions about how the songs reached their final form and why. Throughout the series, producers sit with their computers and give us a “look” into the making of the album in question, playing different versions of the songs, ones that didn’t make the cut, isolated tracks and various takes, as well as a walkthrough of the production methods they used to get there.
The sound you assumed was a synth in Fred Again..’s latest track may have actually been white noise that was manipulated to retain pitch, specifically within frequencies that evoke a specific emotion he was aiming for. It almost feels illegal to be getting such detailed insight into the making of such incredible albums. Though still an interviewer, we feel a great sense of relatability to John as he asks questions with a comfortable curiosity that feels very genuine and less formal, making long episodes fly by rather quickly. For those interested in the technicalities that go into creating a sound, message, or unforgettable feeling, Tape Notes will scratch every itch of yours. Guests have included FINNEAS, the 1975, Kenny Beats, FKJ, Charlie Puth, and more.
Frequency of episodes: Every 3 weeks (roughly)
Average duration: 1 hour 30 mins
3. Switched on Pop
Musicologist Nate Sloan and songwriter Charlie Harding host what is hands down one of the best music podcasts there is, particularly in the world of pop music. The two friends combine their respective areas of musical expertise to discuss pop hits and their surrounding culture in a very light-hearted, humorous way, giving this podcast a truly “feel-good” energy. Switched On Pop varies in subject, often taking listener-suggested topics about current musical trends and artists and sourcing their popularity back to a specific part of history or culture. Topics they’ve touched upon recently have been cursive singing, AI songs, the story behind Taylor Swift’s re-records, why Tik Tok sounds are always sped up, and much, much more. Sloan and Harding are not often joined by guests, but have had some exceptionally talented songwriters drop in and give their two cents on the latest fad, or discuss the techniques they utilize themselves in their creative processes. Episodes vary in format, as do the series within the show, so you never know what you’re going to get week to week. For those who prefer a more laid-back format all around, you might just get hooked.
Frequency of episodes: Every week
Average duration: 40 mins
4. All Songs Considered
Are you a fan of the Tiny Desk Concert series? Well, it’s filmed in the All Songs Considered office! NPR’s musical spin on its own news broadcast, All Things Considered, takes a holistic approach to music listening and discovery. The show’s anchor is its Friday segment, New Music Friday, which walks through NPR’s picks for albums released that week. The success of this segment has earned All Songs Considered a top spot in the list of great sources of new music and is an undeniable boost for any up and coming artist. Hosts Bob Boilen and Robert Hilton discuss music through an almost sociological lens, soliciting listeners for episode topic ideas before doing an in-depth dive into various subjects, such as “songs that make you cry”, or “hip-hop verses that changed my life”. The involvement of the audience paired with the light-hearted nature of the hosts’ back and forth makes for a very inviting podcast, and one you feel like you’ve been listening to for years right away.
Frequency of episodes: Twice a week
Average duration: 30-40 mins
5. Song Exploder
Last but certainly not least, Song Exploder takes the final spot on our list of podcasts you just can’t miss, though you may have already heard of it. On top of being an award winning podcast, its popularity erupted (pun intended) once more following its debut as a Netflix series in 2020, six years after its inception. Creator and host Hrishikesh Hirway walks through one song with its respective artist or musician as they explain the thought process behind its creation, taking it apart layer-by-layer. We are told about each decision in a storytelling-like manner, hearing clips of the individual tracks of the song along the way, eventually rebuilding what we hear in the final studio version. What we might initially perceive as an eclectic mix of sounds in a song we love is instead presented to us ingredient by ingredient, increasing our appreciation of the work and final result tenfold. From the beautiful water-color portraits used as the art for each episode to the show’s short-length format, Song Exploder is very easily digestible as a listener, and is even more fascinating to watch on-screen. Guests have included Madonna, Hans Zimmer, Billie Eilish, Mobb Deep, and countless other legendary artists.
Frequency of episodes: Every 2 weeks
Average duration: 20 mins
Whether your goal is to expand your knowledge of music, or perhaps just get into podcasting, there is certainly music podcasts out there for you. Each comes with its own style of presenting information, but all of the aforementioned shows are genuinely worth the listen, and we can’t recommend them enough. There’s nothing better than hearing a fellow music-lover speak passionately about the craft, and it is evident that the hosts of these shows live and breathe music, making tuning in all the more enjoyable. Which one will you be checking out on your next commute?
90 million listeners: https://www.buzzsprout.com/blog/podcast-statistics
1.9 million new pods: https://explodingtopics.com/blog/number-of-podcasts