Jess Schmidt

Jess Schmidt

Jess Does Podcasting

Jess Schmidt (she/her) is a Podcast Producer/Consultant and accessibility advocate based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. She’s always loved telling stories, and fell in love with podcasting back in 2014 listening to anything she could get her ears on commuting to university every day for her English degree (yes, starting with Serial - and yes, you can call her a bandwagoner, she doesn’t mind). After a few years of closed captioning for television (that’s where her verve for accessibility support was born) all while still listening to podcasts whenever she wasn’t working, Jess decided to go back to school for a Master’s of Arts degree - but she prefers to call it her Master of Podcasting degree, since that’s really what she focussed on. Since then, Jess has been creating and producing branded and independent podcasts in Canada and beyond…and she still loves what she does. Whether you already have a podcast or have a great idea to start one, Jess brings a breadth of skills to the table to help make podcast dreams a reality. Listening to, discussing, writing about, and making podcasts is what she does on the daily, so you can trust her to do it well and with a lot of passion!

Where are you based?

Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

Where do you work? What do you do?

I’m an award-winning freelance podcast producer and consultant and I work on a mix of branded and indie shows. I like to say that I’m a full-stack podcaster; my skills run the gamut for pretty much all things podcast, but the short list of things that I do includes developing shows, guest chasing, research, scriptwriting, recording, hosting, editing, transcription, copywriting, etc.

What are you listening to?

Right now I’m pretty much exclusively listening to Dungeons & Daddies because as a D&D player myself I love the way the “dads” play with the storytelling format and imbue so much heart and humour into the show. I’m also a longtime fan of Song Exploder, as it’s introduced me to a ton of new music to expand my horizons and also given me the deep dive that I crave from the music that I already love. I also just crushed the 3 latest episodes of Dene Talk that are currently out, and I can’t wait for more – so well done, and I’m thrilled to see this kind of content out there in the Canadian podcasting space.

How do you discover new music?

Two of my favourite newsletters for new podcast discovery out of the now dozens that I think I’m subscribed to are Pod the North and Bingeworthy. Pod the North scratches my itch for podcasts across all genres that are coming out of Canadian podcasting, and Bingeworthy specifically highlights different narrative storytelling podcasts, which is my favourite genre. Other than that, it’s cliche but word of mouth is another great way to get recommendations because if someone I know thinks highly enough about a show they’re listening to that they want to recommend it, that endorsement is enough to get me interested, too.

When it comes to finding new music, one of my favourite ways is through the other media I consume, from movies to podcasts to socials. I also love getting to see my friend’s playlists to know what they’re listening to. At my core, I’m embarrassingly basic – I also love listening to the radio and finding new artists across different stations, including indie and smaller artists who get airtime on the campus-run radio station in Calgary. Lastly, I have found some artists that I really love on TikTok! I know the transformation for music discovery ends up putting a lot more of a burden on indie artists, so I really treasure when I’m able to find ones that I love through their hard-won efforts.

What formats do you usually listen to? LP, CD, Cassette, Digital, Streaming Services? Why?

I almost exclusively listen via streaming service, but once in a while if it’s an artist with a special place in my heart I’ll buy a record. I usually use Castbox and Spotify for podcast / music listening depending on the show (I prefer 3rd party apps like Castbox but I ran out of free show subscriptions so now I use a mix of that and Spotify.) When it comes to radio, I only listen in the car these days.

“I think my biggest complaint with listening for podcasts is that the “big three” really don’t do much to support some key elements of industry growth that I think have been missing for a long time: accessibility, and discoverability.”

Where do you do most of your music listening?

I used to be a passionate headphone listener (once upon a time I was one of those “But it sounds so much better over headphones!” people) but now that I work on podcasts full time and end up wearing headphones for a lot of my work day, I have become someone who mostly listens through my phone speakers while I toodle around the house, or over the speakers in my car. Sometimes it makes me miss the quality that I used to advocate so strongly for, but at the end of the day I think that being able to still love listening to podcasts and music and be able to do it in a way that doesn’t feel like I’m still in work mode is more important to me. As a work-from-homer I don’t have to commute anymore (which ironically is what got me into podcasting in the first place) but when I do have somewhere to go outside the house that requires driving or taking transit I treasure the opportunity and nostalgia of being able to listen to something over headphones while I’m out and about (especially for things like car trips, there’s a really special place in my heart for some of the podcasts and albums that have marked some really excellent journeys with my partner).

How do you find and listen to pre-release music?

Patreon is pretty much my main method of listening to podcast extras, and while I’m all for keeping podcasting for the most part free I do think that things like bonus content and cool extras are a great way for listeners to feel like they’re a part of the inner community of a show that they have a lot of love for.

What are your frustrations with listening to music digitally? Any benefits?

Ads can definitely start to be grating, especially if you’re bingeing a show and end up having to listen to the same host-read ad over and over and over again. I’m interested in seeing how the industry unfolds with the growing embracing of dynamically inserted ads for podcasts; at first I was virulently against the concept as host-read tailor ads fit way better with the ethos of podcasting, but having heard more dynamic insert ads recently I didn’t find them as offensive as I thought that I would and actually did appreciate the variety that they’re able to offer as opposed to burnt-in ads. I think my biggest complaint with listening for podcasts is that the “big three” (now about to be the big two, I guess, with Google Podcasts getting binned and YouTube still getting it’s ducks in a row to take its place) really don’t do much to support some key elements of industry growth that I think have been missing for a long time: accessibility, and discoverability. If these platforms did a better job of supporting assets like transcripts, it would do so much not just for making podcasts way friendlier for folks who are deaf, hard of hearing, or would prefer to to read instead of or even along with listening to a podcast; plus, if the dissemination points were able to leverage the transcripts properly they’d have a way easier time of suggesting other similar podcasts to listeners that fall outside the top 1% of popular listening.

How do you keep track of everything you are listening to?

I really wish I had a system in place, but for the most part I end up spending a lot of time combing through my recent listens across various apps and the “Now Playing” app on my phone.

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Do you tip other people off to new music? How?

Usually just word of mouth, or once in a blue moon when I have time and energy then I put together a playlist. I think there’s also some really great podcast recommendation newsletters out there that I’ve had the pleasure of contributing to who also are great for spreading the word about shows large and small.

“I love listening to the radio and finding new artists across different stations, including indie and smaller artists who get airtime on the campus-run radio station in Calgary.”

Anything you want to “promote”?

I have my own show that just launched this year, Rooked: The Cheaters’ Gambit which is an indie true crime-ish podcast that unravels juicy chess scandals. I work on this show with my partner, and it’s been really fun to have a show that meets in the middle place between our respective biggest passions, podcasting and chess. There’s this cultural conception of chess as an elite sport reserved only for true geniuses, but the other side that people rarely see (except when there’s titillating headlines about cheating via vibrating anal beads) is full of drama and just some really ridiculous antics. It’s a fun show to put together and I hope to listen to, as well!

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