An Interview with our Head of Creative Multimedia
We’re sharing something a little different this week: an interview with our Head of Creative Multimedia, Brent Funkhouser. Read on to learn about how podcasts tick, why they’re likely the right tool to accelerate your Arc, and what’s on Brent’s radar when it comes to the next frontier of streaming.
How has your relationship with podcasting evolved over the years?
It’s been interesting to go from being a casual listener to launching multiple new shows. I used to think of podcasts simply as a source of entertainment, but now I see them as so much more. They are opportunities to connect, to learn, to explore points of view you may not have been exposed to otherwise, and become part of a community. Podcasts have great potential to help us grow in both our personal and professional lives, if we only let them.
What are some factors that make podcasts such an effective tool?
One of the biggest opportunities having a podcast provides is the amount of content you can generate from it. From just one hour of recording per week, you can generate multiple social clips and quotes and even transcribe the audio into articles, written social media posts, and other forms of content. The format is also incredibly versatile, which makes podcasts great tools to get a larger message across or tell a longer story.
There’s also a certain intimacy to the podcast format that feels a lot more real and natural, particularly in interview episodes. People show up as their authentic selves, and that allows all of us to break down some of the social barriers that make it harder to connect online.
What can a podcast help you achieve?
There are many things a podcast can help you achieve, but one of the most impactful I have seen is the way hosting a podcast has helped people form deep and meaningful relationships on both personal and professional levels. Many of our clients have invited guests they’d never met previously for repeat appearances on their podcasts because they developed a special bond or found that they were both aligned on a similar mission.
In other cases, we’ve actually seen a host and guest work on big projects together after meeting through a podcast. Currently, one of our clients is co-authoring a book with a guest they had on their podcast, and another has partnered with former guests on charitable efforts. When you open yourself up to meeting new people, you never know where those relationships will take you—and a podcast is a great way to open that door.
Who’s a good fit when it comes to hosting a podcast?
If you’re outgoing, charismatic, curious, and good at active listening and asking thoughtful questions, then podcasting might be right up your alley! The best hosts are the ones that are able to connect at the personal level and ask thoughtful questions. It also helps to be good at research (although you can always get assistance with that piece)!
Any tips to make a podcast great?
The best way to set yourself up for success is to find your niche. I see a lot of podcasts go too broad with their subject matter, and I understand why: most of us have a variety of interests, it can be hard to find the right guests and coordinate schedules, and some of the most popular podcasts of all time tend to cover all kinds of subjects. It’s important to note, though, that many of those hosts found success before podcasting was as widespread as it is now—they build their audiences largely by being early adopters of the format. Today, it is evident that the most effective podcasts have a clearly defined niche in terms of subject matter.
Another advantage to a more nuanced approach? It’s much easier for your audience to find you!
What did you set out to achieve when you started building the podcast division?
I wanted to make sure, above all, else that quality was at the center of everything we did. I have an academic background in literature and years of experience in music production, and so it was important to me that good storytelling and high-quality production were key to our work. Another crucial element has been taking care of my team and giving them the opportunities they need to learn and grow.
I came into this role having never built a department before, and I’m proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish. It has taken some trial and error, but two years later we have a very healthy Creative Multimedia department with superbly talented team members working toward a common goal.
We’re also committed to helping our clients achieve the best possible outcomes, and that includes supporting our hosts with their technical setups. Not everybody who wants to start a podcast knows what they are doing as far as gear and software go (or have the time and know-how to do the research on their own), so we always try to help hosts pick the right tech setup for their recording.
We even provide hosts with a list of best practices for themselves and their guests so that they can create the best quality recording possible.
That guest factor is important too. While hosts have likely thought about their tech setup, it is a lot harder to guarantee that the guest will have professional audio and/or video equipment on their end. We try to cover all the to ensure a great experience—and excellent quality—for everyone involved.
What are your thoughts on the future of podcasting?
There are a lot more shows than there used to be. Fortunately, there is also a much bigger audience for podcasts today than ever before—there are about 465 million podcast listeners out there, or around 22 percent of internet users!
The good news is that platforms are noticing this sharp rise in podcast popularity and adapting to it. YouTube has been making a big play in podcasting recently, and has launched tools to help podcast creators operate more effectively. It’s likely that they will continue to expand the tools available to spur podcast growth, and that’s good for the industry—and for individual creators.
The rise of generative AI also creates a lot of potential. Thanks to tools like Swell.ai, podcast notes can be created in moments, opening up massive potential for content creation while saving time. Plenty of other tools are being developed to actually edit the audio and video elements of a podcast, such as Resound and Descript. While I feel many of the tools aren’t 100% there yet, they are advancing at a rapid clip. Some of these tools have potential to take a lot of the guesswork out of the editing without sacrificing the human element. I predict within a year’s time, these tools will have improved immensely and will be adopted by most podcast production professionals.
How do your personal passions overlap with your work at Arcbound?
I’m a lifelong creative. I started making movies with my friends when I was 10, and kept the camera in my hand until I decided I’d rather have a guitar in it during my sophomore year of high school. Growing up in a small town on the edge of Appalachia, entertainment options were limited. So, we got creative and made our own fun. Sometimes that meant writing scripts and filming short films, sometimes that meant writing songs, and sometimes that meant getting up to no good out in the woods or fields.
The nice thing about that is it made me extremely resourceful. Whenever I encounter roadblocks, I’m usually able to find a creative way to get around them. But self-reliance has its limits. When I began working for Arcbound, I had just moved to the DC area and was the only person on the A/V team. I didn’t know anybody who lived there, and I didn’t have anyone on the team who could help with the intricacies of my specific role (this has since changed as our team has grown). This experience really made me realize how important community is.
This revelation, coupled with the newfound skills that I had picked up at Arcbound, was incredibly powerful. I began to create more music and more content—and deploy it more thoughtfully and effectively. I began to meet other creative, like-minded people and expand my network in the DC area. While it may be difficult at times to find the energy to hop into my editing station and tackle my personal projects after working with audio and video all day, I recognize why building a personal brand is important and how all of these elements fit into it. The skills I have learned at Arcbound, whether in editing or marketing, have really helped me elevate my craft.
What podcasts do you recommend?
I tend to listen to improv comedy podcasts on my own time. A few of my favorites are The Neighborhood Listen, Off Book: The Improvised Musical Podcast, and Comedy Bang-Bang. I like these podcasts as a form of escapism, to loosen up and laugh a bit (plus, I’m a big stand-up comedy fan). It’s a lot different than much of the content that we work on at Arcbound, but I’d welcome the opportunity to work on a show like this!
There are a couple of music-based ones I like as well, the most accessible being Walking the Floor with Chris Shifflet (of Foo Fighters fame). Armed with a warm personality, Chris sits down with leading voices in Americana, folk, and alt-country to discuss their careers and share stories. Another great show is Set it Straight with Midland, a limited series where the band examines some of the greatest tall tales in country music to see what is true and what is fiction. You can learn a lot of interesting stuff from this show.
What should we know about you as a performer? Where can we listen to your stuff?
My music best fits in that category “Americana,” that ambiguous category that is nestled somewhere in the middle of rock, folk, and country (and often flirts with blues, soul, bluegrass, and many other categories of roots music). I like to call it Y’alternative. I’ve been at this for a long time, and I have been very lucky to have some amazing opportunities along the way. As a singer-songwriter, I’ve performed hundreds of shows across ten states and opened for award-winning artists like Judy Collins and Phil Vassar.
That community bit I mentioned earlier has inspired me to start a new concert series, The Travelin’ Round. This series is a recurring, touring showcase series that adopts the Nashville-style “Songwriter’s Round” format with an interview twist. For each locale it visits, The Travelin’ Round builds a lineup of the finest local songwriting talent. The series gives concert-goers an intimate look at the songwriting process and each writer’s identity. We’ve had four events this year, and I’m looking forward to doing more in 2024. Follow us on Instagram and find out when we’re coming to a venue near you!
You can find me on Spotify or Apple Music. I’ve put out a few singles this past year (“Blackberries,” “We Get By,” and “Nighttime Song”), and I plan to release much more music in the coming months. If you’re in the DC area, check out my website and catch me at a show. Hoping to get out a little more beyond the DMV this coming year!