Is “ProTools Proficiency” Gatekeeping the Audio Industry?


PodMov Daily: Tuesday, January 19

Episode 353: Testing, One Two-sday

Is “ProTools Proficiency” Gatekeeping the Audio Industry?

According to audio producer Michael McDowell, “Just about everyone who works in podcasting has at some point had the horrifying realization that ProTools is inescapable and they must learn it.” Not in terms of production — in terms of employment. For many, this assumed standard is more like a barrier to entry.

ProTools isn’t just expensive, it’s an opportunity with unequal access. Requiring it disproportionately impacts upcoming producers of color, says LA Times producer Shannon Lin. “Investing in POC reporters/producers by providing them with an environment where they receive training is vital to diversifying newsrooms.”

A “monstrous digital audio workstation” alone shouldn’t dictate who gets hired, McDowell argues. “A fantastic candidate, and in particular someone applying for that first job in audio whose voice we so desperately need to hear, ought never to be excluded from the industry due to their lack of ProTools proficiency.”

Podnews on Apple’s Podcast Subscription Service

Apple is considering “a new subscription service that would charge people to listen to podcasts,” and the industry has questions. James Cridland of Podnews sees how the arrangement “could offer significant opportunity for independent podcasters” and provide the company an alternative to targeted advertising.

On one hand, Apple Podcasts (and podcasting as a whole) has long operated with open doors. The OG podcast platform would look very different if listing were to become conditional or fractured: “A level playing field seems incompatible with a premium subscription service of the type that is being contemplated here.” 

What about the idea of “charging for individual podcasts”? Cridland figures that if creators were able to set prices for their work, ad-free monetization may finally be viable for certain formats. On many levels, a familiar music/podcasts combo without the data harvesting could “significantly threaten” Spotify.

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Here's what else is going on:

  • Radio wave: As of yesterday, over 200 audio professionals have signed an anti-racist open letter to public media. Elena Fernández Collins gives detailed context for the “five-step vision plan” in Discover Pods. The head of the initiative, Celeste Headlee, is a former host with NPR, PBS, and PRI.
  • The yard: “Fundamentally I do not believe that Clubhouse is a podcasting app,” writes Nick Hilton. “It drinks more of live radio’s milkshake than it does podcasting’s.” He suspects that the audio-only social platform will end up a networking hub for podcast journalists, producers and publishers.
  • Group chat: Journalist Jemele Hill, the host of Jemele Hill Is Unbothered, is developing a Spotify podcast network focused on Black women. She tells Bloomberg, “It’s an extraordinary time for Black women, and content that is unique to them and appeals to them is a priority.”
  • Bright ideas: The spring application deadline for NPR’s Story Lab Workshop is coming up this Sunday. The six-month program is “seeking submissions for ambitious podcasts, special series, and other long-form audio projects that exhibit high-impact journalism and creative storytelling.”

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