Since the dawn of the age of podcasting, music podcasts have been among the major players and innovators in the form, offering a rare and entirely new look inside the music industry through artist interviews, song deconstructions, and critical reviews. Here are ten music podcasts to listen to for new music, and music industry news and exclusives.
Song Exploder offers listeners an insider’s view into the making of popular songs. Host and creator Hrishikesh Hirway started the podcast in 2014, looking to emulate conversations he was having with other musicians and songwriters. In each episode, an artist or band discusses their creative approach to a particular song, accompanied by the song itself. What’s really unique though, is listeners get to hear the individual instruments, patches, and vocal tracks that became central to the production, or in some cases, didn’t make the cut.
Of note: Hirway is a podcasting magnate. In addition to Song Exploder, he’s taken on various roles (creator, host, composer, and producer) for a number of podcasts, such as Home Cooking, Partners, The West Wing Weekly, The Jump, and City Soundtracks. He now hosts a Song Exploder show on Netflix, born out of the podcast.
Switched on Pop
Switched on Pop is hosted by musicologist Nate Sloan and songwriter Charlie Harding. Sloan and Harding take pop music seriously, and set out to clue listeners in on the underappreciated complexity of the pop song of the moment. Sloan and Harding weave in music theory, music history, and examples of “text painting” – their term for the part in a song’s production when the sound directly mirrors the meaning of a lyric.
Broken Record is among Pushkin’s roster of masterful podcasts (which also includes popular show Revisionist History). The show pitches itself as “liner notes for the digital age.” Hosts and creators Rick Rubin, Malcolm Gladwell, Justin Richmond, and Bruce Headlam set out to bring the kind of narratives native to liner notes back into the conversation through artist interviews. Past guests include Jeff Tweedy of Wilco, Run The Jewels, and Joan Baez.
All Songs Considered
All Songs Considered is NPR’s longstanding on-air music show co-hosted by Bob Boilen (creator of NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert series) and Robin Hilton, available in podcast form. Boilen and Hilton discuss a range of new releases from global artists, sometimes with the artists themselves. The podcast is an excellent resource for new music discovery. Of note, “Manchester Air” by Irish band Saint Sister was listed as one of Boilen’s top 10 songs of 2021.
Desert Island Discs
Desert Island Discs has been a BBC institution since 1941. The show features writers, athletes, actors, musicians, and more “sharing the soundtracks of their life.” The name of the show (and the overall premise) is a riff on the classic icebreaker question, “what few items would you choose to have if stranded on a desert island?” Guests, or “castaways”, get to bring “eight tracks, a book and a luxury.” The show’s available archive stretches back to 1952. In the earliest listed episode, creator and original host, Roy Plomley, interviews soprano Kirsten Flagstad. Past guests also include Maya Angelou, Mel Brooks, and Neil Gaiman.
Popcast is The New York Times music news and criticism podcast hosted by Jon Caramanica in conversation with fellow music and culture critics from The New York Times, as well as other media outlets. The podcast covers new pop releases, but also features episodes discussing the future of jazz, the intersection of music and politics, and how genres have evolved and merged in contemporary music.
Dolly Parton’s America
Dolly Parton’s America is the brainchild of Jad Abumrad of Radiolab. The series explores Parton’s cultural impact and how she’s maintained her status as a near universally beloved icon – even in an increasingly divided America. The series features poignant interviews with Dolly, her peers, academic experts, fans, and Jad’s dad Naji.
Of note: Parton has partnered up with author James Patterson and Spotify on a new podcast they’re branding as a “bookcast.” It’s tied in with the release of their upcoming book, Run, Rose, Run. Several episodes of the bookcast are available on Spotify. Run, Rose, Run is due out on March 7th.
The Rolling Wave
The Rolling Wave is hosted by fiddle player Aoife Nic Cormaic and named for a traditional Irish piece. In each episode Nic Cormaic interviews major players and movements in Irish traditional and folk music, past and present. Recent episodes cover the first Irish Traditional Music course (taught at University College Cork), commemorate trad musicians such as Jimmy Campbell, and celebrate the work of female Irish traditional artists.
The Nialler9 podcast is hosted by DJ, music supervisor, and event curator Niall Byrne, who started the widely popular music blog of the same name. Music writer Andrea Cleary acts as co-host. The podcast covers new releases, classic albums, and tackles the enduring question, “why do people love Steely Dan”?
Irish Music Industry Podcast
The Irish Music Industry Podcast is produced and hosted by Mark Graham, member of Irish dancing band King Kong Company, and Music Tech lecturer at Waterford Institute of Technology. Since 2019, the podcast has worked to make sense of the Irish music industry. It’s geared towards music industry professionals, or anyone looking to make their way into the industry – paying particular attention to the impact of the pandemic on the musicians’ and artists’ ongoing struggle for fair pay.
If you’re interested in writing podcast reviews for our site, or if you want to shout at us for missing your own favourite music podcast, send us an email at [email protected]!
If you’re a fan of music podcasts, we recommend trying out The Late Night Nod, a brand new podcast coming to the HeadStuff Podcast Network.
The Late Night Nod is the 1988 Cáis Ulaidh Podcast of the Year and features original music and improvised interviews with guests from a fictitious world of arts and culture. Join broadcasting legend Brian McCann as he weaves a conversational thread through tales of inspiration, excess and heartache with some of the creative world’s best-known personalities, that you’ve never heard of. Have listen to the trailer below and don’t forget to subscribe so you’ll never miss an episode!