In recent years podcasts have become widely recognized as not only a cultural innovation but as an essential media platform.
Countless celebrities, comedians, musicians, and pro athletes have started their own podcasts and have seen tremendous success. Whether it may be the free publicity, brand awareness, or the ease of connecting with fans and new audiences, entertainers are flocking to this new art form in broadcasting.
Well-known actors like Rob Lowe, Alec Baldwin, and Dax Shepard have all jumped on the podcast bandwagon. Comedians including Ricky Gervais have also joined the space as well as musicians like Snoop Dogg and sports stars such as Shaquille O’Neal. At one point, Shaquille’s podcast, “The Big Podcast with Shaq” was the most downloaded podcast ever.
Podcasts date back to the 1980s, but they only really took off in the last ten years as the means to distribute them became a lot easier. These vehicles for storytelling and sharing narratives can now attract vast audiences. Many celebrities are also fortunate to have a lower barrier to entry because they already bring an established fan base with them.
American comedian Joe Rogan’s podcast “The Joe Rogan Experience” has been one of the most popular podcasts in the world for about a decade with over ten million listeners. This year Rogan signed a staggering $100 million deal to exclusively host his podcast on Spotify for three years. It is the biggest sum ever paid to a podcaster for distribution rights to their show and showcases just how valuable podcasts have become. Many more entertainers could be considering their own podcasts with figures like this floating around the industry.
Our modern society is busy and even amid a global pandemic, there is still laundry to be folded, things that need fixing, children that need caring too, and food needing to be cooked. Podcasts allow us to multitask while consuming information that interests us at the same time. Many people admire entertainers and want to hear what they have to say. Whether it is cultural commentary, gossip, or advice that entices you to download their podcast, there is bound to be an entertainer out there with a podcast that has exactly what you want to hear.
The podcast audience today is also substantial, which gives celebrities more incentive to get in on the action. The Pew Research Center estimates that 36% of Americans (or 89 million people in the US) have listened to at least one podcast in their lifetime, and 17% listen to one regularly. According to Statista, forecasts suggest that the number of podcast listeners will surpass a whopping 160 million in 2023.
Before the pandemic, podcasts were easy to listen to while driving or commuting. Despite fewer people on the road now, coronavirus has still increased podcast listening. According to Voxnest, global podcast listens had increased by 42% and European listens were up by 53% in April when much of the world was on lockdown.
Podcasts are a new medium quickly on the rise, and an increasing number of celebrities are becoming household names for listeners. Most recently Parks and Recreation actor Rob Lowe jumped on the podcast train with his podcast entitled “Literally! With Rob Lowe.” It quickly generated a 4.7 rating with thousands of reviews.
The description of Lowe’s podcast reads, “This is literally a podcast where people I love, admire and know well will be in a safe space to really let their hair down (assuming they have any). I will cover the thoughtful to the extremely random. So, join me and my guests from the world of movies, TV, sports, music, and culture for fun, wide-ranging, free-wheeling conversations.”
Dax Shepard of Bless this Mess Co-hosts his own podcast called the “Armchair Expert” with his producer and close friend Monica Padman. Each podcast features Shepard and Padman interviewing a variety of people including celebrities, journalists, and academics about “the messiness of being human.” Past guests have included Shepard’s own wife and Frozen actress Kristen Bell.
Many entertainers are finding it easy to set up shop at home and have casual chats with their fan bases. Rapper Snoop Dogg’s podcast welcomes new listeners with the following description: “Wake and bake cuz! Down to smoke one with your big homie Snoop Dogg? Well, here I is and here’s your shot neffew. Get up close and personal with me.”
Award-winning actor Alec Baldwin has a unique podcast called “Here’s the Thing” where he gives the listener a special entrance into the lives of artists, policymakers and performers. Baldwin goes inside the dressing rooms and apartments of his guests. Past guests have included Chris Rock and Michael Douglas.
Face it, many of you would much rather be listening to this lengthy article instead of reading it. Imagine everything you are reading being spoken to you by someone with a pleasant soothing voice. Perhaps Morgan Freeman? Maybe Barack Obama? Some of you may even prefer Samuel L. Jackson with that distinct vocabulary he uses. “Podcasts are cool, baby!” We have become familiarized with celebrities on the screen, so becoming drawn to them on podcasts is only natural. Plus, if there is an audience out there, chances are an entertainer is vying to perform to it and connect with it.