Alex Feldman is CEO of Pixiu – a production company that has been making podcasts since 2008. Founded at the time of Channel 4 Radio, Pixiu knocked the pioneering Ricky Gervais podcast off the top of the iTunes chart with the Skins podcast presented by Daniel Kaluuya. A decade on and Pixiu have become the go-to production house for brands. With a slate that includes the recently launched British Library ‘Anything But Silent’ as well as podcasts for Virgin, BT Sport, The National Trust and Simba – as well as Giovanna Fletcher’s hit show ‘Happy Mum Happy Baby’. We sat down with Alex to discuss some of his highlights from a decade in podcasting…
If you could go back to just before you recorded your first podcast and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?
Be patient! At the end of 2005, Apple and Motorola launched the ROKR E1 phone – it was the first mobile phone that ran iTunes and was my lightbulb moment. I’d been producing specialist music shows for the BBC for 8 years and when I got my hands on a ROKR I was convinced that the future of ‘radio’ was on the mobile phone. I decided to set up a production company that made audio to be listened to on phones rather than on the radio – it took a little while longer than I’d hoped for the rest of the ‘radio’ world to realise that, however it was delivered, good audio is good audio.
What makes a great podcast host?
In my early days of producing music shows I quickly discovered that artists give more insightful interviews to fellow artists rather than presenters. ‘Presenters on sticks’ are pointless – if you want to really engage an audience in an amazing conversation then you need someone thats lived it, whatever ‘it’ is. Interviews are for radio, conversations are for podcasts, and a great podcast host isn’t afraid to throw away their script!
What makes a great podcast guest?
Someone that’s not trying to sell you something and someone that hasn’t been on 50 other podcasts in the past few weeks (…we’ve probably heard it all before and what’s the point in that?) We produced a podcast for Dave (UKTV) a few years back called The Magic Sponge – a banterous football and comedy series presented by Jimmy Bullard, Rob Beckett and Iain Smith. For the first few episodes we booked some really well known ex-Premier League players, but soon learned we got much better stories out of the retired lower league players who’d thrown it all away on nights out and dodgy pyramid schemes.
What makes a bad podcast host?
Radio presenters who don’t get the difference between being on air and being on a podcast.
What is it about podcasts that appeals to you?
I read once that podcasts do well in big cities because people don’t talk to each other, so they like listening to other people talk. The best podcast presenters are able to make you feel that they’re one of your mates, and podcasts enable you to take that mate with you in your pocket wherever you go and turn them on and off as you please …and I love that. Running Pixiu I get to dip in and out of a huge range of genres on a daily basis – from books to sport, comedy to parenting and I can’t think of any other job that would allow me that luxury. I also love the flexibility of podcasting from a production point of view. Someone in the team can come up with an idea for a podcast and in a matter of days we can have it out there in the world for people to listen to.
What frustrates you about podcasts?
Bad library music and the ‘grey’ area of using commercial tracks. The fact that 10 years on and the record labels and publishers haven’t come up with a straightforward licensing solution frustrates me on a regular basis. As music streaming services and podcasting become more intertwined, coupled with increasing advertising revenues, I hope its not too much longer until the publishing powers that be can agree a music reporting system that works for both the artists and podcast producers.
Which one podcast episode of your own means the most to you?
Last year we made ’Simple Pleasures with Yotam Ottolenghi’. My first love is music, my second love is food, and to be sat in Yotam’s kitchen watching him cook for Michael Palin whilst listening to endless tales of Michael’s trips around the world was a bit of a moment for me. Yotam also sent us home that day with a tupperware box full of deconstructed cherry cheesecake, which was also pretty memorable.
Alex Feldman is CEO of Pixiu – to get in touch with the Pixiu team about how they can help you make ‘Amazing Conversations and Original Podcasts’ drop them an email at email@example.com