Designing the Perfect Podcast Intro
Updated: Sep 10, 2019
Problem: How do you make your podcast intro perfectly encapsulate your show?
Solutions: Flashy audio spectacle, cool song, funny dialogue, all of the above, some other solution I haven't thought about yet
Real Solution: A well constructed audio experience that's specific to your show.
How do you do that?
Podcasting (really, content as a whole) isn't about speaking to the masses. In idea, that's what it accomplishes, but as a producer of content, you need to be focused on how to communicate to the individual. Why do listener bases have fandom nicknames such as Murderinos (My Favorite Murder) or Cumberbitches (Benedict Cumberbatch)? Because the moniker simultaneously creates individualism and community. It lets the listener know that they are distinct and that their oddities make them welcome to the conversation.
Murderino = "You like murder, sit on down, we've got a great,
judgement free podcast for you!"
But you can't start the first episode of your podcast calling people Murderinos, that would be weird. Those types of community specifics arise over time (Often from the community itself). Instead, you need to give your audience the same feeling of specification through other means. Which brings me to one of the most surefire ways to immediately set your audience's expectations and familiarize them to the style of your show.
Podcast intros have been around since before podcasts. Invented during the radio days (And in some ways dating back to biblical times), these intros are used to separate pre-show announcements (Sponsorships, live show dates, etc.) from the show itself and to emotionally bring the audience into the programming that is about to happen.
Whether it's the epic (and potentially too long) intro from Dan Carlin's HardCore History
Or My Favorite Murder's wandering, drifting song
Or The Bill Simmons Podcast's Pearl Jam intro
A mood is set and expectations are drawn.
So let's consider 3 concepts that distinguish good intros:
Atmosphere: If you want to make your audience feel like one of the "boys", you should study Bill Simmons' Pearl Jam intro. The atmosphere is immediate, it envelops you and promises a good time. As the music and chanting builds one can't help but get excited. And just as the song hits a frenzy the show is off and running. "Corduroy" is also a perfect match for Bill Simmons' loose, conversational interview style. The messiness of the song announces to the audience that they need to get ready for something drastically different than anything they'll hear on NPR.
Emotional Resonance: This concept requires that you play psychiatrist for a moment. Slip into your audiences brain and ask yourself, how do you want your audience to feel right at the start of the episode? MFM is pinpoint at bringing their audience into their strange world. The guitar chords and wide vocals of the intro song create a sense of dread and foreboding that invites a willingness to sit down and hear a story.
Investment: Let's think briefly of everything that has brought a random listener (Not your friend or relative) to your podcast: logos, social media marketing ($$$), podcast descriptions, keywords, buzzwords, word of mouth, words words words. A lot went into getting an audience to listen to the first 3 minutes of your podcast (The point at which your intro should have reasonably played by). You've done a ton of work to get your audience to this point and now you need to invest them in the rest of the episode. Think of your intro as that investment opportunity. The small push over the hill that leaves the audience needing to listen to more. The intro should excite you (If it doesn't, it won't excite anyone else). You should want to share the intro by itself. 8-30 seconds of magic that expresses exactly what your show is and why anyone should listen.
If you've nailed your intro your audience will need to know what happens next. Building a clear atmosphere, setting the emotional stakes, and investing your audience in what your podcast has to offer is all possible from a great intro. It's up to you to figure out what that intro sounds like. Have fun, create several intros, and most importantly, make sure the intro sounds like you. Because that is inevitably what your audience will be listening for.
For more articles, check back later this month, and if you want to hear some of the podcast intros I've produced, check out the podcasts I've made by clicking here.