What Podcasters Can Learn From Chuck Berry

Play

Chuck Berry died last month at the age of 90. I saw him four years ago at a special event that honored him with tons of musicians (Merle Haggard, Ronnie Hawkins, Darryl “DMC” McDaniels, Joe Bonamassa and Lemmy Kilmister) coming to play his music and honor him. At the end of the night, Berry accepted the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's American Masters of Music Award, wrapping the Hall of Fame's weeklong celebration of Berry's life.  In the end, they brought Chuck out with a band consisting of a lot of his children who knew how to follow their father's (at times) unpredictable behavior (Chuck got confused in the middle of song two, and restarted it). Chuck got us smiling from the very first moment. He said, “It's great to be here. Then again, I'm 86; I'm glad to be anywhere.” So here are some things, on Episode 560, that podcasters can learn from Chuck Berry.

Now as a guitar player myself, you start playing the guitar hoping to play Stairway to Heaven, Iron Man, Smoke on the Water, you want to be Van Halen, but you don't start there. You start with Chuck Berry, and you start with Johnny B Goode. In the same way that every band has to learn Mustang Sally and Brown Eyed Girl, every guitar player has to learn how to play Johnny B Good. I am no exception.

  1. It's not about the tech. Keep it Simple

Other musicians had pedalboard were made of technology on top of technology. They could do the river dance as they changed the tone of their guitar with each tap of their foot. Chuck came out with his trusty guitar and plugged into a single amplifier. He hit the opening riff of Roll Over Beethoven, and you could not help but smile. Chuck had one tone, it was Chuck Berry. This was not a drill, this was not a test, right there in front of my was Chuck Berry. He had a smile on his face, and by the third beat, the whole place was clapping along to the music, dancing, or both.

2. Give the People What They Want.

Chuck Berry had many styles. Some of his songs had remnants of country music. He played slow blues., You probably don't know most of those songs. If you wanted airplay, you had to play something kids (teenagers) wanted, and could dance to.  One other thing, the teenagers were the ones buying the music. Rock and Roll music was new. It was a great way for being rebellious, and the fact that this was Rock and Roll from a BLACK MAN, made it even more revolutionary (this was the 1950s). You will notice that Roll Over Beethoven, Johnny B Goode, Rock and Roll Music and many other Berry titles are pretty much the same song. When he appeared on the Johnny Carson show, he said to the band leader, “It's the same as the last song” as they prepared to play another song.  However, those songs like Sweet Little Sixteen, School Days, and others were instantly relatable to his audience.

He also had suggestive lyrics which probably made parents offended. Here is a verse from Roll Over Beethoven:

Well, if you feel and like it
Go get your lover, then reel and rock it
Roll it over and move on up just
A trifle further and reel and rock with one another,
Roll over Beethoven dig these rhythm and blues.

3. Chuck Was Engaging

Chuck made sure you were looking at him. in the early days of his career he usually wore black or white suits, but his eyes, mouth, and hands, and especially his legs demanded attention. He would strum his guitar in a way that has hand moved from the back to guitar toward to top. As a guitar player, I can tell you it makes almost no difference where you strum an electric guitar, but it looks cool (and yes, I've borrowed that move). His “Duck Walk” he said in a CBS interview was a mistake. He had slipped and fallen and the “Duck Walk” happened as he was trying to get back up. He noticed the ovation and worked it into his act. Chuck paid attention to what made the audience go wild.

4. Charge What Your Worth

There is only one Chuck Berry. Sure everyone from the Beatles, Stones, Elvis, Duan Alman, The Kinks, John Lennon, Simon and Garfunkle, Bruce Springsteen, and David Bowie, they all have covered his music. There is only ONE Chuck Berry. Consequently, Chuck knew this and after being ripped off in the early part of his career, he started demanding that he get paid up front, in cash.

5. Chuck Got the Audience Involved

Most of his big hits made it super easy to make them “sing-alongs.” All Chuck had to say was “Go!” and put his hand up to his ear and the audience would sing “Go Johny Go, Go..”

6. A Little Planning Up Front Saves Some Editing Time Later

Post-1970 Chuck didn't tour with a band. He brought his guitar and whoever was promoting his concert was in charge of putting together a band. On a tonight show appearance, he said, “well everybody knows my music.” This was true, but they all sounded the same. While they are not obvious, when you see Chuck perform with these acts, the intros are a little sloppy, and the endings were often train wrecks as the band didn't know that when Chuck kicks his leg up that meant stop.

7. Don't Break The Law

Chuck had issues with the law about every 15-20 years. One involved him putting cameras in the women's bathroom. While he was never convicted of wrongdoing, he did settle out of court, and it cost him 1.2 million dollars.

8. Take Care of Your Team / Get Things in Writing

One of the reasons Chuck insisted on being paid in cash is he had been swindled out of money by promoters and clubs in the past. One key player in Berry's band was Johnnie Johnson (his piano player). In November 2000, Johnson sued Berry, alleging he deserved co-composer credits (and royalties) for dozens of songs, including “No Particular Place to Go,” “Sweet Little Sixteen,” and “Roll Over Beethoven,” which credit Berry alone. The case was dismissed in less than a year because too many years had passed since the songs in dispute were written.

9. Don't Spend all Your Money on Gear

A recent report estimated Chuck's estate is worth 50 million. While some of this is from record royalties, Chuck invested in Real Estate. When you start making money with your podcast (if that is something you choose to do) spend some on your family, put some in the bank (and avoid the stress of worrying about money).

10. While You Can Give Them Something Similar, it Still Has to Be Good

Did you know there was a sequel to Johnny B Good? Me neither. According to Wikipedia it never charted in any country. So in the same what that creating a song about Johnny B Good isn't going to equal chart success, creating a podcast with the phrase “On Fire” (or whatever is hot at the moment ) does not mean you will get chart success.

Why People Remember Chuck Berry

There is a famous quote by Maya Angelou, “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Chuck Berry's music made people smile, it made them want to dance, and they lead to them having fun, and in some cases there was realin' and rockin'.

Podhero Review

What is Podheri.io?

Podhero is described as a swiss army knife for podcasters with a goal of making podcast creation and promotion easier.

Audio Processing

The site describes it as “Automate the technical hurdles to make your vocals sound amazing.” So I compared it to Auphonic.com as they both level out the volume, and remove noise (hiss and hum). If I were to judge the output, I would say it's very close (if not a tie). In looking at the wav forms, it appears auphonic might have an ever so slight edge, but keep in mind, my ears didn't' notice anything. The only true advantage (depending on your attitude) is Auphonic has more configuration options (so you can set loudness levels if you want to just level volume and not remove noise).  But I was impressed with the audio processing. This opinion is based upon testing one file.

Podcast To Video

If can take your audio podcast and send it to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. It also gives you a basic tool to create a custom artwork. You can do this if you are using Libsyn and Spreaker. Blubrry does some distribution (but they only do the first few minutes of your show).  The tool for creating an image is really basic and is better than nothing. When there are tools such as canva.com as a free option, I could see using Canva to create the image, and then use the “upload your own” option here to make your video. Is video worth it? My last episode from the School of Podcasting had 26 views, and I was surprised that the analytics show people were watching a majority. My advice would be to open this tool in a new window as the processing of audio to video is going to take some time.  Currently, you can have the tool automatically post to YouTube (with plan of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Medium)

Website Widget Review

This tool will put a small pop-up on your website. You just copy and paste some code. For me, I find this tool “meh” because ratings in iTunes are great social proof, they don't help you advance up the charts (I thnk people put too much emphasis on them as a “must do”).

My Podcast Reviews

This tool brings you all of your reviews from all of the stores. This is a free tool. This does have a feature that I found interesting. It shows you your reviews across a period. I found that interesting. They attempt to show you (on a map) where the reviews come from, but besides getting the country correct, I wouldn't count it accurate from a geographic standpoint.

iTunes Keyword Tracking

This allows you to put in your (or your “Competition's”) iTunes link and enter a keyword. So I can see where The Audacity to Podcast Ranks higher than my show, but I rank higher than the Podcast Report. That's interesting. There is no way to say “who is #1?” I'm just not sure what I'm supposed to with this information. Many moons ago I had a program called Webmaster Gold, and it would track your website and let you know where you ranked. This lead to people writing articles more for the Google Web crawler instead of the humans who were reading it. Also, when I was a teacher in the corporate world, I would do my best every day. Every day I got scored by my students. While I always feel there is room for improvement, I'm not sure there was anything I would change (in most cases) if someone gave me an average score. So for me, I see this as a set of interesting statistics, that people can obsess over, but in the end, may not lead to any value being delivered to your audience.

Episode Media Kits

If you do a lot of interviews, this could be your favorite feature. Here you upload promotional images, create messages to go to Twitter, Facebook Google+, and LinkedIn. You upload pictures, create your tweets, and copy and link and send that to your guest. They can send a message with a single click. For me, this is the most useful tool (again, if you're doing interviews, but don't limit your thinking, why not put the link in your post and give your audience access to promote your episode.

Do You Need This?

Much of this you can get for free for example:

Canva.com – free image creation tool
Podcast Rankings – have them emailed to you see Regan Star
If you're using Libsyn, you can automatically have your show syndicated to Twitter, Facebook, YouTube (with video, and you can add a custom image), iHeart Radio, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Blogger, and more.
Podcast Reviews – You can get this feature free in Podhero, as well as My Podcast Reviews
Audio Processing – You can get 2 hours free each month at auphonic.

Things Unique To Podhero

If you're not using Libsyn or Spreaker, it will create a video for you
It shows you your podcast reviews over time.
The podcast review widget.
The podcast media kit.

How Much Does it Cost?

There is a free version that includes:
Worldwide iTunes Review Tracking (2 podcasts)
iTunes Keyword Tracker (1 keyword)
Measures how visible your podcast is on iTunes for any search term over time.
iTunes Review Website Widget (1 website)

The paid version is $20/month
Audio Enhancer Tool
Social Video Creator
Episode Media Kits
Podcast to Youtube
iTunes Keyword Researcher
iTunes Keyword Tracker (15 keywords)
Measures how visible your podcast is on iTunes for any search term over time.
Worldwide iTunes Review Tracking (5 podcasts)
When you get a new review on iTunes, from any country, you will be notified.
New & NoteworthyAlerts
iTunes Review Website Widget (unlimited)

Mentioned In This Podcast

What is the smallest amount you would take for advertising? (POLL)

Chuck Berry on the Johnny Carson Show (YouTube Video)
Podhero.io

Libsyn.com (Liberated Syndication) Use the coupon code sopfree to get a free month

Canva.com – free image creation tool

Podcast Rankings – have them emailed to you see Regan Star

Dave's Patreon Accounts  see http://supportthisshow.com/

Start your podcast by joining the School of Podcasting go to www.schoolofpodcasting.com/start

Leave A Reply (6 comments so far)


  1. Robert Lewis
    4 months ago

    This is brilliant. I am a guitar hack and I totally understand where your coming from.
    Excellent Job. I love you podcast!!


  2. Steven Blinn
    4 months ago

    Dave, RadioYo also allows people to automatically post their audio files to YouTube. Our URL is https://radioyo.fm


  3. George Dunlap
    4 months ago

    Love the Chuck Berry analogies they were great Dave.


  4. Dave Jackson
    4 months ago

    Thanks George.


  5. Dave Jackson
    4 months ago

    I’ll have to check out that platform thanks Steve


  6. Paul Cheall
    4 weeks ago

    Great episode. Two particular messages hit home, one very much so. I had a particular issue with one of my episodes, having just discovered another version of the same memoir. My question was whether or not to simply issue a second version of the memoir or to substitute the new file for the older. Well, thanks Dave, Cheers Chuck! The answer is easy. My listener liked the first version so why wouldn’t they welcome the newer variant too?! Just like a Chuck Berry release. I guess I might just have to listen to the show again, and again, and again!

.
listen to the School of Podcasting
podcasting newsletter
Subscribe to the School of Podcasting