Podcasts are more prominent today, especially in the arts and culture industry. Bernice Soh covers the growth of podcasts in Singapore, and how podcasters today are engaging with their audiences.
Podcasts are everywhere these days. You can talk about almost anything in a podcast, from social issues and political events to conspiracy theories and celebrity gossip. For enthusiasts of the arts, arts podcasts are the chef d’oeuvre in their media diet. In Singapore, visual art and theatre podcasts are now becoming more prominent. They help promote Singaporean arts and culture and provide both artists and fans with a new way of engaging in the arts. But how exactly did podcasting become such a huge thing in and out of the country, and most importantly, are arts and culture podcasts here to stay?
The beginning of the podcasting revolution
While audioblogs started in the 1980s, podcasts only began to gain traction in late 2004 due to the advent of portable digital audio playback devices as well as broadband Internet access – the first-ever podcasts in the world being downloadable using a programme created by Adam Curry and Dave Winer called iPodder. It was not long before big companies such as Apple started recognising the potential of podcasting. After just a year since its development, podcasts have already become a part of Apple’s offers through iTunes 4.9. Even the United States’ president at that time, George W. Bush, began delivering his weekly address in the form of a podcast.
However, while podcasting quickly became a hit in the West, it took a while before podcasts could make it to the mainstream media of many Asian countries. In Singapore, particularly, podcasts were still not considerably popular in 2017. According to podcast editor Danny Chrisnanto Koordi, in an article published on his LinkedIn, surviving as a podcaster in Singapore on those days demanded a lot of luck and patience. Many tried and gave up after only a couple of episodes.
Initial challenges of a podcaster
Perhaps the main challenge at that time was getting people to become interested in podcasts and convincing them that listening to someone talk about anything, for that matter, was a worthy investment of time. Fortunately, after a few years and with the help of a growing community, podcasting started gaining much recognition in the country. Notably, in 2020, while the COVID-19 pandemic devastated trade and economy and restricted people’s movement and lifestyle, the podcasting revolution began marching steadily forward.
When it was once a struggle to even find a Singaporean-made podcast back in 2017, the top 10 shows in Spotify began being dominated by local offerings in 2020. For Koordi, the social distancing measures and work-from-home arrangements induced by the global health crisis can be partly credited for people’s sudden interest in podcasting and listening to podcasts. But even without the pandemic, it is safe to say that podcasts have always been bound to dominate and become prominent in Southeast Asia and the whole world. This is because this new form of media offers a format that uniquely suits the less routinary lifestyle that is becoming increasingly common these days. From the wide range of topics that can be listened to and talked about to the fact that one can easily listen to them on Spotify or download them from the Internet; all these factors make podcasts a more accessible and convenient option for most individuals on the go.
The growing prominence of Art and Culture podcasts in Singapore
A category of podcasts that is increasingly gaining prominence in Singapore is art and culture. This side of the podcasting world usually features local art talents and provides immersive journeys into Singapore’s art and cultural scene. Among the leading art and culture podcasters in the country today is ArtsEquator, one of the few critical voices that tackle and address Southeast Asia’s art and culture scene. In fact, ArtsEquator was the first to start podcasting about the arts in Singapore.
Led by Kathy Rowland, previously the founder of Malaysian-based website Kakiseni, ArtsEquator creates podcasts that talk about arts events and news in the region, particularly Singapore. Aside from visual arts podcasts, ArtsEquator also produces theatre podcasts that often highlight the region’s theatre and performance art industry. Since the inception of its podcast series in 2016, ArtsEquator has already built an outstanding library of more than 100 episodes of fresh and thought-provoking content on Southeast Asian arts.
Since then, other organisations have followed suit. City Music, for example, delivers a series of podcasts that focuses on Singapore’s local music, including helping its listeners find affordable music equipment and tutorials on music composition. National Gallery Singapore releases talks and lectures in its Padang Sessions podcast, while Centre 42 and Sing Lit Station introduced a new podcast series, Backlogues, focusing on arts management in Singapore. Artists have explored this form as well, such as Checkpoint Theatre’s eight-part podcast, Vulnerable, and T42, a lifestyle podcast helmed by Singapore playwright Joel Tan.
These prove that podcasting is very much alive in Singapore’s art and culture scene. These podcasters commonly aim to increase people’s recognition of the country’s excellent talents and make art and culture a conversation topic of choice among the population. As art and culture podcasts continue to become popular in Singapore, it is expected that the number of podcasters similar to ArtsEquator and City Music will likewise keep on growing. With continuous growth and improvement, they will usher Singapore’s podcasting revolution towards massive success.
Easily accessible information and cheap entertainment are the main reasons why podcasts have become persistently popular over the recent years. This new form of media allows information to be spread, stories to be shared, and conversations to be opened in a quicker and more convenient manner.
For the arts and culture sector that is in need of additional support and funding, podcasting helps shine a spotlight on its importance and spread more awareness of the artistry, intricacy and thinking behind art works, shows and events in Singapore and the rest of Southeast Asia. It also helps artists get the recognition they deserve and expose fans and enthusiasts to informed discourse about the arts. For all these reasons, it is without a doubt that art and culture podcasts are here to stay and might just dominate Singapore’s entertainment industry one day.