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Podcast studio opens on Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus

Plenty of podcasts are produced by public radio or deep-pocketed corporate networks, which use the best recording and editing equipment. Other podcasters do it all themselves, as a labor of love in a humble basement studio.

Michelle Levitt sees a gap in the middle. Many companies lack the resources to produce their own professional-sounding podcasts, she said.

So Levitt started a business, Too Much Neon with a full-service vocal production studio on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. She’ll help clients put together their own podcasts, produce voiceover work and make other audio recordings.

“Podcasting is the hot medium now for content marketing,” Levitt, 34, said Tuesday in the studio. “And so a lot of marketers are faced with the challenge of, OK, I want to jump on this platform. But you also don’t want to look like you don’t know what you’re doing.”

Podcasts are radio on demand, basically. They are radio broadcasts, in the form of episodic series, that listeners download as digital files or stream over an internet connection whenever they want to hear them. Podcasters and the companies that produce them sell ads that run during the episodes.

Thousands of podcasts are available on topics ranging from news, comedy and discussions of pop culture. “Serial,” as one example, became a runaway hit when it explored whether a convicted murderer was innocent of the crime.

Levitt, a Missouri native who moved to Kenmore six years ago, got into podcasting after convincing the founder of her longtime employer to launch one.

She is the marketing director for Heil Sound, a manufacturer of microphones and sound systems in Illinois. Bob Heil worked with the Grateful Dead, The Who and other legendary musicians.

Levitt said she spent more than six months helping produce a podcast, “50 Years of Maximum Rock n’ Roll,” that features Dave Hines interviewing Heil and special guests. She said the technical difficulties involved convinced her she could fill a need for other companies that want to tell their stories in podcast form.

She had worked out of the d!g co-working space in the Innovation Center but now is moving into a studio there. She has four microphones – made by Heil, of course – set up in the room.

Levitt late Tuesday was installing acoustic treatments printed with photos of Buffalo’s skyline, taken from aerial drones by the Norris Clifton company, to line two walls of the studio.

For her podcasting clients, Levitt provides coaching and guidance as well as editing and post-production work. The coaching ranges from technical points, such as how close to sit to the microphone, to brainstorming what they want to say in the podcast. The post-production work includes producing transcripts of each podcast episode, setting up the RSS feed and making sure each episode gets into the podcast service operated by Apple, Google and other companies.

“Every episode, there’s a lot of steps before that goes out to your listeners,” Levitt said.

Matthew Enstice, president and CEO of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, became her first client. He’s launching a Talking Cities podcast. Enstice had no podcasting experience, but by the time he recorded his first episode he sounded very comfortable behind the microphone, she said.

“I said, ‘It’s like you’ve been doing this all along,’” Levitt recalled.

Kari Bonaro, a spokeswoman for the Medical Campus organization, said the podcast should launch later this month.

Levitt said she also records voiceover work, using local talent. She said she can record the audio that people hear when they’re placed on hold.

She said she has a meditation coach coming in next week to record meditation sessions for her own clients to listen to later.

Levitt has hired three contract engineers, and she said she is about to hire more. She was impressed, on a visit to Niagara County Community College, with the quality of the school’s audio engineering program.

Levitt said she continues to work full-time for Heil Sound as she gets the studio up and running, so she puts in 80- and 90-hour work weeks.

The studio’s grand opening runs from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday in the Thomas R. Beecher Jr. Innovation Center, 640 Ellicott St. Visitors can see the studio, meet Levitt, ask her questions and record a fake podcast show introduction.


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