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Last Updated: Sunday, 5 June, 2005, 08:50 GMT 09:50 UK
Scot's podcast airs tartan talent
The explosion in podcasting has led to home-grown shows, playing music ignored by conventional radio. Clark Boyd reports on how a Scottish music fan is using his podcast to expose the world to tartan rock.

Miss the Occupier live
Miss the Occupier's track External Male became a podcast hit
Mark is, in his own words, "just a guy," living and working in Glasgow. He has got a wife and two kids. He runs a small window and office cleaning business.

He is not a musician and he is not a broadcaster. But he is a podcaster, and his show - Tartanpodcast - aims to bring Scottish music to a wider audience.

The podcast's format is straightforward. Mark plays three featured tunes with "a wee bit of chat" in between.

Podcasts are home-grown radio programs put up on the web. Listeners subscribe to shows for free, the latest of which is sent automatically to digital music players.

For now, Mark insists on using only his first name. He is not sure he wants anyone, outside of his wife and kids, to know he is hosting a music podcast just yet.

Maybe that is because the show does not go quite as smoothly as Mark would like sometimes. The microphone slips, or Mark cannot quite remember the name of the band or the song he has just played.

He usually just laughs it off, and besides, it is exactly that kind of low-fi sound that appeals to fans of podcasts.

Usually, there is no overly slick production, no "radio voices," just real people talking about things that interest them.

"I love making the Tartanpodcast," says Mark. "I get ridiculously enthusiastic about it."

Love of music

Mark started Tartanpodcast back in March, when he realised he needed an outlet.

"Being a creative person, but not having a job that supports any degree of creativity whatsoever, I noticed that there was this thing called podcasting, and thought maybe this was something I could do," he says.

Scottish band Gum
Gum were pleased to offer a track for the show
"I'd listened to a few different podcasts, and it was obvious that ordinary people, if they wanted, recorded these little radio programmes on their computers and put it on the internet. And I thought this potentially could be an outlet."

Mark knew podcasting is not that hard to do, technically speaking. He just needed a microphone, a computer, some editing software, and an internet connection. The question was, what would he podcast about?

For Mark, the answer was easy. His great love is new music, especially music made by bands in Scotland.

The problem was tackling the copyright and other legal issues involved in putting music out on the internet.

Mark came up with a practical solution. He started contacting Scottish bands directly, and asked for their permission to play some of their songs on his podcast.

Groups like the Glasgow-based Gum were only too happy to have a podcasting audience for their track, Crime. So too was the Scottish outfit Miss the Occupier, whose track External Male became an instant hit on his podcast.

And another band, Hotrod Cadets, had the first overseas sales of their album Breaking Up, thanks to Tartanpodcast.

Global audience

Mark says the response to Tartanpodcast's all-Scottish line-up was impressive. Within weeks of launching the podcast, he was getting e-mails from the US, Croatia, Belgium, New Zealand and Japan.

Hotrod Cadets live
Hotrod Cadets received international exposure
"It's really caught the imagination of people around the world," says Mark. "Maybe they picture Scotland as being this little backwards country. In reality, cities like Glasgow have a thriving music scene.

"The feedback I've received, and the bands have received, have been enormous. People around the world have caught on to the Scottish music scene."

The Scottish podcaster also believes that podcasting will revolutionise how new artists promote their music.

"They won't try to plug them on radio stations like they would in the past," says Mark.

"They'll turn to the podcasting community and say 'guys, will you play my music?' Even if it's only 200 or 300 people around the world listening, that's an audience you wouldn't have the vehicle to get outside podcasting."

Mark spends five or six hours a week preparing, recording, editing and uploading Tartanpodcast. His wife, he likes to joke, says he spends twice that amount of time. He says he would podcast full-time if he could.

"Everybody's dream job is to do something that they love and get paid for it. So if there was a way to be paid that would be ideal. At the moment, even if it was a part-time thing, it would be something I would consider doing."

A few big-name podcasters are getting advertisers and sponsorship deals. But for now, Mark, like most podcasters, will have to be content with his show being a labour of love, not money.

And he obviously loves doing it. He has already expanded from one show a week to three.

Clark Boyd is technology correspondent for The World, a BBC World Service and WGBH-Boston co-production

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