All music podcasts are not created equal. Some of them have great interview content and play great tunes and are so engaging they make you want to ride a couple more subway stops in your way to work, risking being late, just so you can get to the end. On the other hand, some of them drown you with their sponsor messages right at the beginning and by the end of the dog walk you still haven’t gotten to the interview.
I spend a lot of time listening to music podcasts and am always on the hunt for something new. The 10 listed below are some of my favorites and ones that I often go back for a second listen just because they were that good the first time.
- The BBC’S London Calling
Hosted by The Clash’s Joe Strummer, London Calling focuses on Joe’s solo and the Clash catalog and also music that he has amassed over the years throughout his travels around the globe. As a host Joe is entertaining with the occasional peppering of Clash styled between song banter and also uplifting with messages of positivity and Pete Seeger-esque musings of a better world.
While listening to Joe Strummer is by itself worth the download, what really stands out is the variety of material selected. From Nina Simone to Africa’s Amaswazi Emvelo and Mahlathini to the Rolling Stones to Shabba Ranks to Trini Lopez its all here and its all got a solid groove. While there is a sizable amount of what you would expect, Joe pulls out a lot of surprises and all of it is upbeat to get your toe tapping, your booty moving or get you up and going in the morning.
- Rolling Stone Music Now
From the writers and editors of Rolling Stone magazine. Hosts Brian Hiatt and Andy Greene bring a wealth of classic rock history knowledge and have the lofty position of first hand experience at many of rock’n roll’s exciting moments. Occasionally other RS writers drop in, such as Anthony DeCurtis, to discuss their articles providing additional depth to the discussion.
What also stands out here are the interviews with the biggest of the big in the rock world. There are lengthy discussions with Noel Gallagher, Liam Gallagher, Tom Petty, Sammy Hagar, Iggy Pop and Mick Jagger & Keith Richards. There are a total 122 RS podcasts, ranging up to an hour in length, and all worth a listen.
- Here’s the Thing
Hosted by none other than 30 Rock’s Alec Baldwin. Why is this relevant? Not sure but he is a gracious host and given his lengthy career he’s a got a lot of parallel experience to lend to his interviews.
Produced by WNYC studios in New York City, while not strictly a music podcast as the tagline from the webpage states “Alec Baldwin brings listeners into the lives of artists, policy makers and performers.” In production since 2009, the show highlights the guests rather than using the show as a spring pad for reiterating the kind and generous support from the shows sponsor. (Which happens all too often.) Baldwin’s interview with Questlove is definitely a highlight.
- Great Albums
Hosted by musicians Bill Lambusta and Brian Erickson, this podcast takes an album each week and reviews it, track by track, and then discusses what makes it great. Besides being musicians, both hosts are uber fans and are presenting material that they love and this shines in the discussion.
There is a wide array of pre-2000 material discussed ranging from Phish’s Billy Breathes, The Clash’s London Calling, AC/DC’s Back in Black to Ben Fold’s Reinhold Messner.
They produce an episode roughly each week and have been doing so since January 2015 so there is a LOT of content here. From time to time, they delve into the musical construction of the material, which is unique, and sometimes confusing if you don’t know anything about music theory. Also unique, and very cool, is the podcasts often run close to the 2-hour mark so the discussions become very in depth.
- The Vinyl Guide
As the name suggests this podcast is mainly for vinyl collectors. Host Nate Goyer details everything about records from unusual collecting habits, catalog maintenance, and record shows. However the discussion does go beyond into other areas.
Wilson is up front at the beginning that he is only reviewing and discussing material that he likes. This ranges from west coast Punk rock to early British heavy metal and hard rock to Chicago Blues. There are sprinklings of Bjork, the Beatles, and Sinatra, but for most of the podcast this format is followed.
The organization of this podcast is impeccable and Goyer detailing snippets of past and upcoming episodes at the beginning gives you a great overview of the catalog
- NPR’s All Songs Considered and Fresh Air
NPR has a huge amount of online content to choose from so you can’t go wrong spending a lot of time here. All Songs Considered is a great podcast to find out new and upcoming North American artists and their releases. The music content ranges from rap to indie rock to blues and reggae and the interview content ranges from musicians to industry professionals.
Fresh Air is a more general arts podcast. However, if you dig deep enough there are a number of excellent music podcasts hidden here. From Everything But the Girl’s Tracey Thorn to Jon Bon Jovi to Merle Haggard the quality of the interview and the preparation makes for an engaging discussion and is worth the hunt.
- Henry & Heidi Podcast
If you are or were ever a fan of Black Flag or Henry Rollins this podcast is for you. Henry Rollins and Heidi May put out a number of podcasts in 2015, a few in 2017 and one in 2018 that follow a discussion format between Henry and Heidi.
While Apple put this one in the Comedy section, this podcast could be called the All Things Henry Rollins Podcast as it focuses on a number of periods of his life and career – for example his time touring with Black Flag or the Rollins Band, his spoken word career, the Lollapalooza tour or his relationships with luminaries such as Williams Shatner, Ian MacKaye, RuPaul or Hubert Selby Jr. Stand out episode was the creation of the Black Flag album to raise money and awareness for the West Memphis Three.
- The Guardian’s Music Podcast
Like Here’s The Thing, this podcast goes back a long way and has episodes dating back to 2012, which is great when you want to check out earlier content or interviews with persons no longer living. One specific episode was with Peter Hook formerly of New Order and Joy Division who hilariously details their financial mess from early years. Sometimes the content can be heavily UK focused, which can be either really good or bad depending on your perspective.
- Setlist, Complete Music Update, sponsored by 7Digital
Hosted Chris Cooke and Andy Malt. This podcast is also from the UK and focuses on the UK music scene, and to a lesser extent the rest of the world. It is a music industry podcast so there is a lot of the business machinations side covered, much more so than other music podcasts. It has been around for 20 years and there is content that stretches far and wide.
- Billboard’s Must Hear Music
This is specifically pop oriented podcast. You want news on Katy Perry you will find it here. Sometimes you have to dig around for something that catches your fancy and while initially this podcast is not the kind that I would regularly frequent, they do have good reviews and even better interviews with such people as Thom Yorke, Jack White, the Weekend and more. The podcasts hosts are very young and have no ability to reflect on any content within any historical perspective and can only comment on material to say if they like it or not.