Music is a medium that brings the world together like no other. It’s a language than can traverse verbal barriers and unite us as a planet. The sonic succulence of the musical milieu is a glorious gift. Therefore, it is hardly a surprise that in the podcast arena, there is a bevy of music news podcasts. Lucky for you, Vurbl breaks it down and narrows it down to a fantastic 15.
There is a music news podcast for all kinds of ear candy, from country to pop to heavy metal. The best of these broadcasts also do two things: Have a seasoned eye on the past and one firmly on the future. Sit down, relax, and get ready to turn these music news podcasts up to 11.
1. Podcast: Sound Opinions
This music podcast has been around in some form or another since debuting as a Chicago radio talk show in 1993. The scope of what is tackled on Sound Opinions is vast and runs the gamut of all sides of the musical landscape. One minute, they’re chatting up hip hop pioneers De La Soul, and the next, it’s all about iconic musical maestro Robert Johnson.
The Hosts: Greg Kot and Jim DeRogatis are always striving to push the envelope that they’ve established over the past 700-plus episodes and counting. What sets these two apart is, even with decades upon decades of seasoned musical experience under their collective belts, they still constantly crave new music, new information, and the freshest possible tunes plus the wickedly talented artists behind them.
The Guests: Slow Burn podcast host Joel Anderson, Peter Lewis of Moby Grape, and musician, music historian, and author Bruce Cornforth are among the guests.
Why you have to listen: All that experience equals unparalleled insight into such a kaleidoscope of topics. It becomes clear with each episode one experiences that Kot and DeRogatis were put on this earth to do exactly this!
Listen to Sound Opinions
2. Podcast: Who Cares About the Rock Hall?
Here’s the set-up: This podcast is firmly about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which you probably have already guessed. It’s hosted by a couple of comedians. Given the politics that has entered the fray in terms of “Hall” admittance and who is worthy, etc., it is a perfect opportunity to inject some humor into the mix. Who Cares About the Rock Hall? serves as a case of musical history he said/she said. In this situation, he’s drunk the Kool-Aid, and she’s all about skepticism. In all, the podcast has a heart of gold. All they want is the Cleveland, Ohio-based facility to be shown the respect that the music creators that inhabit it deserve.
The Hosts: Joe Kwaczala and Kristen Studard bring hilarity to the history, all while informing with news of the day. Kwaczala has been featured prominently on Comedy Central, while Studard has been a regular on many comedy shows, such as Modern Family and Master of Inventions.
The Guests: Hip-hop expert CJ Toledano, pop music aficionado Ellie McElvain, and Dave Matthews Band chronicler Torio Van Grol.
Why you have to listen: This music podcast is quite unique in that it is so hyper-focused, yet what they cover week to week is immense. There are episodes that salute the best music from each class’ inductees to individual episodes dedicated to specific artists, such as Whitney Houston.
Listen to Who Cares About the Rock Hall?
Rating: All Ages
3. Podcast: Hip-Hop Saved My Life with Romesh Ranganathan
Hip-Hop Saved My Life with Romesh Ranganathan is a UK-anchored music podcast that features an English comedian who, as the moniker teases, is absolutely gaga for hip-hop.
The Host: Romesh Ranganathan is a comic by trade and a self-proclaimed hip-hop mega fan deep within his heart. His passion for the musical art form is palpable during every single episode. Ranganathan’s ability to get guests from the community he adores so much is uncanny.
The Guests: Have included Professor Green, Clara Amfo, Stephen Merchant, and James Lavelle.
Why you have to listen: His enthusiasm for hip-hop is contagious, and hearing his guests bust out some classic and even some newer lyrics from the genre’s best is beyond blissful for hip-hop fans the globe over.
Must Listen Episodes:
Rating: All Ages
4. Podcast: New York Times Popcast
Don’t be fooled by this music news podcast’s moniker. Popcast covers a wide swath of the musical landscape beyond pop music to bring its listeners the latest and greatest, all while keeping an eye on the past.
The Host: Jon Caramanica is a revered pop music critic for the Times and has been chronicling the musical world for years. He is joined by a roundtable of musical all-stars, such as New York Times music writers Joe Coscarelli, Caryn Ganz, and Jon Pareles. That’s a bench reminiscent of the Murderers Row New York Yankees!
The Guests: Everyone from Danyel Smith, author of Shine Bright: A Personal History of Black Women in Popular Music, Justin Charity, writer for The Ringer, Pitchfork writer Jenn Pelly, and Ben Sisario, The New York Times’ music industry reporter who adds that biz perspective.
Why you have to listen: The sky is the limit with Popcast. There isn’t a genre of music that gets ignored here. Episodes run the full spectrum to spotlight all kinds of musical genres from all sorts of musicians, both veterans and newbies.
Listen to New York Times Popcast
Rating: All Ages
5. Podcast: Switched On Pop
Ever wonder what, specifically, makes a pop song so darn catchy? You know, those earworms that get in your head that no effort in the world can remove them. Switched on Pop dissects what is involved in crafting the catchy tuneage. The podcast is also democracy in action with all opinions valued and treasured. The end result is always centered around what specifically made this song so good.
The Hosts: Musicologist Nate Sloan and songwriter Charlie Harding.
The Guests: Have includedJad Abumrad, composer and Dolly Parton’s America author, Prince expert Anil Dash, and Pitchfork writer Cat Zhang.
Why you have to listen: What is so magical about Switched on Pop is that never along this journey of sonic dissection is the magic of the music removed. If anything, your appreciation for each pop song will exponentially expand.
Listen to Switched on Pop
Rating: All Ages
6. Podcast: Questlove Supreme
First, how does the bandleader of The Tonight Show have the time to host his own podcast? Secondly, how is it still so good?! When the person in question is Questlove, also known as the drummer for the Roots, it should never surprise. The man is a human encyclopedia of musical knowledge, and the way he drops those intelligent nuggets throughout Questlove Supreme is akin to watching a kung fu master commanding their dojo.
Host: Questlove has served as the founder and drummer for the band the Roots since its inception in 1987. What many folks don’t know is the uber-talented force of nature is also a music and cultural journalist and producer whose musical handprints are all over products from Jay-Z, John Legend, and Amy Winehouse.
The Guests: Given Questlove’s pedigree, one might expect a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame-worthy guest list, and you are not far off. Past guests include Lenny Kravitz, Fat Joe, Bobby Brown, James Taylor, Estelle, Huey Lewis … and even Chris Rock!
Why you have to listen: 1. Questlove 2. Questlove 3. Questlove!
Listen to Questlove Supreme
1. Kurtis Blow
3. Snoop Dogg
Rating: All Ages
7. Podcast: Alternative 80s
Many music historians have heralded the musically prolific decade of decadence, aka the ‘80s. Some of that is credited to MTV and how music had an audience wider than it could have ever dreamed of, and thus, artistic brilliance arrived from all corners of the musical kaleidoscope. Alternative 80s looks at one of the more influential milieus within that decade’s music explosion—alternative. They spotlight your favorites, sure, but they will also bust out some rare tracks that will result in a collective, “I haven’t heard that in years!”
The Host: His name is Surfingtrucker, and he is an ‘80s aficionado. His vast alternative music experience has viewers primed for each week’s episode. His passion for all sub-elements of alternative makes this show truly special—from New Wave and Goth to Post-Punk and Ska.
The Guests: None to speak of. Instead, he talks about the tracks and then plays them for your ears’ delight.
Why you have to listen: Think you know everything there is to know about ‘80s alternative music? Think again! Surfingtrucker brings tracks that go deep and will make your toes tap and heartbeat a tad faster. Warning: Major nostalgia potential!
Listen to Alternative 80s
8. Podcast: Broken Record
Broken Record comes from a titanic trio of musical insiders who are products of differing backgrounds. They share one thing in common—an adoration for the lost art of liner notes. For those of you who don’t remember what those are, it was the written materials that accompanied any musical release. When things moved towards CD, they still hung in there, but by the time digital music became the standard for the business, the liner note faded. Liner notes provide priceless and bountiful information on the band or singer, what went into crafting each song, and the album as a whole. That’s what Broken Record brings to the best music podcast list. Liner notes used to be a spark that generated conversation between musical friends. According to their website, “Broken Record is a podcast that restarts those conversations—in a world without liner notes—for a new audience of music lovers.”
The Host: Justin Richmond and his regular contributors: music producer/icon Rick Rubin (Run DMC, Beastie Boys, Red Hot Chili Peppers, U2, Green Day, and Johnny Cash), writer Malcolm Gladwell, and former New York Times editor Bruce Headlam.
The Guests: Musical masters Jack White of The White Stripes, Wyclef Jean from The Fugees, James Taylor, and Darryl McDaniels, the “D” in Run-DMC.
Why you have to listen: Music podcasts always seek to inform, but with the liner notes inspiration of Broken Record, the bar is set higher than most.
Listen to Broken Record
Rating: All Ages
9. Podcast: Rock Solid
They say that the best way to get information across and move people is through humor. Whether it’s Mel Brooks and his continuous use of hilarity to showcase the evils of intolerance or what was seen on The Dave Chapelle Show with its host utilizing comedy skits to right societal wrongs, laughing makes tough truths easier to swallow. That is the same mentality that is used for the music news podcast Rock Solid. The show spotlights both old and new music, and its information is delivered hilariously by its comically trained host and his roundtable of co-hosts.
The Host: Pat Francis is a stand-up comedian and is continually joined by a musical chairs panel of experts. Each episode will feature at least one of the following and usually more: Mike Siegel, April Richardson, Christy Stratton, and Murray Valeriano. Richardson has been a regular panelist on Chelsea Lately, worked at MTV, and was named to The Frisky’s list of “15 Up-and-Coming Comediennes You Should Be Laughing At.” Siegel is also a stand-up comic and is the host of TBS’ hit Movie EXTRA. Stratton is a writer/producer, best known for her cutting edge work on Fox’s King of the Hill. Comedy may be innate to her, but it is music that has her using those heart emojis whenever posting about it. Valeriano, also a comic, brings his expertise as a former writer for The Tonight Show. He has also been tapped for his insight with appearances on shows on the networks Comedy Central, NBC, and even radio with SIRIUS/XM.
The Guests: Randy Bachman of BTO, magician extraordinaire David Blaine, and Grammy award winners Alicia Keys and John Legend.
Why you have to listen: Comedy plus music news equals a whole lot of fun!
Listen to Rock Solid
Rating: All Ages
10. Podcast: Voices in the Hall
Country music gets the spotlight with the Nashville-based Voices in the Hall. The hall of the moniker is the one and only Country Music Hall of Fame. The podcast hits the airwaves from Music City and features in-depth and informative conversations with some of the most influential artists of this most distinctly American musical genre.
The Host: Peter Cooper is the Country Museum Hall of Fame Senior Director and also serves as the show’s lead writer and producer.
The Guests: Just a sampling of the heavy-hitting visitors to Cooper’s show includes Linda Ronstadt, Dierks Bentley, Rosanne Cash, and Larry Gatlin.
Why you have to listen: For country and western fanatics, you can’t do any better than the Hall of Fame’s leader. His reach results in the most varied guests one can imagine. Your favorite singer is not on this week’s show? Just wait—undoubtedly, he or she (or them!) will surely be on sooner than later.
Listen to Voices in the Hall
2. Kane Brown
Rating: All Ages
11. Podcast: Riffs on Riffs
Sampling in music has been a “thing” since the first days of hip-hop. One could argue that the planet discovered the joys of sampling when Rapper’s Delight crafted their smash hit around Chic’s hit Good Times. Riffs on Riffs looks at the history of sampling from the late ‘70s right on up through today. Sampling isn’t simply for hip-hop anymore as countless artists from a myriad of genres utilize the musical method. The show features priceless behind-the-microphone tall tales that take listeners into the recording studio. As such, one can understand the art of sampling and how it has revolutionized the music business. Also, don’t be surprised if each week produces an “I didn’t know that sample came from… “
The Hosts: Joe Watson and Toby Brazwell host and essentially serve as the show’s connect the dots information superhighway, bridging tracks, and their sampling origins.
The Guests: None to speak of… just the hosts and all that entertaining enlightenment.
Why you have to listen: These guys go so deep that even the most ardent musical maestros will learn something fresh with every single episode.
Listen to Riffs on Riffs
Rating: All Ages
12. Podcast: I’ve Heard That Song Before
This addition to our best music podcasts focuses on the glory that is the so-called Great American Songbook. Each episode will shine a spotlight on a jazz standard from that iconic musical source and dive deeply into its creation, production, release, and impact on society as a whole. How deep does I’ve Heard That Song Before go? How about impactful information about the track’s lyrics, history, emotive power, and the music itself. According to the podcast’s website, “This podcast is perfect for music-junkies and novices alike.”
The Host: Joe Hunter, who has shared the stage with artists such as Tito Puente, Conti Condoli, and Scott Hamilton in his career, is a jazz musician with decades of experience in the field.
The Guests: Varies depending on the song chosen by Hunter. The host is regularly joined by a rotating expert from the jazz genre. For example, a recent guest was Bill Rudman, artistic director of The Musical Theater Project.
Why you have to listen: When it comes to American popular music, the baseline for everything that dominates airwaves today emanates from the great standards penned by icons such as Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, George Gershwin, and Rodgers and Hammerstein. By learning more about those classic tunes, one garners a deeper appreciation for music in general.
Listen to I’ve Heard That Song Before
Rating: All Ages
13. Podcast: All Songs Considered
One of NPR’s most beloved and successful shows is All Things Considered as it chronicles the news of the day, from politics to what’s on the mind of Main Street, America. The same level of professionalism and depth of intellect arises from the network’s look at music, All Songs Considered. The hosts chat with both up-and-coming artists and living legends.
The Hosts: Bob Boilen and Robin Hilton are longtime pals who initially bonded over music, and that hasn’t ceased since.
The Guests: Joining the dynamic duo, week in, week out, is a varied well-versed group of music and cultural reporters from NPR. Occasionally a musician is added to the mix, such as Radiohead’s Ed O’Brien and Roger and Brian Eno!
Why you have to listen: With new releases arriving every Tuesday or Friday in the music business, listeners to All Songs Considered will get a leg-up on the rest of the music-adoring public when it comes to what’s hot, what’s new and most importantly, what will resonate.
Listen to All Songs Considered
Rating: All Ages
14. Podcast: Sons of Metal
For music fans who treasure the crunch of heavy metal power chords, blistering and wailing guitar solos, and lead singers who can make glass shatter, Sons of Metal is the podcast you need… now. Each show finds the hosts dissecting six heavy metal records—including an iconic recording, a few newer releases, and an indie band’s latest.
The Hosts: C. Hagen Radick and Doug Austin get along like gangbusters, and that comes through on every twice-monthly episode. The thing that defines these hosts is that they have distinctly different tastes, come from different backgrounds, and are vastly different ages.
The Guests: None to speak of…
Why you have to listen: Enjoy banging the ole noggin to the thunderous beat of Iron Maiden and their brethren? Look no further than Sons of Metal, and not only will your ears thank you, but also your brain as the info from Radick and Austin is as enlightening as it is entertaining.
3. Death Saga
Rating: All Ages
15. Podcast: Pop Shop Podcast
When it comes to tracking what people are devouring musically, Billboard is considered the gold standard. In the music universe, there are just a few publications that so accurately track who is selling what with its Hot 100 and numerous other charts. Not only do listeners score in the information department with statistics interpreted by writers at the top of their game during any single Pop Shop Podcast, but this podcast also succeeds in delivering the hottest music updates. They’re also a fixture on the red carpet at industry events, such as the Grammys and even the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
The Hosts: Keith Caulfield is the mag’s co-director of charts, while Katie Atkinson is the big kahuna, aka senior editor. They have a firm handle on podcast pacing as a tsunami of information is doled out in the short span of 30 minutes.
The Guests: Fill out the musical spectrum, from Charli XCX, Dua Lipa, American Idol finalist and current frontman of Queen, Adam Lambert, to Meghan Trainor, and even the legend that is Sting.
Why you have to listen: It’s Billboard! Since 1894, when the mag first appeared, quantifying what’s hot has been their mission.
Listen to Pop Shop Podcast
Adoration of music spans the globe and having a source for information about your favorite bands, artists, and songwriters can bring together fans in a peaceful place to celebrate the magic of the musical spectrum. Music podcasts play a huge role in our modern times. They are the taste-setters in the dissection of the artistry of the songs itself—a bridge from its history to the future.
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