A converted Jiffy Lube on Boston's Western Avenue might soon become a new destination for the city's audio storytellers.
PRX, the radio distributor associated with shows such as "This American Life," "The Moth Radio Hour" and "Reveal," has launched Podcast Garage, a recording space and educational center for Boston's new and experienced podcast producers.
The garage is aimed at fostering connection between podcast novices, industry mentors and more experienced producers. It's a proving ground of sorts for a storytelling medium that, despite having been around for about a decade, is going through a period of profound of growth and innovation.
The initial idea for the garage came from a redevelopment proposal that was tweaked by staffers at PRX, said Kerri Hoffman, CEO of the nonprofit.
"We were approached by the group that was redeveloping the area and they were interested in experimenting with exercise classes, local events, art installations and creators," Hoffman said. "They came with the idea of us hosting some pop-up listening events, but then we thought about it and got back to them with a bigger proposal — why not create a local laboratory where people can hone their skill and talent in audio?"
The soundproof studios are stocked with high-end recording and sound equipment. Audio-editing tools like Hindenburg and Pro Tools are also available. The space includes a larger studio that can record up to four people, plus a smaller sound booth for vocal tracking. Producers are welcome to bring an engineer or self-operate the control room.
The garage is designed to combat a big problem facing podcasters: loneliness.
"It's a long, creative process," Hoffman said. "They don’t get to discuss their work, network, learn new skills from experts and take feedback. Either they look for studios or have makeshift ones at home."
Get the right people in the room together, and that's when the "real magic can happen," she said.
The garage's community space will feature three main categories of events: media arts training, networking and community storytelling. Specifically, there will be production and narrative workshops, training and mentoring sessions led by veteran radio producers and free networking events focused on technology, distribution and marketing.
"We want to make good producers great by providing them with the community and, at the same time, discover new talent,” Hoffman said. “In addition to the events, we are looking at making some part of the day open for free reservations of the recording spaces on first-come first-serve basis. We want to be accessible to everyone — from a rookie producer to someone who works in the audio industry."
Eventually, she hopes to expand to other cities, too.
"The feedback has been great so far," she said. "People want to know when we are opening a garage in their city. We hope to raise enough money and make this community space an exportable concept."