The financial and logistical struggles of running comedy podcast Stars in Your Ears has taken some of the joy out of creating the show, according to host and award-winning comedy impressionist Jess Robinson.
The seasonal podcast, which launched during the height of the pandemic in 2020, is a major production that features original music from Robinson’s live band - comprised of pianist Michael Roulston, drummer Jonathan Kitching, and guitarist Rob Lamont - and segments where Robinson teaches impressions to celebrity guests. During its second series, the show won gold for Best Entertainment at the 2021 British Podcast Awards.
Although the podcast started as a labour of love, Robinson - alongside producer Jo Walker - said in the latest PodPod episode that she wishes they had a more sustainable model that paid enough for the time and effort being put into creating the show.
“I just didn't want the the joy to be sapped out of it and it became a bit of a chore, especially for… the band who are doing it for the fun of it; but they are proper professional musicians, they've got lives and it's hard to keep asking them to do loads of stuff for free,” said Robinson. “It just felt like it's not fair and there's only so many favours I can pull in - because it's a fun hobby thing for them but it's a vehicle for me.”
Walker also mentioned how expensive and time-consuming it is to create podcasts independently, in comparison to working with larger established broadcasters such as BBC Radio 4.
“Back in the day when we used to do The Horne Section, we were paid to go spend a month somewhere and write a show, whereas as soon as we jump into podcasts, you lose that time when you’re paid to actually come up and write the show,” said Walker. “You’ve got to make the content before you can start putting advertising on it and making money.”
Robinson also spoke about how coming out of the pandemic proved to be more difficult as their schedules became more busy and they weren’t able to record completely over zoom as much.
“... I just wanted to throw myself into something and the world was completely upside down for everyone,” said Robinson. “It was just a really amazing thing to see what was possible - but it was also a wake up call and a bit disappointing to find that now that everything's back to ‘normal’, it’s not sustainable.”
At time of writing, the last episode of Stars in Your Ears was the finale of series three, published on 15 February 2022. There has been no official announcement from Robinson and Walker on whether there will be a fourth series.
Despite the struggles that Robinson and her team encountered, the comedian said that she would not have done anything differently if she had the chance as this was considered a learning experience in her career and that they were able to produce “something brilliant” nonetheless.