A Speakeasy podcast studio in Brighton as a ‘pirate radio’

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Brighton studio owner Rob Johnson calls podcasting an “emerging market” and says his new venture is ready to start from scratch.

Johnson, 31, owns Speakeasy Podcast Network, which opened in Brighton city center in January, and Wayne Media Group, a marketing and social media company located in the same building at 117 E. Grand River Ave.

He has also opened podcast studios in Louisville, Kentucky, and Sterling Heights, and he plans to expand to several more locations in the near future.

“My goal is to do the whole Midwest.”

Speakeasy Podcast Network has a fully equipped audio and video recording studio. Podcast hosts and guests can produce podcasts in real time to broadcast live on social media platforms or record shows to post later.

Speakeasy Podcast Network owner Rob Johnson, left, talks about the capabilities of the studio in Brighton on Wednesday August 25, 2021 with studio engineer Johnnie Schmidt in the background.

“Speakeasy is truly an underground network,” Johnson said. “It’s basically pirate radio.”

The term “pirate radio” refers to clandestine radio broadcasts that circumvented government regulations. The 2009 movie pirate radio is set in the 1960s and concerns a fictional radio station that broadcasts rock music to the UK from a boat in international waters.

In an age of social media influencers and DIY video production, Speakeasy takes podcasting out of the basement and into a professional studio in a bustling downtown.

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He said businesses would only survive future generations if they remained transparent, and that podcasts and other online marketing strategies were helpful.

“When people accept the ‘why’ of a business, they will never leave,” Johnson said. “I truly believe that transparent companies are the ones that will survive.”

He said businesses could fail if potential customers only know what they are doing and not what they are talking about.

The studio hosts the Brighton Area Chamber of Commerce show. His first clients were real estate agent Paul Seguin and mortgage loan officer Devon Carr, who made “The Carr and Seguin Show”. A health and wellness podcast “Inspired Good Fat Life Podcast” had 55 episodes as of Thursday.

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A flashback to the 1920s

Speakeasy Podcast Network and Wayne Media Group are housed in a building formerly occupied by the Nerdageddon comic book and game store, which has closed.

The interior decor, furnishings, and art reflect the Prohibition era of the 1920s, when speakeasies operated as underground bars where people drank alcohol illegally. The studio has a green room where podcast hosts can prepare for a show with their guests.

Johnson’s wife, Beth, designed the place. She works as the company’s interior designer.

The recording studio includes four microphones around the table and three cameras that shoot in 4K resolution. The cameras can capture a wide shot and two close angles. The recording studio also includes professional lighting and sound protection panels.

They can add real-time graphics, video filters, and sound effects.

Studio engineer Johnnie Schmidt said it was designed so shows could be produced entirely live, as opposed to something that required a lot of editing in post-production.

Scaling

Johnson said he came up with the idea while an MBA student at Spring Arbor University in Jackson County. He also worked in IT for Jackson National Life at Okemos. Schmidt was his boss.

Johnson started Wayne Media Group in 2018 and reinvested the profits into launching podcast studios.

He opened his first studio in Louisville in October 2020. The Sterling Heights location opened earlier this month.

He said he started the first one in Louisville because his friend and business partner, Robert Johnstone, wanted to help.

“I would like to add a studio quarterly.”

He said he plans to open a studio in Ann Arbor later this year.

“Grand Rapids and Nashville are my next two picks.”

He is also considering places such as Columbus and Cincinnati, Ohio and Indianapolis.

“We’re 65 per cent booked (in Brighton) and we’ve just started.”

Contact Livingston Daily reporter Jennifer Timar at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @jennifer_timar.

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