Dear Content Creators,
No, you shouldn’t get the Shure SM7B.
This isn’t a campaign against one of the most popular microphones on the market. It is a great microphone, but that is not the point of this. This is a plea to newer content creators.
There is a Facebook group that I joined some time ago for podcasters. It’s the kind of situation where you join a group, you mean to leave, and you never think of doing it. In this group, a lot of people ask for advice about everything from gear to how to get guests. One day, I saw a question from a brand-new podcaster, just trying it out, about what microphones he should get for him and his co-host. The most common answer? The Shure SM7B.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the microphone in question, the SM7B is a dynamic XLR microphone that is a standard among high-end podcast studios. It lives up to its reputation as a great sounding microphone. The issue? It’s $400 USD. This brand-new podcaster, who was not even sure he would stick with it, asked for a suggestion, and the suggestion was to spend $800.
But it’s not just $800, is it? XLR microphones need to go into a mixer or recorder and, depending on which mixer or recorder is chosen, a separate preamp may be necessary. So, really, the suggestion to this person was to spend well over a thousand dollars on something that he hadn’t even committed to yet.
“I saw a question from a brand-new podcaster, just trying it out, about what microphones he should get for him and his co-host. The most common answer? The Shure SM7B.”
There are a lot of reasons that this is bad advice. First among them is that, in a Facebook group such as this, you don’t know who you are talking to.
As a podcaster, I can tell you that talking out of my butt is one of the many keys to my longevity. So, take into account that you are now in a group of podcasters with no idea as to their time as a podcaster nor their level of success. For all you know, you may be further along than they are, but they happen to carry an unearned confidence that sells you on their authority.
You also need to be mindful of the salesmen in the group. People who have joined under the guise of just another person looking to talk about their passion, only to discover an ulterior motive. I have seen people suggest podcast hosting platforms in this group only to find out they are employees (and sometimes the CEO) of the platform they suggested. Now, to some of their credit, they make this information known, but not all of them.
Next is the group who probably make up the bulk of any group such as this, the people in search of credibility. These are people who give the answer that they think will be the smartest or most popular answer, so it will get a lot of likes and people within the group will see them as an authority on the subject.
They’ve heard that the SM7B is the best mic. They may not own it themselves. They may own it, having followed someone else’s advice, but have insufficient experience with other microphones to give an educated response. But YOU don’t know that. If your plan was to be suspicious of everyone’s advice, you probably wouldn’t have asked the group. Therefore, you are quite likely to listen to any advice that is given, and you’re even more likely to take advice if it comes from a lot of people, all of which could fall under the above listed categories.
To the cynics questioning where I get off giving advice about who should give advice, I applaud you. You’re learning. But a little background on me, I am a graduate of a Radio, Television and Film program (specializing in broadcast technology) with over twenty years’ experience with TV Production and broadcasting. I still work in the industry at one of Canada’s biggest TV stations.
“You also need to be mindful of the salesmen in the group. People who have joined under the guise of just another person looking to talk about their passion, only to discover an ulterior motive.”
The next major hurdle in this search for advice is something that was lacking, and it’s the fault of the person who asked the question: budget. The question he asked was “what should I get?” The question he should have asked was “I have “blank” amount of money, what is the best setup I can get with that budget?”
This is information that a person needs if they have any shot of giving you the answer you need to hear. Some may still have ignored it to suggest the biggest and baddest thing, but then he’d have had a better sense of who was there to help him and who wasn’t.
Let’s talk a little about what your budget should be. No, I am not going to give you a dollar amount, but I’ll give you some things to consider when deciding on that dollar amount for yourself. First, and most obvious, of all, how much money do you have? Are you making minimum wage or six figures a year? Do you have other responsibilities, like kids or a second mortgage or do you have a ton of disposable income? You may be able to afford that thousand-dollar setup right out of the gate, but does that mean you should get it?
A reasonable way to look at spending this money, especially when comparing items for purchase, is “how much better is the expensive thing than the cheaper one.” I own two Rode Podmics for my podcast and also use one of them on my stream. They come in at $99 USD each. When comparing it to the Shure, can I say that the SM7B is over four times better than the Podmic? Not a chance. Apply this thinking to everything you need, and you should end up with a setup that will serve you well.
Next to consider is your level of commitment. If this is a brand-new thing, it may be worth considering more of a beginner’s setup no matter what your budget is. When you have decided that you want this for the long haul, you can start considering the upgrades.
Something that is also worth a thought is whether you are making money from your content. Do you have advertisers for your podcast? Do you have a lot of Twitch Subs? Are you monetized on YouTube? This money comes with a lot of temptation. You COULD spend that first thousand dollars on the toys you want, but now should be the time for investing in yourself and not all the toys are an investment.
You need to ask yourself some questions. If I buy this, will it help expand my content? Will it get me more followers? All your early expenditures should be based on growing your content. I’ve used money for skillshare classes on storytelling, graphic design and organizing a production because those things make my content better than a slightly better microphone.
Now don’t get me wrong, I do have my share of toys too, but every purchase was made with all the above criteria in mind. Taking my camera, for example, I bought the Sony A7iii. I could afford it, I have committed long-term to being a content creator (I use it for video podcasting, my stream, my YouTube channel and for photography) and it contributes to making my content better.
But I didn’t go out and get the biggest and best. I got one that is perfectly good for my needs (I would have liked a flip-out screen, but that was either a downgrade to a crop frame camera or an upgrade to a much more expensive full frame camera). I bought within my means and have no regrets as a result.
So, my biggest advice to you is to watch where you get your advice. There are people out there more interested in making themselves look smart than helping you. They don’t have your best interests at heart. If you seek advice from other sources, be sure the sources are reputable and ensure that their advice lines up with your needs.
In the meantime, let’s get to work. Content doesn’t create itself.