Ryan Betson wears many hats; as podcast co-host and editor of The PopCulturists, which focusses on PlayStation, professional wrestling, and pop culture, Head of Production at Wrestling Promotions like Deathmatch Downunder, and proud Dad. Ryan shares his journey as a content creator and what drives his passion in audio production.
How did your content creation journey start?
My journey into content creation started on a kitchen table with a laptop, a small USB mixing board, and four microphones of various brands. Content creation began for me in the latter part of my university degrees. I had just finished my Bachelor’s in Biotechnology and started my honours in environmental science but I was simply hating it. I was itching for a creative outlet and I enjoyed nothing more than conversation that would make everyone involved laugh.
My first show wore it’s influence of Kevin Smith and Smodcast with pride as we had ridiculous conversations, hypothetical discussions, creating imaginary scenarios all with the aim of enjoying each other’s company.
From here I went into community radio. First helping run the Vision Australia’s youth centred program Act Your Age then, when I moved to Geelong, I created The PopCulturists at 94.7 The Pulse. Coming from a very loose formatted show I wanted to bring a more structured focus with a specific field that I enjoyed: Pop Culture.
The show is built on the two things I had going for me at the time, my love for pop culture and my studies as a scientist. Does the name make sense now? ;)
Since then, The PopCulturists has grown and changed with different hosts and the conscious decision to further focus our coverage to the niches we love while bringing to the forefront us as hosts, our love for the topic, our history with it, and our learned knowledge. As it stands, The PopCulturists delivers two shows:
For The Players – The PopC PlayStation Podcast. Our over 280-episode strong weekly PlayStation centric show that, as I like to sell it, is the “Late Night Show” of PlayStation podcasts. It’s fun, light-hearted, and full of personality but it is backed up with near on a decade in the games industry and an unmatched passion for the platform. We are proud to say that we are one of the top three PlayStation podcasts made in Australia (I think there is only 3 of us, so it’s an easy stat to run with).
The other is The Young and The Wrestlers a show that takes professional wrestling for what it is – silly soap opera with stunts. Where other wrestling podcasts look at it from behind the scenes, we take it as it is and indulge in the imaginary world (or kayfabe) and treat it like its real. By playing within the stories, the characters, and the drama of the art form, you are able to simply enjoy it for the unique and brilliant entertainment that it is.
You are entrenched in the AV world with experience in radio, podcasting, and now live events. What ignited the spark to dive into the world of audio production?
It’s funny, I never really planned to end up in audio production. I always enjoyed recording dumb radio shows with my old cassette recorder when I was young. Maybe that is where it all began? However, since then it has been taking the opportunities as they come! Whether it be taking that leap to dive into games coverage, guesting on podcasts, or working in independent wrestling. The spark you mentioned comes from a passion from the power of recorded conversation and music. That passion is what keeps me going.
You’ve had consistent, great audio quality in your podcasts and videos for quite some time, what does your current set up look like?
Everyone underestimates how essential audio quality is! The average person is more than happy to watch a sub-par looking video but if it sound is off they are out. Audio quality has always been a major focus in the content that I have made.
The PopCulturists has had two different set ups (thanks pandemic) but the gear has always been the same. My host Max and I both use the XLR AT2020s connected into USB mixers. I use the Behringer Xenyx Q1202USB and Max uses the Yamaha Audiogram6. The choice for XLR with a mixer was, at least to me, simple. I wanted to be able to control as much as I could. Each dial allows for the minor tweaks that can create the most desired voice sound for each of us. We all have different registers and frequencies with our voice, one size fits all cannot be done.
This why I chose the AT2020. Aside from the affordable entry price, which saved me when this all started, it also delivers as close to neutral frequencies allowing for a straightforward, natural recording.
AT2020 Cardioid Condenser Microphone
Along with this I use the ATH-M50X. If I’m wanting that level of control in how my audio is recorded, well, I needed the same in how I hear it. The neutral sound of this headset allows me to deliver that consistency when working in the recording software.
ATH-M50x Professional Monitor Headphones
It might seem daunting to record your podcast or stream for the first time. What would you recommend for people about to start their own podcast?
My answer comes from simple and not really all that profound advice from Kevin Smith: Why not? We are surrounded by people that will ask us negatively why we would want to do it. Why you? Why do you think you can do it? Why would anyone want to listen to you?... Well, why not?
My main recommendation is going in with a plan. Determine what separates your content from the others. Take a look around at other creators, find ones you like and breakdown what it is that calls to you. Look into creators you don’t like and determine why it detracts you and how you can avoid it. Make unaired pilot episodes. You can only improve by honing your craft before releasing it into the world. The saying is true, you only have one shot at a first impression so make it count.
Podcasting, streaming, and content creation is an ever-flooding market but don’t be afraid to work within a niche that you truly care about. Care and passion are key and do not be afraid to let it come through your voice. Be emotive. Speak with dynamics. Let you shine through. Your voice the only truly unique currency you have in this world… use it.
You founded The PopCulturists with your co-hosts Josh and Dylan in 2014, and now Max since 2019 which is no small feat, how have you managed to stay so consistent over the years?
The short answer is passion and love for what I do.
Things have changed over the years as our content has altered, numbers going up and down, having hosts step away, and it hasn’t always been easy. The drive for making content, for all the positives it has given me, has had quite a number of negatives.
What keeps me coming back behind that microphone after all these years is that I truly care about what I make. I don’t make content around trends or things for the views. I make what I make because it means something to me. I cover the games that I want to cover. Burn out comes from working on something that you do not have an investment or emotion towards. I work within the niche because I care for this niche. Does it impact our viewer/listenership? Definitely. But I’d much rather make content that I can stand proudly next to with happiness and enjoyment.
What are the biggest takeaways from co-hosting and editing a podcast for nine years?
One of the big takeaways is… wow time goes fast! It is hard to fathom that a third of my life has been spent making my silly little shows.
Making this podcast has allowed me to meet and become friends with incredible people, work with brands and companies that I could never have imagined, it has opened doors that in turn got me the wonderful day job, along with my unique side hustle, that I have.
I cannot be more grateful for the path that my life has taken since I first held that mic to my mouth and pressed record on that kitchen table oh so many years ago.
That is the take away. I take gratitude, love, and appreciation.
Time is one of the greatest and finite things we have and I cannot be more thankful for all the individuals that have chosen to use that time on my nonsense.
The inverse of this is also true. Consider how much time YOU spend on making content and the impact it can have. I have a young family and I have spent too much time on making things for the internet rather than the little person that I made in front of me.
I had incorrectly prioritised my life. But now I see the error of my ways. My podcast is there when I need it, but I will always to be there for someone who needs me. That person is my son.
You were able to combine your passion for audio and wrestling by becoming the Head of Production at Deathmatch Downunder. Capturing the carnage of these events looks like a lot of fun, but what are some of the biggest challenges in delivering a great experience to those at the show, and those watching at home?
I love running production at wrestling shows because it has the ability to shape everything. The music played in between matches sets the scene and the emotional foot print heading into the match. A wrestler’s entrance communicates so much to those in the room. It tells them how to react, what to expect, who the person is.
My job is simple. Make the workers look the best they possibly can by making the best possible environment for them to work.
The biggest challenge is always tech issues. As wrestling is essentially a travelling show there is always an unknown when it comes to what gear or set up a specific venue has. We have worked in beautiful theatres with high level equipment to basketball stadiums with the simplest PA system. Learning to work on the fly, adapt to whatever changes may happen, and always bringing a duffle bag full of assorted cables and equipment has got me out of so many jams.
If you could have a wrestling match with anyone — dead or alive, who would it be— and what is the backstory leading up to the fight?
This is a great question and my answer will not involve any known wrestlers, instead my friend and The Young and The Wrestlers co-host… Jem Stone.
Here is the story:
Jem and I got into the wrestling industry at the same time, however, we went in at different angles. I went back of house with AV and she went front with ring announcing and commentary. She is also training to be an in-ring performer and I am her manager. I join her when she enters the arena, I support her ringside, and I cut promos telling the world how brilliant she is. I provide and create opportunities for her such as the best matches on the night and championship matches. Since day one we have always had each other’s back whether in ring or behind the curtain. But it slowly begins to change.
Cracks begin to appear. Communication between us start to break down. We both sense the change in dynamics. Jem begins to second guess and goes into business for herself and effects the production. I second guess myself and make bad decisions that cost her opportunities. The unspoken animosity and resentment slowly builds and builds until it boils over.
The fight gets petty. I mess with her microphone when she is on commentary. Jem changes the card mid show to throw off the audio production. The management have no choice. There is only one way to settle this this. In the ring.
It is a story of friendship, ego, miscommunication, the battle for the spotlight, it blurs the line between the kayfabe and real worlds, plus its dripping with gross soap opera melodrama.
Oh, you want a famous wrestler? Kurt Angle. Why not. The dude looks like a giant thumb. I have a huge soft spot for Ol’ Kurt.
What are you up to at the moment, and where are you headed in the future?
Personally, spending as much time as I can with my son. He is now at the age where he wants to share in the things I love. So, it’s a lot of time playing games and wrestling shows.
For The PopCulturists, still working on our For The Players and building it to be the best place for PlayStation in Australia. With The Young and The Wrestlers, like any good wrestler we are planning an incredible comeback!
In the wrestling space, continue my AV work with Deathmatch DownUnder and take it across to Anarchy Pro Wrestling along with Renegades of Wrestling in a large producer role.
It's almost like I have ADHD and have to have a thousand things going on at once ;)