Scott Newman started the On Air Fest in 2017 to “explore creativity and storytelling in sound” and their program lineup of panel discussions, storytelling, music, and live podcasts has grown stronger every year. We spoke to him about this year’s festival.
Their lineup for 2021 includes Francis Ford Coppola, Yo-Yo Ma, Terry Gross, Debbie Millman of Design Matters, and many others. Registration is free and open to the public, and the website allows you to customize your own schedule with a drag and drop interface. The festival runs from April 8-10.
PBJ: You haven’t had a film director of the caliber of Francis Ford Coppola before have you?
Scott Newman: No, but what a treat to have such an iconic filmmaker of our time. He’s going to be in conversation with the Kitchen Sisters.
PBJ: This is your first virtual event isn’t it?
Scott Newman: Yeah, and it’s a confidence builder. We were practically the last live event on Earth last year in April when we ended right before the lockdowns started. So instead of complaining that we can’t be in Brooklyn, we decided to make a positive out of it. We said let’s be global. If we can be anywhere, let’s be everywhere. Let’s make it free and open and rally the creative community that’s into podcasts and audio, but also music and culture makers. The idea is about healing and inspiring creatively, and celebrating the power of sound as an art form. We have registered people from all the big cities around the world. It’s incredible.
PBJ: There really isn’t another podcast festival like this one.
Scott Newman: We take more cues from the music and art world than we do from the podcast conference landscape. What we’re trying to do is build our cultural programming and a creative community, but be able to talk about the big questions in the industry and form mechanisms of partnership.
We care about design and sensibility and visuals and I think that’s part of what separates us from the audio landscape is that we probably look more like a music festival, which I think is a good thing.
PBJ: You’ve got musician Ben Folds in the lineup this year.
Scott Newman: He’ll be making an announcement and performing in a “music and conversation” style. It’s gonna be really fun.
PBJ: Are there any other highlights?
Scott Newman: It’s the second year of the Audio Vanguard Award. Last year we awarded it to Ira Glass, and this year it’s Terry Gross who will be interviewed by actress Jenny Slate.
PBJ: Will there be audience participation?
Scott Newman: You’ll be able to type your questions into the q&a chat within the platform of the event, and people are going to be able to register anytime they want even on the last day.