A new studio has opened in South Portland, where Mainers can begin producing their own podcast.
James LaPlante sits at the recording console inside Maine's only DIY podcast recording studio at SoPoCoworks in South Portland on Monday. LaPlante owns the co-working space and rents the studio by the hour. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine — It seems like everyone’s got a podcast these days. An internet search reveals dozens of Maine-related shows, ranging from news to true crime to history to cooking and the supernatural.

But on the infinite internet, there’s always room for more voices.

Now, Mainers can get their audio ideas into their neighbor’s earbuds with minimum fuss and maximum audio quality thanks to a new, do-it-yourself podcast studio now open for business in South Portland.

Located inside the SoPoCoworks coworking space, it’s Maine’s only such self-service facility. The soundproofed audio workshop can be rented by the hour and comes with microphones, a multi-channel recording console, headphones and attached producer’s control room.

“My niche is the home podcaster that needs an upgrade from their echoey kitchen or basement where they’re talking into their phone,” said James LaPlante, who owns SoPoCoworks and the podcast studio, “and it’s for people who need a flexible space to just come in and record.”

SoPoCoworks is filled with filmmakers, digital artists and other creative types. It also houses LaPlante’s own business, Sputnik Animation. The 20-year-old, Emmy-winning animation studio specializes in educational and scientific footage.

“We do a lot of stuff for documentaries — the Discovery Channel, National Geographic, a lot of 3D work,” LaPlante said. “A lot of biotech startups in Cambridge will hire us to do stuff to show off their latest creations.”

The adjacent audio recording suite was originally built for another renter at the invention-oriented coworking space. But his efforts went belly up during the pandemic.

“He really had a hard time keeping things going,” LaPlante said. “He had to move on, and I’ve kind of inherited the podcast space.”

A new studio has opened in South Portland, where Mainers can begin producing their own podcast.
Colored lights and meters flash on the recording console inside Maine’s only DIY podcast recording studio at SoPoCoworks in South Portland on Monday. The soundproofed studio can be rented by the hour. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

But now, with the worst of the pandemic over, and the facility sitting vacant, LaPlante is looking to get the public in to use it at $25 an hour.

There are plenty of first-rate recording studios in Greater Portland, and throughout Maine, focusing on music production. But LaPlante’s South Portland studio is the only podcast-specific studio available north of Portsmouth, according to the directory on podcastrental.com.

The studio also differs in that it does not come with a costly studio engineer. Podcasters can come in, close the heavy wooden door, don a pair of provided headphones, plug into the Roland multi-channel workstation and start gabbing.

Portland musician, writer and civil rights activist Samuel James recorded a five-part, grant funded podcast there last year called “99 Years,” which he called “a Black exploration of the deliberate creation of the whitest state in the nation.”

James finds that not only is Maine the whitest, least diverse state in the union, it was constructed that way, by design. He illustrates his main points using three episodes from Maine history: The story of Malaga Island, the battle over racist place names and how Portland got its city manager form of government in 1923 with the help of the Ku Klux Klan.

James co-produced the program with Florence Edwards, the podcaster behind the long running series “In The Pocket: Conversations with BIPOC Mainers.” In constructing the series, James employed only Black Maine voices, including his own and those of Sen. Jill Duson, D-Portland, and former Associated Press reporter Bob Greene, among others.

James used LaPlante’s podcast facility to record his own voice and the show’s music while mixing in his field-recorded interviews. He has released several albums and toured internationally as a musician.

He said he’s proud of his podcast series and doesn’t reckon it would have turned out so well without access to the SoPoCoworks recording facility.

“I don’t operate under normal time frames. I was in there in the middle of the night, at 3 a.m., whatever,” James said. “I could just sit there and work and get things done in the isolation.”

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Troy R. Bennett

Troy R. Bennett is a Buxton native and longtime Portland resident whose photojournalism has appeared in media outlets all over the world.