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Frank Sasso, left, and Will Foskey have planned Trenton’s first Podstock conference, set for June 11.

PodStock’s name might have started as a play on the musical festival Woodstock, but while a chorus of eager attendees could be just as melodic at the upcoming Trenton conference headed by New Jersey’s only podcast hosting company, New Pod City, the idea has evolved into an informational networking event nearly four years in the making.

New Pod City, owned and founded by Frank and Christina Sasso, provides services in areas like consulting, promoting, social media branding and more — all while giving podcasters access to their recording studio at 247 East Front Street.

This year’s PodStock is the first of its kind, with the title thought of by NPC’s president, Will Foskey. Held at Trenton’s Masonic Temple on Saturday, June 11, from noon to 6 p.m., the day includes presentations by speakers and panelists, Q&A sessions, and numerous workshops. PodStock’s afterparty then takes place until 11 p.m. between Peace and Warren streets on Front Street, the block behind the Masonic Temple.

Sasso explained to the Trenton Downtowner that beginners and experienced professionals alike can interact, learn, and connect at the event. Tickets are $99 and can only be purchased online at PodStock’s website, PodStock.us.

The creation of Foskey, who was profiled in the Trenton Downtowner last September, PodStock is another sign of progress as he navigates his position as a “liaison” between clients and Sasso.

Foskey’s term as president began in August, but New Pod City officially announced him as stepping into the role in September of 2021, where he has been, and continues to be, active until August 31, 2022. He wants to fight for both sides, he explained in an interview, to find “pleasant mediums, and better ways, that [the podcasters and NPC] can all be able to win together — even if it’s nothing more than just providing some more marketing and promotion.”

Foskey is a native of Trenton, with his passion originating from a work study program in the television studio at Trenton Central High School, where he taped events. After exploring rapping and music journalism, he opened his own photography and filmmaking business, 78 Ways Studio, before adding podcasting to the mix.

Now he has been attending conferences, organizing PodStock, and working with Sasso to help facilitate the growth of the podcast industry with New Pod City. It was at one of those industry events in Nashville this past August that Sasso and Foskey came to a conclusion.

At a panel for “Charlamagne Tha God,” a radio host and television personality who founded the Black Effect Podcast Network, the two took note of the session’s content. Foskey recounted that when iHeartRadio approached Charlamagne Tha God for the opportunity to have said network, he hired his friend to be president, delegating those responsibilities to her.

“I’m sitting next to Frank, we’re both listening to that,” Foskey remembered, the two able to meet Charlamagne outside of the hotel through connections. “That energy on a day that I was supposed to leave, but I decided to stay another day in Nashville, ended up turning into being able to come back home and having that conversation” with Sasso, who was equally enthused to make it happen.

But PodStock had already been a blip on the radar since 2019, when Foskey, during a Trenton Fashion Week event, explained his concept of bringing people together for podcasting to the Sassos. Then, in a later car ride epiphany next to Frank, Foskey thought of the perfect name.

A pandemic, delays, and several other conferences later, they picked a date for the 2022 event. PodStock is not only sponsored in part by Shure, a microphone and audio electronics company, but supported by Kevin O’Leary, or “Mr. Wonderful,” a businessman on Shark Tank who also filmed a promotional video for New Pod City.

“To create and to be able to put PodStock on in Trenton, New Jersey, it’s just valuable, and it’s beautiful,” Foskey said. Podcasters often travel nationally to similar events, so Foskey said this was a way for them to travel to a new destination, this one fully “stocked” with a lineup befitting a podcasting version of the namesake event.

The Nashville trip was pivotal, Foskey said, because individuals there are speaking at or sponsoring PodStock, showing the importance of “building those relationships” but on New Jersey’s terrain.

“There’s already an extraordinary podcasting conference that’s happening on a year to year basis,” he said. “We just want to be able to possibly be a pipeline to that conference.”

Foskey views PodStock as “a cousin or little brother” to other conferences.

“Our message this year is about ambition, and being ambitious, because that’s really what we’re doing to even try to produce an event like this — in an area where it’s completely unexpected. Trenton will be on the map in podcasting because of PodStock, and they will learn about New Pod City because of PodStock,” he said. “We’re bringing the best and brightest people in the podcasting industry. As far as the networking and the different hosting companies that are coming down, I think it’s important for everyone to understand [that] what we’re doing at New Pod City with PodStock is sharing the love of the culture,” Foskey said. “These are companies that we’re not scared of. We’re proud to be standing side to side with [them].”

That moment of standing on the same stage together recognizes everyone’s passion and drive, Foskey continued, as well as being exemplary of how podcasting has historically risen in the mainstream to become a formidable force. A decade or two ago, people who wanted to create stories encountered more obstacles in monetizing their work.

“You were literally doing it for the love of podcasting. We want people to remember that even though hundreds of millions of dollars are being dumped into this industry, especially over the past three years, the pandemic did something with podcasting — it just lit a rocket, because everyone was home,” he said. “It changed their lives, and those numbers grew because now you’re working from home, now you need something to listen to, and you’re finding these podcasts communities that you can dive into.”

Just like the 17 shows currently under the New Pod City network, these options can stretch across categories and scope, discussing everything from comic books to religion. In acknowledgment of that, PodStock’s keynote speaker, Rob Greenlee, a longtime veteran of the industry and VP of Podcast Content & Partnerships at Liberated Syndication (sometimes referred to as “Libsyn”), is talking about the history of podcasting.

“WebTalk World Radio Show,” which Greenlee hosted and founded, debuted on XM satellite radio in 2004. It is often referred to “as the first broadcast radio program in the world to begin podcasting,” according to his website. He was inducted into the Academy of Podcasters Hall of Fame in 2017.

“He actually reached out to us,” Foskey said, having run into Greenlee in Los Angeles. “For Rob to reach out to us with this small little event that we’re putting together, and for him to be driving down from the New England area to speak at our event, and seeing that he’s willing to [do] whatever we need, just let him know — it’s humbling.”

According to Foskey, Greenlee’s focus will be on helping people “understand that the success that’s happening in podcasting now, the Joe Rogans and all these different people signing these multimillion dollar deals? It’s not overnight. Having [Greenlee] to lead in that type of conversation as a primer, we’ll be able to set off for the rest of the day.”

Other speakers include Christine Blackburn, a comedian and the host of the “Story Worthy” podcast who will be moderating, as well as hosting, all of PodStock.

Travis Chappel is the founder of Guestio, a booking marketplace for podcasts, while Todd Cochrane, the CEO of Blubrry, is set to present statistics on how to generate income from past successes and demographic information.

Charles Riddle, a trademark lawyer, is the founder of Esquire Trademarks. He will be talking about how podcasters can own their name, and therefore their business, giving the audience universal, professional knowledge beyond podcasting.

RØDE, a company that makes microphones, mixers, and other audio production equipment, is involved with PodStock in multiple ways. The brand is funding a raffle that gives attendees a chance to win one of their equipment packages (estimated at a $1,500 value), and Ryan White, a RØDE product specialist, will be running a workshop.

White will set up the laptop, Foskey explained, to teach people how to quickly and economically download free software, purchase microphones or any other necessary tools, then record a podcast with ease.

“I think that’s going to be so important and pivotal to people that are watching, because maybe there’s some folks that’s thinking about getting in, and they have no clue what the initial investment would be,” Foskey said, the notion of costly studio charges usually preventing people from pursuing podcasting. Now, someone can use a computer, phone or any other connective device to accomplish that same feat.

While traveling to distant conferences can be expensive, Foskey wanted to ensure that cost would not be a barrier to accessing PodStock’s resources. But with talent, dreams and plans at stake, Foskey encourages podcasters to still “get out there — share your ideas and energy with people.”

“This is something anyone can do. It just takes consistency and it takes know-how. What we provide is bringing that experience to you on day one, so that you know you can get the best out of what you’re trying to accomplish,” Foskey said.

Of those traveling, he noted that “they’re speaking because of this idea that we came together to put in place,” whether they are coming from San Francisco, Vegas, or Toronto. “We have all of these different folks converging…that’s a lot of belief.”

Also on the lineup is a New Pod City panel for those who started with or migrated to the platform to share their experiences. PodStock is still looking for panelists, especially women, to speak at the event.

As a way of reaching interested students, the “Future of Podcasting” initiative is a complimentary ticket program, again thought of by Foskey, realized from his personal desire to shape local futures.

“It’s near and dear to my heart. I created it for students, because when I went to Trenton Central High School, I was in a work study program and a TV studio,” he said, covering football games or other events. “But I didn’t go to college for it, because I didn’t really see the bridge.”

“We know that everyone can’t afford to attend a workshop, and sometimes the people who need to be at a workshop the most are the ones who can’t afford it. They’re the ones who need to see that those opportunities are out there,” Foskey said. George Bundy, a friend of Foskey’s with BRS Media Inc., dedicated $5,000 to the “Future of Podcasting” sponsorship to fund tickets for at least 20 high school and 30 college students.

“It was really one of the things that’s on my mind, more than most of the things that we’re doing leading up to PodStock, because I just want to make sure that the kids get to see this,” Foskey said.

1911 Smokehouse BBQ is supplying the food and drinks at the after party. Christina Sasso, knowing there were other events hosted in Trenton on the same Saturday, invited these organizations to participate in the celebration, too.

“Because we’re a united community here in Trenton,” Christina Sasso said, “We wanted the other events happening in the city on June 11 to use our after party as their after party.”

That genuine camaraderie, and sense of community, is “really the Trenton I want to live in,” Foskey said. “We have to do things in this city that we want for ourselves…if more people do what they love to do, and more folks find that love and they connect to it, then you get the city, you get the town that you deserve.”

Frank Sasso, a former animator and UFC fighter, has welcomed Trenton as his second home since opening NPC in 2010. When NPC unveiled its studio in 2020, the pandemic happened, but their business “more than tripled,” according to the founder.

Frank Sasso has his own slew of podcasts, notably hosting “Trenton Waves” with wife Christina, where the couple talk to local figures to disprove misconceptions of the state capital city by showing the real, bustling community underneath the assumptions.

Foskey’s main focus, on top of New Pod City, is on making sure PodStock goes as planned, regardless of how many professional podcasters the conference inspires.

“If you’re coming to the event just to be able to either network with other people or to gain knowledge, that’s really what this first year of PodStock is about. We’re mainly doing this for people that are just thinking about getting into podcasting, because everyone is trying to find what their next thing could be in life. That’s the beauty of life,” Foskey said. “All knowledge is relevant.”

“Maybe you come out of the event wanting to be something else, but now you have information, you have people that you know, because you networked. If I didn’t network at any of these places that we went to, we wouldn’t have the people that are flying in. So we’re a testament to that. Come to PodStock and network. Meet us. Meet everybody who’s there, because you never know where your next opportunity is going to come from,” he added.

Foskey is constantly soaking up new knowledge, sharing it with others as a way to not just live in the moment, but accomplish feats as a company — even if Foskey maintained that the first year of being president is typically reserved for “getting your feet wet,” few can say they put together an event like PodStock through sheer tenacity and Trentonian resolve.

PodStock, Masonic Temple, 100 Barrack Street. Saturday, June 11. Conference: Noon to 6 p.m. After Party: 5 to 11 p.m. $99. podstock.us.

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