MAKING waves when raising $100m in venture funding, the Luminary podcast subscription service launched in the US almost exactly a year ago, leading some to speculate on a looming podcast platform war. Spotify has since stolen its thunder and headway, it would seem.
It was a bungled launch, aggressively pushing a subscription model, promising big names with exclusive shows, for a medium previously free and ad-supported.
It also had some of the biggest podcasts in the world withdrawing from being listed on the platform, including the Joe Rogan Experience and the New York Times’ The Daily.
Luminary finally arrived in Ireland recently — but is it worth the subscription price? It’s available on a week’s free trial and then €4.99 a month or €2.99 a month if you sign up for a year. The app, available on iOS and Android, is akin to Stitcher, though it’s not very intuitive. It lists 36 shows as Luminary Exclusives, but they tend to be geared towards a US audience.
Russell Brand’s Under The Skin is here in full (snippets of his chats are available on other platforms) and the Trevor Noah Podcast is good, chinstroking fun as the Daily Show host explores the vagaries of modern living - the most recent episode on facial- recognition technology explores all sides of an interesting argument.
Other big names with exclusive shows include Lena Dunham, and Michael Rapaport.
The Ringer’s Rewatchables podcast has a Rewatchables 1999 series only available on Luminary, too, dissecting the most iconic movies from 1999, “an all-time great year in film” — they run through the likes of Magnolia, The Matrix, and Sixth Sense.
The Ringer, though having recently been purchased by Spotify, always seems ahead of the curve on podcasts, and has two documentary series on Luminary. For (US) sports fans, Sonic Boom: How Seattle Lost Its Team tells the always fascinating tale of why a franchise leaves its home.
Meanwhile, the jewel in Luminary’s crown is Break Stuff: The Story of Woodstock 99, narrated by music journalist Steven Hyden. Everybody knows about the original Woodstock, the one preaching peace and love.
Woodstock 99 sought to reprise that legend, but it was a strange time for music, with nu-metal at its zenith and its aggressive fans at their most boorish.
Break Stuff is a captivating, well-told investigation — it probably makes the investment in Luminary worth it.