Is Radio Still The Brass Ring For Audio Drama?

 

Jack Hosley, Special Correspondent
Editorial
July 26, 2010

n July 19th 2010, The Listening Post asked a question, “Can Podcasting Speak For Audio Drama?” This is not a simple question to answer in that there are several different ways to look at the question. As for me, I can only offer my own anecdotal evidence and experience to this and say that it already is. But,that really isn’t the question that needs to be asked.

Podcasting is already “speaking” for Audio Drama. When I started listening to podcasts 5 years ago, it was mainly Podiobooks. The Podiobooks I was listening to at the time were mostly straight reads. I remember thinking that authors have so many more tools to use to tell a good story. (That was when I did 16 Pieces at a Time) So as I was working to fill my growing podcast listening habit I found the Sonic Society. Here is the limitation of radio, but also its strength. It is local. Jack Ward and the Sonic Society are based in Halifax, Canada. From where I live, I am not even sure how far away that is… but it was the Sonic Society that opened my eyes to the fact that Audio Drama is not dead. it was not local radio but podcasting which got that message to me I didn’t even know about BBC doing Audio Drama stories. (Hell I didn’t learn until early 2007 that Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy started as an Audio Drama). So really Podcasting is already working for Audio Drama.

So to me the real question becomes “Is Radio the Brass Ring for Audio Drama?” There is no doubt that as I write this, radio is a media giant that just won’t go away (or won’t for a long time yet) and radio has the huge audience. A huge audience is usually the ultimate goal of any content producer or should be, but this is not necessarily always the case. The goal of commercial radio is to make a profit. Making a profit is where Audio Drama companies struggle as much as radio stations. Although it is cheaper to produce an Audio Drama than it is to produce say a television show or movie, for Audio Drama to be profitable, the radio station it has to have an audience that wants to listen. The radio station can then sell advertising to sponsors and hopefully make a profit. For radio stations it is a business move that they play music (damn just lost Jack Ward here) the music segments  are relatively short thus allowing the station to sell more time for (dun dun DUN) Commercials. So from commercial radio’s point of view Audio Drama just doesn’t have the draw to be profitable for them. (This statement does not apply to community radio or the fine works of the Sonic Society or Radio Drama Revival)

All of that being said, radio has the audience that New Audio Drama producers want, however the challenge is to prove to a radio station that you can provide that audience for them. Which is what podcasting can do, but you must be patient and build your audience. The question you need to ask yourself is this… By the time you get an audience, will you really need to be on the radio? What are your thoughts?

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6 responses to “Is Radio Still The Brass Ring For Audio Drama?

  1. bohemianroxie

    Great article, Jack.
    And definitely food for thought.

  2. Thank you Roxie. Be sure to check out the discussion over on ADT. Some of the heavy hitters are starting to check in over there.

  3. Thanks so much for the kind words Jack. I have a couple of thoughts (as usual only a couple):
    1. I think the television is now going the way radio went in the sixties and seventies. Cheaper content (reality programmes are notoriously cheap compared to fiction) and smaller seasons (Audio Drama fiction for the most part went to mini-series in North America like Hitchhiker or specials like Star Wars).
    2. I think even the companies that own a pile of radio stations (like Clear Channel) make money by centralizing their content as the networks do for the most part.
    3. The only networks that seem to want to maintain radio drama tend to be public- BBC, CBC, and to a small extent, NPR. This is two fold, because- they tend to have a more discerning audience 😉 and because they often have internal mandates to press for better expressions of art and variety.
    4. Music? What’s that? 😉
    Good discussion piece! Thanks so much!
    J

    • Point number 3 – Those that you have cited (CBC, BBC and NPR) all receive funding from the government as well as grants… So do we need to make AD popular again? and how do we do that?

  4. Don’t forget that you can access most of the audio drama output from the BBC via the BBC iPlayer here and, unlike their television output, you can listen internationally:
    http://beta.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/radio
    (And, if you are passionate about radio drama/audio theatre, join us at ‘Speak up for Radio Drama now!’ here:
    http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=370813630387#!/group.php?gid=370813630387