- Individual Audio Project Research
From the start of the process of creating my individual audio project I was confident that I wanted to create an audio book for a couple of reasons. Firstly, that they are an especially popular and current form of audio that overlaps and overflows into many genres. It seems that the word audiobook is on a lot of peoples lips with many getting ever more excited about the creativity available with the combination of many dramatised and experimental elements being added as the genre gets ever more popular and successful. Secondly, I had a book in mind that I thought would make an interesting piece to work on and to listen to. I had recently read ‘The Confessions of a Sociopath’ by M.E. Thomas and having received the assignment I was already keen to give this a go, wanting to emphasise and bring out the brilliant visually descriptive elements that I thought would really lend itself to an atmospheric and dramatic audiobook. So my research had begun. I placed a lot of importance on the idea of getting a sense of how current and popular the genre had become in recent times looking up statistics online as well as all of the types of platform that were now on offer in order to find the best place to gain a commission for a project of this type. During my research, I found large companies like ‘Amazon’, ‘Audible’ ‘Overdrive’ and ‘Libby’ that have taken audiobooks into the mainstream of accessibility and popularity, however many of the smaller more independent companies like ‘Podium’ and ‘Parcast’ were leading the way in my opinion in terms of original and genre breaking ideas that would really show and make home for the more experimental or unique concepts that can be branched out to in terms of audiobooks and they’re soundscaped dramatisation. Alongside this was their accommodation of the category of audio that their subject material falls into with especially ‘Parcast’ hosting many crime and psychological podcasts like ‘Serial Killers’, ‘Female Killers’ and ‘Mind’s Eye’ all of which hold elements of the audiobook that I wished to create.
Alongside the research into the companies and hosts suitable for this type of project, I also researched the audiobook that had previously been released on the same material by the publisher, ‘Random House’. However, in my opinion this very much played it safe in staying with the expected and predictable format of an audiobook with it simply being read by a voice actress Bernadette Sullivan with a lot more left alone in terms of the possibilities for slightly more experimental or atmospheric creations surrounding the original material. I felt that a lot more could be done in order to draw out the full potential of the piece that I had imagined whilst reading, with many extracts just asking for an atmos, sound effect and music filled accompaniment.
Overall from my research and findings, the world of audiobooks seems like a divided market in terms of types of hosts and the things that they can offer to production companies and anybody attempting to get commissioned in an area like this one. The companies such as ‘Audible’ and ‘Amazon’ are clearly the biggest and most widely known distributers of material and content like this but the ‘Podium’ and ‘Parcast’-esque platforms offer much more individuality and are much closer to home in regards to gaining a commission at such an unknown level and especially as a student. In acknowledgment of this I decided to contact both of the latter companies and the original publisher themselves in regards to my own commission offering an interesting book with professional sounding audio created for free.
2. What was learnt?
Once emails had been sent, I received a reply. From Camilla, the Co-Founder of ‘Podium’, found online at podium.me, that offers a unique and young podcast platform that has an incredibly inclusive and home grown feel that aims its content at the the under 25s. The younger age demographic is definitely an important market for especially podcasts but also audiobooks and dramatisations as this begins to take over as the primary medium of interest in regards to audio content. It was an interesting experience, that of getting a commission, purely on the basis of for the first time feeling like you would have to tailor the overall project and product to what you felt was effective but also the desires and needs of another person or company. It was a case of being able to adapt and tailor the content to the ideals of ‘Podium’ whilst at the same time attempting to maintain an overall concept of what you had originally imagined in regards to the audio’s creation but also the best sound for what would fit amongst the content already visible and audible on the website and current podcast platform. All of this whilst attempting to stand out as much as possible too. I was confident in the idea and thought that the content would very easily speak for itself, I just had to nail the correct feel and sound. Retrospectively, I would have wanted a more personal conversation and interaction with the commissioner in order to better achieve something that they would want just as much as me. That definitely fell on my shoulders to maintain and uphold but with the the timing and events going on at the time in my own life, this was admittedly a struggle. However, it has increased my sense of what is important in a project such as this one and has also allowed me to work out what kind of time commitment it is to take one up. In future if I was to do something like this again and require a commission I would make sure that relationship was stronger between producer and commissioner as well as ensure that more time is plunged into it.
Another useful experience was in the summer of 2018 where I spent a couple of months at Highgate based ‘Boogaloo Radio’, a station that is set up in the garden of the Boogaloo Pub and offers a large array of music speciality and big industry names as well as educated music fans. It was an incredibly fun station to be a part of with it being incredibly casual and a low octane station with few things to focus on in terms of the overall aims in output. The focus is largely music and making sure that the presenters are allowed to express their love for the tunes that they play as well as ensuring that the overall sound of the station is matched throughout. I definitely enjoyed being able to produce a lot of different people and matching their styles and needs in studio whilst improving their content and social media value. A big thing that I think was impressive to the people that worked there was how much media and radio industry knowledge as well a passionate person in the background could go a long way in regards to making the experience and the shows that they present feel even bigger and increase the listenership and interaction. Overall, what I learned from my time at Boogaloo Radio was how better to manage people and presenters in a way that meets their needs both on and off the air, accommodating bands and guests in a way that got the best out of them and made them feel at home as soon as possible as this really matched the more laid back and chilled style of the station. As well as this I learnt how to differentiate in aims and techniques for not only different people but also different stations having never worked on a station like this before it was really useful experience in adapting.
3. What’s Next?
When I first started this course, it was clear to me what I wanted to do. Present entertaining and funny radio, similar to that of the people that had inspired me to do so in the first place. This dream and aspiration still remains but with a much broader sense of what I enjoy within the industry and the roles that are contained within it. Having undertaken and experienced so many different roles in my time at Smoke, Boogaloo, Jack FM, Radio Cherwell and whilst studying at the University of Westminster, I have definitely increased my expectation of how much I would enjoy the roles that I previously would have turned my nose up at as well as having increased the skills that would be needed to do so.
In a couple years time I hope to say that I am have a firm foothold in the industry whether that be presenting, producing or anything else that can increase my time and success in the working environment. Spending the time that I have in the voluntary and work experience based side, I am definitely ready to undertake a bigger challenge and workload in order to achieve a greater amount within the industry and medium that I love most. I have also been happy and impressed with how much not only my skills and understanding have broadened and increased but also my listenership to various different stations achieving different things and aiming for different demographics having previously been arguably small minded and narrow in my tastes and passions within radio.
However, overall, I can’t pretend that my ambition doesn’t remain incredibly high, wishing to, as soon as possible, join a station that I truly love, feel a part of and have aspired to be on as a presenter. At the moment the dream stations would be BBC Radio 1 and Radio X as these are the ones that I currently listen to most and those that I think fit with the style of radio that I love to make. Also most importantly the ones that I think make radio in a way that is new and exciting. In order to achieve these highish goals, I have started and will continue to firstly gain contact with members of theses and many other radio stations and companies. Secondly, continue to create demos and similar of my work in both presenting and producing, thirdly send them out to the appropriate people offering my experience and flexibility after graduation to show how much time I will be prepared to put into work experience and industry level jobs for them. Fourthly, I will throw myself into as many different projects as possible in the aim to gain a platform or leapfrog from at least one if not many and finally maintain a working relationship with the people within the industry to work on future projects of stations that arise whilst simultaneously displaying my passion, interest and knowledge for the industry.
Neil Fearn – Radio X
Greg Hughes – Capital
Paul Sylvester – Absolute Radio
Mike Cass – Virgin Radio
Jenn Crothers – Boogaloo Radio