We’ve been talking about audio drama a lot here lately. Personally I like audio drama, and I should point out I like amateur audio drama too. But It doesn’t all make me happy. The industry has a number of problems. This post isn’t designed to discourage people who want to get into the business, it’s your time, you can use it how you want. Heck if you’ll make stuff I’ll enjoy I actively encourage you! But I do see problems, some that are fixed far easier before you start recording. Here are five problems I see in amateur audio drama…
Problem #1: Too many and too little.
Maybe there are too many people trying to do audio drama. It seems that almost everybody and their friend is making original audio drama. Good for you. A recent visit to a dedicated audio drama blog gave me a list of more than two dozen (!) audio drama troupes with websites. There are more without websites. How sad is that? Methinks it is time to consolidate people! Umbrella organizations seem to help with production schedules and technical know-how. In a group you’ll probably find peer
feebackfeedback will help you keep encouraged, keep you on a schedule and help keep your actors showing up for sessions. Even better as a co-operative you’ll benefit from economy of scale in terms of word of mouth.
ItsIt’s called DISTRIBUTION, stupid.
I don’t have a handle on the exact extent of the audience for audio drama, and I doubt anyone else does, but I’m going to guess that the audience for some of the amateur productions is not much higher than the number of people involved in making them (if that). Many websites didn’t even seem to be aware of the existence of podcasting. And most don’t do it. This is a major mistake. If you are one of these people do yourself a favour and buy a copy of Podcasting For Dummies. Podcasting is going to be bigger than television is now and bigger than radio was in
it’sits heyday. The distribution and infrastructure costs are ridiculously cheap, you only pay big $$ if people LOVE your stuff. If you don’t make it easy for people to listen, they won’t. If your stuff isn’t on the radio, isn’t being reviewed by anyone or being syndicated by another podcast your audience isn’t just going to come to you. Podcast distribution is the solution! Pendant Productions, Darker Projects and The Sonic Society all podcast, this makes them have an audience FAR bigger than if they didn’t. Try it.
Problem # 3: Who the hell are you? And why should I care?
When you name is Llama Escondido or Sheila Whatshername
youryou’re in deep trouble. I’m more likely to be searching for somebody I already know about and love than you and your vague audio drama, it’s vague name and your vague writer name. Worse if none of my keywords show up in your indecipherable audio drama description, you’re lost. Don’t say that your audio drama offers a “unique perspective,” or that it consists of “funny adventures” with “new visions” that is just boring. Instead use names, either by licencing name authors fiction or by setting your dramas in places I’ve heard of “Barsoom” is better than “Planet Y.” Specifics are always better, 2052 is better than “the future.” Another approach, and Scott’s going to love this one, is to do a little Audio Drama Fan Fiction. Some umbrella organizations take this approach. People will find you this way, searches for Star Wars, Firefly, Star Trek are far more common than searches for:
Generic/Abstract Audio Drama Title
WeittenWritten by Boring Guy You’ve Never Heard Of (with a “FULL CAST”)
When J. Marcus Xavier started his Silent Universe audio drama series he smartly compared his show to 24 and Battlestar Galactica. He’s since dropped the comparison (he still uses “choose-your-own-adventure” in the description) in part, no doubt, because his show is now established and known.
Problem # 4: It ain’t all that funny, buddy.
If you haven’t already, consider writing “serious” audio drama. Funny is harder to write well. I think the reason people write so much “funny” audio drama might have to do with the worry about whether or not it will be any good. Maybe it is a defensive mechanism on the part of the writer? If it is supposed to be funny and people don’t laugh, you can always say to yourself “they just don’t have a good sense of humor.” If they point out that your plot is derivative, don’t say “It is supposed to be. that’s what’s so funny.” Fear of
critcismcriticism shouldn’t be the motivation for a script’s direction. Another related issue: Audio dramatists tend to dumb down the science in their “funny” science fiction audio dramas. Just because it is “funny” doesn’t mean you can go slack on the science. Red Dwarf was full of ridiculously impossible physics, but they respected the audience, knew the actual tropes of SF and made serious SF ideas a part of the plot. Try that.
Problem #5: Do a reality check. Campy isn’t cool.
I’m not saying this to be cruel, I just am getting tired of the obliviousness… one thing that I’ve heard over and over again is a line that goes something like this: “We’re resurrecting Old Time Radio. Millions of people used to be glued to their radios in the 1930s and 1940s. We’re going to make it again.” I’ve heard that or variations on that pathetic dream at least a half dozen times in interviews with amateur audio dramatists. I think that’s part of the problem, you’re taking the 1930s clunky sensibility and expecting it to work in the 21st century. So maybe you did recognize this in the first recording session and so instead of updating the plots and the dialogue, you make it “campy fun.” I can only take so much camp, and right now I’m all filled up. I’m betting “campy fun” is about 100 times more fun to make than it is to listen to.
I am without audio drama sin (or virtue), being just a consumer of it, so I feel justified in casting these stones. Am I wrong?
*Typos fixed: (October 14th). Thanks Joe!