With all but essential outings cancelled at the beginning of the outbreak, onsite Audible Studios recording sessions and creative gatherings were also momentarily put on pause. Our studios teams worldwide worked fast to continue making productions remotely and to find ways to support our creative community, which includes third-party studios, narrators, producers, agents and the freelancers who are especially vulnerable to losing sources of income. As Audible EVP and Head of US Content Rachel Ghiazza said, “We quickly reached out to our various creative communities to let them know Audible is open for business.”
In mid-March, after a few days to get plans in motion, our US studios team got busy helping narrators and authors set up recording spaces at home and guiding our international studios team through new ways in working.
Typically, for a multicast production, all of the actors come into the studio to record live together. For the first half of The End of My Heart, a historical drama from number-one New York Times best-selling author Gayle Forman, the narrators recorded together in our Newark headquarters. When quarantine hit, the rest of the production was recorded remotely from the narrators’ home studios with our studios team guiding them through the entire process.
For select narrators, explained Kat Lambrix, Senior Director of Audible Studios, we sent out at-home recording kits that includes equipment and instruction via video chat for set-up and best practices. Once it’s time to record, both engineers and producers can dial in using all of these kits, ensuring that the narrator feels creatively and technically supported throughout the recording process. For our stable of hundreds of regular performers, as well as authors recording their own work (like Mitch Albom), our studios team has helped tweak their set-up, which could be as simple as moving a microphone, or helping narrators build a home studio from scratch, said Lambrix.
The US studios team is moving forward with our annual workshops on voice acting and audiobook narration at prestigious drama schools—virtually. And this time, naturally, Audible presenters and narrators will cover the basics of recording from home studios. The team has also been reaching out to actors with home set-ups who record for ACX, our self-publishing marketplace, to cast them for upcoming titles.
In the UK—and across all our global locations—dozens of narrators, producers, third-party studios and freelancers have responded gratefully to our support. "I literally can't even believe it. That is beyond incredible and genuinely means I will be able to stay living in my home as it gives me the means to pay rent and bills whilst income is so low/nonexistent," said one creative partner. Another told us, "Thanks very much to you and the team (and Audible as a whole) for looking after freelancers!”
In addition to reaching out to narrators with home studios as well as subsidizing studio kits that rotate between narrators, Audible’s global teams have also forged new relationships and reached out to creators to commission Original content to help keep listeners entertained at home. And working remotely has presented opportunities for studio teams to support productions across countries. Presenter and podcaster Marc Fennell’s new project for Audible Australia, Nut Jobs: Cracking California's Strangest $10 Million Dollar Heist, used producers in London and New York, while post-production took place locally in Australia.
“It feels fantastic to be able to offer work to freelance actors and production crew in this very uncertain time,” says Mariele Runacre-Temple, Audible UK Casting and Talent Manager. The Audible UK team launched a new Audible Original, Locked Together, featuring comedic duos talking about life in lockdown and home recorded by the stars themselves.
Our Audible studios EU team has since returned to in-person production at our Berlin studios. Prior to September, our German team recorded and launched an original podcast, Bring mir was bei (Teach Me Something), remotely which is about finding inspiration while staying at home. The short, 8- to 16-minute episodes feature a story or lesson that makes life at home a little more interesting, from an astrophysicist’s observations of the starlit sky to haircutting how-tos to short yoga sessions and other positive, inspiring episodes. The team also created “Audible Hour,” daily, hour-long live readings on our social media channels of Audible Originals, literary classics, and more for kids and adults, that engaged dozens of narrators during its four-week run. Short stories based on successful Audible Original series were also custom-written for it.
In France, we recorded an Audible Original series for kids, named La Station Imaginaire, written by seven authors, and narrated by nine actors and actresses from their home studio set-ups. This title was produced in collaboration with Paradiso.
In Canada, the team has guided creators through recording their own video marketing campaigns to support respective projects. Stephen Marche (author of our new Audible Canada original How Not to F Up Your Marriage Too Bad) created videos with his son as the cameraman and wife as the interviewer. “We are generally finding solutions to keep production moving forward,” says Timothy Warner, Audible Canada Production Manager.
During the Japanese holiday of Golden Week, our Japan team executed a special YouTube live streaming program in collaboration with Yoshimoto, one of the largest entertainment media companies in Japan. The live stream, which was later released on Audible, addressed not only the difficulty of being in quarantine during the holiday season, but also the crisis that Japanese creative communities are experiencing.
Audible India has produced a whole host of content for family listening during this time, from Bollywood dance workouts to comedians giving quarantine home tours and famed storytellers doing daily updates during lockdown. Programming such as Permanent Roommates, Qisse Lockdown Ke with Neelesh Misra, Comedians in Quarantine and Din Ki Shuruaat- Om Swami ke Saath has been created with experts in relevant fields.
In Australia, forging new relationships with local organizations to develop unique audio projects “not only unearth new pieces of original content, but give new opportunities to many struggling Australian creators and producers who typically work in film and television,” says Monique Keller, Audible Australia Original Content Manager. These projects range from teaming up with the Australian Writer’s Guild and Screen Australia to support a podcast competition called ON AIR, to co-funding two projects with Screen Queensland and a podcast initiative with South Australia Film Corporation.
In addition to our work for listeners in Italy through A Casa Con Audible (which offers free content to Italian listeners during Covid-19 and includes the new podcast Stay Om!), we quickly launched a popular program called the “Audible Narrator Academy”. The program turned our narrators into “reading coaches,” teaching professional reading techniques via video calls to our customers. The goal, besides offering financial support to dozens of narrators who taught 54 lessons to 800 people, is underscoring for our listeners the importance of professional performance for truly outstanding listening experiences.
“Despite widespread hardships, global studios teams have really come together to support one another and our actors, authors and partners,” Lambrix said, “from sharing gear and software recommendations to sharing inspiration for new content.” It’s really proven “there’s nothing we can’t do!”