It's All About the Voice at Audible's In-House Studio Space
As we celebrate the 20th anniversary of Audible, we spotlight how integral our work with narrators is to the rich fabric of our audio world, and how our fabulous studios help make that clear.By Scott JacobiNov 13, 2017 3:13 PM
Audible Studios' new studio space, overlooking Newark, NJ's downtown business district, creates an environment where audiobook actors only have to worry about one thing: using their talent to bring stories to life. With seven custom recording studios, state-of-the-art equipment, and a cozy, welcoming environment, the barriers between performer and performance are few.
"The actors are the foundation of what we do. They literally give our books a voice." said Kat Lambrix, Audible Studios Director, as she prepared to fly to Toronto to teach audiobook narration to acting students at Ryerson University. "My job is to give them everything they need to prepare for their role before they walk into the studio, so they can let go of everything else and perform."
Whether offering audiobook performance workshops at schools like Ryerson and Julliard or hot catered lunches in Audible's cafe, unlocking the potential of the performer has been a central theme since Audible Studios' earliest days. When the company looked to expand into new offices in 2006, a suite of professional studios was an important part of the plan. According to Mike Charzuk, VP and Executive Producer at Audible Studios, "Don [Katz, Audible's CEO] wanted everyone to feel collegial and involved; he didn't want anyone to feel silo'ed, and that included the actors."
"I was the first studio person to go to the office that we're now in to see if we could build studios there," he continued. "That would have been around 2006. The building was gutted, with wires hanging all over the place. I remember studying the flight patterns around Newark Airport to see if we'd even be able to make it work."
They made it work. With six newly built recording studios intermixed with desks for software development engineers and UX designers, Audible embarked on a journey that saw them produce thousands of audiobooks and employ hundreds of actors over the next decade. "Mike built a system that can scale," Kat says. "He expanded our in-house capacity and strengthened the way we work with outside studios. Mike has given people here the chance to use their strengths and focus on their areas of interest. And he's always eager to say yes to creative opportunities."
The result? 34 Audie awards and one Grammy, so far.
One studio can only produce so many books, however. And with the explosion in self-publishing in the late aughts, more and more books emerged that deserved to be heard. In 2011, Audible launched ACX, the Audiobook Creation Exchange, a website that helps authors and actors collaborate to publish even more great books in the audio format. Those collaborations resulted in 350 new audiobooks in ACX's first year, and the platform has enabled the creation of nearly 100,000 audiobooks to date. Creatives like R.C. Bray, Hugh Howey, and even Kathie Lee Gifford have used it to bring their work to listeners' ears in recent years.
With new studios added and set to be fully operational by the end of this year, fresh opportunities to bring stories to life are on the horizon.30 Days of Night and Locke & Key reveal the exciting possibilities of adapting graphic novels into audiobooks. Audible's $5 million fund for emerging playwrights and an expanding focus on original content allows the studio team to raise the volume on stories that listeners wouldn't be able to hear anywhere else. A focus on global storytelling brings fresh perspectives and authentic voices into the fold.
Mike is quick to emphasize that none of this would be possible without the men and women that bring these stories to life. "We love and support our actors, and have a great deal of respect for them. Everything starts with who is behind the mic. If you care about the quality of the product, you have to embrace the actor, make them a part of the family, so they can perform to the best of their ability."
Most of all, Mike hopes Audible has made a difference in actors' lives. "We supply a lot of work in an otherwise tough field. Maybe it helps them have another tool in their belt, so they can make a living at something that they really love to do."
Because when you're in a position to do what you love, the proof is in the performance.