A BRIEF HISTORY
Ever since Heinrich Rudolf Hertz discovered radio waves in 1888. The science for radio has continued to grow and expand to a level far more sophisticated than ships being able to talk to each other at sea. The next step was radio broadcasting which led to America’s first commercially licensed station in 1920, KDKA. The next year, A Rural Line on Education, aired on KDKA and was described as a brief sketch specifically written for radio, according to historian Bill Jaker.
Radio Drama’s or Radio Theater, was one of the public’s main source of entertainment for three decades. It became mostly popular during the 1940’s but died down with the release of Television in the 1950’s. Sadly, in most countries, the popularity of Radio Dramas remained archived in production houses across the country. Some stations still play them late at night or on the weekends but it wasn’t until the release of podcasts, that this lost art, would start to gain momentum again.
The term “podcast” breaks down to iPod-Broadcast. Even though a podcast can be accessible by a multitude of platforms and devices, when they were first starting out, podcasts were typically played on iPods. The ways to host, download and play podcasts have adapted and changed dramatically with the advancements in technology and phones but this platform is the route in which Radio Plays start to make a come back.
It wasn’t long until people started realizing that this was a free-“ish” platform to create content that could be accessed and distributed around the world. Soon people like K.C. Wayland would use podcasting to produce television worthy material as an audio source, he refers to as “theater of the mind”, because it was cheaper than shooting video. Book Authors like Jon Grilz would turn to creating audio stories based on his books just to reach a broader audience. Creators now had a source for their material that really only cost them a microphone, time and hosting fees.
Today, new Audio Dramas are popping up daily and the hunger for “on-demand” content grows. With a culture that is used to getting video at their fingertips through platforms like Netflix and Hulu. Audio dramas can now compete through podcasts. Plus, it is not just big production “hollywood” companies producing content, it’s the little guys. The artists who have something to say and need an outlet. Whomever they are, those big production “hollywood” companies are starting to notice.
The future is always uncertain…but it wouldn’t hurt to speculate in which direction it could be heading. The world of podcasting has grown so much since the mid 2000’s that shows are getting big followings. Sub-reddit’s are being created just to discuss Audio Dramas. Online companies like Blue Apron, Audible, Adam & Eve and more are starting to fund shows and advertise, just to access a new and different audience.
With a following and a creative flow with new content, “hollywood” has started to acknowledge this untapped market and come-a-knocking. Podcasts such as Homecoming, Lore, The Bright Sessions and Limetown are being looked at for adaptation to Television/Streaming. On the opposite scenario, Producers/Directors like Laurence Fishburn and Larenz Tate, who were rejected by studios for their project Bronzeville, are resorting to Audio Dramas.
What ever the outcome, this writers opinion is that things come in circles and this is the ground floor for Audio Dramas to be born again like the Phoenix. It proves that, time and time again, we are a species that enjoys telling and hearing stories. Let’s just hope that with the rapid flow of trends these days and the movement of social media, our Phoenix doesn’t go up in a flash.