The Sonic Society

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Three Reasons to Say “Audio Drama” and not “Audio Fiction”

Well over a decade ago, we remember the conversation well: “What should we call radio drama now that it’s having a resurgence on the Internet?”

On the Sonic Society, you can hear us
ruminate in our show intros considering a number of terms- audio drama, audio theatre, audio plays, audio pulp, audio cinema, audio movies etc… It became clear that a single term was needed to best to describe the medium. Most people decided that “radio drama” didn’t cut it, because the medium wasn’t limited to radio anymore. So, almost by default, the consensus circled their wagons around: “Audio Drama”. And it has been that way ever since.

At least, it was. Recently, with the public discovering podcasts (Isn’t it amazing?!), audio stories have become hot commodities. About five years ago, on the Sonic Society, we recommended the name “Podficts” for podcast fiction. A lot of people rejected that moniker, but the term “podcast fiction” stuck as news agencies, anxious to come up with a global term for story in sound, tossed out as many things that didn’t say “old-fashioned radio drama” as possible. Naturally, folks jumped on the bandwagon. New producers rebranded their theatre-of-the-mind as “audio fiction”. But, there may be good reason not to jump ships midstream.

Now if you’re not running an audio drama podcast this wouldn’t apply. Maybe you’re reading short fiction stories, or non-fiction stories, or articles. In those cases, “audio fiction” is probably your best label. But, if you’re producing in the medium of multi-cast audio theatre here’s a couple of reasons to keep the name “Audio Drama”:

  1. Podcast or Audio Fiction is very generic. Imagine labelling movies as “Visual Stories”. Stories of the visual medium could be watching a puppet show in a public library, a YouTube clip of someone freaking out over the latest celebrity drama, a dramatic reading on the Oprah Winfrey show, almost anything that’s visually entertaining. Audio Drama is a very specific term for a very specific medium. Most people would be upset if they drove to a theatre expecting to watch “King Lear” and found instead they paid tickets for a political rally.
  2. In general, resist any “hot” new term like the plague. There’s only one “Serial” podcast. Only one “Welcome to Nightvale”. Only one “No Sleep Podcast”. Attempts to mimic their successes have usually fallen flat. Audiences want an original vision and not pale copies. Popular Culture in an attempt to always be relevant, continually tries to rebrand. They rarely succeed.
  3. The Audio Drama Community is growing but it’s small. Fracturing it with different labels risks losing our audience. It is a risk tagging “audio fiction” alone. Most of the audience, reviewers, and awards committees will be looking for “Audio Drama” and “Radio Drama”. Help them find you. Help them find us all.

Every time someone asks what is our favourite “audio fiction” podcast, we need clarification. Because our first thought is, “Do they mean Audio Drama? No, they must mean an audiobook podcast, right?”

In the Sonic Society, we love all audio tales. There’s no hierarchy of quality when it comes to terms. But, choosing the wrong term certainly creates confusion. “Audio Drama” is here to stay. Why not revel in it?

After all, “New Coke” successfully replaced “Coke Classic” right? Oh, wait a minute…


About The Author

Born to Teachers and Amateur Audio Enthusiasts in the small rural community of Belwood, Jack's first love was stories- writing, reading, telling, and singing. He developed his acting skills through High School, University, and through film and community theatre. Jack writes the lion's share of Electric Vicuna's Audio Drama scripts and has his own writing site at www.jackjward.com He's thrilled to co-host the Sonic Society with his wonderful, talented, friend David Ault!

Comments

2 Responses to “Three Reasons to Say “Audio Drama” and not “Audio Fiction””

  1. Pete Lutz says:

    You’ll get no argument from me on this. Good article, Jackson!

  2. Jack says:

    Thanks Buddy! It was wearing on my mind 🙂

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