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The Ages of Radio/Audio Drama

The Ages of Radio/Audio Drama

There have been three waves of Radio Drama and now three waves of Audio Drama as well.

As technology and time advance new ideas and audio stories have taken the forefront.

What are the Ages of Radio Drama?

  1. Golden Age of Radio

The Golden Age of Radio lasted from the 1920’s to the 1950’s:

  • Was the first mass-market entertainment as people listened on their radios at their homes
  • Had no real competition until television arose in the 50’s
  • Began with many Hollywood stars, actors, producers, writers, who moved through movies, radio and sometimes into television
  • Identified that audio drama could be adapted from stage plays, movies, literary fiction, or original story concepts
  • Was the first time many comedians made their way into the homes of the nation
  • Created new opportunities for story and formats including sponsorships, and commercial breaks
  1. Silver Age of Radio

Often thought as roughly running between as early as the 1960’s to the mid-90’s but most examples are in the seventies and eighties:

  • Mostly broadcast through public radio.
  • The most popular were The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (BBC) and The Star Wars Radio Drama Saga (NPR)
  • Other examples were CBS Mystery Theatre (CBS), Nightfall and Vanishing Point (CBC), The Zero Hour (Rod Serling, Mutual Broadcasting System)
  • Full-Range sound effects, music, and “movie-like” quality
  1. Modern Age of Audio Drama

The Modern Age of Audio Drama arrived as early as the Internet but was slow in taking shape from late 1990’s to the present day.

  • Beginning with the ability to download from a website, user groups, or stream from an online radio, to Youtube, and most popular podcast streams as the main means of distribution
  • Shows are edited digitally as opposed to previous with reel-to-reel tape which makes for faster production times
  • Groups of fans of old time radio and who grew up inspired by the best of the Silver Age began producing mostly fan audio fiction (Star Trek, Star Wars, Doctor Who etc…) and then created original audio drama and their own fan base
  • Remote or Satellite actors would send in lines and an audio drama could be truly a global enterprise between like-minded writers, actors, and producers (Audio Drama Talk, Audio Drama/Radio Drama Lovers groups)
  • Websites began creating sharing original music and sound effects to aid in production (The Free Sound Project)
  1. The Three Ages of Modern Audio Drama

As radio drama has had three ages, the rapid pace of change in technology has seen three very distinct ages of the modern audio drama movement:

  • The Golden Age of Audio Drama- Beginning in the early 2000’s. A small group of fans dedicated to the audio drama medium produced and shared from a variety of user groups and websites. Word of mouth provided the most distribution and groups blossomed and grew creating fan-fiction audio and some original works with sound quality of voices varying as digital editing technology was in its infancy
  • The Silver Age of Audio Drama- Began around 2008 and continued to around 2013. This era represented a group of fans who also appreciated old time radio but were mostly inspired by the Golden Age of Modern Audio Dramatists and created works that reflected extensions to the kind of shows that they had experienced.
  • The Bronze (Current) Age of Audio Drama- Beginning in 2011-2012 with shows like The No Sleep Podcast, Welcome to Night Vale, or 2014’s Serial, the creators of these audio dramas by and large are unaware of the old time radio of the past or even the Gold and Silver audio dramas of the Modern Age. Instead they gain their inspiration from three different sources including Youtube confessionals, NPR style radio shows, and the rapid popularity of podcasts. Bronze Age audio dramas have also been given the misnomer “audio fiction” by some creators. Due to the most popular format that includes a “host” who talks through a story of some sort and engages “guests” either in studio or at some location. The host acts as a central narrator in these Bronze Age features. The Bronze Age does not usually draw inspiration from theatrical framing such as movies, television, radio drama, or the stage.

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!

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