Man Listening to music in front of collage of Galaxy (left) Hobbit Hole (middle) and Alley Marketplace (right)

The Remarkable Return of the Audio Drama

April 29, 2024 2:12 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

The Shadow debuted on July 31, 1930, as the mysterious narrator of the radio program Detective Story Hour

Audio Dramas have a rich history dating back to the Golden Age of Radio in the early 20th century. Radio dramas, also known as “old-time radio,” were immensely popular, captivating audiences with serialized stories, thrilling mysteries, and heartwarming dramas. Images still exist of families huddled around the radio, excited and impatient for their favorite audio drama to begin. These shows relied on voice actors, sound effects, and music to create vivid audio experiences that transported listeners to distant worlds and gripping adventures. People could take what they were hearing and use it as a paintbrush to the canvas of their imagination. No CGI available to do the trick!

As television gained prominence in the mid-20th century, radio dramas gradually faded from the mainstream. However, their flames didn’t putter out completely! They continued to influence subsequent generations of storytellers and paved the way for the modern audio drama renaissance.

The resurgence of audio dramas can be attributed to several factors. The rise of podcasting platforms in the early 2000s provided a new avenue for independent creators to produce and distribute audio content. It wasn’t only in the hands of bigwig studio executives anymore. This democratization of media allowed audio dramas to reach a global audience, sparking renewed interest in the medium. The difference, people huddling around their modern listening devices instead of that old-fashioned bronze radio, unless, of course, they have a Bluetooth speaker that was made to look like an old-timey radio…

Furthermore, streaming services and audio production companies have invested in original audio drama content, offering professionally produced shows across a wide range of genres. Not only that, as more time has passed…more genres were born! No longer just Sci-Fi, there is Sci-fi/Fantasy, etc. These platforms have curated collections and created opportunities for both established and emerging creators to showcase their talents too.

Of course, in our celebrity-soaked culture, renowned actors, musicians, and personalities have lent their voices to audio dramas, adding star power and attracting new listeners. From Oscar-winning actors narrating historical epics to beloved musicians composing original scores, celebrities have upped the ante and reach in audio dramas.

Above are some of Audible’s current top Audio Dramas

For example, award-winning actor Rami Malek lent his voice to “Blackout,” a gripping audio drama about a small town plunged into darkness. Similarly, actress and comedian Kristen Bell starred in “The Left Right Game,” a supernatural thriller that kept audiences on the edge of their seats.

And sure, these celebrity collaborations not only showcase the talent and versatility of well-known figures and introduce audio dramas to wider audiences who may be drawn in by familiar voices and names, but there are still plenty left for us non-celebrity voice actors.

Some of the streaming platforms creating audio dramas include:

  • Audible: Audible, an Amazon-owned platform, has a vast collection of original audio dramas across various genres. They work with both established and emerging creators to produce high-quality audio content.
  • Spotify: Spotify has entered the audio drama space with original productions like “Sandra” and “The Horror of Dolores Roach.” They have also partnered with other production companies to offer a wide range of audio dramas on their platform.
  • Apple Podcasts: Apple Podcasts features a diverse selection of audio dramas, including both indie productions and those from established studios. Their platform allows creators to reach a global audience of listeners.
  • Stitcher: Stitcher is another platform known for its curated selection of podcasts, including audio dramas. They collaborate with creators to produce engaging and immersive storytelling experiences.
  • Wondery: Wondery is an audio production company known for creating captivating podcasts and audio dramas. They have produced popular shows like “Dr. Death” and “Dirty John,” showcasing their expertise in narrative-driven content.

These are just a few examples, and the landscape of audio drama production continues to evolve with new platforms and companies entering the market. Pretty cool, right? This recent resurgence has revitalized this timeless medium, bringing this unique way of storytelling into the digital age and captivating audiences of all ages and creative preferences. Audio dramas continue to evolve, innovate, and inspire, promising a thrilling auditory journey for listeners around the world, as well as a creative outlet from a diverse range of content creators. And as a voice actor interested in doing character work and doing even more “acting” in “voice acting”, this is truly exciting terrain.


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This post was written by Simone Stevens

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