On Creating Audio: When Will Audio Drama Have Value?

Art Has Value

Whether I assume the role of a writer, director, producer, or sound designer my stance is and has always been the same in regard to audio drama and other expressions of the writing, visual and performing arts: Art has value.

And I don’t just mean the intrinsic kind.  Good art is worth compensating, whether that art is that of the writer, painstakingly crafting each word, each beat, each rhythm on the page.

Or that of the actor, not just reading the words, not just speaking the lines but imbuing a character with life and breath and action.
Or that of the director, who sees more possibilities in the scene than could have been imagined by the writer alone.
Or that of the sound designer who can not only use sound to punctuate the dramatic action but helps us to make that leap of faith into a suspension of disbelief by immersing us ourselves into the icy cold waters of our protagonist.
Or that of the Dialog Editor, who makes every actor sound exactly the way they would want to sound and better, by taking the best bits, even chopping mid-word to get just the right cadence, and just the right pace.
Or that of the composer, who takes motion and action and drives us emotionally, not through patching some random pieces of music together, but because it had to be this music and it had to be this place.
I could go on. Great productions include many many talented artists at all levels. Great productions are driven by talent. Great productions demand it.

If you value your productions, paying your talent should be your number one agenda.

Pay yourself, last.

 That comma is there for a reason.

Pay yourself. Absolutely, you need to find a way to pay yourself for what you do. But only after you’ve paid everyone else. Because this is your story and your pet project. Please remember that it is your pet project, not their’s. And that others deserve to be compensated for helping you to see your dream come to life.
If you are a producer and looking at everything you can do for free on the backs of others, you are already approaching art as if your art has more value than their’s. When I start a project, it is always with the intent of paying, and I believe all producers should have this intention. If you cannot pay them now and are trying to pay in “exposure” or “residuals” on a show you haven’t even got a budget for, you are starting off on the wrong foot.

Treat your talent like you owe them something. Because you do.

Also, stop trying to do everything yourself.  This is an extension of number one.  If you’re doing your job correctly, you only have time to do one or two things in the course of a production. Let the professionals handle the rest. I have had the pleasure of working with some of the top audio drama producers in the world. It’s a rare privilege that has afforded me the insight that if you want excellent results (and for the sake of your well-crafted writing and excellent ideas, I should hope you would want excellent results), it’s worth paying the best people you can afford to pay.

If you can’t pay them. Don’t make it. Yet.

Hell. Let it simmer. Let it stew. Good work improves with age. Give it a year, then edit it into something that is worthy of paying to make. Work with a few other people to raise money to make your own show. This is how I paid for 1918.
But as long as you devalue art and the artists who make it that can’t be a thing, because nobody wants to pay for talent so nobody wants to pay you so nobody every gets paid and suddenly you’ve ouroboros-ed yourself into your very own hegemony where no one ever gets paid, because no one ever has gotten paid.
By the way. Members of your cast aren’t the only talents in your corner. There are writers who can write it better. Directors who can direct it better. Designers who can design it better. A mixer that can open up your sound. Whatever your weakness is (which should be whatever your specialty isn’t), there’s someone out there that deserves to get paid, if only a little, to do it better than you can do it yourself. Your work depends on it. Your success as a storyteller depends on it.
The only thing not paying and not looking for the right crew does is hurt you in your own pursuits. 1) You’re concentrating on so many things you aren’t able to improve your chosen craft. 2) You’re telling everyone your work isn’t worth paying for since you weren’t willing to pay your talent and crew. 3) You are telling yourself that your art has no value because you’re not willing to pay someone to do what you cannot do to make it right.
A lot of times even paying an artist is meeting them halfway. Amy Bormet gives me way more for my money than I know she is worth. But we like working together. And we compromise on the price. And when I do get the production with the bigger budget and the more pay, Amy gets that, too. And so on until she’s bored or unavailable.

The Value of Paying

When you start paying for something, it has more value to you, yourself, as a producer. You start realizing that “good enough” isn’t a thing. That everything you do is an investment in something good, something awesome, something bigger than yourself.  And you find the work that you love and value so much has more value because pf the talent that has left their marks upon in  When you pay others that help you create your art -those insane geniuses who lend you their craft for a pittance –  you are telling yourself that your production has value and worth asking others to pay for the result.

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