A new web-based service launched in March 2017 which could be of real interest to the amdram community. Audiohoop is the brainchild of Michael Wharton, who originally envisaged it as a site where community groups could create and post audio tours for museums, and where those tours could be downloaded by visitors to add extra texture to exhibitions. The idea has grown and developed since that early concept and the site now enables anyone or any group of people – particularly actors, writers and sound technicians – to collaborate to create any form of audio content, predominantly in the form of audiobooks. They are then able to upload the audio content to site where it can be listened to and reviewed by anyone.
There are a number of exciting ways this service could be of benefit for the amdram community. Firstly, as a way for amdram groups to capture performances and to stop all the wonderful memories of performances and rehearsals being lost in the ether (subject to copyright). All the hard work that everyone puts into creating a performance could be immortalised a little and would be a fantastic memento for everyone who took part and contributed. There is also the possibly that a recording could be used as an income generator, by making audio versions of live or special studio performances which could be cut to disc and sold (again subject to copyright). A link to a recording online could also be used as marketing for your group’s next performance, as what could be a better promotion for your next show than the sound of a previous show complete with audience enjoyment? The audiohoop site has a growing community of supportive sound technicians and engineers to assist with this sort of work, some doing so professionally, others as a hobby or as part of a college placement.
Another potential income generator for amateur groups and individuals is from commissions by writers to make commercial audiobooks; or from any commercial media outlet (traditional or web-based, seeking to add an audio element to their existing content). Presently only a small fraction of books are converted to audio, due to the high cost of conversion – hence the reason audiobooks are so expensive in mainstream audiobook sites. Audiohoop will offer writers with smaller reader bases a lower cost or free option, and at the same time offer a potential revenue stream for amateur groups and performers. If a writer has a 10 character book, why not just commission an established group to produce it (with support from one of audiohoop’s sound engineers), rather than audition 10 separate actors and overseeing the whole process?
On the subject of income generation, whilst amateur dramatics is for many people a fantastic hobby, for a few people the hope is that it will lead into a professional career; and amateur performances captured in audio may well prove invaluable to individuals wishing to showcase past work to secure auditions or professional engagements. This could be true of performers, writers and sound technicians/engineers, who may all start out as amateurs with the hope of ultimately moving into professional creative work. The audiohoop site aims to make the transition from amateur hobbyist to paid professional (particularly in the field of voice work) as seamless and easy as possible.
The audiohoop site also offers the opportunity to perform to individuals who yearn to act but who are nervous about the ‘live’ aspect of being on stage in front of an audience, or who, for whatever reason, struggle to make it to a fixed rehearsal time and place. To date, amateur performing has been largely restricted to those with the nerve to stand in front of a large audience; whereas professional actors have long been able to work in studios, both audio and visual. The audiohoop site opens up studio-style performance to amateurs and may well offer a first toe in the water or a tantalising taste of the possibility of performing before a live audience. Once we are fully established, audiohoop could therefore become a very useful recruiting ground for traditional amateur theatre companies to boost the local talent pool.
As audiohoop offers a virtual practice space, it is possible that as well as traditional shows being captured and uploaded onto site, the process could also work well in reverse – with new material first being developed, refined and workshopped on the audiohoop site before making a transition to live performance.
At audiohoop one aim is also that those with a particular interest, either in genre, or theme or style, can more easily find each other; so audiobook Makers can find other like-minded collaborators to create, for example, that sci-fi musical western comedy in verse, which they have always dreamed of doing, but which they knew was always going to have a very niche appeal!
The site is very new, having launched only on the 6th of March 2017, but already content is beginning to be uploaded, creative people with a wide range of skills and interests are registering to collaborate, colleges are offering technical partnerships, and two book and e-book marketing services have offered partnerships to promote the audio books we produce to their 12000+ subscribers (including 4000 trade subscribers) – so importantly we have an audience ready for the content we produce.
The core of creatives who have signed up to audiohoop (those people we call ‘Makers’ on site, to distinguish them from Listeners) could easily be described as the first virtual theatre company in the world – although it is hoped that it will prove to be the first of many more varied, strange and diverse ‘virtual companies’. At present, it’s just for the fun and thrill of it, so historically, it’s important to note that the very first virtual theatre company is an amateur collective; which is a mark of the innovation that amateurism allows, enables and supports. Anyone who wants to write, act, direct, or produce can join in with the existing ‘virtual company’ or can use the audiohoop platform to develop their very own company.
In brief then, the site can help both amateur and professional companies with their talent recruitment, their marketing and promotion, their rehearsal and development processes, and to capture at least the audio part of their productions for posterity. For individual performers, it offers participation in a collective creative process to those who might not otherwise be confident or able to do so; opportunities to connect with other creative people with similar interests or aspirations; the easy development and capture of creative portfolios to support the possibility of moving into professional voice work, direction or production. For both groups and individuals, there is the potential to turn audio work into a source of income. And for independent and newly established writers the site offers a free or affordable means of entering the audio market.
“I hope you will visit the site and I’m confident you will find that it’s fresh, new, open, accessible and very welcoming. For those who engage, I will do my utmost to make it as useful and valuable as I possibly can.” Michael Wharton
An essential guide to the basics of self producing your first audio book has been written and produced by actor, writer, director and audio book producer Gurmeet Mattu. It can be downloaded free here: https://www.pdf-archive.com/2017/03/27/audio-guide1-1/