Why Don't You Listen To Audio Trek?

Discussion in 'Fan Productions' started by Wowbagger, Oct 23, 2009.

  1. Wowbagger

    Wowbagger Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    This thread isn't an accusation or a browbeating or a harangue, but an honest question. And, if you'd rather skip my explanation and just start answering the question, feel free: Why don't you listen to audio Trek?

    It's a well-known fact that audio Trek series get less "viewership" (usually exponentially less) than a video Trek series. This appears to be true across the board.

    Some of that's not surprising. Obviously, Phase II, which is the 200-ton gorilla of Trek fan films (and more power to ya, jamesmc -- you rock!), gets literally millions more downloads than teeny little Star Trek: Eras running irregularly on TWERP Radio, and Hidden Frontier, which has been around for nine years and built a violently passionate fan base, is going to obviously bring with it a certain cachet that newbie Star Trek: Outpost, now in its first year at Giant Gnome, does not.

    But we see the stark difference in places I wouldn't expect, too: brand-spanking-new shows like Star Trek: Osiris trounce the download counts of Lost Frontier, which (counting its predecessor, Section 31)has been around forever. Video shows with irregular update schedules (no offense, Exeter) generate constant queries throughout the fanboards from hundreds of people for years after deadlines are missed, whereas, over at my own Star Trek: Excelsior (shameless plug: www.starshipexcelsior.com), we have basically a total of two vocal fans who try (but fail) to keep our deadlines honest. Very few shows release hard download numbers (which is a shame), so it's hard to say for certain, but I've heard from a few people that Federation One saw its numbers crash when it moved from video to audio. Above all, the fan preference for video over audio appears to be irrespective of acting, writing, or technical quality -- as the case of Federation One, which was consistent in all things but transmission format, shows most clearly.

    As an audio producer myself, I would obviously love it if more people listened to audio Trek. Moreover, I've found that most (not all) of my favorite fan works are audio shows, mainly thanks to some delightful audio writers and the built-in ability to tell longer, more intricate stories because of the faster production schedule. But, like I said at the top, this isn't a harangue or an exhortation for you to drop what you're doing and listen to the several thousand minutes' worth of available audio-format Star Trek that's out there right now. I really just want to know what it is that attracts so many people to the video format so exclusively, and if perhaps there's something audio productions can do to interest those fans more in the audio world.

    As a (hopefully unnecessary) disclaimer, I'll note that I harbor no resentment toward the video shows whatsoever -- they have a much harder job than we do, they put a ton of work into their shows, and, heck, they actually spend money on this stuff. We on Excelsior pay $50 a year for the webserver and the rest is gratis. A single episode of Intrepid is thousands of pounds sterling. The time, dedication, and production genius of fan-video teams is astounding, and, speaking generally, their products are damn good, too.

    However--again, speaking generally--the product of the fan-audio teams is also damn good, and yet we see much lower download counts and general interest. So, from a die-hard audio fan to a video-centered community: what is it about video? Is it anything that we in audio can emulate?

    I appreciate your answers.
     
  2. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    In general, people don't listen to audio drama much these days, which is why there's so little of it on radio any more.

    Second, as audio/radio is sound only, the importance of good writing and good acting becomes even more critical, and most fan productions are weakest in these areas.
     
    Last edited: Oct 23, 2009
  3. jaksajak

    jaksajak Lieutenant Red Shirt

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    Good question. This is definitely true of audio Trek and the 'radio show' format in general. Radio shows were widely popular back in the day and allow listeners to 'imagine' all of the action. I've enjoyed listening to them on occasion, but I think of it as something more suited to listening during a long drive or maybe while working on something else.

    The thing with audio is it only needs to be listened to in order to engage the imagination. For me, I reserve this sort of activity for when I'm doing something that 'only' allows for listening (driving, working). There are times when I even tune into old radio shows in the rare event I can find one during a long drive.

    That being said, I've been very impressed with some audio Trek I've heard, but just haven't gotten into it. Video productions engage more of the senses and are more challenging to produce, and offer more to enjoy. Not to say there's less of a place for audio Trek, because as an animator this is one of the first elements used when animating.

    So what can an audio Trek production do to help make things more 'interesting?' Here are a few suggestions, for what they're worth:

    - create a web site to make the format more engaging. Create art or photos of the characters and reveal some of the setting and situation in a synopsis. This way new users can get an idea or feel of what you're creating in sound.

    - start looking into possible visual avenues. Again, think of combining with a visual format, however small. Sometimes a motion comic, cartoon, or some read-along visual format. Does anyone remember the old Read Along books? "I am now going to begin to read the story of Star Trek 'The Wrath of Khan.' You can read along with me in your book. You will know it's time to turn the page when Kirk shouts 'Khan' like this: (KHAAAAAN). Let's begin now."

    - If some visual format isn't used, think about creative ways to promote. Like the 'website' suggestion, make sure listeners know what they're about to listen to, or to at least know it'll be worth their time. Its hard to listen to a radio show if you don't know what to expect or if it'll be worthwhile. Even if someone listens to one good radio show, how can they know it will be worthwhile to listen to them all? These are all questions that should be addressed with promotions.

    That's all for now, hope this is helpful!
     
  4. MikeH92467

    MikeH92467 Admiral Admiral

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    Excellent suggestions all! I'm sure James will be asking all of us on the Star Trek: Excelsior team to consider some or all of them. If you have a moment, please feel free to drop by our website (which does have some of the elements you suggest) at www.starshipexcelsior.com and let us know what you think. We'd love to have you as a member of our forum. Thoughtful input is always appreciated and we hope you can help us with other ideas to improve our presentation and our product.

    Mike
     
  5. Wowbagger

    Wowbagger Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Solid suggestions, noted and logged. Like Mike said, thanks for the thoughtful answer.
     
  6. Barbreader

    Barbreader Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    There's and old saying that "everyone is a critic." Well, from what I can see, that's just not true in the fan drama world. Most people are so afraid to discourage their creative friends they allow the potential audience to drift, often meaning they start with something poorly edited, poorly written, poorly acted and poorly produced. That means, that audience never becomes an audience, they just leave.

    Somebody could create a website guiding people to the Best of Audio Trek. Quality builds audiences. Then you could expand it to offer discussions of the weaker offerings so that people who have already listened to the best of audio Trek can choose what to listen to next.

    To directly answer the title question, I don't listen to the radio or audio drama of any type. I'm more amused by images.
     
  7. Hudson_uk

    Hudson_uk Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    Different people have different likes and dislikes obviously. However, those that dismiss audio simply because it's not video are missing out on a lot of great shows imo.

    Not just Star Trek.

    I don't agree that people don't listen much and I don't agree that's why radio produced shows are on the decline. I think that's a self fulfilling prophecy.

    There are some great radio shows on the BBC (old and new) including comedy and plays. They enjoy very large audiences I believe.

    And I believe we're entering a new age of internet based radio shows of all types and listeners are catching on in their thousands.

    Audio shows can be enjoyed without being tied to a screen, especially when travelling.

    It's also obviously an extremely good medium for blind or poor sighted people.

    A format change is stuck in the middle as you lose your video preferring audience as well as not catching the entire audio preferring audience due to previous storylines being on video.

    Regarding the original question, I do listen to audio trek. It's not for everyone though although I'd urge everyone to give it a go at least once.
     
  8. nickyboy

    nickyboy Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    I enjoy both filmed fan-fic as well as the audio, but the only series I follow is darker projects Section 31 and Lost frontier.
     
  9. MikeH92467

    MikeH92467 Admiral Admiral

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    Well, we'd love to have you become a listener of Star Trek: Excelsior, but there are plenty of audio shows out there that I haven't heard, either so no hard feelings if you don't. :)

    Thank you for your input!
     
  10. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Perhaps not in the UK, but it's a very nearly dead field here in the US.
     
  11. Kagan

    Kagan Commodore Commodore

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    Interestingly, audiobook sales in the USA (not sure about UK or other places) are on the rise. People ARE listening to audio-fiction. I have gotten into the audio-book craze myself. These are single-voice readers who sometimes change their inflections to indicate different characters...not much acting at all. If this form of media sales is on the rise, why wouldn't audio-drama be competitive?

    Personally, I own the dramatize audio version of Lord of the Rings. At least once a year generally during the Christmas, I re-listen to it. It is fun to hear it, and I prefer 12 hours of audio to 7 hours of video because I can do other activities. Video ties the viewer to a viewscreen. Audio allows the listener more mobility and activity while enjoying the story.

    I follow numerous audio shows from independents like ST:Eras and ST:Excelsior to various genres of the mega-sites like Darker Projects, Broken Sea, Pendant Audio, and Decoder Ring. Some are very well written while others are growing. Some writers have obviously done their homework by listening to OTR shows to gain the tricks that made many of them successful.

    I'm not against video...the DVD club I belong to can vouch for my love for video. However, audio just allows me more activity than being a couch potato. It also helps my imagination.
     
  12. MikeH92467

    MikeH92467 Admiral Admiral

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    I think that the audio drama genre was almost dead, but the iPod created an opportunity for its revival. When the music rotation gets stale, radio dramas can provide an engaging alternative. It's interesting that cell phones are advertising the ability to show video. Audio strikes me as a much more engaging alternative to video or for in car entertainment. Certainly our downloading figures are a fraction of the video productions, but they are substantial and hopefully will grow.

    For myself, as a radio veteran I got involved with Excelsior in hopes of expanding my editing skills and do some voice acting and I'm happy to say I've been successful on both counts.

    As James said, there's no attempt here to make anyone defend their preference for one medium over the other, we're just hoping we'll find some ideas that will help us share what we feel is a fun way to enjoy Trek.
     
  13. Allyn Gibson

    Allyn Gibson Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I have hundreds of hours of fan-produced Doctor Who audios on my hard drive. The Audio-Visuals. BTR Productions. DAM Productions. The Doctor Who Audio Dramas. Floor Ten. Season 27. Crossover Adventures. That's just scratching the surface. And that doesn't count official audio dramas, like the Big Finish audios.

    Star Trek audios? I've listened to the pilot episodes of Star Trek: Unity and Star Trek: The Continuing Mission. And Section 31's Dalek story.

    Why the difference? I don't know. It's obviously not resistance on my part to the audio format.

    It could be that Star Trek fan audios are more difficult to find. Doctor Who fandom has had central websites devoted to fan productions -- first The Capitol in the late 90s, now there's Botcherby's.

    It could also be that fan Doctors are still Doctors. Maybe the 42nd Doctor, maybe the 18th Doctor, maybe a pre-Hartnell Doctor. But they're still Doctors. Fan captains aren't Picard or Sisko or Janeway. That's a strength. But that's also a weakness.

    Just spitballing an idea here. Suppose that a couple of Star Trek audio groups decided to do a loose "season" of Doctor Who crossover adventures. Create a Doctor, and pair this Doctor with a Starfleet companion. The TARDIS could take them into different eras, meeting different crews, across six or seven episodes from different groups, with an overarching story of a threat the Doctor confronts in each time period and on each ship. Such a project would bring attention to different audio groups from fans who might not be familiar with the various projects. It would also gain the attention of Doctor Who audio fans. I don't know how the logistics would work, or if there would be any interest among the audio producers for such a project. Just a thought.
     
  14. Barbreader

    Barbreader Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Response to Allyn Gibson:
    There is already a fan VIDEO group which has turned into a crossover Trek/Dr. Who. That would be Star Trek: Unity (UK), which is a teen Trek group, but better written and edited than a lot of teen Trek.

    At the same time, it's still a zero budget affair, with minimal special effects, and no sets or costumes. They have a few props and started using a green screen at Episode 18. Their audio also improved and is easier to follow at that point. They also have some Stargate and Star Wars elements. They attribute all of these non-Trek matters to Iconian technology.

    This is my Section on Star Trek: Unity (UK) : http://startrekreviewed.blogspot.com/2009/06/90.html

    As an oldster from the 60s generation (yes, I watched TOS first run) it also reminds me just a little bit of A Hard Day's Night.

    Which brings us back to the original question. Another issue is just the sheer quantity of fan Trek. I have been told there is more audio Trek than video Trek, and there are literally HUNDREDS of Trek videos.

    I created my website initially to sort all this fan Trek drama, but was so overwhelmed by the quantity that I decided to limit myself to just non-Parody videos. Somebody might try to do the same for audio Trek. I'd be happy to work with somebody who wanted to do audio Trek on some kind of joint central fan Trek website. I know essentially NOTHING about how to build a website, and anyone trying to use mine has to get used to the unusual practice of going to a Table of Contents or the Index and clicking around from there. Wowbanger made some excellent suggestions for improvements, but frankly, I just don't know HOW to do what he suggested!
     
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2009
  15. Trekwatcher

    Trekwatcher Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    There are too many of them and I just don't have the time to sit and listen to one. I barely get to listen to the news in my car anymore.
     
  16. Kelso

    Kelso Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I'm a fan of audio drama (love Decoder Ring Theatre) but I haven't checked out any of the Trek fan productions.

    I'd be willing to give it a shot, though. Could someone recommend a place to start? I'd rather not jump into a series that already has 87 episodes to catch up on.
     
  17. MikeH92467

    MikeH92467 Admiral Admiral

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    Well, that's kind of a chicken and egg question. Just about any show I can think of is built around long term story arcs. Of course, I'm prejudiced, but I think Excelsior is a pretty good place to start since we have about a dozen episodes all told and we included a synopsis at the front of our latest episode.

    I started listening to Darker Projects midway and had no real trouble following the main plot lines, although the interactions between the characters can be hard to follow (as in any long running series) for new listeners.

    Everyone that I know of has archived their shows so you can pick up anywhere in the arc that you like.
     
  18. Hudson_uk

    Hudson_uk Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    As well as Excelsior, I'd suggest taking a listen to Giant Gnome's Star Trek Outpost - http://www.giantgnome.com/category/startrekoutpost_podcast/

    Darker Projects have the very excellent Section 31 files and now Lost Frontier, and Pendant audio have Star Trek Defiant (Very long running run).
     
  19. jaksajak

    jaksajak Lieutenant Red Shirt

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    Good suggestions all, and thanks for the comments. I appreciate the invitation and will stop by the site and maybe get involved in the forum. Thanks!
     
  20. dru

    dru Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    I have to agree. A different kind of writing is required so the "action" is clear. Different performance style is also needed.