Listen Up: Audio is the New IP Incubator

Where do new IP franchises come from? Increasingly, they are coming out of podcast studios and other sources of non-music, or spoken-word audio. Time magazine recently compiled a list of 9 podcasts that have been turned into streaming TV shows, ranging from true crime series (The Shrink Next Door, Dirty John) to comedy (Bodega Boys) to ripped-from-the-headlines scandals ( The Dropout). The Wrap came up with a roster of 17 for a list published last June.

Amazon-owned Audible, which made its mark as a distributor of audiobooks, has lately been inking multi-year development deals with A-list Hollywood talent and music superstars for its Audible Originals, including with the likes of Kerry Washington, George Clooney, Charlamagne tha God and Queen Latifah.

In many cases, those projects are being developed specifically with an eye toward later spin-off potential as movie or TV series.

It’s an interesting inversion of the traditional IP directional flow for spoken-word audio products, which themselves were often spinoffs of existing books, movies or TV series, to one in which franchises begin life in a recording booth from which books, movies and TV series are later derived.

One big reason for that inversion is cost. An original story idea or concept that might be too risky to take a flyer on as a movie or TV series can be turned into a podcast or original audio production for as little as $20-$30,000 (not including the cost of A-list talent), to see if it resonates with an audience. That makes spoken-word audio an ideal sandbox where writers, producers and performers can experiment with creative approaches to storytelling.

Like any new creative format, however, the trend toward audio originals is raising new questions around rights and licensing. Defining works that blur lines between publishing, broadcasting and recording contractually, for licensing purposes, and identifying which elements of an original audio product are licensable, can prove challenging. There are not yet industry standards, or even strong rules of thumb, for how things should be priced, or how creative participants should be compensated.

It’s an exciting new category of creative works that we will be following closely here at the RightsTech Project and highlighting at our events and in our webinars. Watch this space.

Get the latest RightsTech news and analysis delivered directly in your inbox every week
We respect your privacy.