Audible Hosts SXSW 2023 Panel On Innovation In Audio With Kelly Rowland, Sara Bareilles, Daveed Diggs, and More – Billboard
Audible, one of the leading creators of premium audio stories and a pioneer of original audio content, hosted a panel at SXSW 2023 in Austin, Texas, last Friday. The audio innovation panel drew attention to Audible’s upcoming category-challenging project. break through, the first ever music competition series developed and launched exclusively as a podcast. Hosted by Rolling Stone Associate Managing Editor Angie Martoccio at the Austin Convention Center last Friday, the panel featured Breakthrough narrator, American actor and rapper David Diggs; Breakthrough mentor and singer-songwriter Sarah Bareilles; At Will Media founder and CEO Will Malnati; Original Music-Storytelling at Audible executive producer Preston Copley; as well as a video greeting from Breakthrough’s mentor and American singer, actress and former Destiny’s Child singer Kelly Rowland.
In Breakthrough, viewers watch five young musicians, from emerging professional singers to those more successful in their careers, overcome a series of challenges as they try to hone their skills and find their voices by learning from two of the industry’s top figures. the best in Bareilles and Rowland. One of the factors that distinguishes this project from other competitive music programs is that it consists of audio only, which exposes many aspects that are usually hushed up in shows focused primarily on visual effects. “He turns the creative process into such a heart to heart conversation,” says Barel. “The fact that it’s all audio really focuses you on all the little [components] songwriting,” says Diggs, whose storytelling serves to bridge the gap between contestants, judges, and audiences listening at home. “You are the confidant of the audience,” Copley says of Diggs during the panel.
Beyond the audience’s attitude towards the show, the audio character also extends to how the judges interact with the contestants, as the musical acts remain anonymous and ugly throughout the series. “I don’t know what these contestants look like,” says Barel. For series creator Will Malnaty, this premise represents an innovation in the environment in which it operates. “It’s not for your eyes, it’s for your ears,” says Malnati. Since production began in 2020, the series was recorded almost entirely via Zoom. Joking that she could work in her pajamas, Bareils says these restrictions helped the show focus on the real details of songwriting. “I was surprised at how exciting the process was,” says Barey. “You [get to] hear criticism or suggestions on how to get out of this rut [or how to help a song to] come together,” says Diggs. “It’s such a rare and very vulnerable experience for all these artists to let it be heard.”
Another key difference between Breakthrough and other competitive shows is that it is hosted with kindness. “We both felt very committed to making this a good show,” Bareils says of her and Rowland’s decision to join the project, adding, “It’s so promising.” For Audible’s Preston Copley, “Breakthrough” is about raising musical hopes, not crushing anyone. “No one was eliminated, so it’s more like a celebration than a competition,” Copley says. “The show uses the line, ‘We’re here for the journey, not the drama,’ and I think that’s a great epitome of the vibe of the whole experience.” Series creator Will Malnaty agrees, saying that the show is a mixture of documentary and service content with helpful tips and tricks for aspiring songwriters around the world.
And yet, beyond the creation of the music, the uniqueness of Breakthrough’s intimate storytelling will stay with listeners long after the episodes are over. As a pioneer in its field, Audible strives to leave an indelible mark on the art of narrative audio. “This show is about telling a story,” says Diggs.