Colonial Radio inks deals with Amazon.com companies
While a lot of people producing modern audio theater programs regard money as a secondary concern, Texas-based Colonial Radio Theater has a different business plan.
At the end of June, Colonial Radio entered into agreements with two Amazon.com companies – Brilliance Audio and Audible.com – to distribute the company’s productions. Mark Vanderberg – one of the founders of Colonial Audio – said Brilliance has an aggressive release policy put together for Colonial’s productions.
In November, Brilliance will release three titles on CD – Zorro and the Pirate Raiders, Buck Alice and the Actor Robot by Walter Koenig (best known for playing Chekov on the original Star Trek series) and Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. In December, Brilliance will release Perry Mason – The Case of the Sulky Girl and William Luce’s Tony Award winning play, Barrymore. Vanderberg said more releases will be announced over the next year.
Also at the end of June, Colonial Radio entered into a contract to do an audio version of Logan’s Run: Final Days by William F. Nolan. Vanderberg said that is is a big deal for Colonial Radio as that book is nothing short of iconic in the science fiction genre.
Vanderberg said his company is a bit different from others operating in the world of audio drama theater because it is constantly looking for a way to find an audience and profit from the shows it produces. That should come as no surprise to anyone who’s familiar with Vanderberg’s background. He worked in marketing for Gilette and Teledyne WaterPik and developed an interest in Revolutionary War reenactments during the 12 years he lived in Boston.
Vanderberg also became interested in making radio shows with friends, explaining they’d take scripts from the likes of Orson Wells, read them, throw in some music and develop dramatizations of well known works.
The interest in Revolutionary War reenactments and audio theater led to the establishment of Colonial Radio in 1995. The company started producing reenacted history pieces on historical events in the area, such as Paul Revere’s ride – a program that still sells well in the area.
Colonial Radio’s productions eventually made their way to satellite radio and are still featured on Sonic Theater (channel 163 on Sirius Radio and XM). The satellite radio distribution didn’t net any cash for Colonial, but the company still saw a benefit from appearing on Sonic Theater.
“They don’t pay for that, but it’s great PR and exposure,” Vanderberg said. “By being on XM, we picked up Ray Bradbury.”
Author Ray Bradbury got involved with Colonial in the production of books such as Dandelion Wine and the Martian Chronicles. Vanderberg said Bradbury believes his works will find new audiences through the Colonial productions.
“His theory is that reading a book is fine, but new generations want excitement, drama, punch,” Vanderberg said, adding that digital recordings of Bradbury’s works will, in theory, last forever.
Vanderberg said the agreement with the Amazon.com companies may be a sign that Colonial.s hard work will prove that having good actors, solid material and high production values have led to a profit. He said finding a market is tough in modern audio drama as there are only so many fans of that genre.
“If we just had 100,000 people who bought everything we produce, we could make a lot of money,” he said. “In theory, it’s not hard to do that internationally on the Internet.”
In other words, distributing through Audible and Brilliance is a good way to reach fans of audio theater and, possibly, expand the number of people who enjoy the genre. Imagining the expansion of that audience isn’t tough to do, Vanderberg said, explaining that audio drama is ideal for people commuting to work, traveling for business or taking part in other activities and in need of some digital entertainment.
Another advantage of the Internet is that shows can be produced by talent located around the world – writers and voice actors don’t have to meet in Texas in order to put together a program. The scripts may be written in, say, England, the voice acting done in Boston and the music, editing and production tasks might be handled by people located around the globe. However, all that time and energy spent on Colonial’s programs has caused the company’s founders to realize that compensating those individuals well is the right thing today – just another reason for entering into a deal with the Amazon companies.
Another advantage of the Internet is that selling digital downloads is much easier than the company’s traditional method of keeping gift shops at tourist attractions stocked with compact discs. By focusing on international distribution on compact discs and through digital downloads, Colonial is no longer tied to specific outlets.
So, what’s the future for Colonial? Vanderberg said the company will still keep producing everything from dramatizations to comedies to western show’s like it’s popular Powder River series. Additionally, Colonial has been dealing with some television networks interested in a couple of its comedy programs.
The chances of either of those shows being picked up for pilots and then transitioning into successful, lucrative television programs are slight, but Vanderberg said such good fortune would translate into more cash to pay the people who have helped Colonial grow.
Benton resident. Rogue journalist. Recovering attorney. Email = Ethan@FirstArkansasNews.net.