What kind of a role do celebrity narrators play in audio books and the success of audio publishing?
Has their participation brought new business to the industry? How has the impact of celebrity narration shaped consumer behavior?
Hear the musings of one narrator, Tim Lundeen, as he explores the impact celebrity narrators have had on the audiobook industry in today’s VOX Daily.
On Celebrity Audiobook Narrators
By Tim Lundeen
When it comes to audio books, I think of three common categories of participants:
1. The Fan: they purchase often, listen regularly and promote audio books amongst themselves and others.
2. The inFrequent: they’ve heard of audio books, may have even listened to a single production, or at least a short sample. They equate the industry with the capital of Tajikistan; it’s got to have a capital (right?), but no idea where it is or what it’s called.
3. The Foreigner: ask them if they listen to audio books, and they’ll probably say “oh you mean like a book on tape?” They equate the industry with outdated analog technology from the 70s and 80s; that used to be something (right?), do they still make those?
Mind The Gap
The discerning individual will notice a huge gap between the Fan and … well, the rest of society. If I notice, and if you notice, you can bet the major publishers and distributors notice. You can also bet they have their own categories and strategies for handling the situation. One such strategy is the Celebrity Narrator.
The Celebrity Narrator
The Celebrity is usually a Hollywood-type; an award-winning and widely recognized individual in the mainstream movie entertainment industry. Audible.com calls them “Hollywood’s Finest,” undoubtedly referring to acting accolades and awards, and not character or morals. The key is “widely recognized.” It becomes a type of Celebrity Endorsement. Only the publishers aren’t looking for Dustin Hoffman to endorse “Being There” by Jerzy Kosinski, nor do they need Anne Hathaway to endorse “The Wizard of Oz.” Rather, having Celebrities on the website indirectly endorses the entire audio book industry merely by putting their voices to a few productions. Drawing the attention of the Foreigner with the hope that they’ll become a Fan.
Now as a Fan, it may be easy to scoff at the idea of so-called Celebrities even ranking among true narrators and storytellers. But I’ve changed my mind about how I look at it. I have to acknowledge how detrimental it would be to the industry (and sales) if a Celebrity was only someone strongly favored and identified by the Fan but completely foreign to … the Foreigner. Many people know Rosenblat, Brick, Gardner and Vance, or even Tim Lundeen. But unless you’re a Fan, you probably just think that’s a law firm or something. So, oddly enough, increasing industry awareness and boosting market potential cannot always come from within the community.
There are better narrators and voice talent than Hollywood’s Finest (in my humble but accurate opinion). There are also actors and A-Listers in mainstream entertainment who make great narrators. I’d have Tim Curry in my studio any day. Obviously I would be amiss if I were to respond to the question of celebrity audiobook narrators with a blanket statement of scoff or downright disapproval.
Does Fame Equate With Quality Narration?
Do I think famous actor so-and-so should narrate an audio book? Probably not. Would so-and-so do a fantastic job? Not likely. But will it happen, and will it win an Audie, and will it be marketed and promoted everywhere? You bet.
And who knows. Some Foreigner just might buy that audio, merely because so-and-so narrated it, and quickly become a Fan of audio books. Is that bad? I don’t know. I think the tactic is morally neutral – it’s neither good nor bad. Is it effective? We’ll see.
DISCLAIMER: I am not critical of Audible.com or any other audio book publisher or distributor. I do a lot of business with Audible.com and I’m proud of that partnership. I am critical of a lot of so-called celebrities, but that’s another issue entirely.
Dushanbe … the capital of Tajikistan is Dushanbe.