This question is kind of the bane of our existence. When we first started over 30 years ago we actually DID start on the radio. Unfortunately, times have changed and getting on the radio is very difficult and getting people to listen can be even MORE difficult.
In the past, the good folks at Peach State Public Radio used to invite us in to play every Hallowe’en for several years. And we spent the first two summers of our existence with a weekly program on commercial radio (nobody told us it was impossible). We also have a podcast!
Because there really isn’t a consensus among those who do what we do as to what we should call it. Back in 1984, “Radio Theatre” seemed the obvious choice. Lately there’s a swing towards “Audio Drama”, but in our personal appearances we do a lot of comedy, and we don’t want to mislead people. (As if “Radio Theatre” doesn’t.) Plus, if we changed the name of the company, we’d have to change all the stationery, letterheads and business cards… Let me tell you, it’s a real bear to get a corporate jet repainted. 🙂
We’ve been wrestling with the question of exactly what we are for a while now. Are we a theater company who only occasionally has a theatre? Or are we a radio theater with a stronger online presence than on the radio? Are we “new old-time radio”? We like to think that we’re what traditional radio drama and comedy might have become, if it had lasted long enough in the United States to take advantage of today’s technology and dramatic techniques. Perhaps the best label for us, if you must have one, is “Small-Press Audio Publisher”. We’re an art form divorced from its medium, and the Internet is the greatest thing to happen to us since Norman Corwin.
It’s not dead at all. It’s largely moribund in America, although there are still dozens of companies here who produce dramatized radio programs (here’s a helpful page to assist you in finding some of them!). Elsewhere in the world, particularly at the BBC, radio thrives as a storytelling medium. And we have confidence that sooner or later, the US will catch up.
Short answer: No. Long answer: Noooooooooo.
But seriously. In the Old Time Radio community, there is a widespread belief that programs are there to be heard and enjoyed. This is hard to refute.
There is also a pervading opinion that once a program has been released, either on tape or on the air, that it then belongs to everybody. This is plainly not true. Radio drama and other forms of audio programming cost money, time, and resources to produce; in return for that cost, the originators of that programming retain intellectual and performance rights to that material.
Now, many of the glorious performances that comprise the Golden Age of Radio are lost to us. Some are lost forever, simply because the show was held to be valueless at the time: If it was ever recorded, the media were reused or recycled.
Some are only lost for now, until some lucky cleaning or salvage crew discovers a cache of ancient tapes or discs containing the treasure of a bygone age. Many of these programs never included a copyright statement, certainly not what is now considered correct. In addition, many of the originators of the program are long gone, retired or dead; there may be nobody left to fight for ownership of the show, and it (informally) falls into public domain.
The OTR community is founded, and leans heavily, on the unauthorized duplication and distribution of audio programming. This is done with the best of motives: To get the program into the hands — and ears — of an appreciative audience. Where there is no findable author or copyright holder, no one is hurt, and everyone benefits.
In this day and age, virtually anyone can make a limitless number of digital copies of almost any file and distribution has reached every corner of the globe. Attempts to limit that distribution by companies far larger than we are have been hit-and-miss at best. And so we do what we can – we ask you not to.
The Atlanta Radio Theatre Company is not a subsidiary of a faceless, nameless multi-national with money to burn on a moribund art form. We are a group of people who love what we do, and the medium we do it in. We take in just enough money to sustain our operations and try to put a little aside for future growth. Even within the arts community we are considered small.
How you can help
And so, we ask that you refrain from uploading our material, even for free. We have our own free podcast that we encourage you to share with your friends and family that is taken from our live performances, but the studio work that we spend much more time and energy on to make it sound as good as possible, we ask that that material be left to us and our authorized distributors to sell so that we can continue to produce more of the audio drama you love.
And you can help! If you see any of our material posted on a website that you think may be unauthorized, let us know and send us a link so we can contact the owner and ask politely that they take it down. Many of these instances are due to people who honestly didn’t realize we were still around or that they were doing us harm. We’d really appreciate the help! And don’t forget that we accept donations as well through a variety of means!
Old Time Radio, or OTR as its fans often call it, is a shorthand label for the Golden Age of Radio, from approximately 1920 to 1950, from “Stoopnagle and Budd” and “Amos and Andy” through “Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar”. This is the period when radio was the dominant mass medium in the United States, roughly equivalent to television’s position today. Even so, the comparison suffers, because today’s mass market is so heavily fragmented. No single program in any medium commands as much of the audience as “Amos and Andy” or the various Arthur Godfrey programs did at their peak.
Still, it is comparable, in that radio was the average person’s primary window on the world: News, sports, entertainment and culture all entered the home through the glowing dial of radio’s mahogany console. Radio will probably never be so dominant again, but ARTC is working to revive one little piece of it.