As a pre-show to the Grammys, PRX has its own award ceremony—The Zeitfunks.
Each year we tally up our licenses and listens to give you a picture of some of our top audio stories. Below you’ll find a list of producers, programs and stations who have sold the most in the PRX Marketplace. These numbers are calculated from individual licenses of stories on PRX. Subscription-only shows like This American Life and The Moth are not considered in these results.
PRX is very excited to be a sponsor of The Sarah Awards, a new international audio fiction competition from Sarah Lawrence College.
Submissions open today (November 23) and PRX Community Manager Audrey Mardavich corresponded with Sarah Awards Founder Ann Heppermann to chat about how The Sarahs came to be, what kind of work they’re looking for, and what greater goals they are hoping to accomplish.
AM: Can you begin by telling me what prompted you to start The Sarah Awards? And once you decided, how did you convince Sarah Lawrence the awards would be worthwhile?
AH: The spark for The Sarah Awards happened about five years ago when I was teaching a radio class at Sarah Lawrence College. At the end of the semester, I allowed the students to create fictional pieces for their final projects. The work they turned in was unlike anything I had heard before. With audio fiction, it was much easier for them to find their own voice, experiment with form, and freely play with sounds. My theory is that this expressiveness was possible because the students did not have preconceived notions of what audio fiction should sound like. With their nonfiction pieces, they already had Ira Glass or NPR tucked away somewhere in their subconscious. It was hard to shake the voices they listened to all the time from their heads. But with fiction, the students kept casting about their creative ideas and seeing how they landed. I loved the pieces.
But after the class was over, these fictional pieces had no home. It was disheartening. I thought to myself, “Audio fiction needs its own Third Coast.” In my opinion, the Third Coast International Audio Festival has completely transformed the narrative non-fiction and audio documentary landscape. It is a huge reason why we are currently experiencing a second Golden Age of Radio, and significantly shaped its sound.
Luckily, it was not difficult for me to convince Sarah Lawrence to get behind this initiative. Sarah Lawrence College is an academic institution that fosters experimentation and playful creativity. Over the years, Sarah Lawrence has cultivated the talent of visionaries like Yoko Ono, Meredith Monk, J.J. Abrams, Alice Walker, and many others. They embraced the idea of The Sarah Awards and raised the money for the launch. Thus, the revolution was born.
AM: What are a few of characteristics of superb audio fiction? What are you looking for? What gets you excited?
AH: For me, superb audio fiction affects your entire body. It makes me belly laugh. It causes me to weep unabashedly while riding the subway. Most importantly, it should sound like it is a part of the 21st Century. Audio fiction these days should have the same complex sound design listeners demand of non-fiction shows along with exceptional writing and acting. Just like a good book or piece of art, a superb audio fiction piece should stick with you. Because amazing fiction can say more things about the human condition than reality sometimes.
What we are looking for, and encouraging, is audio fiction that challenges the way we think about the genre and pushes the boundaries for what audio can and should be. No more stuffy studio overacting, no cliched sound effects—sound has evolved since the 1930s, let’s use this century to redefine the genre. We want to hear pieces that are so sonically advanced you feel as though you’re watching an entire movie inside your head. Radio drama for the 21st century. That is what the Sarah Awards stands for and celebrates.
AM: Can you tell me a little bit about your podcast Serendipity? Serendipity showcases stories from other producers but also includes a plot about you and Martin, your Sarah Awards cofounder. Can you explain how chose this format?
AH: With Serendipity, we wanted to create a podcast that showcased audio fiction from around the world. When thinking about Serendipity, Martin and I didn’t just want to say, “So, here’s a piece of audio fiction you’ll enjoy.” We wanted to create a podcast where the feature story is nested in another story—kind of like a Russian doll. So we decided that we would have our own story to tell, the story of Ann and Martin. Sometimes you don’t know where the story of Ann and Martin ends and the piece we’re featuring begins. We really wanted to use podcasting to play with the form. It’s more fun this way.
My hope is that you hear things on Serendipity that you’ve never heard before. The first handful of episodes feature pieces we commissioned for the launch of The Sarah Awards. When we launched we knew that people would ask, “What is audio fiction?” So this was also our attempt at an answer. The answer is, “It’s varied.”
We are also using the podcast as a springboard for collaborations with various shows, artists and audio institutions. In October, we collaborated with Snap Judgment as part of our Very, Very, Short, Short Stories Contest. Snap Judgment producers Eliza Smith and Mark Ristich created a hauntingly beautiful sonic triptych called “Sleeping Girl.” It’s so different than anything that we would have made on our own and we loved it. We plan to do more collaborations in this way so that we can introduce both listeners and creators to the possibilities of audio fiction in the 21st Century.
AM: Submissions for The Sarah Awards open today—what are you hoping to accomplish with this contest? Do you have any secret goals (you can tell us about) that you want to reach with the entries?
AH: The ultimate goal for The Sarah Awards? Revolution. Yes, I know it sounds silly and hyperbolic but I am serious with my answer. I want awards to completely change the expectations of listeners and creators when they think about fiction for the ears. I want The Sarah Awards to help define what audio fiction is for the 21st century. This also means opening the award and its mission to the entire world. The Sarah Awards’ official name is The Sarah Lawrence College International Audio Fiction Award. We take the international aspect of the award seriously. We want to hear and share audio fiction stories from around the world and in different languages. What is the culture of audio storytelling in countries from around the world and what can we learn from them? I hope we can help start those conversations.
In the end, we want The Sarah Awards to be both inspired and inspiring. We want to be the beacon of light that has producers swarming together like moths on an autumn evening, to make some of the most awe-inspiring works people have ever heard. Because the audio fiction revolution will not be televised. It’s headed straight for your ears.
Ann Heppermann is a documentary artist, reporter, and educator. She is the founder of The Sarah Awards and its podcast Serendipity. Her Peabody award winning work has aired across the world and on numerous public radio shows in the United States including This American Life, 99% Invisible, and Radiolab. In 2011 she was named a United States Artists Rockefeller Fellow. She teaches audio fiction and narrative journalism at Sarah Lawrence College as part of its writing program. Bitch Magazine has called her a “sort of Goddess of podcasting.” She lives in Brooklyn, New York.
The Public Media Platform (PMP) is an easy way to get your stories heard on station websites around the country and PRX.org is the only place for independent producers to get their work into the PMP.
The PMP is a database; a place where lots of information about public media content can live. The part of the PMP that makes it so exciting and useful is its API, or application programming interface. APIs are how software, websites, and apps talk to each other. When you use the Uber app on your phone, it knows how to talk to Google’s API which is how it can show you the map. And when your ride is over, it uses a credit card processing API to move money around.
This is a really powerful concept, because it means Uber didn’t need to build its own maps or credit card processor. The PMP offers that same kind of functionality. For example, a station like WGBH which gets content from many different sources like NPR and PRX no longer needs to deal with separate APIs. Now, WGBH only needs to work with one, the PMP’s API. This means all of this great content is available much more easily.
One of the ways the PMP is used, is that a station can automatically surface a show (ex. The Moth) and have that content pushed directly to their site or app instead of having to manually add it.
You might be asking, “Why is this a good thing for me? Why should I put my work in the PMP?” The bottom line is that the PMP will help make your work even more widely available.
For example, station websites using content management systems provided by PBS and NPR are using the PMP to bring in stories to feature and display. The PMP will also be a source of content for the NPR One apps, and potentially other apps and services both in and out of public media. There are also plugins being created to publish PMP stories into any site that uses a popular content management system (e.g. WordPress and Drupal).
If you’re interested in getting your work into the PMP, you are automatically approved if you have had two or more stories licensed on PRX over time.
If you’re not automatically approved, we would be happy to add you. Write to PRX Help to be approved.
Once you’re approved, you just need to head to My PRX and opt-in to the PMP under your Outside Purchaser Preferences.
Hi! I’m Josh, the new PRX Remix curator. My radio background starts with…well, film.
I graduated from Middlebury College in Vermont in February 2015 with a degree in film and sociology. While at school, I produced documentaries on topics ranging from New York’s parole system to my professor’s pet fish. Out of the classroom, I found my way to the Narrative Journalism Fellowship and produced audio profiles of fellow students. Engaging in filmmaking and audio work simultaneously provided an opportunity for me to figure out what the hell I wanted to pursue after graduation. Since I’m here, it should come as no surprise that I fell in love with radio – both the process of making it and the power of listening to it.
After graduation I jumped from small-town Vermont to small-town Massachusetts. I was a student in the Spring 2015 radio-intensive Transom Story Workshop on Cape Cod, where I developed my radio chops and, importantly, first learned about PRX and PRX Remix. In June and July I trekked to the beautiful Adirondacks in New York to do some freelance work for North Country Public Radio. There’s a 24/7 Remix station up there, so I spent a lot of time listening while gazing at grazing cows.
Now, here I am, sitting in an armchair in public radio utopia a.k.a. the PRX offices of Harvard Square. It will be an adjustment back to city life after four and a half years of living in small towns in Vermont, Massachusetts, and New York, but this is exactly where I want to be.
In addition to being immersed in Remix radio waves and PRX life generally, I will also be launching a podcast soon! Sneak peek: it’s called Bandwagon and it involves Bernie Sanders.
More about me – I love road trips, eating pho, TV show binges, skiing, lying in grass, and naps (especially while lying in grass).
Each month we’ll be highlighting a different PRX producer to find out what they’re working on and hear about the challenges they face as indies as well as the stuff that gets them stoked.
How long have you been using PRX?
Been using it for three years or so.
What are you working on right now?
Producing a weekly show and podcast for Radio Open Source and working on a couple new podcast pilots, too. Trying to get Stylus on the airwaves, as always.
Can you tell us more about your show, Stylus?
Stylus is a radio series about big ideas in sound, music, and listening. It started when my coproducer Zack and I and a cadre of people in and around WBUR pitched the show and produced a pilot, which led to the station funding us for a four-episode first season: “Silence,” “Seeing and Illustrating Music,” “Songs of the Earth,” and “The Sound of Science Fiction.” It’s a kind of left-field, non-narrated documentary show for music people and art fans, but also anyone who’s interested in the links between sound, place, history, and society.
What is your biggest challenge with that project?
Finding new listeners through the Internet. Of course, everyone doing community radio or longform audio faces that challenge—largely because social media isn’t designed for sound or not-for-profit content. But also I’m just bad at tweets. [Editor’s note: aren’t we all, Conor.]
What are you most excited about in public radio or podcasting?
For shows, I’m excited about Reveal. I hope it gives old-school muckraking a shot in the arm. Wicked excited Scott Carrier is podcasting. Also, I’m excited about the serial format generally. I’m listening out for the big return of radio drama.
I’ve made the claim before that poetry is for everyone, especially radio lovers and I stand by that! I wanted to dig a little deeper and see what poets were doing with audio, whether it be podcasts, broadcast programs or archival audio recordings. There’s so much amazing poetry to listen to on the web, here are some of my favorites.
Studs Terkel in Conversation with American Poets
“Poetry doesn’t deal in ideas, it deals in the experience of ideas.” – John Ciardi, in his interview with Studs Terkel.
The News by Wendy Xu via WFMT and the Poetry Foundation
“We repeat a process of hoping our bodies
to the future though for now mine
eats cucumbers in bed. I had a dream
about a crystal blue pool.
I felt stupid when I saw the ocean.”
Imagination is the seed of empathy – a centrally important function – and both the gift and burden of the writer, argues Kwame Dawes in The Gift from WBEZ.
What is Poetry?
One of my all-time favorite pieces on PRX is this Carl Sandburg remix produced by Barrett Golding called “What is Poetry?”
State of the Re:Union Poetry Month Special
Host Al Letson tells his personal stories of how poetry influenced his life and features some incredible slam poets from around the country.
Woodberry Poetry Room Recordings
The Woodberry Poetry Room at Harvard contains a landmark collection of poetry readings that have taken place at Harvard. You can listen online to many of them. Here are a few of my favorites:
PRX Launches Earkat, Raises $7M for Live Audio Streaming App
Cambridge, MA (April 1, 2015) – PRX, the Public Radio Exchange has just launched a new live audio streaming app called Earkat. Playing off the success of Meerkat and Twitter’s Periscope, they have launched the app which is quickly climbing the iTunes charts.
“We’re in the golden age of audio. Live audio streaming is the next logical step to further democratize shareable audio,” said PRX Chief Content Officer John Barth.
With $7 million dollars of funding at launch, Earkat is making waves in the tech and podcasting world.
“We only have to solve half the problem that Meerkat had with video, so we only need half as much money,” says PRX CEO Jake Shapiro.
Earkat is currently available on the iTunes Store.
We have come together today to celebrate the winners of the annual Zeitfunk Awards, bestowed upon the winning-est producers and stations from across PRX.org. These winners made it to the top in each of our 13 categories. Check out all of the winners here.
We want to also give a shout out to Hindenburg Systems who have generously offered each winning producer and station a copy of either Journalist Pro or Broadcaster. Thanks, Hindy!
Our Producers and stations have worked very hard for this honor and we wanted to give them the opportunity to accept their award and say a little something to the audience.
Congrats again to all of our winners! Now, take a listen to the speeches.
Clay Ryder, Most Licensed Debut Producer
KALW, Most Licensed Station by PRX Remix
Mighty Writers, Most Licensed Debut Group
David Schulman, Most Licensed Producer by PRX Remix