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The Power of Audio Simplicity in a Post-Corona World

Music & Sound
London, UK
INFLUENCER: Grand Central Recording Studios' Raja Sehgal reveals how simplicity is the key to success through the medium of radio for some of GCRS’ clients

Alongside the rest of the creative industry, we have been working around the clock on the steepest logistical challenges we’ve ever faced in our careers, not to mention many of our lifetimes.

Many shoots have been cancelled and premieres delayed and initially there was a distinct fear amongst the community that everything would just stop. However, in just a small number of weeks there has been an incredible wave of creativity taking place, all from everyone’s homes. People thinking outside of the box in every way possible. 

Clients now require a communication channel that is highly effective, that allows for social distancing and for productions to be turned around in quick-time. Some campaigns have been cancelled; some redesigned within a TV format, others are being written for other mediums where they may not have been placed before, with radio content suddenly becoming very important for some. 

Radio reaches all ages, groups and demographics. It is diversity and inclusion at its best. The latest Rajar figures published pre-lockdown showed that 48.1 million adults or 87% of the adult (15+) UK population listen to the radio. The majority of listening time also takes place in the home and this will have increased greatly.

Radio is a highly trusted source. We are reminded of its role in wartime and in many ways these times are not so dissimilar.  

It is also a powerful medium for persuasion. Despite it now being considered by some to be modern folklore, for over eighty years it was believed that Orson Welles’ 1938 radio broadcast of War of the Worlds caused mass panic. It was uniquely timed, building on the public’s existing levels of anxiety around WW2. This is an extreme example and obviously our role is not to create panic, but rather deliver reassurance and accurate information. 

Things are changing at such a rapid pace that radio is now the best option to communicate quickly en masse. Clients pushing out important Covid-19 messages are adapting their radio scripts on a weekly sometimes twice-weekly basis which are broadcast within a day of completion. Despite all of our expensive kit and vast capabilities in sound, a voiceover with a clear message is the best way forward for a number of reasons. 

Delivering simplicity can of course be complex as most creatives will know. As well as a succinct, well written script, achieving a great voiceover in itself can be a lengthy process. We spend hours testing different voices; do they have the right level of authority, regional accent, gender. In the new world most if not all voiceover artists now have home studios. For those already set up in some capacity, it’s been about upping the ante on their tech and I spend a lot of my time running tutorials for artists in prep for upcoming projects. Some we direct through Zoom and the artist sends us their files, but using Source Connect has been a godsend. It means high-quality takes can be recorded that are also good enough for the final mix, allowing the extremely tight radio ad turnarounds to be viable. Being able to have clients and voiceover artists join the sessions live has been absolutely key. I have a separate PC set up for video calls so I can recreate the Soho studio experience for clients as much as I can – they can see the mixing desk and me as if they are sitting next to me on a usual day pre-pandemic, not just a view my face!

I don’t doubt we’ll see more radio scripts through our doors in the coming days and it’s good to know if nothing else we’re keeping voiceover artists afloat in some way, as well as playing a key role in creating important communications for the public.

Raja Sehgal is sound designer and founding partner of Grand Central Recording Studios

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