Celebrity Voices: A Growing Trend in Audio Books

August 11, 2010

It used to be that only professional voice actors did professional voice work, including the fine art of creating audio books.  However, recent trends in media have led many publishers to begin hiring celebrities with known voices to read some of the most beloved classic and modern books on the market (couldn’t you listen to Jeremy Irons or James Earl Jones all day?).  And it’s no surprise when you consider some of the economic implications.  The book industry, as a whole, has seen a long recession that has little to do with our current fiscal situation.  New media, starting with radio, film, and television, and continuing with the limitless possibilities for entertainment provided by the internet (not to mention the ease of handheld electronics), has engendered a century-long descent when it comes to the literary pursuits of consumers.  Where books were the only form of in-home entertainment for hundreds of years (and prized beyond measure), they are now seen by many as a tedious chore.  And yet, we all love a good story.

Enter the audio book.  It is certainly not the end-all-be-all of the publishing industry, but it has been touted as the fastest growing segment of the trade (hard to believe with Kindle and other e-Readers popping up all over the place, but then, most people who love a good book also love the feel of a real book).  And there is no denying the appeal of audio books to a consumer market that is constantly on the go.  For most people, taking time out of a hectic schedule to sit and read a book is a luxury they can ill afford.  However, with a growing number of commuters spending hours every day stuck in gridlock or confined to mass transit, audio books are an excellent way to digest the literary fodder they crave without having to hold a book on the steering column or listen to the crazies on the back of the bus.

But how did celebrities get thrown in the fray?  The answer is twofold.  For starters, every expanding business that realizes rapid growth is going to have cut-throat competition and the audio-book industry is no exception.  It isn’t long before one publisher is looking to get an edge over the other and violà; celebrity narrators arrive on the scene.  If CDs and podcasts are selling like hotcakes, they can afford to pay a little more for a name.  But beyond that, there are plenty of celebrities who need the work.

In case you didn’t know, the entertainment industry is suffering from the recession as much as everyone else.  With summer blockbusters failing to produce the stellar revenue they have seen in the past and indies with a bunch of unknown actors stealing the show, big names are finding that they either can’t demand the ludicrous salaries they have in the past, or they simply can’t get a line on a job as studios move in a different direction.  For this reason, the situation has become mutually beneficial to both publishers looking to get a leg up on the competition and celebrities willing to utilize their well-known voices to bring literary masterpieces to life.

Sarah Danielson is a writer for Online MBA Rankings where you can browse the top online MBA programs.

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