Audio Up, the podcast production studio founded in 2020 by audio innovator Jared Gutstadt, has entered into a creative programming and strategic agreement with SiriusXM which will see the development of new original scripted series and audio entertainment concepts. SiriusXM also leads Audio Up’s $12 million Series B fundraising round, reinforcing its own efforts to gain a toehold into the growing podcast market, which has tripled in audience size since 2017 (according to a recent report commissioned by Cumulus Media and Westwood One).
With the agreement, SiriusXM will have a first-look co-production option for Audio Up original podcast concepts, and will offer options for exclusive distribution across SiriusXM properties. In addition, select podcasts from Audio Up’s back catalog will also be available across the SiriusXM ecosystem, which includes Pandora (acquired for $3.5 billion in 2019), Stitcher (purchased from E.W. Scripps Co. in July 2020 for $325 million) and the SiriusXM app. Andrew Moss, SiriusXM’s senior vice president, business affairs and programming operations, also joins the Audio Up board of directors.
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As podcast advertising revenue is expected to more than double by 2023 — to $2.2 billion, per the IAB — SiriusXM Media will manage and sell advertising inventory and sponsorship in connection with any podcast produced by Audio Up for SiriusXM. And while subscriptions to podcast series and studios gain traction among creators and distributors (with the majority of podcast listeners seeking content-driven benefits, as opposed to ad-free listening, according the Cumulus study), current SiriusXM subscribers will ostensibly be able to access that content for free.
Gutstadt (pictured below) entered the podcast space after founding Jingle Punks, a company that provides original music for ads, TV, film and video games (among its credits: the theme music to “Pawn Stars”), in 2008 (Olé purchased Jingle Punks in 2015). Audio Up’s slate of podcasts and franchises includes “Halloween in Hell,” featuring Machine Gun Kelly and 24kGoldn, which has also expanded to “Valentine’s Day in Hell” and “Prom in Hell”; “The Ballad of Uncle Drank,” a satirical series about a fictional country singer (played by Gary Busey), featuring the artist Nelly along with Luke Wilson; and “Bedtime Stories of the Ingleside Inn” about 1970s-era Palm Springs hotelier Mel Haber, starring Lance Bass and Jason Alexander.
Original music is a unique offering that Audio Up brings as heard in the programs “Sonic Leap,” a fictional story about a real-life group, “Hero the Band,” featuring Anthony Anderson in his podcast acting debut and rapper Trippie Redd, who co-stars and contributes music; and “Make It Up as We Go,” touted as “the first-ever scripted country podcast musical,” which follows a country star hopeful (played by series co-creator Scarlett Burke, who also contributes original music) and is executive-produced by Miranda Lambert, who plays herself in the series. The forthcoming second season of the franchse is set to feature Garrett Headlund and Nashville songwriter Liz Rose.
Next up at the podcast studio: a series based around the “Playboy Interview,” offering “teleplay-type reenactments” of the magazine’s memorable conversations and featuring Taye Diggs as Muhammad Ali, Rosanna Arquette as Betty Friedan, and Gina Gershon as Oriana Fallaci, among others.
“Podcasts have only scratched the surface of their potential as a powerful driver for discovery, and an entertainment medium with virtually no creative boundaries,” said Audio Up CEO and founder Gutstadt in an announcement of the agreement. “With the vast reach and wide diversity of listeners that SiriusXM, Pandora and Stitcher together represent, we not only have a massive new multi-platform outlet for our original programming, but in SiriusXM we have a creative ally who shares our ambitions to keep pushing podcasting forward.”
Added Scott Greenstein, president and chief creative officer at SiriusXM: “Whether it’s inventing a new breed of boundary-breaking original podcasts or developing innovative audio concepts that let brands and creators connect with listeners in new ways, Jared and Audio Up have become the place where talent meets technology. Audio Up is known for creating podcasts that combine music, entertainment, and rich storytelling to create bold new listening experiences, and we’re thrilled to welcome them to our extended SiriusXM family.”
Speaking to Variety in June, Gutstadt painted a bright future for the podcast medium. “Seeing what can be done with smart speakers, with smart cars, smart environments of the future, and what’s happening with cell phone technology with your phone becoming less of a screen and more of a preference chip for people, I do believe that there will be a massive groundswell for people to create audio content,” he said. “I think we’re seeing the very beginning of an old new medium, which is radio for the Internet, and the podcast, which has been around for over a decade now, really coming into a 2.0 phase right now.”
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