Both “This American Life” Live Specials in One Fell Swoop
In 2012, Ira Glass took his much-loved radio show “This American Life” to the stage with a production called “The Invisible Made Visible,” and distributed the video edition directly to their fans on their own website powered by VHX. They’ve just released their second stage adaptation, “This American Life: Live at BAM" in the same DIY fashion. Today, they’re taking it to the next level, and releasing a bundle of both specials together in one $10 package.
A little behind-the-scenes on the new special: “Live at BAM” is the live action interpretation of some of the more recent, pinnacles of the radio show including an opera about being trapped in the closet (no, not That One), a musical about undercover cops infiltrating high schools “21 Jump Street”-style, and a stand-up performance about a suicidal mouse, and a musical appearance by Magnetic Fields musical mastermind Stephin Merritt, to name a few, all presented variety-show style on stage at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in June.
Director Seth Lind said, “The Saturday after we released it, I was walking around Philadelphia watching it on my phone and checking how many people were downloading. It felt like some hopeful future about how video can be distributed, but it’s now.” VHX’s platform allowed Glass, Lind, and their team to do some very thoughtful things with this release:
Leverage their fanbase:
“We never really considered going with a distributor. We’re lucky to be able to communicate directly with our audience every week, so it’s easy to let them know about the videos,” said Lind. Putting the special on their own website, and getting the word out themselves via social media and radio meant fans could discover and share it easily.
Keep the price down:
Selling the special themselves via VHX, TAL didn’t have to contend with any excessive fees on transactions, so their audience can own the whole show (in streaming or downloadable form) for an accessible five bucks.
Get it to the people ASAP:
Producer and editor Ben Cohen said, “We shot about 28 hours of footage over two performances, and we had less than two weeks to cut, color correct, and mix audio before delivering to VHX for download. It was like making a feature length film on a normal weekly radio production timeline. We shared more Google docs than the NSA would probably ever care to read.” Because they took the reins with internet distribution, the timeline was theirs to control according to the release strategy they felt was the best fit for their audience. The experience made it from the stage at BAM into the hands (well, inboxes) of the fans in two weeks, while the momentum and buzz from the live event was still fresh.
Check it out at live.thisamericanlife.org, get it along with “The Invisible Made Visible” in one fell swoop, and see what one of our favorite radio shows looks like.