This year’s Radio Grand Prix winner is called "The Berlin Wall of Sound - The Most Unbearable Radio Spot Ever." Made by SoundCloud for its own site, it is an acoustic recreation of the Berlin Wall to commemorate the 25th year of its fall.
It is 7 minutes and 32 seconds long - the exact time taken for sound to travel the length of the 155 kilometres of the wall. It bears particular relevance to SoundCloud since the company's offices are based in the original "Todesstreifen" ("Death Zone Area") around the wall. The disturbing audio experience combines excerpts from speeches of leaders of the German Democratic Republic, border guards and through the entire piece there is this low frequency boom that makes the mood sombre, dark, and claustrophobic.
On SoundCloud, the wave file for this piece has been made to look like the Berlin Wall and instead of comments it has been tagged with images and information about people who were shot dead as they tried to cross the wall.
I don't know when I have been more pleased and more proud. This is an award to sound and to audio. It is an award for thinking of radio concepts via sound and not via paper. It is a reminder to all radio professionals that radio magic happens inside the studio. The studio, the machines, the software - make radio there. Not on paper. Not in meeting rooms. Not on PowerPoint.
This radio Grand Prix is a huge validation of all audio designers, all sound engineers, all promo producers across the industry. You guys are NOT support staff, you guys are NOT those for whom there is no growth or future, you guys are NOT desktop operators: you ARE Radio.
This Grand Prix is also the future. It's about what digital can do to radio. It is radio that you can see and experience intimately inside your head. It touches more than one sensory nerve.
And finally this Grand Prix is a huge thumbs up to intelligent, layered, depth of content. In a progressively vapid, dumbed down, Honey Singh laced environment - this Grand Prix says shallow isn't the only way to go. Because content is now personal, digitised, streamed, podcast and individually consumed, there is no need to make things constantly mass and basic and formula fed. There is room now for intellectual rigour, for niches, for class to return to radio.
I confess, having come from years and years of conditioning, I didn't have the courage initially to give this piece my thumbs up. Am so glad our jury president and a few other jury members pushed through. I am glad I let go of my conditioned notions and finally voted by raw instinct.
And I am honoured to have been a member of a jury that awarded The Berlin Wall of Sound (https://m.soundcloud.com/berlinwallofsound/the-berlin-wall-of-sound)
(The author, an independent music and radio consultant, was on the Radio Jury)