De Fria, which Bäckmark describes as Spotify’s ”most ambitious and innovative audio production in Nordics to date”, is a Swedish thriller audio drama in eight episodes of 30 minutes. It’s directed by award-winning Peter Grönlund and has a star-studded cast with some of Sweden’s most prominent actors, including Hedda Stiernstedt, Alexander Abdallah, and Felix Sandman (seen in the top picture).
— And, it’s in 8D, a sound technique that gives the listeners an immersive feeling. You’ll hear that the sound isn’t just coming from left or right, but from all around you. If you close your eyes it may feel as if the characters are in the same room as you’re in. The story is about Matilda and her boyfriend Rami who buys a house in the countryside to start an idealistic collective together with friends. They run out of money and need to invite strangers to cover the costs. And soon they have to face evil forces — both outside and within…, she says, adding,
— The ambition from the start was to create something transformative that hadn’t been done before. A project that raised the bar for the entire industry and illustrated the possibilities of scripted audio dramas — and I think we’ve accomplished just that.
Why is it important for you to offer your users not only music and podcasts but also stories like this?
— There are endless possibilities with audio and I think that we’re still only at the beginning of an audio renaissance. You can only spend a certain amount of hours per day in front of a screen but there are still many moments every day that can be filled with great music and good stories. We want to provide great audio experiences for all those moments — and for all individual preferences. Sometimes you want to delve into 90’s R&B and sometimes you want an intriguing story like this. We’re constantly exploring new audio formats. I believe that audio and podcasts really are the new ways to create engaging content. As you can tell, most influencers have a podcast and there’s a reason behind that — there’s nothing more intimate than being in the ears of your listeners an hour each week, and if you do it right you’ll get loyal fans that look at you as their BFF, says Bäckmark.
When it comes to podcasts, what trends do you see now and onwards?
— There is still a strong rise in fiction so we believe we’ll see even more of that in 2022. True crime and documentaries will continue to engage a large group of listeners, but we also think we’ll see even more subgenres emerging. That’s the beauty of podcasts — there are blockbusters but it’s also a niche media where a podcast about gardening might have few but very, very loyal listeners.
And for Spotify, what’s next for you?
— Earlier this week, we announced a very exciting new global partnership with Moonbug Entertainment, the creators of CoComelon — the number one kids channel on Youtube. Together, we’ll create a new podcast, CoComelon Story Time, as well as a mix of other shows. Also, I can highly recommend having a look through Sonic Science — a report on how audio content affects listeners and engages more than TV and radio, including some really interesting insights, Bäckmark concludes.
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