Radio Plays (Audiobooks or Spoken Word)?

Should radio plays have the secondary type “Audiobook” or “Spokenword”?

The guidelines don’t seem to specify.


For Douglas Adams I went with Broadcast + Spokenword + Audiobook as that seems the most sensible fit for his Radio Plays

Really we need a “Radio Plays” choice.

Have a look at DNA

Here we have people reading his books out loud ( Other + Audiobook )

And we have full multi-actor plays for the radio which have been released to CD/Vinyl/Tape ( Broadcast + Spokenword + Audiobook )

Why is “Audiobook” in all of them? Because this is how the public see these releases when looking in Amazon, etc for them.

Why “Broadcast”? Well - it was on the radio and this is the closest we have to “Radio Play”.

If we had “Radio Play” then I would not have used “Broadcast + Spokenword

That was the best I could get out of the guidelines, some research and general checking around when I did a bit of a clean-up on DNA earlier this year.


Edit: Why does the DNA link in this have a photo but the main article now doesn’t? That is weird… (and OT so really should be a discussion for a different thread)


Okay I think I should clarify what I meant with “radio play”.
I used that word as a lack for knowing a better translation for “Hörspiel”, which differs from an audio book (“Hörbuch”) mainly just by the number of readers. Often a “Hörspiel” is rewritten (e.g. to only include direct speech), broadcast on the radio and sometimes it contains some music, but none of that defines it I’d say.

Meanwhile @chabreyflint gave a very good explanation in (unfortunately it’s all in German), propagating a new secondary type called “audio play”.

I then found this ticked, which would solve the whole dilemma I was having:

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Another LOUD VOTE for “audio play” (since not all of these are necessarily broadcasted)


Ok, Germany wins!

I’ve added this, but since I’ve never even heard of them before (doesn’t seem to be a thing at all in Spain, or maybe I just never came across one), I’m not sure about the definition. How does the one I entered in Release Group/Type - MusicBrainz Wiki sound? Feel free to improve it!


EXCELLENT!! Finally!!!

I have SO MANY updates to now do.

An “audio play” is clearly something with many actors playing different roles. And yes, usually some form of re-write from the original book. BBC Radio has a huge output of these over the decades. This new type now means I can finally get them correctly credited.

In scale, this is clearly a level above “Spoken Word” as that would be more a plain speech or poetry reading. “Audio Play” implies multiple actors, sound effects, even musical parts.

Thanks @reosarevok for adding this, and @paulakreuzer for giving this yet another kick.

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YAY!! DNA now has his Audio Plays correctly categorised. I assume someone is hitting a “Yes” button on my batch of changes there as they seem to have mostly flown through after a slight delay.

This is VERY handy for DNA. Some of his recordings are directly spoken from his books, others are fully fledged plays with actors and very different.

DNA is a project of mine. The more I understand Recordings and the other parts of this place, that is all then fed back into this artist. You should have seen how chaotically disorganised this was last year!!

I would eliminate “Audiobook” unless it is an actual reading of the book (abridged or un-), as it is misleading to call a play an audiobook.

I mostly hear them called “radio drama”, but “audio play” seems fine.

Would we consider sketch comedy like Firesign Theatre or Monty Python to fall into this new category?

Why do you say DNA? I see Douglas Adams.
Oh I see in Wikipedia, his full legal name is Douglas Noel Adams.
Not very obvious. Like if you say DRJ for David Bowie. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:


I’ve thought about that one before. If you are looking for it in a shop it is under Audiobooks. And some of the covers use the word. I also use MB for tagging my files and the Audiobook category would still be important to many.

I see Audiobook as a parent category, but once Audio Play gets some traction elsewhere it would make sense to drop it.

@highstrung I would think Audio Play fits both of those well. They are multi-actor events working from a script broadcast on radio.

Radio Play would be more accurate for the examples we’ve used so far, but there are recordings of Theatre performances that will now be categorisable as “Audio Play”. Something performed to an audience and not just read from the page.

I’ve been a fan for a while… :wink: The fans know who DNA is. He’s in our genes.



Now should the Audiobook Style Guide be applied to audio plays, especially the section about the release artist?

An audiobook has usually one to three narrators who can be listed in the artist credits as " read by XXX". That honours the role of the narrators, mimics how the narrators are credited on the cover and it helps to differentiate between audiobooks of the same text by different narrators.
Audio plays usually have more voice actors and it doesn’t help anyone if they are listed in the artist credits of the release.
The CSG approach makes IMHO much more sense: Credit the original author and the artists that are prominently featured on the cover and/or spine. Use Advanced Relationships for the voice actors.

It would be nice to have a style guide specific for audio plays or at least an amendment to the Audiobook Style Guide. It should also help to categorize a release as audiobook or audio play.


Something like this makes sense to me from the very little I know about these plays (which is basically what I learned from y’all here!). How do the covers of these usually look? (for those which are not just broadcast but actually released on CDs or whatever).

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Agree with @Yurim - Audio Plays are written by someone and they should be in the Artist role. The numerous actors then appear in the Relationships.

The Monty Python example earlier fits this neatly. The Artist is clearly “Monty Python” and the relationships can give more details about that performance. Actors are only really vocalists. The actors of a play are like an orchestra of voices.

Here is an example that is already well filled out.

This is a BBC Radio Drama. A full play that was based on a book. The books authors are credited here as the Artist even though they didn’t actually write the play’s script. Scroll to the bottom of the page and you’ll see all the actors are credited as “Spoken vocal” with their character in the play then listed in square brackets…

So far every example in this thread are for plays that have been broadcast on BBC Radio or US Radio. And then put out on official CDs by the radio station. Many of both Adams and Pratchett’s were originally based on books but have been re-written for the multi-actor performances. Both authors also put out plain “read from the page” audiobook versions too.

Generally the BBC Audio release will credit the writers as Artist on the spine of the CD. Or when it is a comedy group like Monty Python or The Goons then the group gets the credit.

I also think it is worthwhile seeing what people have already been doing when entering this data in MB. There are a lot of sensible people here so rules like “Author as artist” seem to already be in place.

The Good Omens above has only Front by Amazon link. Here you have aother BBC Radio Drama CD with full scans:

(Track lengths were obviously messed up somehow, when automagically set.)

I’ll whack mine on the scanner later this afternoon…

I noticed something funny with these BBC plays on CD. Notice how the BBC company who puts these works out is called “BBC Audiobooks Ltd”. That ISBN number is tying them to the Book world too.

That Moby Dick example cover is good. There is a HUGE output of these on that BBC Audiobooks Ltd label. They are pretty good at getting authors and actors credited on the covers. (Well, they have been on the Radio so no doubt already sorting out the royalties)

I don’t like what has happened to the artist on that release. Someone has added too many details - director shouldn’t be there. I much prefer the layout of credits on the Good Omens example as they fit better to the MB way of crediting performing artists.

Full Good Omens scans now uploaded. The inner booklet gives a full cast list, broadcast details, backroom staff, the lot.

And just for @reosarevok there is even a neat little write-up explaining some of the output of BBC Audio.

ZBS Media/ZBS Foundation is an organization that releases original audio dramas. Some of them were originally broadcast on radio, but many (especially the more recent ones) were not.

This is important to me too, but I think the correct solution is to configure Picard to handle this. Surely tagging is a function of the tagging software. (“_secondaryreleasetype” works, as does “genre” for the folksonomy tags)