At the dawn of the newly reminted SBT Direct App, our Founding CEO & Lead Narrator, Jeff Hays, sat down to think about how far we’ve come, where we’re going, and why he got us on this wild journey in the first place. We hope you enjoy this rare look inside the mind of our brilliant and twisted creator.
Those of you who know me know that I tend to put too much on my plate.
Chronic problem, and it creates larger problems down the line. Balls get dropped, people and projects get forgotten, rants ensue, from either those I’m annoying or even myself. It’s a major source of both excitement and stress (are those the same thing?) in my life. As a result, I would say that, even though I spend the majority of my time working, I’m in a constant state of chaos as I act, and in my mind.
There are some good things to say about this chronic problem, though. First of all, it’s born from good intentions. Or, to be less boastful and more realistic, it’s born from a true appreciation for life. I love the world, I love all the things I could possibly do, I love people and all the cools stuff they make, and I hate the fact that I won’t be around long enough to experience every activity and meet every person I want to.
Another good thing to say, which is actually relevant to you, dear reader, is that it’s led me to this particular project. If I had focus, maybe I wouldn’t even be a narrator. Maybe I would’ve actually had a decent music career or something. I would’ve practiced harder, focused more in school, learned to sight-read, gotten my degree, started playing in whatever bands my career led me to, and I’d be performing… I dunno, stuff that I don’t particularly care for but gets me regular gigs?
But no, my mind couldn’t tolerate that. I dropped out, started my own band, made insane music that no one but musicians would appreciate, and many twists and turns and social gaffs later, here I am, on my second attempt to create an app through which one may listen to audiobooks.
My Boxxy-like shiny-chasing instincts aren’t completely at fault. They joined forces with their very frequent partner in crime: my dissatisfaction with the status quo. I never liked how Audible did business. I never thought they deserved to make three times more money from the things I produce than I do, and I never liked their pricing model. I’ve always wanted a more transparent relationship with my audience, and I never liked working with a company that doesn’t know who I am, no matter how much work I do with them, or how much money they make off of me, or how much care I put into my products. I believe you listeners and I deserve a better deal. So, instead of bitching about it, I decided to try building a future in which I could choose to leave this relationship and still make money doing what I love. But….
Since before the launch of the first app, only recently has a positive outlook on this endeavor returned to me. Truth be told, gutted by how poorly the first app turned out upon release, considering the headache even getting it to that sorry state, and the lack of enthusiasm from listeners, I was discouraged for a while. I felt bad for losing sales for our authors who put faith in us in the first place. I felt bad about the money I’d invested, and worse, dreaded investing what I knew would be way more to keep trying. A slave to yet another questionable part of my nature: I just don’t give up. Reflex kept me going, pivoting.
We tried a lot of things, but over the past couple of years, I’ve really just been white-knuckling my way through productions in hopes that all the free stuff we’ve been giving away would eventually pay off. I had a new vision, this new serialization model that creates a relationship between audiobooks and Cinematic Audio that is analogous to the relationship between novels and comics. And it helped me come full circle in my thinking. I’ve always believed and performed with the intent that stories through audio should be a show. And this platform is my opportunity to make that even more clear through the method of delivery.
Though I delighted in working on the productions themselves, it still took a while before the kind of numbers came along to give me additional hope. Hope enough that I decided to give this app thing one more shot. I felt that I’d done enough to prove that this platform could be worth it to those of you out there who love all your audiobooks to be in one place. And that, if you guys had something in your hands that didn’t make you wanna throw your phone across the room, maybe you’d find value in an extra little cabinet dedicated to storing our stuff. And then, these last couple months being the best we’ve ever had —even before releasing the new app — made it even more clear that this really could work.
So here we are. Even this time, the stress of developing the app has been getting to me right up to the final moment. I was never sure we were going to hit the deadline. I was never sure it would be ready without major bugs. But it was! And here it is. The moment of truth.
The new app is no revolution. It’s just setting things right, giving you guys an experience that is convenient and easy. It’s better organized, it’s smoother and faster, the search actually works. You can now create “moments” which is a fancy way of saying “bookmarks” for now, but, oh boy, will that change soon. You can now purchase things in-app on both platforms. And since we’ve been creating serials, everything is organized by series now instead of individual books and episodes, which really helps save some space in your library as you navigate. AND you’ll be able to skip to the next episode of a serial by simply tapping a button that pops up once you’ve about finished one. But what’s really special about this app is its potential, and the plans ahead. My crazy must-touch-everything mind has at least one more benefit: it comes up with ideas pretty quick, and with this new app, it will be MUCH easier to implement those ideas.
Thank you everyone who stuck with us through such a bumpy ride. Thank you to everyone looking at this second attempt and finally giving us a shot. And thank you to everyone here at SBT who’s put up with this craziness all the way from the first embarrassing attempt through this one, and helped make sure I didn’t wander off like a toddler at the fair so things could keep moving. The app works so much better. We have so much more in our library, and our heavy hitters HIT HARD, which makes me most proud of all. I feel confident now that anyone who jumps on board will find a show they love.
To celebrate the SBT Direct relaunch — and two years of independent distribution! — we’re hosting a weeklong sale starting on Halloween. From October 31st through November 7th, all titles will automatically be 15% off if you purchase through the website. NOTE: Unfortunately, we do not have the capability to extend the same discount to in-app purchases at this time, but we do hope you’ll enjoy your discounted audio spoils in the new apps! Download the Apple version here or download the Android version here.