What’s in a Name? What Cinematic Audio Means to Us

As Told by Our MarComms Director

In the wake of our video, “Say Goodbye to Audio Deep Dives…” a lot of people were surprised that we made the Cinematic Audio change. Here, our Director of Marketing & Communications, Emily Labes, endeavors to break down why we did it. 


Let’s get something out of the way: “Audio Deep Dive” was never the right name for our productions with full SFX and original music. It was a good name, sure; but even when we came up with it, we knew it didn’t quite fit.

It all started around two and a half years ago, six months before we launched the dumpster fire that was the first iteration of the SBT Direct platform (I can say that now that the app doesn’t suck anymore). Jeff had already come up with the idea of separating our regular audiobooks from our more theatrical productions, and it was time to decide how to label the two categories. We certainly didn’t break a sweat when we decided to call the audiobooks “Audiobooks,” but naming the latter category proved an immediate challenge. The industry term is, “audio drama,” which we knew right away was a non-starter. While we have great respect for the audio drama medium, the term felt a little too dated and one-dimensional; drama encompasses some of what we do, but not all of it. So, Jeff, Justin, and I began to brainstorm.

As anyone who has ever worked with Jeff knows, a huge part of the process is having a bottle ready to trap the lightening when it strikes him. Plus, Justin and I are no slouches when it comes to creative thinking. So, I was surprised that, between the three of us, we couldn’t come up with anything that felt right. We resolved to come back to it when we had the rest of the leadership team on hand — which we did on several occasions.

“We still haven’t had the a-ha moment,” I must’ve said at least 20 times over the course of those meetings. I don’t remember who exactly came up with Audio Deep Dive (Jeff, probably), but I remember clinging to it like a slowly deflating life raft in a turbulent storm; it wasn’t a permanent solution, but it was better than nothing. It would be a placeholder name until inspiration struck.

The closer we got to the app launch, the more obvious it became that there was no “a-ha” moment on the horizon. We would have to introduce our new app to the world with a placeholder name for the very thing that made it special. “We can always change it later,” Jeff reminded us. As a marketing professional, the thought of an imminent rebrand so soon after making a fundamental change to our distribution model scared the hell out of me. But we had run out of time, and I — for once in my life — had run out of energy to argue.

Over time, I think we all got comfortable with Audio Deep Dives (or Deep Dives, as they were known in not-so-shortened shorthand). After all, it wasn’t the worst name in the world. And it did describe an element of what our immersive productions allow listeners to do: dive deeply into a story. Still, we knew it wasn’t permanent.

When Jeff announced that it was time to completely redo the app, we were all aware that there would never be a better opportunity to rename Deep Dives than the one in front of us. Scarred from the months of debate we went through the last time — and all far busier than before, the company having grown substantially — the leadership team did the most human thing we could’ve possibly done: put it off until it became urgent. Unfortunately, when we did finally find ourselves back at the drawing board three months ago, inspiration was no more a friend to us than it had been in 2020.

After one or two lukewarm brainstorming sessions and at least four renditions of my, “we still haven’t had the a-ha moment” refrain, it was clear that we were no closer to finding the answer. So, we turned to the very best thing about this company: the team.

Bringing the full crew under the tent reinvigorated the conversation in ways we never could have imagined. After two polls and a fair amount of back-and-forth, we were able to reach a consensus for Cinematic Audio, which had been suggested by Richard Smith, one of our top sound engineers.

I’ll admit, when Rich first suggested it, I still didn’t feel like we’d found the perfect name. But after numerous discussions and seeing the phrase appear in design mock-ups, it began to grow on me. One warm September night, as I slowly crouch-walked around Jacob with his phone in my hand on a Brooklyn rooftop to film the absurd video linked in this post, I finally realized that that not every great idea strikes like lightning. Some ideas need time to win you over.

I don’t know about you, but when I hear the words, “Cinematic Audio,” I think of a larger-than-life all-encompassing experience — a piece of art that allows its listener to leave their world and enter another. These days, it often feels as though a movie theater is one of the only places left where a person can focus on the story on the screen in front of them without getting distracted by the screen of the super computer in their pocket (unless they want to be glared at by their fellow moviegoers). In every one of our productions, we endeavor to recreate that environment. We may not be able to conjure the smell of popcorn slathered in fake butter or ensure our listeners are in a dark room; but we can create something truly captivating through immersive storytelling and some of the best voice actors, musicians, and sound engineers in the business.

What I love most about Cinematic Audio isn’t the image it evokes though; but rather the fact that we came to it as a team. As Soundbooth Theater grows and our voice evolves, it can sometimes be hard to know immediately what’s “right” for the company. But with Jeff at the helm and some of the most brilliant minds I’ve ever known behind him, we’ll always get there eventually. Cinematic Audio is the right name for our audio dramas because it’s the right name for us…

… At least until we change it again in another two years.

This post is part of a series to celebrate SBT Direct’s second birthday and our new & improved apps! We’re also hosting a weeklong sitewide 15% off sale from October 31st, 2022 through November 7th, 2022. Shop the sale now.