Forty-six years after Stellar Entertainment launched, original audio content for airlines remains a staple of the company’s productions.
On any given day, Stellar Entertainment’s Kuala Lumpur and Sydney offices are buzzing with activity, but you wouldn’t hear a peep if you happened to be wandering through the halls of its buildings. You might find a musician adding the last guitar part to an ad jingle or a show host mindfully enunciating every word of an important message – the noise is contained within soundproofed recording studios.
On this particular day, Azura Zainal-Genuino Da Silva is at the Kuala Lumpur office, recording a voice-over for Royal Brunei Airlines’ recurring in-flight radio show, Hitzone. (Some may recognize the entertainment personality as a former Disney Channel Asia presenter.) It’s not uncommon for familiar faces to pop in for a vocal cameo.
“The Kuala Lumpur facility spends a lot of time producing in-flight radio and prerecorded announcements for our airline clients, but we also carry out ad hoc projects for other industries and companies with video and audio production needs,” Wan Nurzawani, the company’s audio programming and licensing coordinator, says. “This includes Spotify advertisements, corporate videos and recording voices for international links to other studios around the globe.”
“Audio content has a natural affinity with travel.” – Sam Allen, Stellar Entertainment
Forty-six years ago, in 1974, it was a call for music that propelled Stellar Entertainment into becoming the full-service content service partner it is today. Owners Rob Lynch and Helen Irvine, partners in business and life, spotted a newspaper ad from Qantas seeking proposals for in-flight audio entertainment. Lynch, who worked in radio, jumped at the opportunity, and to their astonishment, they won the pitch.
Since then, the company has established its headquarters in Sydney, with offices in Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Los Angeles, Hong Kong and Beijing. In addition to scouring catalogs of labels and distributors for music – from the soulful melodies of N.Y.C.K. to the genre-defying music of the Venopian Solitude – members of its promo teams also source video programming and have expanded their offerings to include content licensing, technical and metadata services and more.
Related: Watch APEX Media’s interview with AirAsia Group CEO Tony Fernandes,
produced in part with Stellar Entertainment
Despite being in different countries, the offices are often synchronized on projects, particularly for their airline clients. For the exclusive, first-run in-flight screening of the Malaysian film Pulang, the Singapore office negotiated the acquisition, the Sydney office designed the graphics and promotional material, and the Kuala Lumpur office handled the video production and technical work. “The teams from different departments work together a lot on day-to-day matters, so cross-boundary collaboration is very much a natural part of our fluid working culture,” Karen Ho, marketing manager, says.
Providing original audio content continues to be an important part of the business. Talk shows, such as the ones Irvine curated in the early days of the company, continue to be popular. A monthly program for an international carrier that featured a famous media personality interviewing business leaders, entrepreneurs and CEOs was in high demand, says creative director Brad Power. “The show had a very high listenership, and we were always taking calls from PR companies wanting to have their clients appear on the show.”
Producing in-flight radio shows has also led to projects such as recording tracks that younger passengers can listen and follow along to through activities in a book distributed on board. “Puzzles, secret sounds and stories keep kids entertained for hours. We’ve received many thanks, particularly from happy parents,” Power says.
Working in audio, Stellar Entertainment also creates Foley – custom sound effects – usually for film. It may be a simple request to record footsteps or a door closing, but certain sounds require more imagination: Power reveals that a stabbing sound can be imitated by thrusting a knife into a watermelon. And a vomiting sound, which was needed for a comedy podcast, can be reproduced by pouring tins of fruit salad into a bucket. “That was a pretty weird job!” he says.
Other briefs such as creating a “sonic strategy” for an Asia Pacific-based international carrier’s flights involved tapping the talent of Stellar Entertainment’s in-house composer, Luke Mason, to dream up music for passengers to board and disembark to. “We’re able to offer our airline clients bespoke music, which is composed specifically to cater to an airline’s brand, mood and audience,” says Sam Allen, director of Audio and Licensing.
According to Allen, audiobook and podcast consumption on the ground hit an all-time high last year, but the rise of audio entertainment, especially on board, doesn’t surprise Stellar Entertainment. “Some of the most common places for people to listen to this content is in transport, whether it be in a car or truck, walking or on public transport,” Allen says. “Audio content has a natural affinity with travel.”
“Recording in Session” was originally published in the 10.1 February/March issue of APEX Experience magazine