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Stuart Morgan – Founder of Audio Always

“I was obsessed with radio broadcasting the moment I stepped foot inside a studio”

Stuart Morgan was 6 years old when he was introduced to the magic of radio at a BBC Wales open day in Cardiff.  Now he runs Audio Always, an independent production company at MediaCity, which this year is celebrating an incredible ten years in business.

As specialists in audio, Stuart and the team have a depth of understanding about the medium; from podcasts to radio production, advertising to audio branding; Audio Always delivers a range of audio to all kinds of clients, including the BBC.  It is also one of the largest producers of audiobooks outside of London.

“We are unashamedly all about the audio because it is a powerful medium for telling stories and creating an emotional connection. This we have felt particularly during the Pandemic when more people than ever were listening to audiobooks, podcasts and playlists, it has created a surge in listener audiences.”

“‘Help I Sexted My Boss’ is a comedy advice podcast we started four years ago when podcasts weren’t as popular as they are today, two friends sat in this studio and talked into microphones. Now it is a hugely successful hit podcast with millions of listens, and a touring show that’s selling out venues across the UK, it really demonstrates the power of connection through audio.”

Stuart worked as a producer of programmes and breakfast shows for a number of commercial radio stations in the North for many years before making the leap to starting the business in 2012.  At the time he was working for a radio station in Leeds and living in Manchester.

“The commute was getting too much and after starting the business from my bedroom and working from home for two weeks, I abandoned that idea and moved into an office at The Greenhouse.  This was around about the time the BBC had moved into MediaCity. Looking back now, I could not have predicted how critical this place would be to our growth and success.”

MediaCity already had some beautiful studio spaces, perfect for producing highly polished and larger formats, but expensive if you are not looking for that size of production facility. We identified this gap early on and invested in building a multi-purpose functional audio studio.

Stuart was also having conversations with the BBC in London about producing some of its radio programmes from Salford.

“We started with Radio 2, producing the OJ Borg show from MediaCity five nights per week.  This led us to us winning the commission to produce Radio 1’s  Life Hacks programme in Salford, and meant we could deliver a weekly show that was rooted in a Northern community.”

Now Audio Always produces many programme strands, including daily and weekly shows for Radio 1, 5 Live, Asian Network and 6 Music. The team plans, produces, delivers and complies hundreds of hours of audio content a month.

In addition to working on BBC radio programmes, Audio Always produces a number of the UK’s top podcasts, as well as branded audio, such as the official Manchester United and Isle of Man TT podcasts and has an impressive roster of voice over artists.

Stuart has brought much of what he learned from working in commercial radio into making efficiencies and creative content for all his clients.  Stuart has grown his team to 45 permanent staff and freelancers based at the Tomorrow Building at MediaCity.

“Having a place to come and work was essential for me.  In the early days, I really wanted to be around other people who were working in a similar field around me.  I’ve since come to appreciate how much MediaCity is part of our story and its now where we call home. It has given us a point of difference to our competitors and in recruiting our team.  A lot of companies have a sub-office in Manchester, however we have flipped that on its head and instead we have a small office in London.”

“MediaCity meant that we were in the right place at the right time, and it gave our business a kudos and badge of approval that when talking to commercial clients, brands and other platforms.”

“One of the drawbacks to our Northern location in the early days was the talent drain to London. Often people leaving college and university felt they had to go to London as that’s where most of the production companies are based. Now, people are excited when we tell them we are recruiting producers for Radio 1 right here in Salford.”

As someone who worked his way up from his local radio station to running his own independent production company, Stuart is passionate about supporting future talent.

“I’m really impressed with Salford University’s media facilities and we support their courses.  There are some things best taught in a classroom, but there’s also so much to learn by getting stuck into working in the studio, it’s not all theory, it’s about understanding audiences and responding to that.”

As far as the future goes, Audio Always would like to replicate its success in Salford in other regional cities that are establishing their own versions of MediaCity.

“I still remember the first time our BBC programme went out and they said on air ‘live from Salford’ that feeling of pride that we had done this. It underpinned everything we’ve been wanting to prove – there are really talented people in the North who can deliver amazing programmes for national audiences – now I can imagine that for other areas too.”

Thinking back to the early days, his advice to anyone starting out in business is to surround yourself with supportive people.

“Not just people who can help you with the technical stuff, but to listen to how things are going and the challenges too.  I booked a coffee with someone every day in the early days so that I could feel part of the wider network here at MediaCity and developed some amazing friendships and contacts as a result.”

For more information about Audio Always, click here

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