The podcast studio startup Audio Up, the creation of audio creative agency Jungle Punks CEO Jared Gutstadt, has announced several top-level hires after what the company describes as a “significant investment” from MGM Studios — first reported last month — and now the independent publishing and talent management company Primary Wave. Audio Up says the financial resources and new management team will allow it to expand its slate of podcasts. That lineup includes nine scripted musical shows currently in production and 17 unscripted podcasts, including a mix of originals and acquisitions from some of the top players across the media space.
The staffing announcements include word that actor and musician Dennis Quaid, who is a co-founder of Audio Up, will take on the role as Chief Artist-In-Residence. The company says his role will be to “further break down the wall” between podcasters and the larger entertainment industry. Quaid is also starring and executive producing an entire slate of his own ideas and will be leveraged across film, television and music.
“The share of ear between people spending their time on Spotify, Apple and countless other platforms, is now a full arms race. Whoever has the best content and the best talent wins. We’re aiming to be the first in that race,” said Quaid. Audio Up earlier said it was working with Quaid on his latest podcast, The Dennissance.
Audio Up has also hired television veteran David Hurwitz as Head of Content. The vet of TV shows like Ellen’s “Game of Games” on NBC and “Fear Factor” on ABC will also serve as an executive producer on several of the studio’s initial offerings.
“David was in the room for the creation of some of unscripted television’s most seminal programming and was instrumental in guiding them from idea to inception. I cannot think of anyone better to lead programming for Audio Up,” said Gutstadt.
The upstart studio has also recruited Krista Liney, former History Channel SVP, to lead the company’s music-based programming across both scripted and non-scripted shows.
“The landscape is wide open for new and truly innovative content. It’s like having a giant blank canvas,” said Liney. “I was drawn to the combination of great storytelling opportunities, creative autonomy, an impressive talent pool, and of course, Jared’s inexhaustible, proven business acumen.”
Liney, an instrumental voice in the growth of Gutstadt’s own career, was chiefly responsible for the development of iHeartPodcast Networks’ critically acclaimed 2019 scripted podcast, Bear and a Banjo — which was created by Gutstadt and starred Quaid and Grammy-winning producer Jason “Poo Bear” Boyd. “Krista recognized the potential for Bear and a Banjo before we even knew what we had. The rest was, no pun intended, history,” says Gutstadt.
Veteran journalist Jimmy Jellinek has also been hired by Audio Up as President of Story. He will lead efforts in scripted adaptations of nonfiction works. He previously served as Chief Creative Officer of FaZe Clan, and before that he was the Chief Content Officer and Editorial Director of Playboy Enterprises. As a creator, he wrote and executive produced “Deadbeat Dad” for Showtime. His work on the Bear and a Banjo podcast was nominated for a 2020 Webby Award for best podcast writing.
Philip Alberstat is joining the company as Chief Operating Officer. He will lead day-to-day operations and oversee all business affairs, strategic partnerships and the data and insights team. Alberstat was previously an entertainment lawyer, WME agent, and most recently the co-founder and COO of Contend, a data-driven branded content agency.
“I am excited to be a partner with Jared in this groundbreaking new audio content venture,” said Alberstat. “Podcasting has fundamentally altered the landscape for audio content. Audio Up is well-positioned with its strong creative team, as well as data and insight technology, to become the industry-leading platform.”
The studio has also hired Sam Winter, the Los Angeles-based filmmaker and producer, who has directed music and sports documentaries. Prior to joining Audio Up, he created a docuseries for VICE Media and has produced work for Netflix, Conde Nast Entertainment, ESPN and the Olympic channel. Most recently, Winter executive produced and directed the 2020 Forbes Media docuseries “Indie Nation,” about up-and-coming African filmmaking entrepreneurs.