Archewell is the new Harry and Meghan brand. ‘Arche’ represents ‘a source of action’ and ‘well’ meaning ‘a place we go to dig deep’.

Based on their first release – a 2’06 trailer – the Archewell in Archewell Audio is more appropriately characterised as the arch meaning ‘mischievous and sly’; and ‘well’ as in a giant subterranean pit of money, handed over to them in a dizzyingly tone-deaf ‘brand partnership’ by Spotify. We listened in.

Listened In is 2ZY’s regular air-check blog, where we listen to a random twenty minute sample of a station or programme in the news.

WHAT: Archewell Audio Launch trail

WHO: Bodger and Badger

WHEN: Tuesday 15 December 2020

Until today, Spotify lived in that bit of the Venn diagram where ‘cool’ and ‘beautiful’ bisected. Volvos, Ikea and Sofia Helin. 320 million pairs of ears, enticed to sign up and pleasured with music –  and now offered an expanding range of audio. That’s quite a theatre. 

The company said today, “Spotify’s New Multiyear Partnership with The Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s Archewell Audio Promises Podcasts That Will Inspire”.

If we skip over the capitals, and ‘multiyear’ that’s quite a promise. Or Promise, Even. First they came for your Netflix eyeballs. Then she went after instant oat milk lattes, whatever one of those is. But now their tanks are on our lawn. Audio. 

So what can we glean from the trailer?

Harry: Shall we start, no? Ladies first?

Meghan: No, say it. Because it sounds really nice with your accent.

H: What? Archewell Audio?

M: I mean ..

H: Really? (laughs)

M: Shall we?

H: Yes, let’s do it. Hi guys, I’m Harry.

M: And I’m Meghan.

OK, the old ‘we started recording before the start’ schtick. Usually it makes some kind of sense though. A natural chemistry, caught offguard. Here it sounds like it’s the first time they’ve ever spoken to each other. Your Mum and Charles sounded more convincing in 1981. 

Archewell Audio – there’s a natural sounding new brand. And given their ‘wokeness’ levels, you’d think someone would have edited ‘ladies’ out of the script. 

‘Guys’, guys? COME ON. First rule of radio, broken before the first thirty words. It’s a one to one medium. 

It’s hard to believe anyone with any radio, podcasting or “audio” credentials was involved in this pained birth; but if they were, take them out the back of Archewell Audio and shoot them through the ears as they’re clearly surplus to requirements.

M: One of the things my husband and I have always talked about is our passion for meeting people and hearing their stories. And no matter what the story, they usually offer you an understanding of where someone else is coming from. And at the same time remind you in some way of a story about yourself.

Another meme ticked. The whole ‘everyone has a story’ thing. So far so 2002/R4 Listening Project/StoryCorps. And with the explicit suggestion in the last sentence that whichever poor schmuck they get on their future podcasts, our favourite ex-Royal podcasters can still find a way to make it about them. Entitled, much?

H: And that’s what this project is all about. To bring forward different perspectives and voices that perhaps you haven’t heard before and find our common ground. Because when that happens, change is really possible.

Spoiler alert. ‘Voices that perhaps you haven’t heard’ is one of those generic descriptors that belies the fact they haven’t a clue who’s in it yet. It’s like ‘unsung heroes’. THEY’VE ALL BEEN SUNG ALREADY. Zzzz. 

What kind of change? Societal? Cultural? If Ira Glass was promising me this, I might tune in. Joe Rogan. Even Gemma Collins. At least she’d probably be a laugh. But you two chancers? Harry, you ain’t Diana. And simply, adding some, random, pauses between, various words, in your script doesn’t, make it sound less, read. Or inauthentic.

M: And you know this is a moment to celebrate kindness and compassion, something we saw in so many places this year. And it will underlie everything you hear from Archewell Audio. So that’s what we are up to. And first up ..

H: … is a holiday special.

M&H: (Make bell noises.)

Here’s the first sense of the target audience for this folly. I’m all for the inexorable Yankification of the UK. Drive thrus and gifting. Bring it on. But Christmas is Christmas, no? Holidays is summer. 

You know that thing when as a producer, you have to suggest to your talent that that thing they love is actually cliched, fake shit and really ought to be left on the virtual cutting room floor? 

You can almost feel the wretchedness of whoever had to edit this when H&M do their presumably ad-libbed dooh-dooh-dooh-dooh bell noises at this point. 

H: We can’t wait to share it with you, it will be out later this month.

M: We are talking to some amazing people, they are going to share their memories that have really shaped this past year, which has been, as we know, a difficult one for everyone.

H: So many people have been through so much pain this year, experiencing loss, a huge amount of uncertainty. But it feels worth acknowledging that 2020 has connected us in ways we could never have imagined through endless acts of compassion and kindness.

M: And what really matters is clear now more than ever.

How do your memories shape a year? Who writes an audio script for reading that includes so many phrases separated by commas? Why does it ‘feel worth acknowledging’? Just acknowledge it, FFS. And ‘what really matters is clear now more than ever,’ means nothing at all. Vacuous.

H: So here’s what you need to do. Tap ‘follow’ right now. Go ahead, go on, ‘tap follow’. And that way you won’t miss out. You’ll be able to hear new shows from Archewell Audio as soon as they drop.

You probably DO have to go to actually listen to this in order to realise I’m not making it up. The sixth in line to the British throne is begging you to subscribe to whatever this is going to be so desperately. He might as well jerk off for tips.

M: We are so excited, so follow and listen for free, only on Spotify. We’ll meet you back here soon.

I mean, she is an actress. But I’ve heard people sound more excited putting their bins out.

H: Happy Holidays!

M: Cheers!

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