He is an expert in sound and music, and the person responsible for the sound design of the documentary, Catalunya any 0. Escoltar el virus (produced by La Mira and Catalunya Ràdio, with photographs by Jordi Borràs). Àlex García Amat is the co-founder, together with Núria Net Costas, of La Coctelera Music, a podcast producer based in Barcelona with an international profile. With 57% of internet users in Spain listening to audio online and 40% listening to podcasts, it seems it is a growing market.
You say you are a ‘boutique’ producer?
The boutique concept is because we think things should be made to measure and tell stories in an emotional and authentic way. Words are closely associated with podcasting and it’s important for us that there be communication, to look into the client’s eyes and pay attention in a personalised way.
How do you organise yourselves?
I like to say that we make movies without pictures. Until now it’s been Núria and I, but we work with production teams of different sizes for each podcast. We subcontract screenwriters, actors, musicians and other professionals depending on the size of the project and the budget. We like to take care of follow-up, to avoid applying a standard system. Large productions can be made with both an authorial and artisanal point of view.
Why are podcasts so successful today?
Our first sensation comes before we’re born as sound, the mother’s voice or the environment. We carry this inside, it’s in our DNA, from the womb. And what made us what we are is oral tradition and storytelling. The voice and the word have extraordinary power, and if you add sound production design to the voice, as in the movies, the result is amazing. Even if you can’t see it, it’s evocative. And it’s an intimate format.
And it’s in its infancy in Catalonia?
I think we’re on the upward curve of a boom. I think that in Barcelona, and Catalonia in general, there’s always been a great pool of communicators, especially in radio. And that’s why I’m convinced that when it comes to podcasts there are many capable people who should, and will, have their say. An example is Carles Porta, and how well he did with Crims and El segrest!
So this is just the beginning?
We have the example of cinema, when it changed from silent film to sound and a new cinematic language had to be developed. Recording sound led to a revolution, and the consequence was a new language that changed the way the camera moved, the point of view, the scripts. In the world of podcasting we’re at this stage. We need to create language and codes, we need to play with audio, and we’re no longer talking about the possibilities that technological innovations could offer us. Next we could be talking about the immersive podcast, surround sound, interactivity, augmented reality..., all steps that will have to be taken.
And how can this be done?
We’re just starting to think about it. We have a project with an organisation dedicated to the dissemination of culture and science and we’re looking at the possibilities. It will be necessary to create an environment, a platform of its own, because on Spotify, for example, this can’t be done right now.
Where does this passion for sound come from?
I’ve always had it. As a kid I made cassette tape recordings pretending to be a presenter. I listened to the radio a lot and I’m a big music lover. At home we listened to a lot of music and radio, which is something I thank my parents for. My father used to go to Carrer Tallers to buy records, and my mother listened to a lot of soundtracks. I developed a career as a composer, and was able to do things for film and advertising. Now, for example, we do original music for our podcasts. At work I get along very well with musicians. And Núria, who has experience as a journalist in digital media and storytelling, finds it easy to work with screenwriters.
And you’ve shown you can live off doing this.
Yes, fortunately we can. I think there’s an opportunity to do that. It’s also true, as in everything, that there’s an element of luck, but we were also prepared for it. It’s a set of things. We created La Coctelera Music in 2019, and as soon as the pandemic began our first big customer was American.
How come people from the US are looking for a company here?
Because of our American connection, Latin in my case, while Núria lived there for years. They also like that we’re here, which makes me excited, because I’m from Barcelona. I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with my city but I’d like to give an idealised image of it through my company. I identify with my city and have a critical love for it.
Which project are you most proud of?
We’re proud of each podcast. We’ve done something different with each of them. I really like La matemática de la historia, with David de Montserrat i Nonó, because I think it has an innovative point of view. As for Catalunya any 0. Escoltar el virus, which can be seen at Palau Robert and listened to on Catalunya Ràdio, I’m very happy with the result because it seemed hard to make an audio channel work on WhatsApp, but it does. And because it’s the beginning of an alliance with La Mira that I believe will give a boost to podcasting in Catalan. Also interesting was the podcast we did with Toni Segarra, in which he explores the secrets of branded content. And in the US, we’re facing a big challenge: a musical story about something that is little known. There are well-known people taking part in the project and we have a very strong team spread between the US, Mexico and Barcelona. The complexity is that we are doing it in two languages, Spanish and English. We’re sure it will open more doors for us.
And everything from a distance.
Yes. Working at a distance is hard, but you manage to get by with video calls, even though it means having to go outside normal timetables [there is a nine-hour time difference with Los Angeles]. We should be there now, but we’re producing and directing from a distance, although the final edition will be done here. Don’t forget that the team of journalists who are doing the investigation can’t travel around easily, and it’s also hard to talk to some elderly witnesses because of the strict Covid measures. With the pandemic everything has been crazy.