Audible announced that Grammy-winning artists Sara Bareilles and Kelly Rowland have signed on to judge “Breakthrough,” billed as the first singing competition series launch exclusively as a podcast.
Bareilles and Rowland will mentor and guide the performances as well as the artistic development of five artists through a season of musical challenges. The series is hosted by actor-singer Daveed Diggs, who narrate the contestants’ journeys over nine episodes.
With the audio-only format of “Breakthrough,” the physical appearance of the performers is hidden from the audience and the judges — the idea is that the quality of the musical performance is the entire basis for the competition, which will culminate in one artist crowned the winner.
“Breakthrough” is slated to premiere exclusively on Audible on June 1, available at this link.
“I am so thrilled to be joining this group of wildly talented people for ‘Breakthrough’!” Bareilles said in a statement provided by Audible. “I love that the creative team are on the same journey as our audience — getting to know these artists without seeing them — developing a sense of their artistry through only their music and storytelling.”
“I am so happy to be a part of this series that highlights and gives a voice to emerging artists,” Rowland commented. “Audible is an ideal space for this and Breakthrough is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to up-and-coming musicians. I’m rooting for them all!”
The “Breakthrough” contestants will be challenged with covering well-known songs that are meaningful to them personally, “stretching to genres outside of their comfort zones, and writing and recording hooks and full original songs,” according to Audible. Mid-season prizes will be awarded after each challenge, including additional vocal coaching sessions, studio recording time and recording equipment.
“With our longstanding, highly popular ‘Words + Music’ series and our newer ‘Origins’ series, Audible has created a unique auditory experience for our listeners. ‘Breakthrough’ pushes the boundaries of audio even further and invites music lovers to participate in the first of its kind, audio-only singing competition,” said Zola Mashariki, head of Audible Studios.
“Breakthrough” is created in collaboration with Will Malnati’s At Will Media podcast studio. Malnati serves as co-creator and executive producer alongside TV and film producer Ethan Russell. The podcast is also executive produced by Alex Pall and Drew Taggart of artist-producer duo The Chainsmokers, along with Adam Alpert and Dan Marcus via their production company, Kick the Habit Productions. In addition, Charles Boyd, whose credits include “American Idol” and “America’s Got Talent,” serves as showrunner and EP, along with EP Peter Toumbekis. Ray Chew serves as music director and executive producer, and Swagg R’Celious, Erin Tonkon and Onree Gill are consulting music producers.
The deal was brokered by UTA, which represents At Will Media and Breakthrough.
Watch Audible’s teaser trailer for “Breakthrough”: