Audio Unbound (AU)

Created in 2020, Audio Unbound (AU) awards audio works that experiment with format, function, genre, and go beyond the typical podcast feed or broadcast airwaves.

This is a call to audio producers, as well as to artists of all stripes: performance, installation, sound, and more! Above all, the Audio Unbound category awards creativity and innovation anchored in audio but that tells a story or delivers a narrative across mediums and platforms, broadly defined. This category was initially inspired by audio work unbound from broadcast airwaves or the podcast feed, but entries to this category may may include, but are not limited to: audio installations, audio-based theater, audio tours, and non-definable projects that forefront audio in new and interesting ways.

For Entrants: the 2023-24 Call for Entries is launching soon!

The week of December 4, 2023, we'll open up our 2023-24 Call for Entries, a unique dialogue between Third Coast and the diverse communities of people making this work around the world.

Everyone, everywhere, is invited to enter audio works across formats & in any language. Our goal is to create a different kind of backbone for the industry – inciting dialogue, experimentation, and new critical new opportunities in audio. This year, that will include offerings like: more Award-Winners & Finalists than ever before, an expanded Feedback Initiative, new discounts for self-funded entrants, and more new programs from Third Coast spotlighting outstanding makers from the field.

We'll be updating all Competition-related pages for the 2023-24 Call for Entries launch, including this one. For now, feel free to read through the Audio Unbound category page from the 2022-23 Competition Cycle. Make sure to also check out the Third Coast/RHDF Competition Showcase, featuring our 2022-23 Winners, Finalists & Judges.)


We are proud to offer Audio Unbound as one of our newest categories, created in 2020. There is one Award-winner in this category, honored with a cash prize, unique physical award, and recognition around the world, including a public showcase of comments from the judges. We now offer a list of Third Coast Finalists in this category, announced alongside Award-Winners. Learn more about all of our Competition Offerings, and share your input to help us expand them in the future.

Please note: The 2022-23 Call for Entries closed on March 10, 2023.

2022-23 Eligibility Information
  • Length: 0-5 hours
  • Publication: Must have been published between September 1, 2019 and March 10, 2023
  • Format: A primary media file or multiple audio files that represent your entry, with (optional, but highly recommended) additional supplementary files (images, video, websites, and text files accepted) that help illustrate the intended or optimal experience of your project, and an Audio Unbound Artist's Statement. Any advertisements or sponsorship segments of the audio must be removed, if applicable.
  • Language: There are no language requirements for this category. If you are entering work in a non-English language, you must provide a translated transcript.

2022-23 Entry Rates

As always, our entry rates were most affordable before our Early Deadline. If you’re interested in learning more about rates for the 2022-23 Third Coast/RHDF Competition, check out our complete breakdown of sliding scale rates across all categories.

Note: As a Pilot Offering this year, we honored our Early Deadline rates through the Final Deadline for all non-English Language entries in any category.

Each year, our rates are shaped by our Collective Pricing philosophy, which distributes cost according to entrants’ access to resources.

2022-23 Entry Checklist
  • Media file(s) (.mp3 preferred, .wav also accepted for audio, .mp4 for video) with all ads removed. You may choose to upload additional files for this category (images, video, websites, text) if it helps to complete the full experience of the work for our reviewers. If necessary, you may also include a link to additional materials for reviewers as well, though we prefer all materials uploaded directly to the entry form.
  • Total length of the entry (Minutes:Seconds)
  • Link to a published version of the story
  • Full credits (host, producer, sound designer, editor, etc.)
  • Description/summary of your entry (150 words or fewer preferred)
  • Transcript (optional for English-language entries, required for non-English)
  • Artist’s Statement (for this category only). For more information, see below.
Audio Unbound Artist's Statement (3000 characters max)

When entering work into the Audio Unbound category, you must also include an Artist's Statement: a roughly 2-3 paragraph explanation of the work, the audience, and your process. This is an opportunity to give Third Coast and our judges important insight into your work. We want to know how this work has been presented and how it is designed to be experienced, as well as how you see your work as actively unbinding audio from its traditional containers.

When writing this statement, consider the following:

  • What was your intention in creating this work?
  • How do you recommend judges review this piece? Is there a particular element they should review first, or any consideration you’d like them to keep in mind? Please feel free to include detailed instructions for how to best review this work.
  • What else should judges understand about your work, beyond the materials you’re able to provide here?
  • How does this entry make use of other mediums beyond audio?
  • What about this entry is “unbound”?
  • How should this piece be experienced in its ideal form?
  • How do you recommend judges experience this work?

Note: This statement will be used in the judging process to better understand and help evaluate this entry.

See the FAQ below for more details.

Audio Unbound FAQ

How do I know if my entry is eligible for the Audio Unbound category?

  • Our answer is three-fold. First: Since Audio Unbound is a relatively new category for us too, we're excited to see, and learn from, how you interpret it. (That's why we ask for a statement in the Audio Unbound category — if you can make a good case on the "unbound" nature of your work, that will go a long way in convincing the judges, too!) Second: Third Coast designed this category specifically for work that explores the boundaries and intersections of audio as a medium, so we'd encourage you to articulate how your piece is pushing or blurring the lines between audio documentary and other kinds of creative work, especially in terms of form. Third: If you enter Audio Unbound, but the TC staff thinks your piece is more competitive in another category, they will simply move your piece into that category.If your entry is audio-only and doesn’t have additional (non-audio) materials, this is a sign that your entry might not be a good fit for Audio Unbound. If you think your audio-only entry still fits the category, please tell us why in the Artist’s Statement.

Can I enter my Audio Unbound piece into other categories too?

  • The short answer is: yes, if it additionally meets the eligibility requirements of those categories. However, please note that any special materials provided in association with the Audio Unbound category (including your Artist’s Statement and any additional non-audio files submitted) will not be considered by judges of other categories. It’s rare that an Audio Unbound piece would be eligible for, and competitive in, other categories.

What if my Audio Unbound entry includes more materials than just a single audio file?

  • That is okay, and even encouraged! We know it can be difficult to replicate the ideal experience of an Audio Unbound work through our submission process. For Audio Unbound entries, we accept any additional material(s) that you think would help reviewers to experience this work in its ideal and full presentation. These additional materials could include multiple audio files, additional video file, photos, text, or other media.
  • An important consideration to keep in mind is that we created this category as part of our audio competition, meaning that we look for audio to anchor each entry in the Audio Unbound category. When judging this category, we are looking for work that is highlighted by an excellent use of audio.

How is the Audio Unbound category judged?

  • This prize is awarded to a piece of narrative work that uses audio as a primary element, but is best presented outside of typical audio distribution methods like radio and podcast, or complicates the notion of the radio or podcast feed in some way. We are seeking entries that incorporate experimental elements including, but not limited to: mixed media (images, videos, website, text); experiences (walking tours, participatory storytelling, etc.), performances (theater, dance, etc) and more! The judges use all material submitted, plus your Audio Unbound Artist’s statement, to crown this winner in this category, so we suggest you spend time considering how your materials, together, tell the story of your entry.

What should I write for my Audio Unbound Artist's Statement?

  • This is essentially an artist's statement to accompany your submission. It should explain how, in what format, and where the work was originally presented, and some explanation of the audience for the work. Talk about your intention in creating this work, and explain your process in brief. In general, provide any further context needed for listeners to understand the entry (especially if it is a place-based work that is harder to translate into a digital space). How should this piece be experienced in its original form? How do you recommend judges experience this piece? Please also explain how you see the work fitting into the Audio Unbound category.

Previous Winners

Interested in hearing pieces that have won this category in prior years? Click on the play button button next to some of our most recent winners below.