An "audio bonus" is an assortment of brief musical clips, ranging from 1 to several seconds apiece. The clips are always selected around a theme, which could be fairly broad (i.e. classical music excerpts) or highly specific (i.e. lyrical mentions of U.S. States). Sometimes the segments in an audio are not music-related, such as "Video Game Sounds," "Movie Dialogue," or "Cartoon Voices."

Teams are obliged to tape the audios as they are played over the radio, and have one hour to identify the sources of the clips. Audio Hour Boni have ranged between 20 and 60 clips, though they typically settle in the 30-40 clip zone. Audio Super Boni tend to hit triple-digit totals.

In 29 of the first 30 contests, Williams Trivia did not feature audio boni. Since then, however, they have been a regular, anticipated feature.

The use of planned audio components in trivia (besides songs, of course) was not restricted to the Audio Bonus. Trivia sometimes included a format called "actualities," which has since vanished. An "actuality" was a three-minute- or-so audio clip usually taken from a film. In other words, you'd hear a three-minute excerpt of "Dr. Strangelove" between the question and the answer in lieu of a Top 40 song. Teams had to identify the movie from sonic clues alone. Before the days of VCRs, isolating and playing these represented a small technological accomplishment.

Another precursor to the audio bonus can be found in 1978's BOMO contest, which featured a pre-taped Super Bonus. However, that tape consisted of 20 on-campus speakers reciting the advertising slogans for various products, with teams required to name the accompanying brand names and the person reading each phrase. As such, it doesn't really constitute an audio bonus as we know it. It resides more under the umbrella of "Mystery/Guest Readers," another longtime audio contest element which has since disappeared. A question featuring a Guest Reader automatically became at least a 3-point play, since ID'ing the person was worth an extra point. On very rare occasions, a Guest Reader would turn a 3-point play into a 4-point play.

Audio bonuses are different animals. The earliest audio bonus located to date comes from the May, 1976 contest hosted by General Bumble. Assembled in the form we all recognize today, Mike Ryan's lightning-quick montage of 1950's and 60's songs managed to fit 46 clips into 55 seconds of tape.

Circumstantial evidence suggests that this was the first-ever audio bonus: other General Bumble members applauded Ryan after he'd finished reading the answers, and one teammate asserted that he thought it was "one of the best Superbonuses ever to come out of a Trivia contest, if we do pat ourselves on the back and all over our bodies." Considering the celebratory atmosphere that greeted Ryan's audio bonus, it is peculiar that no one would attempt another for more than five years.

It fell to Charlie Singer of the legendary Phasers on Stun to bedazzle the trivial assembly with his resurrection of the form. Trivia players of the time were struck by the Phasers audio and still remember its impact today. Neither they nor Singer could know that the concept had been used by General Bumble while they attended high school. In any event, the Phasers audio did what Ryan's strangely did not: Singer's "1970s Death Quiz" triggered the era when music excerpt montages became a perennial feature of Williams Trivia contests.

Charlie Singer recounts: "It was inspired by those radio contests which did the same thing... I always loved those... It took 20 hours to construct in the CFM Production Studios (2x10 hours Sat and Sun). Back in the days of analog, I made over 100 splices of tiny one inch long cuts of audio tape! I still have the original reel to reel, which would probably crumble if I tried to play it. All 100 songs were top 10 (top 5?) from the 70's. No one got them all. It was heaps of fun to build."

Comparatively, 1990's folks like Ethan Zuckerman and Jon Young were able to assemble and edit their most recent creations entirely on computer. With the increase in long-distance play, most contests today format their audio boni so that they can be downloaded online.

Like some other innovations over the years, the audio bonus was not instant trivia law. But by 1983, it had become a regular feature included by virtually all teams. Now, of course, a trivia contest without an audio bonus is like a day without sunshine. The usual total is two per night, one in each half. Occasionally just one audio has been offered; one team went as high as five out of their eight Hour Bonuses.

The following is a list of all audio boni and who assembled them (where known). Naturally, some audios are the product of teamwide suggestions, but at some point, they are filtered through a single consciousness; these final arbiters are the folks who are credited here. Ha, ha.

There are occasional gaps in our research. A blank contest does not necessarily mean it had no audio boni. Neither does the presence of one audio listing preclude a second. For many contests through Spring 1990, there are still blank Hour Bonus slots in our archive whose topics are not available; these may well be audios.

All audio bonuses are Hour Boni except where noted.

1There definitely was also a separate audio Hour Bonus in this contest.

2Silly Me attached mini-audios to some of their regular bonuses, no matter how tenuous (or non-existent) the connections.

3There was NO audio bonus in this contest.

4There was definitely an audio in this contest.

5There was NO audio bonus in this contest

Trivia Main Page