2022 Cheat Sheet: Sound and Music
Sound and audio has never been so important - from the hours of podcasts listened to during isolation to the new spatial audio technology and advanced surround sound in the headphones you got for Christmas - now is an exciting time for the audiophiles among us.
To discuss the upcoming trends and tech in the audio space for 2022, we spoke with 11 experts and identified some hot topics to highlight. Our audio-expert members from across the globe contributed their thoughts on topics varying from ‘Immersive Sound’ to sound designers’ involvement in pre-production and other upcoming developments that await us this year.
VP of sound, DEFINITION 6
One thing is certain – the need and opportunity for immersive sound artists are growing at a rapid pace. Taking our existing skills as sound designers, mixers, and composers and adding several extra layers of tech is an exciting and fluid place to be. The already popular and increasing need for immersive sound content allows for more creative ways to captivate a listener, more ways to create a unique soundscape specific to a new world, and just as importantly, more ways to use our skill set to earn a living and help our clients tell striking and original stories. I’m also looking forward to the full return of live music and events. For instance, bringing my children to see a live orchestra, a real Broadway show, or a concert in the park. Watching them find their own treasures in the moment and feeding off the excitement of a crowd of fans moving to the rhythm. For me, observing how the online world and metaverse continue to find new and exciting ways to add value to these organic experiences is something I anticipate and use for inspiration.
Creative director, Factory Studios
Whether it be through a branded experience in XR or an NFT in the metaverse, designing and mixing high-end 3D audio will make brands truly stand out from the rest. In the all-encompassing (and often overwhelming) world of 360-degree visuals, music and sound play a bigger role than ever in not just supporting a narrative but leading it and guiding the user to look where brands want them to.
From a technical perspective, there is now a growing number of tools available which sound designers and producers are able to utilise within their existing DAW to create incredible pseudo-surround, or binaural mixes. The principles of sound design and music creation remain the same, but the limits and end-user expectation have changed. We’re now using words such as ‘immersive’ and ‘spatial’ to describe this new way of creating an entertaining audio experience.
One change we have made at Factory is encourage the idea of immersive audio from the pre-production stage. We’re seeing more and more advertising “experiences” as opposed to traditional linear audio/visual content. Sound designers now need to be more hands-on, often bypassing agencies and instead liaising with production companies who may be using game engines such as Unity or Unreal.
Finally, with Dolby Atmos technology now included as standard on many new home cinema systems, soundbars and even straight out of the TV, as well as platforms such as Apple Music and Spotify now supporting it, now really is the time for consumers to embrace these new technologies.
Senior mixer, Barking Owl
These days, mixes have to sound great not only for TV, but for phones, laptops, headphones, VR, the metaverse… and the list goes on! I’m most interested to see the direction in which spatial audio is headed in 2022. As an audio professional, our job is to engage the listener by bringing them into the mix room with us, so to speak. Using spatial audio gives us the ability to truly use sound as a storytelling mechanism, allowing for so much more in terms of creativity, control and flexibility. Like 5.1 on steroids! Seeing how major artists incorporate this into their work is something I look forward to seeing in the year ahead as well.
With VR and Meta worlds growing in popularity, the approach to mixing and sound design will naturally have to evolve. This is definitely a trend I anticipate will gain momentum this coming year, and it will be especially interesting to see how live events and audio in these VR worlds progress.
Co-founder, supervising sound designer, String and Tins
I think we will continue to see the current explosion of material being made with immersive audio throughout 2022. The technology is trickling down to consumer early adopters, not just cinema and blu-ray. With the right partners on board early-on, (people like us at Strings and Tins) brands and agencies can learn to harness some of this tech that can help tell stories better within our industry - if people plan for it early on, hopefully more of this awesomeness can come to regular advertising not just cinema.
Partner, 19 Sound
Mainstream advertising, especially the big brands on TV, seem to be playing it safe, going for existing known tracks, or doing revisions of known songs to better fit their brand… they are after that instant recognisability with consumers. Why challenge them with something new, when you can grab their attention with something tried and proven? The online world however seems to be the opposite. There, I find clients are more willing to explore diverse ideas for both music and sound design. With a project we’re working on now, the client loved one of our demo ideas so much, they changed the overall brief of the project, and re-edited the films to better suit our soundscapes.
The great improvement in TV speakers, sound bar technology and the affordability has meant the audience is now more aware and more appreciative of good sound. Combine this with the fact that streamers and broadcasters like Netflix and Sky are now broadcasting sound in 5.1, people are now willing to invest in better sound playback equipment, and starting to see it as part of their overall home entertainment systems.
We’re really looking forward to what lies ahead for 2022. I think there’ll be significant growth in marketing overall, especially in the digital / social Media areas, and we at 19 are primed for these mediums. 2022 is also a World Cup year, and that always brings up a lot of exciting ‘one-off’ opportunities.
Executive creative producer, music supervisor, Squeak E. Clean Studios
I’m seeing more creative agencies bypass cliche music briefs and references for a more collaborative, collective creative partnership with music experts, which results in the use of more unique, globally relevant yet underused styles. It’s happening much more during concept development vs post-production too. We recently created a Pan-African dance track for Tequila Herradura, which is sung in Shona, the predominant language in Zimbabwe. If a classic Mexican spirits brand can embrace rising trends in global dance music with African rhythms and a foreign language, we can all look forward to a more inspiring, diverse future of music for ads.
Music and sound are just inherently more essential to consumers and marketers than ever with the rise of music streaming, podcasting, global music culture, and voice technology. Many marketers are investing more in quality original music vs ‘stock’ music, as well as exploring or revamping their sonic branding.
While the pandemic has hindered experiential opportunities, we find the rise in app-based (TikTok) or platform/experience-based (Metaverse) project requests has increased significantly. We had the pleasure of creating original music and post audio for the Meta launch, which gets us excited to explore the evolving nuances of music and sound design within the virtual realm. Immersive virtual worlds will likely see the investment that video games saw from marketers in the last 10 years, so we expect visual enhancements to the Metaverse experience to be met with the requirement for pristine audio and curated, personalised music.
Composer, sound designer, New Math Music
While we still get called for plenty of last-minute aural rescue missions, more projects do seem to involve us earlier in the process - perhaps it’s due to a change in client/agency processes, like the commissioning entities simply know earlier that the proposed content needs original music or complex sound design? We find ourselves involved quite early in the production process, sometimes at the very beginning of a job’s genesis, before any production at all has even been considered.
I’m amazed by how many advertising projects, whether ours or by our colleagues, generate online buzz and inquiries over’ where can I get this music?’. It tells me that people are paying more attention to music than ever and also suggests that music must be more ‘available’, to more people, than ever before. Twenty years ago, the idea of, say, a videogame score releasing separately as an OST was just a bit shy of preposterous. Now, scarcely a mobile game title exists that doesn’t also have a corresponding OST. We’ve already spent a decade or so living in an era where you can download the OST to anything and everything from ‘Bridgerton’ to the ‘immersive Van Gogh’ exhibit. It may not be due to innovation in advertising or experiential marketing, but music is simply ‘more important’ now than it’s ever been.
Head of music, Machine
We can use music to communicate visual timings and creative sound design techniques by entering the conversation in pre-production. It seems like there has always been a game of ‘telephone’ when a director has had to go through editors, producers and agencies to get new ideas through to their composers. The nuance always seems to get lost along the way. Entering the conversation earlier tends to save time and money in the long run, and creates more compelling and interesting content.
A composer could share their demo with the video editor at an early stage, lock the timings and open up an opportunity to get creative with syncing the tonality and textures of the video and audio. We’ve seen how well this has worked in films like Baby Driver, and that ‘music video influenced editing technique’ has trickled down into all mediums. Especially advertising, video games and VR. I think, or hope, that 2022 will make the whole experience of creating content more streamlined and natural by encouraging more discussion at the ground level of an idea rather than after production has already been completed.
Partner, CCO, Yessian Music
2022 is all about innovation. The world had to adapt to new ways of working and creating virtually these last years. We learned, we changed, and we forged new paths to continue to evolve the way we create and utilise sound. Now more than ever, it’s about the experience. The rise of experiential marketing, live shows, entertainment and brands are all converging to bring people around the world together again. Brands have an opportunity to connect with audiences on a very personal and entertaining level, but in order to achieve this, people need to be immersed in the experience. This is where the rise of sound comes into play.
The beauty of sonic immersion is, it can work with and without visual media content. We have seen this with many new podcasts and meditation apps, outdoor sonic immersion installations, and traveling immersive art experiences where the sound defines the story. The world is hungry for new innovative ideas that will bring people back together. 2022 is the year to push this innovation and dive in deep to full sonic immersion.
Owner, sound designer, HENRYBOY
AR,VR, and AI are super cool, but will continue to act as an adjunct to more traditional stereo, or 5.1 playback. Apple is messing around with positional audio, but I don’t think it's important enough to most people. Ultimately, I think it’s the sounds, and their relationship to the story telling, that matter most. I don’t want to call the rest of it a gimmick, but it kind of is.
Just as a great editor sees potential in the dailies, a great sound designer brings out the maximum sonic potential in a film. Sound libraries are great, ubiquitous, and often do the job, but it’s a mistake to short change the sound on your project. Use the people who have dedicated their lives to understanding sound.
ECD, sound designer, partner, Wave Studios
Music and sound trends in my opinion are always relatively hard to predict, especially as they can alternate multiple times throughout the year. A hip new band or a prodigious film comes along and that can be the flavor of the month for the foreseeable future. For me, I was blown away by the sound design and music score in last year’s Dune movie. The use of the music and sound design was interwoven beautifully together. It was intelligent, fresh, original and thoroughly immersive, helping create these other worldly environments. I loved the way the music and sound design was used to create its own language, and sometimes character led dialect throughout the movie. I thought that was very clever and beautifully done, and can see that potentially becoming a trend in future projects.
A piece of film can look visually stunning but if the audio experience isn’t at the same comparable standard, you are never going to engage the audience at the level required, no matter how long the duration. Unfortunately, this is still something that isn’t always taken into consideration. Hopefully, over time this will change and from that supervision we will only see greater creative experiences. For me, I would love to see more collaborations between sound designers and composers over the following year. It always actualises such creativity and beautifully crafted work. You only have to look at Dune to see the fruits of this collaboration.
Sound designer, UNIT
I’d like to think that sound has become more of a driving force - I think people are realising the importance of sound with pictures and therefore are more willing to collaborate early on in the creative process - I hope this is a trend that continues as it makes the whole process, not only more collaborative but cohesive as well, making the finished product a higher quality.
With the increasing markets for VR and AR, I believe sound is only going to have more of an important role. The buzzword I hear a lot is ‘immersive’. This is where the gaming industry is at the forefront of this; the immersive sound on games is amazing, it doesn’t have to be on VR either, I’ve played kids’ games that have left my jaw on the floor in regards to sfx and musical sfx elements.
I'm excited for what the future holds, there are so many more avenues to explore than the traditional TV/Internet-based stereo commercials, and as more and more technology trickles down to the consumer, there is going to be a greater demand to push the audio envelope, or should that be fader?