10 November, 2007

DOOH idea

The Digital Out Of Home (aka public or in-store TV) industry is booming, and The Sound Agency is flattered indeed to be featured in DOOH guru Adrian Cotterill's blog here; also I did a long interview with David Wiseman that he's boiled down and run on his Minicom blog here. They're running a competition with some signed copies of my book as prizes.

I believe the digital signage/DOOH industry is approaching a crossroads with a major decision to make about sound. It can either add to the noise of modern living, turning on speakers in lifts, shops and even toilets and driving even more people to take refuge in their iPods, or it can make visuals work with audio to create a carefully-crafted, pleasing, appropriate, effective environment in every space. This means creating the right background first, with ambient visuals (they don't even have to move!) teamed with ambient audio, ideally generative. Then and only then should designers start to think about foreground sound, delivering it according to our four Golden Rules: make it optional (or at least targeted); make it appropriate; make it valuable; and test it often.

The analogy is creating a picture: you make the background first, and then you make the foreground object stand out by using contrast but always acknowledging the tones, mood, elements and movement in the background.

I hope to see and hear a world of moving wallpaper and helpful, appropriate foreground content that offers us guidance or advice just when we need it in either visual or aural form, or both, as appropriate.

The dark path, of course, leads to noise (in every sense) - a random mush of competing messages that bombard people everywhere in ever-more shrill and frantic tone. Let's not go there!
Martin Lindstrom opened the field up for us all with his important and very readable book BRANDsense. Every month that goes by, my news and blog feeds are giving me more and more hits as the message spreads: brands exist in more dimensions than vision alone! We have five perfectly good senses, so why do many organisations still spend millions on how they look and nothing at all on how they sound?

Here are some recent fish my trawls have caught...

Business Week featured the rise of sound as a major consideration for business with an article on Ford upgrading its in-car warning tones here, backed up with a pleasant, if rather perfunctory, slide show on product sound here.

The subject or brand sound is cropping up in more and more blogs. Recent examples include Chief Home Officer, Ready To Spark and Personal Branding Summit. This mirrors the trend in business: more and more boards are talking about multi-sensory branding in general, and brand sound specifically.

The latest major sonic logo to launch is Mercedes: you can hear it at the end of this German ad. To me it sounds like something from The Exorcist, and I am very confused about its relationship with the traditional Mercedes brand values... other blogs like BurstLabs and Autoblog seem to agree. Maybe it's a grower...

06 November, 2007

The logo is dead - long live the logo!

In a world of increasing visual clutter, has the traditional logo lost its impact? If so, what can marketers turn to next in order to identify and differentiate their brands?

A visual logo is not a brand, of course. Its job is to represent the essence of its brand’s character – to introduce it if we don’t know it, or to remind us of it if we do. As a photograph is to a person, a logo is to a brand. Visual logos are proven, effective and ubiquitous – which is where they have started to run into rapidly diminishing returns.

I call the problem ‘overmessaging’. Each of us now encounters a staggering 30,000 commercial messages every single day, and the vast majority of them are visual. This means that for the next few years at least, sonic logos – by which I mean short sonic mnemonics that are the exact audio counterparts of the visual logo – are going to be worth considering simply because they are relatively rare and can thus act as powerful differentiators. But there’s more to sonic logos than curiosity value: used wisely, they work exceptionally well. They also have a surprisingly long pedigree.

Sonic logos have actually been around for hundreds of years: street calling used to be the main way tradesmen advertised their services, as wonderfully romanticised in the film Oliver. It’s not so long since that practice died: I can remember the ‘rag-and-bone’ man’s mournful shout of “anyoldiron?” from my childhood in London. The modern-day equivalent is the ice cream van: just watch the cathartic effect of its chimes on surrounding buildings on a hot summer’s day to see the potency of sonic logos deployed in the right place at the right time. Most ice cream chimes are generic, but in Sweden the Hemglass ice cream tune is a universally known and loved sonic brand.

As soon as the advertising industry got sound to play with, it saw the potential of memorable music/voice combinations and the jingle and tagline were born. The dividing line between jingle or a tagline an a sonic logo is blurred. In general, jingles and taglines come and go with campaigns and rarely live for more than a few years. Even the most memorable usually get retired. “For hands that do dishes…”; “It’s the real thing”; these and many more once-mighty jingles or taglines are now languishing in retirement homes, though the brands are still very much with us today. Some taglines are so strong that they have become sonic logos. One in particular has outlasted entire generations of customers: Tony the tiger has been saying “they’re gr-r-r-r-reat!” since 1951. This is probably the longest-running sonic logo in the world, and it has now outlived its voice-over artist. Thurl Ravenscroft was famous for many Disney voices but Tony was his greatest legacy. He voiced the tiger for 54 years until his death in 2005, when Lee Marshall was appointed to carry the tradition forward.

Over the years, some sonic logos have even been registered as trademarks or service marks: the roar of the MGM lion and the old NBC three-tone chime are two examples.
These examples notwithstanding, it wasn’t until the 1990s that sonic logos started to be taken really seriously and their use considered by many major brands. The sea change came with Intel. Its five-note sonic logo, composed by Austrian musician Walter Werzowa, has become one of the best-known sounds in the world, and has spearheaded Intel’s extraordinary success as a brand – given that this is a product nobody ever sees and nobody ever buys.

Today, sonic brands are more in play then ever before. UK insurance giant Direct Line has a sprightly bugle call, which speaks volumes about urgency, assistance and playfulness in just three seconds. Apple has its comforting, uplifting start-up sound, engineered in 1991 by Jim Reekes and still shipping 16 years later. (It is inexplicable that the mighty Microsoft has never seen the value of a single start-up sound; the sound of Windows has changed with every successive version of the software, so that now there is no sound of Windows. They may be learning through: huge amounts of time and money were invested in ‘a language of sounds’ for the Xbox 360.) Lufthansa has invested in a corporate sound, comprising four rising tones that are aimed to convey feelings of taking off and wellbeing. Siemens has recently added a seventh element to its branding: sound has now joined logo, claim, typeface, colours, layout and style as one of the basic building blocks of the Siemens brand. The company has created both an ‘audio signature’ (aka a sonic logo) and also some mood sound as part of its new palette. Even political parties are joining in: Wales’s Plaid Cymru has a short sonic logo to welcome you in peace and harmony to its website.

The evidence is that more and more major brands are creating a sonic logo as a matter of course. With the continuing rise of mobile devices (along with custom ring tones and downloaded digital sound) I believe we have not yet scratched the surface of the sonic logo.

Is it time your brand found its voice – before your competitors find theirs?

01 October, 2007

London Sound Archive

Following on from my meeting with Ken Livingstone (see The Sound of London post in this blog), I've written to him suggesting the setting up of a permanent London Sound Archive.

Every city has characteristic sounds, and the soundscape's elements change all the time. Many sounds I remember from my childhood have disappeared (police bells and whistles, rag-and-bone men, Routemaster buses, slam-door trains) and there are many more from history that I never heard or don't remember (tug boat whistles, street callers, steam trains in major stations). It would be wonderful to collect these historic sounds from private and public archives, and to add comprehensive recordings of current sounds ("Mind the gap!", tube trains, taxis, church bells and so on) - and then create a searchable, interactive archive accessible through the web and via interactive kiosks in public places frequented by tourists or researchers, such as railway stations, the British Library, museums and major attractions.

There are resources available: Peter Cusack’s project Your Favourite London Sounds (which exhibited in City Hall in 2003) will have many of the current sounds; the British Library Sound Archive contains great treasures in oral history and also in recorded soundscapes; the UK and Ireland Soundscape Community will be able to contribute richly… but a national (or maybe even international) appeal will uncover so much more that’s currently owned by Londoners and others, and once the tagging and bagging is done we will have created a unique and precious resource for the city.

I hope Mr Livingstone will support this project so we can create this in time for the 2012 explosion of interest in London.

The sound of London

The other day I attended the opening of the London Innovation Centre in Croydon. Not only is The Sound Agency a member, but we also created the restful but cognitively stimulating generative soundscape that plays in the reception area of the Centre. The opening was a big event, with hundreds attending and even a steel band playing. The Mayor of London gave an inspiring keynote speech about innovation in London, and about London's role as the world's financial and business hub.

I was delighted to meet Mr Livingstone after the formal proceedings, and chat for a few minutes about sound. He has a keen interest in reducing ambient noise levels, as evidenced by the Sounder City plan, written by the GLA's sound guru Max Dixon, which details London's ambient noise strategy. You can download the full plan or summaries of it here. This is the only comprehensive city noise plan that I know of, covering every aspect of noise in London and setting out detailed plans for reducing all of it.

This is important because noise is irritating, debilitating and a massive cost to the economy and to people's wellbeing. The EU estimated that noise damage is costing Europe "tens of billions of euro per year"; it also stated that "environmental noise, as emitted by transport, industry and recreation, is reducing the health and the quality of life of at least 25 per cent of the European population".

These estimates date back several years. Now there is evidence that noise has much more serious consequences: it kills. Just a few weeks ago, the World Health Organisation published the finding that around 3 per cent of the UK's 101,000 coronary deaths are due to noise. There is more, as summarised in The Guardian:
"The WHO's working group on the Noise Environmental Burden on Disease began work on the health effects of noise in Europe in 2003. In addition to the heart disease link, it found that 2% of Europeans suffer severely disturbed sleep because of noise pollution and 15% can suffer severe annoyance. Chronic exposure to loud traffic noise causes 3% of tinnitus cases, in which people constantly hear a noise in their ears."
Europe's population is around 730 million, so if these research findings are correct there are over 14 million people suffering severely disturbed sleep because of noise. As well as (presumably) tens of thousands of coronary deaths a year across Europe, one speculates on the horrific cost to the community: social and family costs as stress and fatigue cause relationship breakups, traffic accidents and domestic violence; and economic costs with tired people making expensive mistakes at work, as well as absenteeism, chronic sickness and negative effects on team and customer relationships due to irritability and tiredness.

Europe is measuring all this now, with noise maps compulsory for every member nation. But measurement is just the start: well done to the Mayor for going to the next level and putting in place policies to reverse the rising tide of noise, improve the quality of life of millions - and save hundreds of lives.

12 September, 2007

Where has sonic architecture gone?

One major contributor to the poor quality and excessive quantity of sound that assails us in urban environments is ocular buildings, by which I mean buildings designed and fitted out by architects and interior designers who operate in one sense only: sight. This is sadly the majority of modern buildings in my experience, and in particular spaces like restaurants and corporate receptions, where the desire to impress visually and the modern trend for hard materials come together to create entire rooms with no absorbent surfaces at all.

Let's get specific: in my book I cite Kensington Place as the noisiest restaurant in London but it's now been replaced at the top of my personal hall of shame by Moro in Exmouth Market. This trendy North African restaurant (very good food) adds an open-plan kitchen to wooden floors, hard tables and chairs, glass front, plasterboard ceiling and parallel walls to create a truly astounding noise level. I could only hear my lunch companion by cupping my hands to my ears. Everyone in the place was shouting to be heard two feet away. It was unbearable and I will never go back there.

Not wishing to be all negative, my vote for the best sounding London restaurant is St Alban in Lower Regent Street. It is perfect, and also features many tables for two where you sit at right-angles instead of face to face. This mouth-pointing-at-ear configuration makes for a much quieter environment in the first place, and creates a sense of comfort and privacy which is amplified by tables far enough apart (I do hate the modern practice of 5 cm gaps so that you are forced to dine with strangers) and carpets (hurrah!). It's buzzy when full, but serene and warm at the same time. I highly recommend it for a nourishing sonic as well as gustatory experience.

Why is interior sound so bad?

I have given talks to several firms of architects and designers but I fear my excitement about a whole new element to design with - adding sound to the existing palette of form, colour, light and texture - was not contagious enough to move them from their ocular focus. Architects spend very little time on sound in their long training, and much of the time they do spend is spent on soundproofing rather than acoustics. Most therefore pay little attention to the sound of their designs, condemning people to live, work and play in spaces that pummel them with harsh, jumbled and excessive reflections of every sound.

Fortunately there are some architects who consider sound, albeit a minority. I have met two: Thomas Lindner, with whom we collaborated on his unfulfilled project to create a massive sonic installation of a heartbeat in Oxford Street, London; and Jana Dreikhausen, who won a major international award in 2005 for her ecological house design, including a cooling system that requires no power. Both are happy to start with sound and see what form emerges - the opposite of the modern practice.

Since Pythagoras (and surely long before that) building designers considered sound as at least the equal of visual design in the making of buildings. The sound of water (representing life) has been used for millennia, especially in hot places, to create pleasing ambient soundscapes, with many homes designed around a central fountain. Clever architecture has deliberately utilised echo, reverberation, focusing, diffusion and absorption to manipulate sound waves for spiritual, artistic and practical reasons. Jana told me of the nightingale floors in Kyoto's Nijō Castle, which create birdsong-like sounds when walked upon as a security measure so that assassins could not cross them unheeded.

When and why did the skill to design like this get lost? With modern architects and urban planners investigating the leading edges of interactivity, technology and all forms of light, it seems sad that the ancient wisdom about how to make buildings that sound appropriate and nourish the activities inside them is gone. I wonder if we can ever recover it?

Well, it's time for action in one small way at least: I'm going to post on Ecademy and Facebook to ask those communities which is the noisiest UK restaurant they know. Maybe we can generate some PR and start restaurants thinking about their sound!

06 August, 2007

Music in shops

I want to post a couple of emails here to raise the issue of what I like to call mindless music. The first is from Adrian Cotterill, editor of The Screen, an electronic publication serving the industry variously known as Out Of Home, Digital Signage and Captive Audience Networks - in other words, public TV screens in places like shops, stations, taxis and high streets.

Adrian's email demonstrates the growth in the sector, and also its relative naiveté relative to sound, and in particular music. My response suggests some rules for that industry (and indeed everyone) to follow when thinking of purveying public sound.

Adrian's post


Those of you who have been long readers / subscribers of mine or who have
attended one of my presentations will know my views on ‘music being a key
driving force behind those who wish to create the largest screen networks’ -
especially in the retail (ambience, brand factor NOT necessarily Grocers and
Convenience stores though) and captive audience (leisure industry NOT the
transport) sectors.

On Tuesday, July 31, 2007, Imagesound, the UK supplier of in-store music,
radio and TV services (retail and leisure primarily), announced that it had
acquired TSC Music Systems Ltd for £4.5 million.

Imagesound already had over 13,000 venues on its books and with this
acquisition they have added another 3,400 venues to that total. That’s a
pretty large estate in anyone’s terms.

Now, not all of those venues are screen based, a lot of the network is audio
only, the 1,000 UK McDonald audio network for example. There don’t seem to
be any exact figures available (yet) on the ratio of audio to screens but I
would guess that about 25% of the network has screens - for music videos
etc. Imagesound's music revenues must now be huge - this sort-of business
is all about economies of scale.

If you go through Imagesound’s customer base it reads as a who’s who of
retail, pubs, clubs and bars and increasingly the (more profitable)
hospitality (hotel) sector.

This is good news too for YCD who supply Imagesound with all the audio and
video based music systems of course.

Mood Media are predominantly an audio led music business as well - with
perhaps a little more of a European flavour - and increasingly with ‘wins’
like Toni&GuyTV are taking the screen business more seriously also.

Avanti Screenmedia have 3 or 4 UK networks (it depends on how you classify
their clever deal with Setanta Sports). One of these is a music offering
called Magnetic and MVN. The most recent data available for this network
shows: -

Number of screens: 4,100
Number of venues: 913
Footfall: 4.9m per week
Dwell time: 92 minutes

From a signage point of view not a bad network at all AND to be fair 100%
screen based AND with some great ‘hard-wired’ systems in place (’hard-wired’
systems are defined as those that run 100% advertising and are not
interspersed with other content, like music videos).

Kaleidovision (a privately owned company based in Hertford) have some really
good leisure brands on board and are the only signage vendor to have any
serious sized Casino and Bingo hall networks. Kaleidovision have about 1,300
venues in total with a very high percentage of those being screen based.

Avanti Screenmedia and Brightspace Media (the sister company to
Kaleidovision responsible for media sales on the Kv network) are both
blessed in being favourites of the media planning community (knowing the
right people, having delivered in the past, etc.)

The other big player in the UK is Bruno Brookes’ Immedia Broadcasting and
their Cube Music division (many of you in the UK will know Fi Ryder who
heads up Cube). Again they have some fantastic brands as customers
(including HSBC radio - which when I first heard about it I was determined
to hate but having heard it in action on more than one occasion I have to
say that it works rather well, adding to the brand and actually making the
bank branch quite a pleasant experience to be in).

My point with all of these is the sheer scale of their network operations,
especially Imagesound and Mood Media (and to a lesser degree for a private
company like Kaleidovision) and the threat they pose to those wishing to
compete in the screen network retail and lesiure sectors.

In the UK, Buzztime, Mediatheme and IntaTV all need to scale quickly or be
the best ‘niche’ players in their individual market space (IntaTV are doing
some very clever interactive initiatives and are also cross-selling
SalonInteractive, their hair dressing salon operation).

If you are a digital signage vendor and you don’t support music or do not
have a music offering you will not be able to compete in the leisure sector
and increasingly I feel you will be unable to compete in the retail sector



Adrian J Cotterill is the editor of The Screen's UK Media Sales directory
for Digital Out of Home Advertising Networks (DOOHAN)

The Screen is the Out of Home digital signage industry association. It is
based in London with members in the UK, France, India, Israel, South Africa
and the USA, see http://www.thescreen.org/

Adrian J Cotterill's Blog can be found at http://www.dailydooh.com

Fur Deutsche version gehen Sie zu http://display.innoea.de

My reply

Dear Adrian,

Interesting statistics on the growth of the music streaming business. But please as an industry let's retain a commitment to both brand differentiation (as expressed in brand experience in all five senses) and to optimising customer experience.

Brand differentiation is being diluted by one-size-fits-all streamed music. With the prevalent use of relatively homogeneous pop music as a retail veneer, we have already got so 'me-too' that in many retail outlets there is no brand if you close your eyes: your auditory experience is indistinguishable from dozens, even hundreds, of other shops. Every retail brand needs to design its own soundscape from the ground up and ensure that it's appropriate, attractive and differentiated.

At the same time customer experience is being undermined by over-messaging. We already receive thousands of promotional messages a day through eyes and ears, and according to Michael Bull's research the rise of the iPod is a direct response to this as people seek to re-establish some boundaries. Messaging in shops and leisure locations needs to obey the three golden rules: it must be targeted, appropriate and valuable. If not, we'll end up with people in bars wearing iPods! Many are already shopping with iPod in place because most retail sound is arbitrary, hostile and incongruous.

Finally, customer experience is being eroded by the increasingly widespread assumption that everyone likes jolly pop music everywhere. This is wrong both psychoacoustically (actually fast-paced music will probably reduce dwell time as it causes people to move more quickly) and subjectively: the research I've seen shows that one third like public music, one third don't care and one third hate it. The question is: does any extra spending by the positive one third outweigh the loss of trade as many of the negative one third don't even enter the space? I am not aware that anyone has answered this important question yet.

Sound is powerful. Licensed pop music is doubly powerful, coming with lots of personal associations. My advice for retailers and leisure brands is: define your brand sound and then create holistic soundscapes that optimise brand differentiation and customer experience. If music is part of that, great. But it may not be, so beware of me-too music! It could lose more customers than it gains.

all the best



What do you think?

15 July, 2007

Just in TIME

Equalling the excitement of being featured in the hallowed pages of The Economist is not easy, but on July 12 we made TIME Magazine (European edition), including a somewhat metaphorical photo of me by Pal Hansen, taken in my local Gourmet Burger Kitchen. Theunis Bates wrote the piece after we met in Oxford Street and toured some auditory horrors - not hard to do there: if you're in the area I recommend checking out the Swarovski store and any of the mobile phone stores to encounter retail soundscapes that are arbitrary, hostile and incongruous.

Talking of retail, I'm speaking on Monday July 16 at the annual conference of the British Audiovisual Dealers' Association, where I'll be demonstrating to the UK's top hi-fi retailers how sound affects people (physiologically, psychologically, cognitively and behaviourally), as well as outlining our definition of BrandSound™ and how soundscapes can help in their businesses.

Next week I'm visiting New York, where I will have some exciting meetings about further internationalising The Sound Agency. I'll be flying with my trusty Bose QuietComfort 2 headphones - still prefer them to the newer 3 version. Not the ideal time to visit the Big Apple - last time I was there in July it was very hot and sticky - but I'm looking forward to it nevertheless. What would the sonic logo for New York be?

22 June, 2007

The sound of speed

It's been ages since I've posted. The Sound Agency has been flat out for the last several weeks, creating some exciting projects for several household name brands - but I can't talk about them until the test periods are complete and the clients are happy to go public. It's wonderful to be putting some of the main principles in the book into practice for these huge companies, because we really have a chance to make the world sound better if these tests tuen out as they should.

Right now I'm on our stand at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. We have been commissioned by Lorn March, through our old friend, motor journalist Richard Bremner, to create and install a futuristic, peaceful soundscape in the FoS-Tech pavilion. We're using Future Acoustic's A3 software on a Mac mini, and the soundscape reacts with extra activity when anyone speaks into a mic we have on the front of the stand. It sounds lovely. Our only problem has been the intrusive thumping bas frequencies from the music stage about 200m away. The band is outstanding (and they have incredible stamina, playing today for about four hours) but the PA is way louder than it needs to be for this event. Why do so many live sound engineers have to use every last watt they possess? I believe that tomorrow His Lordship is going to ensure that the PA will be quieter so maybe the people in the pavilion won't be feeling as though they've been repeatedly punched in the head! If you're coming to the FoS do come by our stand and say hello.

I've been getting lovely messages from around the world about the book. Hanna Prage from Sweden has just blogged about it here, and has sent me her thesis on sound in design, which I am looking forward to reading.

In four weeks I'm visiting New York to talk about taking The Sound Agency to the USA. Now that is really exciting...

19 April, 2007

Clinical compression

It's my son Ben's birthday today and my present to him is about 2,500 tracks on the iPod his Mum is giving him, all hand-picked to introduce him to music as I know it after my 40+ years of avid listening: Mozart, Captain Beefheart, Abba, Zero 7, Miles Davis, Underworld - everything I think he might enjoy encountering on a wonderful shuffle journey.

I've been ripping a lot of CDs in the process and I spent some time thinking about codecs. I settled on Apple Lossless this time, and am replacing all the tracks I originally ripped at 192 kbps AAC or MP3. While I was doing this I was musing about two huge negative impacts codecs have had, or are about to have, on society.

Codecs were developed because of limited bandwidth for broadcasting/streaming rich media, but they've been applied willy-nilly in non-broadcast situations where there is a limit on storage space so that people can squeeze more music onto portable MP3 players. This is another example of our culture sacrificing quality at the alter of quantity. Nobody has to compress their music to put it on an iPod: you could have one tenth as many tunes all in perfect CD quality (itself, of course, only a digital approximation) - and yet millions of people have not understood the implications of compression and have ripped their music at 96 or even 64 kbps. When you get rid of over 90% of the information in a music file, there are consequences! The gaps between the dots become larger, and your brain has to work harder to join them up. The clever psychoacoustic theory that allows swathes of sound to be removed is based on you reinserting it while you listen by dint of imagination, which takes constant effort. Richness, subtlety and depth are still lost, and there is a strong temptation to turn the volume up because the sound is just thinner.

Of course the very nature of mobile music is different from the intense, focused listening practice I grew up with (headphones in a darkened room, avid reading of sleeve notes and so on): music is now a background activity to life. Or is it the other way around for MP3ers? Either way, the reduced signal to noise ratio heps to disguise the loss of quality they are experiencing due to their brutal compression practices.

I predict that research will show that there are serious social consequences of all this listening to highly compressed music. I believe it is creating stress, tiredness, irritability and antisocial feelings because so much subconscious brainwork is being required. Also, the tendency to turn the volume up and up must be creating more and more incidences of noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL), which is already a major problem due to ear bud headphones. Any time you can hear someone's personal stereo leaking out, they are almost certainly damaging their hearing. The rule of thumb when listening is that you should still be able to hear people talking to you. Most people ignore this even if they know it. We may well be raising a deaf, antisocial generation.

That's one of the two bad social effects. The other is coming soon: a vast waste of time for millions of people as they have to go back and redigitize all their music without compression. Storage space gets cheaper every year. At home I have a terabyte hard drive with my iTunes library on it - unthinkable only three years ago. In just a few years we will see the terabyte iPod. Why would you want to squash the quality out of your music when you can get your whole collection uncompressed into your pocket? All those 64kbps tracks will look (and sound) pathetic, unless someone has the obsessive need to carry around several million tracks - in which case I suggest they go to MP3 Anonymous and get help.

From today, my son has access to over 2,000 tracks at perfect CD quality. I have educated him about safe listening levels. I very much hope that his experience is the model for portable music in the future. I urge anyone reading this to put quality first: invest in your ears and your health by buying enough storage to rip uncompressed - or if you must compress, use only lossless codecs. That way you will enjoy the full richness of the music you love, listening will be a relaxing experience instead of hard work, and your digital music will be truly future-proof.

30 March, 2007

Gratitude with a twist

They say that all publicity is good publicity, and I am overwhelmed with the huge interest that the book has been creating in all media. Radio in particular has loved it - natural I guess for a story all about sound. I'm grateful for the skill and intelligence with which the various media have grasped and conveyed the basic proposition - that sound is massively powerful; that most of the sound we encounter is undesigned and a lot of it is inappropriate; and that there is as a result a huge opportunity for businesses that take control of their sound.

I enjoyed the live spot on Radio 5 Live's Wake Up To Money, despite the early start (the alarm went off at 4am). Then I sat in the Today Programme's Green Room for a couple of hours in case they wanted something live from me, though as it turned out they were very happy with what we'd recorded, and put together a great short report (you can hear it on the wikispace). I got to swap "Good Morning"s with John Humphries, the Chief Rabbi and several other eminences.

Today has an audience of six million, and the number of emails and further press inquiries I received during the following days underlined its impact. The Scotsman newspaper called and I did an interview about the Glasgow Airport soundscape which they ran on page 3 on the following day (Saturday March 24th); this led in turn to a spot on Radio Scotland's Fred McAuley Show, and to interest from The Guardian - more on that below. BBC Three Counties Radio wanted a telephone interview while I was still at Shepherd's Bush, and then Radio 2 called for a telephone interview during Chris Evans's Drivetime that evening. That was a long day!

The momentum continues... tonight (Friday 30th) I am going in to Bush House to do a 20-minute piece for BBC World Service, so the book goes global. Next Tuesday I'm meeting Time magazine, and Thursday evening I'll be back in a studio to talk to New York City's public radio service WNYC, chatting on their music/arts programme Soundcheck.

So far the only hiccup has been the unfortunate misrepresentation in The Guardian leader, which said that I wanted to fill the world with 'soothing lounge Muzak'. This is diammetrically opposed to my view, and to the thesis of the book, which is that every space's soundscape should be individually designed to suit the acoustics, the function, the brand or values behind the space, and most of all the people in it. One size does not fit all - musically or otherwise. It's not surprising that my purported view came in for some stick in the online comments. I do understand the passionate stance of the members of Pipe Down and the other anti-piped music lobby groups. On the other hand, it's equally wrong to say that music is never the right soundscape. Miss Selfridge could spent lots of money with The Sound Agency and after careful consideration I am certain that our conclusion, based on psychoacoustic principles and our wonderful SoundFlow™ model, would be... play pop music!

I hope that the book will open up the debate and sensitise people, and that in a few years we will be hearing a vast range of designed soundscapes in spaces, all created thoughtfully and with as much care as the interior design was. What an interesting world that will be!

PS Muzak is a US corporation and the word muzak is their trademark, so we should avoid using it in discussing mindless piped music.

22 March, 2007

Welcome to radio listeners...

I spent some time this afternoon (Thursday) recording some examples of retail and office sound for BBC Radio 5 Live Wake Up To Money and BBC Radio 4 Today Programme. I'll be doing interviews for both in the morning to follow up on the recorded sound. If you're reading this after hearing the programme(s) then wlecome and I hope I got the main points across: that sound affects human beings profoundly, and that business has a huge opportunity if it takes control of its sound and starts to create sounds and soundscapes that are properly designed, appropriate and effective. This is true for branding, marketing, advertising, websites, telephone communication and for physical spaces such as offices, shops and reception areas.

My experience is that when people become conscious about sound after I talk to them, their ears are opened and they can't help but practice active listening. If that's just happened to you through the radio programme, the downside is that you will notice every chiller cabinet and air conditioning unit that you used to suppress - but the upside is that you'll become aware of many wonderful sounds you didn't notice, and that you'll become conscious about your own sound and that of your business, which means you can start to do something about them!

Please do visit the wiki and the lens and contribute content. I look forward to hearing from you.

15 March, 2007

Working Lunch

You can see my appearance on BBC2's Working Lunch here if you are in the UK and you have Real Player - I think it may also work with WMP - or on YouTube here.

I thoroughly enjoyed myself, as I have every time I've done TV. Nik and Adam were very nice and understood the proposition perfectly. I wish I'd been able to mention the book and the website but they cautioned against plugging so I hope people who are interested will find the resources through Google.

Meanwhile I've finished the wiki (for now at least) and I've been adding lots of content to the Squidoo lens - please do visit them and bookmark them. You are warmly welcome and invited to contribute to both.

13 March, 2007

A big week

Media interest in the book is strong and we haven't even sent out the press release yet. There will be a piece in Brand Management magazine next month and I am looking forward to BBC Working Lunch which is confirmed for tomorrow (Wednesday). I hope to receive the first proof copy of the book today, which will be a great moment.

I have been populating the wikispace with some extracts from the book and will have completed this by the end of today. I'll be posting some on Ecademy later today as discussion topics, probably including shop music, office noise and the best and worst sounding restaurant.

08 March, 2007

Welcome to the Sound Business blog

This blog will contain posts from me as extensions to the topics covered in my book, Sound Business, which is published on March 21st.

This is my first blog, so forgive any newbie errors - I welcome any tips - and please bear with me as there's a lot of exciting stuff going on around the book launch right now. I am appearing on BBC Working Lunch next week, probably Wednesday, and more media will follow...

Meanwhile there are some other web resources you can check out: I've set up a wikispace for interaction, discussion and file posting, a lens for other forms of interaction like sharing links and voting, and a shop selling merchandise with the slogan 'sound affects!', which I hope will help move us towards the big vision - making the world sound better.

Sound Business also has a central web page with links to all these resources (and to this blog).

The book is about how sound affects people, and how organisations can become conscious about their sound, producing better results by creating appropriate, designed and pleasant soundscapes everywhere from shops and offices to toilets, receptions and websites. It's available here.

I'll be posting lots more here in the very near future... please bookmark and come back!