Understanding the Power of Sound

As an industry, radio knows a lot about songs and a lot about talk…

…but almost nothing about sound.

And the same goes for our ability to use sound for the benefit of our advertising partners.

Sound is powerful, sound is specific.  Sound can change us.

Watch this…and listen.

Now, how are YOU using sound?

[Note: If you don't see the video, click the post title]

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  • This reminded me so much of a fascinating column that Carol Archer wrote in R&R about 10 years ago. She interviewed an auditory researcher, and his analysis of how people listen and interpret sound was amazing. One of the points I’ll never forget: Because the brain processes sound differently from one ear than the other (or when it is heard in two),there is an inherent error in callout research that is done through the phone. It is likely–not possible but likely–that how a listener feels about a song heard in one ear is different than how they feel about a song they hear in two ears.
    Fascinating stuff and totally off the radio industry’s radar screen, even though the lifeblood of the industry is just that–sound.

  • Dan “Diggler” Proczko

    Makes me wonder whether talk beds on the air hurts the soundscape and helps listeners tune out?

  • Jeff Schmidt

    I’m a sound junkie and spend a great deal of time with sound in many different creative efforts aside from radio. The key with sound, I believe is context.
    Just because the sound of ocean waves is “pleasing” when abstracted from a specific context doesn’t mean it will be perceived as pleasurable & desired anywhere its placed. Like in afternoon drive, for example.
    Most people would consider excessive fire-arm blasts, explosions, yelling and crashing chaos sounds to be “unpleasant” – but they are the mainstay of many extremely popular video games where players are engaged for hours on end. Take the same sounds out of the game and they are repellant.
    Knowing the audience and the context within which they are using your product is the best guide to using sound effectively.

  • Jeff, that should explain why radio uses sound better than anyone else. Not why we use it worse.
    I happen to believe that radio as an industry is almost completely ignorant of the utility of sound, regardless of the context.
    I’m no expert, but I do think pleasing sounds (for example) can create their own context. That’s exactly the root of their power.
    Speaking of context, I think the video was talking about jarring sounds specifically in a workplace context, not in the context of game-play.
    Thanks for your great input!!

  • Jeff Schmidt

    agreed – outside of the music – the issue of sound is largely ignored by makers of commercial radio.
    The program director who hired me at KFOG had an unusual (for radio) appreciation for sound. We spent a significant chunk of my interview talking about the sounds of the City and about making field recordings for use on air.
    Not sure that approach would be rewarded in a PPM world though where the focus has turned to simply removing the “potentially unpleasant”. As “broad”casters – we’re constantly dealing with lowest common denominator arithmetic.
    FWIW – WNYC’s show “Radio Lab” is an exceptional example of use of sound on radio.

  • I’ve always said one of the strengths of NPR is their use of sound in a medium that is…well…nothing but sound. I love to listen to something that is aurally interesting, as opposed to soundly boring.
    The challenge, of course, is that proper and effective use of sound requires creativity. That, and the fact that even if radio vastly improves how it does sound, it will be just as important to develop effective and proper use of video.
    Change does not give anyone the opportunity to catch up.
    Don Keith

  • Jeff great point about Radiolab. AMAZING show… I wish it were n the FM radio here… wait a minute, I work at an FM radio station, I should see about putting it on!

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