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Here’s why Sound will NOT be Bigger than Video

Recently the folks at SoundCloud (a very good tool, by the way) did a presentation called “Why Sound will be Bigger than Video.”

Well, with all due respect, I don’t agree.  At all.

Simplicity. Twitter is popular because it gives users a way to express themselves in only 140 keystrokes. But now everybody with a smartphone has a microphone in their pocket, and it takes only one click to record something. A lot of smartphones are getting video recording as well, but it’s a lot less intrusive to record a conversation or sound snippet than it is to point a video camera in somebody’s face.

Simplicity is not just about “difficulty of recording” but also “difficulty in discovering.”  And sound is infinitely more difficult to discover than video.  One picture is worth a thousand words, and video is comprised of many pictures per second.  Music is obviously much easier to discover than any spoken word audio content because music can be scoped down to a “hook” whereas most spoken word content must be experienced at length to be appreciated.  And that takes time.  And time is scarce.  And that means it’s anything but simple.

If I want to create something that’s easy to identify, discover, and consume, video has it all over sound.

You can listen while you do other things. Video requires your undivided attention, but you can listen to audio in the background while reading or doing other things.

True on the surface.  Assuming we’re talking about music.  As for spoken word content, not so much.

In fact, is it even true of video?  After all, much TV viewing occurs in the proverbial “background” while other things go on.  So is this a real advantage of sound or an advantage of music over non-music, video or audio?

Creation tools are changing. People often associate audio with music that’s professionally recorded by major label artists. But the tools to record and remix sounds are becoming cheaper and easier to use.

This is a music-centric view of audio.  Yes, anybody can create great quality audio for their music.  Whether anybody wants to listen to it or even knows it exists is another matter.

Sound is connected to your emotional centers more than video. Don’t believe it? Ljung suggests plugging your ears the next time you’re watching a scary movie. Without the soundtrack, it will play more like a comedy.

While this is a bit of an exaggeration (horror movies without sound play less like comedies and more like boring dramas), it’s the best point of the bunch. Still, the advantage of video is that it almost always includes sound, right?  And together both pack a punch that beats the impact of either alone.  So this is really a theoretical difference, not a practical one.  After all, video includes sound but sound doesn’t include video.  So who will really be bigger?

Now, to be clear, sound does not NEED to be bigger than video to matter.  Not to advertisers, not to consumers.  Video is not the antidote to every advertiser’s ailment.  But rather than have a David & Goliath presentation where one medium takes on another, what I’d rather see is a presentation where the best practices for sound are illustrated in ways that advertisers can learn from and exploit for the benefit of their clients and for those of us who work with sound every day.

Here’s the original SoundCloud presentation:

By the way, it’s interesting that this presentation was recorded…

…on video.

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