Gut feeling, quantified
“Much of our understanding of audio is intuitive,” says Dickson.
“For instance, everyone knows - or feels - that violin can add sadness to a melody. Or piano can make it sound more expensive. Or acoustic guitar can make it sound more ‘approachable’ or human’.”
That common understanding can be put to commercial use. Take audio logos for example. The right combination of sounds can produce the right associations in the listener - a process that will rely, initially at least, on ‘gut feel’.
“For me there are two main tweaks you can make with audio logos,” says Dickson. “First, you can change the melody to dial up or dial down certain emotions. Then, once you’re as close as you think you can get with the melody, you can dial up certain emotions using certain instruments or musical treatments.”
“The key here is the ability to test audio for it’s emotional value.”
But just what would such a test look like?
To find that out, The Studio at SCA have partnered with international audio benchmarking group Veritonic.
Veritonic uses two methods of testing the emotional impact of any particular piece of audio. The first is an audience panel test. The respondents are played audio and give second-by-second feedback as to which emotions arise as they listen to a track.
“That gives us second-by-second data that we can use to figure out which notes or music styles or instruments are evoking which emotions.”
Part two is where things get really interesting however.
“The second capability we have is using artificial intelligence,” says Dickson.
“The Veritonic AI crunches all the data points from human panel tests that have been conducted over the last few years and uses those data points to make predictions as to what will happen in a human test scenario.”
“Those predictions are very accurate and the best part is it’s almost instantaneous, so we can have a singer belt out a few bars, and test it on the spot with the Veritonic AI to see if we’re hitting the right emotional buttons.”
So what does this mean for companies eager to build brand recognition? How do you make sound fit into strategy?
“You can take certain characteristics from around the brand and start to turn that into a music representation and that can be objective,” says Walsh.
“If a brand says that one of their core qualities is ‘organic’, then a literal way to interpret that is by using instruments that have been around for a long time - violins, guitars, flutes - and recorded by real musicians in the studio.”
“If the company is all about ‘collaboration’ and ‘teamwork’ for example, then you can add layers to the songs that have very distinct melodies that are different from each other, but then come together so nicely that it represents that idea.”
“And if you have a structured brand approach that you go through from the strategy - and if you do that across every platform - you can create a core piece of music that reflects the brand and then build everything off the back of that.”
“That’s typically what we would do with big brands such as Microsoft. You build up a suite of sounds that builds equity with the audience every time they’re heard.”