That sounds good to me – by Austyn Allison

Look at our cover. Isn’t it great. Now turn to page 10 to see who designed it: the winner of the Dubai Lynx Student Cover Competition. I love how it incorporates an old-school radio dial into our masthead.

This is our annual Audio and Radio Guide. Not long ago it used to be all about radio, but we have widened its scope in recent years.

That’s not to say it doesn’t contain plenty of information and insight into radio. It’s got an invaluable channel-listing guide, perfect for planners, on page 28. And on page 21, TBWA’s Simon Raffaghello gives his cynical take on the purity of radio advertising.

But this issue also looks at other forms of audio, including social (did you hear our Twitter Spaces Ramadan series?) and even touches on voice assistants. (I recently bought some smart bulbs and connected my Alexa to speakers. Now I can ask my smart home to turn the living room lights to red and blast Dr. Alban’s greatest hits at any time.)

There’s a lot to read here about podcasts, and one of our writers points out that they are about to change gear. There’s nothing new in the podcasts-will-boom narrative – we’ve been in a post-Serial renaissance since before lockdown – but not only is the number (I was going to say volume) of podcasts going up; the technology behind them is improving too.

Audio is becoming more high-definition both in terms of recording and listening – just like digital cameras and televisions did all those years ago, but with sound instead of vision. With better technology comes better sound, and skilled audio creatives can do more with that. The popularity of ASMR is tribute to this, and we are hearing more sophisticated soundscaping where it feels like we are in the same space as whoever or whatever we are hearing, rather than listening in from afar.

It is easy to write this off with a line about how tech will always get better, but a good idea is still crucial. That’s utterly true. But technological improvements can shape the world. Think about what a difference
high-definition front-facing cameras on smart phones have made – to society, and not just photography.

Also look back and remember what the advent of high-quality vocal mics meant from the 1920s onwards. They let soft vocals be heard over loud bands, which paved the way for Crooners such as Bing Crosby, Bobby Darin and Frank Sinatra, and then to rock and roll and onwards to pop.

Before that, listening to music meant hearing it live or on a gramophone. Record players were expensive, and the recording equipment that produced discs was best suited for orchestral pieces. This meant the closest the world had to ‘mainstream’ music was classical recordings listened to by the world’s wealthy.

Improved vocal mics let a new breed of musicians record not just their instruments but their voices as well. They didn’t have to shout to be heard; they could be up-close and intimate with the listener, singing into your ear just for you. And they were broadcast over radio. Now everyone around the world, rich or poor, could hear jazz and blues and Bing and Frank and more.

Technology allows creativity to flourish and to find an audience. And marketing will forever piggyback on great creativity, borrowing its technology and its culture in equal measure.

Good ideas will always be the best ideas, but in the world of audio they sound even better when you can hear them clearly.