Our End of the Year Insights with Predictions for 2016

As we head into 2016, people are more connected to their media and technology than ever before and the Man Made Music team has been busy crafting the sound of the technology and experiences we can’t imagine our lives without. From the iconic tones of AT&T ringing on smartphones around the world to the new anthem for CBS’ coverage of the upcoming election cycle and even a brand new IMAX pre-movie countdown, sonic identities and experiences crafted by MMM are all around us. To honor this productive and exciting year, we decided to talk with pros from all reaches of the Man Made Music team about their favorite trends from 2015, and what is on the horizon for next year.

2015 Insights

Cutting the cable cord

2015 marked the beginning of the full streaming takeover. “A rise of streaming platforms coming into the market, as well as increased opportunities for offline viewing, has led to a whole new world of media, and advertisers are already being folded into the process.” (Andrew Einbinder, Assistant Account Executive for Brand Partnership) We are now able to gain, and always expect, access to content we want, whenever we want it on any device.

How have companies been aligning their use of sound with this new era of “always on, always with access”? For Jack In The Box, this millennial-centric trend was a perfect match to their restaurant’s 24/7 availability. When designing the sonic experience of the food chain, Man Made Music proposed using a day-parted playlist; an ever-flowing and changing rotation to match the restaurant’s shifting energy and needs throughout the day. For example, allowing room for dinner chatter in the evening or using upbeat and exciting rhythms during lunch to keep the guests moving, without feeling rushed.

Finding the universality in “niche” ideas

New media platforms have created more access points for media creators and opened up space for a wider array of content. “Whether it’s Amazon or Netflix taking chances on shows that traditional networks would consider too risky, or artists speaking their minds, blurring genres & forming unexpected creative alliances outside of their comfort zones… nobody needs to ask permission anymore.” (Amy Crawford, Producer)

One of our favorite trending topics this year: Process As Entertainment. “Examples: Sonic Highways, Foo Fighters documentary about recording studios, PJ Harvey having fans paying to watch her ideate, write and record her new album, 3D printing in general.” (Kristen Lueck, Senior Strategist, Culture and Innovation)

Designing immersive touchpoints using all five senses

As these platforms become more omnipresent there is the desire for it to become more transparent, intuitive, or human depending on the interaction – people expect more from the experience. “Experiences are no longer just tapping into one or two of your senses. Experience creators from restaurants to retail now think about the entire experience from touch to taste to smell to feel and of course to hearing and audio. It’s very much about multi-sensory interaction!” (Maya Friedman, Account Executive)

This year, Man Made Music helped IMAX rise to meet these heightened expectations with a new movie countdown, the “World’s Biggest Bass Drop”. This immersive audio experience pulls viewers in and jumpstarts a thrilling adventure before the movie even begins, highlighting how seeing a film at an IMAX movie is far different than simply going to the movies.

Automated voice becoming significantly more important

Another approach has been giving devices themselves a voice. Companies like Apple finally brought voice automation up to speed, making it a useful, reliable feature rather than a party trick. “Siri and similar AI assistance came into their own this year. These were a little clunky and hard to use in the past but now they have emerged as very effective tools.” (Jon Anderson, Producer)

In short, the theme of 2015 has been personalization. “Everything is about understanding the user and making a personal experience for them. Spotify — calculate your pace and they’ll pick the right track for you. Custom Converse: Can you design a better sneaker than Patti Smith? The user is in control — and I love it!” (Maya Friedman)

Now that the connection between human and machine is constant, we expect brands to adapt to our activities, predict our preferences and even talk to us. So what innovations are in store for 2016?

Further blurring of the lines between human and machine

Where streaming has allowed people to customize their experience with video and music, wearable devices and biometrics will help us customize the way we experience daily life. “From touch to speech, to gesture and eventually thought (see NeuroSky and similar technologies already used for decades in military applications) biometrics will become increasingly used for identification and for all kinds of purchases.” (Joel Douek, West Coast Creative Director and Chief Scientist)

Virtual Reality will become increasingly mainstream and varied in its use

The rise of VR is the trend we are most excited for in 2016 and it’s time for sound to take center stage in bringing this tech to the next level.

“The rise of VR is huge. Not a conference goes by these days where it’s not a focus. But Virtual Reality is currently virtual vision — to truly reach reality, the sound experience needs to be drastically improved and refined.” (Lauren McGuire, SVP, Managing Director)
“I’m so impressed by the New York Time’s new VR app and its first news story ‘The Displaced.’ To use VR beyond entertainment — and to extend it into education — has a lot of power to do good.” (Amy Crawford)
“For creative story tellers of any kind, the technology to do that work will finally be here. We are finally going to use technology in a compelling way; interactive storytelling, augmented reality, group games. We will finally be able to say, ‘Wow, this is so much better than anything that could be done in any other medium.'” (Jon Anderson)
“I am reminded of the first time a moving image of a train coming towards the screen was shown to audiences at the end of the 19th century — the viewers got up and ran away in fear. Our current reactions to VR are similarly surprised and disjointed, but we will likely accept it as a new form of enhanced media once the novelty subsides, and we will experience much of our visual and audio entertainment in the VR space.” (Joel Douek)

The cloud will be king

Huge leaps like we’ve seen in 2015 and the predicted innovations for 2016 will require new space and speed to keep up. This will be true “for music as much as any other data, and more of our apps will also be hosted online rather than on hard drives. In 2016 and beyond, new forms of computing, including quantum computing will radically change the speed and manner of data processing, and artificial intelligence will rear its autonomous head.” (Joel Douek)

Children will stop simply experiencing devices and start learning how to program them

In 2016, “coding becomes a school curriculum requirement, and more kids are inventing and building things than ever before. Basically everything from littleBits is on my holiday wish list this year.” (Amy Crawford)

What do all of these insights mean for the future? Huge innovations in technology enabling constant access to a mass of media growing at exponential rates will create a lot of extra noise for consumers and listeners. How can companies rise above the din? Our prediction: sonic identity will become even more vital in establishing the multisensory experiences and emotional connections that make brands stand out from the crowd, and Man Made Music is excited to be at the leading edge of sonic strategy. Happy New Year!