What Does a Brand Sound Like?

The core question of a class I'm teaching this fall at San Francisco's Academy of Art

Does the start-up sound of a computer have an emotional meaning to its user? Why are ringtones more popular than ringback tones? Is the commercial jingle a relic in our supposedly media-savvy age? How does a retail space decide upon its playlist? Do bars and restaurants really sell more drinks when the music is played louder? Why do some stores hide their speakers, while others make them prominent features of the interior design? Should websites have scores, or background music, the way that movies and TV shows do? Should ebooks? Should movies and TV shows, for that matter? Why are voice actors famous in some countries and largely anonymous in others? What have online MP3 retailers learned from brick’n’mortar stores — what have they unlearned, and what have they forgotten? How do darknet filesharing services promote themselves in secret? What does the relative prominence of social-network functionality say about Apple, Bandcamp, eMusic, Rhapsody, SoundCloud, and other online services? When and why did musicians stop being perceived as sell-outs when they licensed their songs to TV commercials?

What, to put it simply, does a brand sound like?

These are some of the questions we’ll explore in a course I’ll be teaching this autumn at the Academy of Art in San Francisco (academyart.edu). The official title of the class is “ADV 499-30: Special Topics: Sound Branding.” More specifically, it’s titled “Sounds of Brands / Brands of Sounds.” It’s a weekly class, running for 15 weeks straight on Wednesdays from noon until 3:00pm. The first day of class is September 12. There will be a mix of lectures (by me and by some invited guests), exercises, and assignments. Throughout we’ll look closely at — that is to say, we’ll listen closely to — how sound functions in the media landscape. The course is divided into three segments: first a focus on listening, second “Sounds of Brands, and third “Brands of Sounds.”

I’ll be posting more information in advance of the class, and throughout the class’ run. Those posts will be tagged, as has this one been: sounds-of-brands.

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