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!

If you’re like us, you’re already a bit sick of holiday music. We’ve got an alternative for you — a DJ set with your favorite guilty pleasure tracks. So tune out the mall madness and Christmas radio. Belt out a chorus to spread some non-holiday cheer. You’re welcome.

Spotify Playlist + Track Listing

Man Made Music was inspired to craft a theme for CBS News’ presidential election coverage that embodied the concept of A New Beginning.

Brimming with anticipation and excitement, the theme takes the listener on a journey that touches on the many types of stories encountered on the campaign trail, from personal struggle and persistence to triumph.

We’re honoring the sound and prestige of the CBS News tradition, but at the same time taking a fresh look at our traditional notions of a presidential soundtrack — 2016 is about being modern and unexpected, inspiring to cut footage to, but definitely not bombastic or over the top.

CBS and Man Made Music in the news
USA Today: Orchestrating the election at CBS

IMAX engaged Man Made Music to produce an anthem for the 21st century, and with the world’s biggest bass drop. The new anthem demonstrates the lowest lows and highest highs, showcasing what IMAX is making possible for creators. For this project we created two assets:

The “Pure Experience” Anthem

An expression of the soul of IMAX. The Pure Experience Anthem tells the entirety of the IMAX story, from epic blockbusters to documentaries. The sonic DNA for future work recorded with a 180 piece orchestra and an 80 piece choir.

The Countdown

An iconic piece of the IMAX experience, it heightens anticipation and enhances pre-movie experience triggering emotion in the way only sound can. A single, unique expression of IMAX’s vast sonic technological range and the auditory signature of the brand featuring “The World’s Deepest Bass Drop in Cinema History”. The story behind the unique combination of instruments used to create this sound? It’s a secret.

“If you think about surround sound, it surrounds you—it’s all around you—so there are different games that you can play by pushing different instruments or parts of the soundtrack around, or in back, or to the left, or forward. You can move things around in that space. But with 12-channel, they’ve put speakers over your head. So from my perspective, in terms of creating something, there’s a cone of sound over your head. Part of what we were thinking about when we were creating this is how to use that to the max, to really feel like you’re inside the anthem, and inside the sonic identity for IMAX in the theater.” – Joel Beckerman

IMAX and Man Made Music in the news
Fast Company: Listen to the new IMAX anthem and pre-movie countdown, premiering with “Spectre”
New York Business Journal: How this creative New Yorker gave IMAX a ‘sound-lift’
Digital Trends: IMAX changes its tune with bass-busting new opening theme
Yahoo! News UK: IMAX changes its tune with bass-busting new opening theme

Most of us take our sense of hearing for granted, but these moving videos of humans hearing for the first time in their lives compel us to take a step back and appreciate the wonder of this natural ability. From a 7-week-old baby boy with hearing loss to a 40-year-old woman who suffered all her life from Usher’s Syndrome, you can witness the very moment when their worlds begin to change dramatically.

Whether a person’s first time hearing is later in their years or early in their development, these videos show us that the ability to hear is a true gift that can move and astound us.

Image courtesy of YouTube

The solution to blocking out annoying and distracting noise? Adding more sound. Try these white noise and, softer, pink noise tracks to enhance focus or fall asleep.

White Noise
Use this playlist to stay focused. By blocking out the distractions around you – you’ll see a noticeable difference in the quantity and quality of work you can achieve.

Pink Noise
When I have trouble falling asleep I use pink noise for an uninterrupted rest. Experience pink noise for yourself using this playlist.

Whether you’re getting pumped up for the big game, trying to hit a deadline or drifting off to sleep; what you are listening to can have a profound effect on how you are feeling. Try these playlists to suit or shift your mood.

Be Optimistic
Enjoy this playlist full of uplifting and enlightening songs!

Be Calm
Tested on a wide awake wisdom teeth surgery and a last minute presentation prep, if you’re stressed, answering emails at home late at night this list is perfect. Genre free and roaming it is designed to put you at ease and let your brain wander.

Be Creative
Designed to create new brain connections this playlist is perfect background music for a group brainstorm with medium tempo and interesting textures. Brings energy to the room without creative distractions.

Be Productive
Get it done — minimalist, progressive rock, the kind of beat that keeps you moving without the distractions. The prefect background music to keep you focused on the path forward.

Be Motivated
The kind of anthemic songs you need to encourage you to put your best foot forward. You can rule the world with this intense playlist.

Be Inspired
Full of positivity with an upbeat tempo and organic instrumentation this list is designed to inspire.

Be Active
For a work-out, a pre-game, prepping for a confrontation — this playlist is all about getting your blood pumping and adrenaline flowing with intense tracks.

How Hospital Noise Can Sabotage Care

Hospitals are a place you go to heal, but their sonic environments can hurt your healing process. Beeping alarms intended to alert workers to emergencies are occurring too often and too loudly. This leads to stress among patients, and healthcare workers are becoming so desensitized that critical alarms are often ignored or silenced. Known as “Alarm Fatigue”, this worsening problem results in hundreds of deaths annually in the US alone. How can hospitals turn down the volume and tune into the needs of their patients?

Music may be created by humans for humans, but a closer look at the animal world shows that music and man-made sound can have a reach further and more profound than imagined. From a bevy zof cows who follow a spirited rendition of Lorde on a trombone to elephants delighted by—and dancing to—a Bach piece on violin, these moving videos show that sounds created by man not only affect animals, but captivate and inspire them. Indeed, they give a whole new meaning to the idea of music being a universal language.

However, the creation of captivating sound isn’t a one-way street. This extraordinary example from BBC’s The Life of Birds demonstrates that just as man listens closely to bird song, some birds are finely attuned to human sound, too. Here, the lyre bird takes man-made noises and mimics them in its natural habitat—and in effect, volleys them back at us, giving us a true reflection of sound.

Just as animals can be affected and moved by man-made sounds, so, too, can humans be mesmerized by sounds emitted by animals. When you listen to this whale sing, you experience both the deeply moving power and universality of music.

Music plays a subliminal but integral part of the film preview. But you may not realize just how big a role it plays in setting the stage for a movie until the trailer is stripped of its context and re-spliced with something dramatically different. These three classic movie previews use music to turn the premises on their heads and — wait for it — flip the script.

With the help of some clever editing and the right song, the music helps transform a horror movie to a comedy, and a family classic to a nightmarish scenario.

Not to be outdone, this video trades in a slapstick knee-slapper for a heart-pounding nail biter with the help of the suspenseful music from Inception.