8. Sonic Branding: An Introduction

13 years ago our CEO Daniel M Jackson wrote a book that marked a seminal moment in the history of sonic branding. The book is called ‘Sonic Branding: An Introduction’.

In this week's extract Daniel introduces a framework for classifying the millions of different sounds that we hear in our lives. In broad terms there are three types or elements of sound; voice, ambience (or effects) and music..


The three elements of sound - Music

'Writing about music is like dancing about architecture - it's really a stupid thing to want to do.' Elvis Costello

Trying to define music is always fun! This is what the New Oxford Dictionary of English has to say: 'The art of science of combining vocal or instrumental sounds (or both) to produce beauty of form, harmony and expression of emotion.' This is a fabulous definition and I am yet to find any other that puts it more succinctly. If it has a flaw, it is that music today incorporates ambient sounds that are neither vocal nor instrumental, but I will overlook that because the basics are so good.

Music is the fundamental element of sound in terms of sonic branding. As well as the cultural reasons outlined already, there are many other important references in this book as to why music is so important for brands. Perhaps the simplest, though, it that music can incorporate any and all the sounds in the world. If we can record them they can be used in music, be they vocal, ambient or made by any of the thousands of musical instruments man has invented.

Music is a huge subject and many books have been written about its art, its social functions, its psychology and just about every other aspect of the cultural phenomenon. It touches the lives of everyone in some way and thanks to our ability to record it, has become one of the dominant art forms in western culture. It has also become the victim of its own success because as any true musician will tell you, the drive to create is artistic yet the driving forces of today's music are big business. Today there is a great feeling that music has been hijacked for the sole purpose of generating wealth and this is an accusation that has been levelled at the sonic branding industry as well as the more obviously culpable recording industry.