Audio has always been a very intimate, very powerful, very emotional communication channel—and at its core, it hasn’t changed much over the years. People in the 1950s were driving around in their cars listening to the radio. If you remove the audio from a movie you can see why it’s such a powerful medium. But we’re also inside a key moment with a lot of potential inflection points ahead of us that can make the future hard to predict. With digital advancements, the consumption of audio is changing. It’s able to reach more people while getting increasingly more personal; we’ve moved from an age of broadcasting a message in one direction, to an intelligent, adaptable two-way conversation.
The future of audio is a world in which sound is refined and tailored to the listener, and the listener will be able to respond and engage. Audio streaming will be more seamless and integrated into experiences. What excites me are the disruptive advancements that could miniaturize devices essentially to a point of disappearing; like the idea of neuralinks. You might not need any software at all because the sound would just be in your head plugged directly into the sound nerve. Being able to access sound how and when you want to, or not at all? That’s the ultimate in personalization.
As audio experiences become more personalized, audio advertisers will need to incentivize their key audiences through explicit, genuine value exchange; i.e., virtual rewards or unlocking perks. If everyone does this right, it would mean a win/win/win for artists, listeners and advertisers.
Consumers will want to buy into fewer digital lifestyle bundles that give them everything they want, with niche services on the side depending on their habits and interests. And companies will compete for their attention, combining multiple services under one larger ecosystem – so that the listener stays put and doesn’t need to go elsewhere to get what they’re looking for.
Another disruptive trend happening is AI-assisted music-making. Like any technology, it will be progressive for the industry as it will allow for many different types of content to emerge, and liberating for creators as anyone with a computer can create new music. SoundCloud Rap has been so successful because it’s relatable and accessible. It’s the raw energy of the punk scene applied to simple electronic gear, and it can reach millions of listeners in just a few clicks. It’s about more than the music you hear (and might not relate to); it’s about enabling a creator’s journey. The story is about the community, the movement—the energy that’s only found on platforms like SoundCloud. So if AI can support this narrative, it could be a positive thing.
The future of audio is hard to predict because disruptive technology can be hard to predict. But with advancements in personalization, platformization and accessibility—one thing is for certain: audio is not going anywhere.