30 Jan '24 - blog / Event report

BMIM x ADE: Immersive Audio_ The Future of Sound

Buma Music In Motion was part of this year’s Amsterdam Dance Event with a fully stacked conference day at the Main Business Hub Felix Meritis. Hundreds of music professionals joined our talks and panels, where we dove into the latest developments in our field. Besides discussing future challenges and opportunities with experts, we invited many well-known composers, producers, and other music professionals to share their insights. In these features, we’ll share their knowledge with you.

Text by Meike Jentjes
Photo’s by Birgit Bijl

The two industry experts

This engaging panel discussion on immersive audio with Richard Burki of Future Phonic Studios and Koos Zwaan of Inholland University of Applied Sciences /International Music Industry Lab talked us through the transformative journey of the (media) music industry. These two industry experts highlighted some of the most urgent matters in our field, like the pivotal role of technology and the creative possibilities it unlocks, and we’re sharing these industry insights with you in this article.

BMIM x ADE - immersive audio
BMIM x ADE - immersive audio

‘Buzzword’ immersive audio

Let’s start with the question of what immersive audio actually entails. This ‘buzzword’ is everywhere: from Dolby Atmos to club nights. What does it mean? Richard Burki: ‘Immersive audio is about recreating three-dimensional music experiences. Mono and stereo sound is one-dimensional, very much like your television. When we talk about formats such as surround sound, those are two-dimensional, where we have width and depth that we can work with. We realized that by adding the element of height, we could create experiences that immerse you not only on a conscious but also on a subconscious level. In immersive audio, we’re playing with human instincts to create virtual experiences.’ He adds: ‘We’re at this point where we have a lot of new audio technologies that present a lot of new creative opportunities that go beyond just the technical sound. It’s about how we experience and deliver experiences.’

Pandemic as a starting point for ‘revolution’

Having talked through the music industry’s history, the two take the pandemic as a starting point for a ‘revolution’ in our playing field. Richard Burki: ‘For the first time in a very long time, the whole record industry had to take a hard look at itself and reassess where it was coming from. We had to rethink many strategies, not just around the creation but also the dissemination of music. Obviously, this really spearheaded a lot of technological innovations. For spatial and immersive audio experiences, it was an exciting time.’

BMIM x ADE 2023 immersive audio - Richard Burki

‘Fortunately, what we’re seeing now with spatial and immersive audio is that the first wave of consumer technologies rolling out, such as headphones that include head tracking or soundbars and smart speakers that use forms of calibration where they can measure the acoustics of your room, and they use the reflections in your room to recreate three-dimensional audio from even a single sound source. Right now, the conversation is becoming more and more about the content side.’

Engaging in new ways

BMIM x ADE Immersive Audio - Koos Zwaan

Koos Zwaan names Travis Scott’ playing’ in Fortnite with thirty million viewers as a great example of new technologies. He explains why these new music experiences are here to stay: ‘Even though you might say the sound of these online concerts was not great, or maybe the experience was definitely not the same as being at a concert, just look at the numbers. It was necessary to do it online, merely to engage their audiences and do so in different ways – you could say in the Metaverse.’ He also mentions a VR concert by Jean-Michel Char with 75 million viewers, and names hologram performances the future, especially with artists that are no longer with us.’ This is all connected to spatial audio, as we’re looking at different aspects of a general transition happening across the media landscape where we’re moving to a new type of immersive experience for music, as the duo puts it. Look at trends like ASMR or 8D audio, and how many followers those attract.

How does spatial audio impact the future?

‘We’re very accustomed to the traditional stage perspective, which changes with immersive and spatial audio experiences. So you’re no longer confined to how we’ve been mixing stereo sound, for instance’, says Richard Burki. ‘I think that presents an exciting opportunity for us to rethink what a music experience means to the average listener and how we want to present that as well.’ He thinks that the audio industry is ten years behind when it comes to the business side of things. According to Burki, that’s why many spatial audio technologies have had a very slow to take off. ‘I think those experiences will become much more commonplace over the next five years.’

I think that presents an exciting opportunity for us to rethink what a music experience means to the average listener and how we want to present that as well.

Richard Bukri

Zwaan adds that it’s also a matter of experiencing immersive audio firsthand because if you’ve never experienced it, you don’t know the possibilities. ‘In a way, it’s breaking the fourth wall to sound experience. Once you’ve experienced it, it adds layers to what’s creatively possible. Not just for consumers, but for creators, too.’