Listen Up.

Listen Up.

April 19, 2022


So a few minutes ago, Susan and I start writing this newsletter about SOUND -- sitting back-to-back, Susan is writing her bit, I'm writing mine. Then a group text comes in from my sister. DING. 🛎 Susan replies. DING. 🛎 My sister replies. DING. 🛎 They both reply. DING DING. 🛎🛎

I'm trying to concentrate on writing about sounds, so I yell, "I hate group texts!! Stop the dinging!!! I HATE THAT SOUND." *

And we both burst out laughing. 😂 😂 Sound is a powerful trigger.

*How to mute a group text on an iPhone

A couple of months ago, we heard a fascinating podcast about Sonic IDs. Think about the sound you hear when Netflix opens or your Mac boots up. These are sounds that have become linked to the brands they represent — basically, they are audio logos.

But what happens when a sonic brand no longer works? Executives at HBO faced this tough question as they reevaluated the network's iconic sound. That's what this podcast is all about — and definitely worth a listen.👇🏼

This got me thinking about how we might create a Sonic ID for Jan & Susan. Maybe we could compose an audio logo using familiar sounds we hear throughout our workday:  

  • Alarm clock ⏰
  • Theme song of The Daily podcast (we listen faithfully M-F)
  • Beep when coffee finishes brewing 🙌
  • Mac startup sound
  • Recycling truck (crashing bottles) 💥
  • Poptop on LaCroix can
  • Susan's mechanical keyboard(s) 🙄
  • Airpod ding when device connects
  • Slack notification

Interspersed with the sounds above is music of all types (more about that from Susan coming up). What does your business sound like? How would you compose your Sonic ID?

One final note: Did you know cassette tapes are making a comeback? What??? Why??? (Ask Billie Eilish, John Mayer and Taylor Swift, all of whom have released albums on cassette.) Better start planning my next mixtape...


Mr. Smooth is back — and I’m absolutely here for it. Man, this dude can PLAY the guitar AND sing. He returns to our corner each Spring, two or three nights a week for a few hours, and life is just better when he’s playing. The Weeknd, Bill Withers, Ed Sheeran, Sinatra, Van Morrison — MR. SMOOTH can play anything! When he comes back each year, we know winter is over.

In the colder months, the only performer who braves the Portland drizzle with regularity is a mediocre trumpet player. His very limited (and annoying) playlist includes these gems: You Are My Sunshine; When the Saints Go Marching In; De Colores. Mr. Trumpet isn't a terrible musician, but he has zero imagination when it comes to learning new tunes — and we've heard the old ones a thousand times. When he's on the corner, I grab my headphones or AirPods or earplugs (or anything) to drown out the sound.

Other sounds that make my skin crawl are those irritating "on hold" music tracks. And there seems to be an evil algorithm — the calls with the longest hold times (Intuit, the IRS, any bank) play the worst music, and there's not a flippin' thing you can do about it. Slack even integrated "hold" music for their new "Huddle" connection. Love Slack, but for real — someone selected this music? 😖

When we listened to the Sonic ID podcast, it reminded us that sound matters, even in business. We've invested in some essential equipment (listed below) to help manage bad sound, but had never really thought about ways that we might incorporate good sound to improve our clients' experience. That's something we're still pondering.

Meanwhile, we'll keep sharing good sounds (music, podcasts, etc.) we like and hope you'll like, too. A few of those are linked below. Happy listening!

And here's the point.

"When you get the sound wrong, people hate experiences. People don't realize how grating... something that's just a little bit off… is to people. Eliminating sonic trash from people's lives makes a huge difference. Even before you get it right... what you definitely don't want is to get it wrong."

- Joel Beckerman
The Sonic Boom: How Sound Transforms the Way We Think, Feel, and Buy

When you get it right, sound boosts more than your mood — it can boost your business. On the other hand (per the quote above), "When you get the sound wrong... people hate experiences."

We enjoyed this article about a master musician in New York who created a playlist for his favorite Japanese restaurant. He loved the food and visited often, but he hated the music. So he approached the chef and offered to curate the music (none of his own). And the playlist really IS great; you can listen here.

As the writer of the article points out, "If I’m going to spend decent money on a meal, I don’t want the reservation-taker, the dishwasher or someone from the back office to be cooking it; I want someone who is very good at cooking food to do it. The same should apply to the music, which after all will be playing before, during and after the eating."

How about you? Are there ways you can use sound or music to enhance your customers' experience? We'd love to hear your ideas.

"Music has a powerful way of getting under our skin.

Ever found yourself humming a jingle incessantly? Or getting oddly emotional over a certain song on the radio? Or recalling every line to a teen anthem you haven’t heard in decades?

Music subconsciously affects our mood, energy levels, memory recall and even behavior. It can heighten our sense of connection to people, experiences and spaces – even businesses.

It’s this effect that researches have been measuring for the past two decades. The bulk of research shows a clear connection between soundtrack and a business’ performance. And yet, music remains one of the most underused tools for business success."

Why Your Business Background Music Matters: An Ultimate Guide

Make your ears happy

Music for Spring: We started this weekend with an old favorite: Eku'u Morning Dew by Hawaiian legend Israel Kamakawiwo'ole. Then we moved on to a mellow compilation of brand new folk-indie tunes (the first track, Sweet Home, sounds like Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young at their best). TODAY is the first OFFICIAL day of Spring, so maybe we'll celebrate with Vivaldi's Spring from The Four Seasons.

Equipment: In the remote working world, controlling background sounds can be a challenge — our office is relatively quiet, but it is definitely positioned on a busy city street. Here's what we use and recommend:

  • AirPods Pro: yes, the noise-canceling is definitely worth the upgrade
  • Sony WH-1000XM3: these are now WH-1000XM4, but still considered the best wireless noise-canceling headphones made

Either of these provides great audio (for listening or phone calls).

Podcast: If you love music, Song Exploder is a don't-miss podcast where musicians take apart their songs, and piece by piece, tell the story of how they were made. Guests include Fleetwood Mac, Billie Eilish, U2, Metallica, Solange, Lorde, Yo-Yo Ma, The Roots, Bon Iver, and more. Here’s the full list of episodes.

We'd love to hear from you. Do you have questions about us or how we might be able to help your business? Let's talk. No strings attached, we promise. Click here and schedule a time to connect.

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