(Note: This editorial originally appeared in the August issue of Mix, so some of the meteorological references are slightly out of date. Sadly, the numbers became even worse over the ensuing weeks.)
For more than a month now, every morning when I wake up and scan the news sites, there has been some form of front page story involving extreme heat. First it was New York City and much of the Northeast baking in a brief few days of abnormal heat. Then the Bay Area and most of Northern California, on up to Portland and Seattle.
Early in July, West Texas, soon followed by Oklahoma, Nebraska, Missouri, Tennessee, Louisiana and the entire Gulf Coast. During the second week of July, the globe—yes, The Globe—experienced back-to-back records for Hottest Day Ever, or at least since they’ve been measuring those types of things. As I write this, Phoenix is going through its 12th straight day of 110-plus degrees, and warnings have been issued throughout Southern California about the coming extreme-heat event settling in this Saturday.
There is plenty of evidence for why this is happening, of course, and I’m a guy who believes in science. But I’m also a guy who lives a life of words, so when the temperature starts sneaking into the 90s, I mostly just think about the fact that it’s hella hot. And then I start thinking about the word “hot,” and its many and varied usages. A posse can be hot on the heels of an outlaw, a Lothario might be dressed to the nines and hot to trot on a Saturday night, a collection of stolen jewelry is certainly hot if you’re a pawn shop owner. And when Steph Curry gets in the zone and starts raining three-pointers, he is en fuego!
Ultimately, I started thinking about “hot” in the sense of something, someone or some business that is successful, rising, popular and on a roll. In terms of pro audio, a few random observations came to mind….
Headphones: This is such a giant market. Just think about the millions and millions of gamers, all the commuters standing on your morning train, all the teenagers up in their rooms, plus all the engineers, producers and musicians who demand quality. Now the race is on for the Holy Grail of headphone listening: realistic, externalized, individualized, and mind-blowing immersive audio playback. Much more to come.
Artificial Intelligence: Certainly ChatGPT is hot, as is the buzz around its possibilities and implications, from publishing to songwriting, politics to news. But I prefer to dig deeper into this in an upcoming month. Lots and lots going on here….
Speakers (Studio): Much of the recent activity has been driven by immersive audio—more speakers in a room! But it’s also been about speaker systems, setup and control. The options in monitor controllers have expanded greatly in the past three years, at all price points and for nearly any imaginable workflow. Plus, the need for mounts and stands.
Loudspeakers (Live): Meanwhile, there have been dozens of new live sound loudspeakers introduced over the past 18 months, from Bose’s new S1 Pro portable P.A. to Meyer Sound’s flagship Panther line array system. Much of it seems to be driven by the ever-increasing demand for more power and less weight.
Immersive Music: It’s still hot, even if it seems that the daily news has slowed down. Dolby Atmos, Sony 360RA and Apple Spatial are all continuing to develop and improve systems, and more manufacturers are creating immersive-focused tools every day. Producers, engineers and musicians continue to convert or build personal immersive studios, as do commercial facilities. Spotify will no doubt enter the game before long, which could accelerate consumer demand and acceptance like a second booster rocket. Stay tuned.
Immersive Live: The experiential Sphere at Sonic Shed in New York City; the massive, soon-to-open MSG Sphere in Las Vegas; Broadway and the West End. While the promise of immersive Las Vegas residencies has been slow to get going, rest assured, it’s coming. It will be a different type of immersive audio for the audience, as compared to the experience in recorded music or post-production playback. It’s more about coverage, bringing each member of the audience a unique surround experience.
Tools for Content Creators: Podcasts were hugely popular long before the pandemic, and pro audio manufacturers responded by developing new lines of much-simplified, often USB-based, high-quality, low-cost gear. Mostly microphones, headphones, and 2- and then 4-channel audio interfaces. Content Creators, for all practical purposes, are next-gen podcasters. Podcasters aren’t going away. Content Creators are simply upping the ante and expanding the productions, and manufacturers are responding.
Nashville: The recording industry is crazy busy in Music City right now. Honorable mention: Miami.
Taylor Swift and Beyonce: With all due respect to Ed Sheeran, Bad Bunny, Juanes and maybe a couple others, when was the last time that the Top Two Megastars of the Music Industry were women? Each has a smash new record, along with a slew of singles. Each is currently out on a massive global tour. And each is simply killing it! These two have such a huge influence on girls and young women. If they inspire even a few to pursue a career in music or recording, we’re all better off for it.
Now go get out of the heat! And while you’re cooling off, if you think of something hot that you’d like to add, please let us know.