An abstract image depicting the importance of sound design in podcasts with sound waves, musical notes, and storytelling elements intertwining.

Importance of Sound Design in Podcasts: Crafting the Perfect Audio Experience

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Discover the Importance of Sound Design in Podcasts and How It Elevates Your Branded Content

We’ve written endlessly about the importance of audio quality for your podcast. Why? Partially because that’s what we do here at JAR Audio, but also because it really is crucial if you want to make an award-winning podcast! Of course, audio quality relies on the sound quality that your MIC picks up, which is why we suggest avoiding DIY audio. But we’ll tell you a secret — sound quality is not the only ingredient in the recipe of eardrum-pleasing noise. The importance of sound design in podcasts cannot be overstated – it is just as critical as having good audio.

Diverse people reacting emotionally to soundscapes, highlighting the importance of sound design in podcasts.

Why Does Sound Design Matter to Your Bottom Line?

Your podcast can be made up of the best quality sound files in the world, but if you haven’t stitched them together properly, hooooo boy, you’re gonna have some unsettling acoustic experiences coming through your headphones. In other words, you’ll have unsavoury sound design. Remember how the best branded podcasts create an emotional response within their audience? Without great sound design, the emotional response will be confusion, distates, or even disgust. Worse, the listener’s reaction will be turning the podcast off, rather than getting that brand lift and maybe even that conversion. Definitely not the desired response. 

Poor sound design can distract the audience from the message you’re trying to get across, reduce the likelihood they’ll want to listen to the next episode (or even see the current one through, which is a key KPI), and will give audiences the impression that your brand doesn’t actually care about what it’s putting out to the world. We don’t want that for your brand, and we’re certain you don’t either!

Here are three of the top mistakes brands make with their audio, leading to unsavoury sound design. 

Illustration of storytelling blending with sound elements, highlighting harmonious sound design in podcasts.

Mistake # 1: The Sounds Don’t Match the Story

Picture this. You have your headphones in, listening to someone tell a story about walking home alone in the dark. The tension is growing, “the biggest dog I’ve ever seen rose from the shadows and…” suddenly you can hear… a chihuahua?! Way to ruin the image. 

It is crucial that if you are layering sounds into your audio story, they match the story content! (Unless you are trying to win an award for dramatic irony – in which case – juxtapose your heart out). But for the majority of audio storytelling, the sound design should serve the story. Good sound design allows listeners to be transported mentally into the story and experience it on a deeper level. When there’s dissonance between the words they hear and the sounds in the background, you shatter the experience and violently jerk them out of their imagination and back to reality. If there’s any way to have your target audience miss the values you’re trying to get across, it’s by mismatching your soundscape and story content. 

Speaking of soundscapes… 

Image depicting confusion caused by mismatched sounds and music, highlighting the importance of sound design in podcasts.

Mistake #2: The Sound Design is Distracting

Another great way to lose your audience is by adding too much texture to your branded podcast. We get it — Building an entire world solely with the power of audio is incredible! However, it can be easy to overdo the soundscape and completely overrun the central message or intent of the words.Your sound design should support – not compete with your story.  Otherwise, your audience will have trouble staying focused on the content itself. They may retain less of the message you are trying to get across. It’s important to hit the sweet spot between sound design and spoken content. Audio is a very powerful tool for marketing and taps into our memory banks like nothing else. Build a world your listeners can escape into, but make sure the values and conversation your brand is trying to have still resonate.

This brings us to the last, super important aspect of sound design that brands get wrong:

Mistake #3: There’s a Music Mismatch

A soundscape isn’t just ambient noise and random sound effects like footsteps, biting into chips, and doors slamming. Music is one of our most powerful tools to add tension, tap into our memory for brand recognition and awareness, create and recall emotion, and help build an overall feeling within a podcast. It’s about feel, texture, memory, and location. If you’re talking about someone falling overboard, don’t have Henry Mancini’s Baby Elephant Walk bumping in the background (unless you really, really didn’t like that person)! Likewise, if your character is talking about romantically salsa dancing the night away in Mexico, then Scandinavian death metal in the background will be a real buzz kill. 

When your music doesn’t match the tone or content of your branded podcast, it will fail to get your point across and reduce the value of the episode for your audience. It will quickly become a source of annoyance or distraction (see Mistake #2). Unless you consider your music choices wisely, you won’t evoke that emotional response that is crucial for brand lift. 

Music mismatches are also why we say owning your podcast audio is important. If someone else uses “your song” in a commercial for denture cleaner, it reduces your ability to make the most of the human mind’s incredible recall for music, and its deep associative power. 

We Demand Savoury Sounds!

Do your branded podcast a favour and ensure your sound design makes your podcast a tasty snack and not a bunch of unsavoury sounds smashed together. Again, the recipe for an excellent branded podcast isn’t just quality audio. Quality is the basis of a good sonic meal. But  the differentiating factor is sound design: how all those wonderful sounds are combined to build a tangible world and invite deeper retention, and emotional engagement. 

For examples of those three APPALLING sound design mistakes brought to life in three minutes, check out Episode 5 of the JAR Audio podcast, How To Get Ahead In Podcasting. And be sure to leave us a 5-star BAD REVIEW. 

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5 Key Takeaways

  1. Quality Audio is Essential but Not Sufficient: While high-quality audio is crucial, it must be complemented by excellent sound design to create an award-winning branded podcast.
  2. Sound Design Enhances Emotional Engagement: Proper sound design helps evoke the desired emotional response from your audience, preventing negative reactions and improving retention.
  3. Consistency in Sound and Storytelling: Matching the sound design with the story content is critical to maintaining listener immersion and ensuring the message resonates.
  4. Avoid Overly Complex Soundscapes: Overloading your podcast with too many audio elements can distract from the central message. Balance is key.
  5. Music Must Match the Mood: The right music can enhance the podcast’s emotional impact, while mismatched music can disrupt the listener’s experience and diminish the brand’s message.

By: Laurissa Cebryk

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