Why Sound Just Isn’t Rich Any More

I am one of those people who always has Radio 4 on in the background when I’m working from home. The different voices, tones and the pips is a good motivator and keeps me on track as to where I am in the day. If it’s Woman’s Hour, I know it’s still early, if it’s the afternoon play, I know I better speed up if I want to get everything finished for the day. Radio is my favourite medium. It’s more demanding than tv but it has the best pictures.

And the future for radio looks rosy. Podcasts are popular and the demand for them is growing too. But whatever I listen too, whether it’s linear radio or downloadable podcasts, I’ve noticed that texture is missing. There seems to be a distinct lack of richer sounds, of sound effects and of more creative soundscapes. What’s happened to montages? To pieces which gave you a sense of place or of pure wonder?

Instead all we appear to be hearing are voices, voices and more voices. Interviews are all very well, whether it’s in the studio or outside it, but what happened to the reporter’s pieces? Why are they missing?

I suspect the answer is down to either time or money. Reporters cost much more to do these pieces as often they need to spend longer on them, or if a programme is using a freelancer, they fee offered does not equate to how much time is needed on the piece and so it’s not made.

Surely those who listen deserve more than pithy interviews? I believe this is where podcasts can triumph. If they continue to be creative with sound and create sound -rich content, then why would anyone go back to the more straight forward, pared-back format of interviews and phone ins? Not that there isn’t a place for them, there certainly is but variety keeps the listener’s ear tuned in.

With the increasing demand for speech audio and a market that will soon be crowded with offerings, I hope the listeners will be more discriminatory in their choice and choose texture.