Music producers have spent a lot of time developing their digital audio skills. Most will pursue a career in music, while a much smaller group will study sound design and effects for film. Neither road is easy, but recent improvements to the software landscape could make sound design a more attractive prospect.
Audio Design Desk launched three years ago and has been solving many of the complex problems that professional sound designers previously struggled with.
These improvements are a response to growing demand from social media influencers and micro-businesses. They need ways to create high quality content. Acting on camera and chopping up clips is in their wheelhouse, but they don't know how to mix layers of music and effects with their voiceovers.
In August 2023, ADD launched a new educational hub for studying sound effects in film. Each article includes royalty-free sounds you can download, along with concrete examples from movies to explore. Current topics include:
Pop sound effects: Balloons, bubble gum and popcorn
Knocking sound effects: Mild impacts on doors, floors, and tables
Scary sound effects: Explores the psychology of horror sounds
Thud sound effects: Big, low-frequency impacts from monsters
Gun sound effects: From war movies to science fiction weapons
Creating audio for video usually follows after you've learned the fundamentals of a DAW. Audio Design Desk was the missing piece for musicians who didn't like bouncing between DAWs and video editors. In this article we'll look at the app as well as the career implications for people who choose to invest their time into it.
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How does Audio Design Desk compare to Adobe?
Professional sound designers have historically used ProTools or Adobe Audition with a video editor like Adobe Premier. The minority of music producers have experience as video editors. Beginners run into syncing problems and lose valuable time trying to bounce files between their DAW and video editor. These challenges prevent beginners from creating content.
Audio Design Desk has made some big improvements to these workflows and is winning innovation awards at industry conferences in the United States. Keep reading to learn more about the software and how people are using it to create sound for moving pictures. You can also download their app and activate a free trial to take it for a spin.
Audio Design Desk: Product of the Year at NAB 2023
Audio Design Desk recently showcased their new DAW, ADD 2.0, in a series of live demos at NAMM and NAB. The team already won Product of the Year and Best of Show in 2022, so I was impressed to see them win the same awards again in 2023.
Sound on Sound and Sonicstate shared footage of the ADD 2.0 demos they recorded at NAMM. Below you'll find a demo by Jared Otto, one of the product experts at Audio Design Desk. He's able to play the QWERTY keyboard like an instrument and build huge ambient soundscapes in under a minute.
I first discovered Jared's work through his ReDesign series on ADD's website, where he rescores famous video content. Each ReDesign drop includes the project files for free, so you can mimic and practice his techniques. If you're new to this world and want some mentorship, I definitely recommend checking out these tutorials!
Audio Design Desk 2.0 to integrate with MAKR.AI
We've recently learned that Audio Design Desk 2.0 will be integrating with MAKR.AI. This was one of the big announcements at NAMM and NAB this year.
The MAKR plugin will add file management tools and chat capabilities to the DAW. It will include creative AI tools to generate text and images. But more importantly, it will serve as a new community marketplace where audio people can link up with videographers and collaborate on projects, to earn a living together.
You won't have to send zip files back and forth through paid services like Dropbox anymore. Collaborators will pull down the latest version of a project using shared cloud storage. Once they save, those updates go back up to the cloud and can be retrieved by others.
A private beta of ADD 2.0 is currently rolling out, with the full release scheduled for Summer/Fall of 2023. Pick up a copy of the current version and join their Slack channel to get request access to the beta.
AudioCipher's review of Audio Design Desk
We've covered a few AI DAWs here at AudioCipher. Each one seems to bring something different to the table. In January we reported on the audio-to-midi DAW Samplab 2. Last month we reviewed WavTool, a text-to-MIDI DAW powered by GPT-4, in collaboration with our music production partner SimulationBeats.
For this Audio Design Desk feature, we asked Brett to take the DAW on a test run and let us know how it goes. Here's the results of his research:
As a music producer, Brett has mostly worked in FL Studio. He had to shift his mindset from making music to designing sound for video. ADD's keyboard shortcuts were easy enough to learn. Now that he's got the hang of it, he's started using the DAW to add more sonic depth to all of his YouTube content.
Audio Design Desk comes with a sample library of 70,000 sounds, including studio grade foley, sfx, and music. Each sound is rich with metadata and the DAW's artificial intelligence can read + interpret it.
With all the recent hysteria surrounding AI music tools, I want to go a bit deeper on ADD's sonic intelligence and explain what it actually does for users.
Toward the ethical use of artificial intelligence in music creation
The music industry seems to be having a panic attack. Debates over music and AI safety were held by the Human Artistry Campaign at South by Southwest this year. It seems like the RIAA is scared that their listener pool will be diluted. Artists are crying out against AI, viewing it as a threat toward their earnings.
The most controversial and popular tools are a new breed of voice-impersonation apps, like Voice.AI and Uberduck, that can imitate major label artists. Labels claim that these AI music models are unfair to their artists.
Generative music software, like OpenAI's Jukebox and Google's text-to-music software MusicLM, train on copyright music to generate new songs. AI song generators don't pose the same kind of threat right now, because they lack the realism that AI voices have achieved.
Before artificial intelligence entered the picture, major labels had already been caught running warehouses filled with mobile devices to boost their streaming numbers artificially. Rolling Stone reported these criminal streaming farm operations have cost artists close to $300M/year in earning opportunities.
After years of exploiting the system to their advantage, it's difficult to have much sympathy for major labels. On the other hand, it's true that there are some serious ethical problems around the unauthorized use of other people's voices.
Fortunately, the sonic artificial intelligence running inside Audio Design Desk is not impacted by any of those problems. It doesn't imitate voices or existing music. It improves on DAW workflows using the metadata stored on their collection of 70,000+ labeled audio files.
How Audio Design Desk's AI Sonic Intelligence works
We were fortunate to connect with the VP of Sound at Audio Design Desk, Chris Gear, who answered some of our questions about what their AI actually does.
In a nutshell, sonic Intelligence is aware of the sounds in your timeline. It interprets their intended use via the audio file metadata, embedded markers and positions relative to one another.
Audio Design Desk's AI conjures the right sounds with a single keystroke and places them right where you need them. It includes a replace option that hot swaps any collection of sounds for another set of clips in their respective category. Just click, drag, select, and swap without ever losing sync. ADD also supports time stretching, pitch correction and BPM matching.
How is sound design different from film scoring?
Sound design refers to the digital creation and alteration of audio effects for placement in TV shows, movies, ads, podcasts and audiobooks. Supervising sound editors often work with a sound designer to bring everything together on a project. They'll collaborate on the mix and try to sync audio flawlessly with video.
Most sound design is used in the absence of music, to create emotional impact. Film scores consist of melodies and chord progressions. Sound design centers on artificial effects instead. Atmospheric ambience and foley merge with sound design to create the immersive, cinematic experience we all love.
Smaller productions hand the responsibility for sound effects over to the composer. This is common with video games, smaller indie films, and social media content creators. Smaller budgets require each person to wear more hats.
Do sound designers earn a good living in 2023?
A professional sound designer currently earns an average of $35/hour. If you get into full time work, sound designer salaries can range from $42,000-120,000 per year, including benefits like health insurance and paid time off.
Of the reported 71,828 people registered in the US Musical Groups & Artists industry, sound designers comprise only 1.3% of that community. That's not a big talent pool to compete with, and there's a lot of new opportunity surfacing.
YouTube and TikTok have created an internet economy where influencers and user generated content act on behalf of bigger brands. They need royalty-free audio to use on their projects, to maximize engagement and get brand deals.
That's why companies like Epidemic Sound and Artlist have been so successful licensing audio to small content creators on the internet. It's the same value proposition that AI companies like AIVA and Mubert are trying to make.
Video creators need audio. Royalty-free music is only half the battle though. They also need sound effects. The task of selecting, placing, and mixing sound effects is often outside their skillset. They get by on personality, charisma, social media savvy. Music production skills are precisely the skill that they're missing.
Audio for video: A revenue source for musicians
To earn a living with music today, you need to be clever with your personal brand and spend your time wisely. Sound design is closer to a traditional job than other music, so it appeals to some people more than others.
Here's a personal anecdote - during high school I played in a band. We currently have around 20,000 monthly listeners on Spotify. Distrokid sends us a monthly check for $250-300 per month. As a three-piece band, that's $80/month each.
Fortunately, streaming is not the only way to earn a living with music. Platforms like BeatStars Studio have helped people network and sell their beats to other artists. Songwriters can license tracks on AudioJungle or sell sample packs on Splice and ADSR. Sales performance is different on each marketplace.
Performing artists make most of their money live, from tickets sales and merch. Some of the more adventurous creatives have dipped their toes into music NFTs and are collecting crypto assets to supplement their income.
I don't want to position audio for video as the ultimate solution to earning a living with music. But the process did just get a whole lots easier thanks to Audio Design Desk. It's going to be a game changer when MAKR.AI launches inside the DAW and you can collaborate directly with videographers, at a distance.
Download a free trial of ADD to see if it's something you could enjoy. We've also published a related article on how to write musical themes for movie characters. It's a fascinating topic that we hope to continue unpacking in the future!