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A Future Beyond Stereo: 3 Strategic Advantages of Dolby Atmos and Spatial Audio for Record Labels


In an ever-evolving music landscape, record labels, regardless of size, need to constantly seek ways to stay ahead of the curve.

One such opportunity –one with transformative potential– is the adoption of Dolby Atmos and Spatial Audio in their music releases.

Dolby Atmos Music and Spatial Audio open up a world of possibilities, offering strategic advantages that can redefine how record labels connect with artists, engage with existing and new audiences, and position themselves in a fiercely competitive market.

If you think you don't have time to learn and adopt a new technology, the good news is you don't need to. Your mixing engineer will do it for you.

Spatial Audio in a nutshell

Spatial Audio is the term used by Apple to describe its approach to creating an immersive listening experience

Compared to traditional surround formats, immersive audio also adds the possibility of having sound reach the listener from above, creating a semi-sphere around them.

With immersive audio, the sound creates a semi-sphere around the listener. Image: Dolby Visualizer.

Adding that crucial height component that we experience in real life makes for a much more realistic, three-dimensional, and well, immersive, listening experience.

The technology is based in Dolby Atmos, and although Spatial Audio and Dolby Atmos are not exactly the same, for our purposes here we can use both terms more or less interchangeably.

If you want to learn more about this immersive audio format, this guide is for you: What is Spatial Audio: The Complete 101 Guide for Artists And Musicians (opens in a new window).

Let's explore now the 3 main advantages the technology has to offer for record labels.

1: Creative Freedom for Your Artists

Beyond the technical advantages, Dolby Atmos provides artists with a new frontier for creative expression.

Traditionally, artists have been bound by the limitations of stereo, where the placement of instruments and vocals is quite limited.

Spatial Audio liberates musicians, allowing them to place each element of their composition in a three-dimensional space.

This bold automation worked wonderfully for this song, but of course every production requires an individual approach that supports the song.

This in turn opens up a new world of possibilities in terms of what their music can convey and the listening experiences they can create for their fans.

Artists seeking to push the boundaries of conventional music production find in immersive audio a canvas on which they can paint their sonic masterpieces with new dimensions of musical storytelling.

For record labels, this creative freedom becomes a catalyst for attracting young and groundbreaking artists. By championing Dolby Atmos, record labels position themselves as supporters of innovative artistic expression, appealing to a demographic of artists who seek to redefine the boundaries of music.

2: Classics Reborn

But not everything needs to be new. Rereleasing previous albums in immersive audio presents a golden economic opportunity for record labels.

Upgrading an album to Dolby Atmos not only revitalises the music for existing fans, it also opens the door to attracting new listeners, as the demand for immersive audio has grown immensely in the past year (more details in the next section).

All your favourite records are probably already available in Dolby Atmos.

It is a fantastic way to breathe new life into timeless records: by upgrading an album to immersive audio, each song gains a newfound depth, allowing listeners to discover the nuances of the music as never heard before.

The economic advantages are multifaceted. Firstly, the costs associated with rereleasing an existing album in Dolby Atmos are notably smaller than the production expenses tied to creating an entirely new record.

Immersive mixes can be created from existing multi-track recordings or stems without the need for re-recording, making it a financially efficient venture for record labels.

An existing multi-track Pro Tools sesion used with the Dolby Atmos Renderer.

This cost-effectiveness enhances the return on investment, as the upgraded album can be re-spun without the need for significant additional production expenditures.

A similar strategy applies when working on new albums.

With the correct workflow, creating immersive mixes when already working on stereo mixes does not significantly increase the workload. This means you can have both stereo and immersive versions of an album with just a minimally increased budget.

A Capella part with dozens of individual vocal parts around the listener.

This applies to even massive productions like this one, in which the song contained an a capella part with 150+ vocal tracks, and the total track count was in the north of 400 tracks.

3: Strategic Market Positioning

Lastly, spatial audio has the potential to become the standard audio format for music in the future, for several reasons discussed here.

One of them, and one not to be easily dismissed, is that Apple is heavily invested is the format. The reason? Spatial Audio is a cornerstone of what the company envisions as the future of computing: Apple Vision Pro.

What Apple's future of computing looks like. Image Credits: Apple.

Wether this type of device becomes widely adopted or not is of course unknown, but the reality is that in the meantime Apple is promoting Spatial Audio very strongly.

From the integration of the Atmos Renderer in Logic Pro, to immersive audio being a major selling point of their headphones and earphones, or the creation of dozens of ad-hoc playlists for Spatial Audio that attract all sorts of music lovers like Made For Spatial Audio, Hits In Spatial Audio, Pop In Spatial Audio, or Alternative In Spatial Audio.

Apple Music offers dozens of dedicated Spatial Audio playlists.

At the beginning of 2023, Apple announced that more than 80% of Apple Music users where listening in Spatial Audio, and that figure has most probably increased since then.

Thus, embracing immersive audio isn't just a nod to technological progress. It's a strategic move that sets record labels apart from the competition and creates new opportunities for partnerships and broader audiences.

Key Takeaways

Dolby Atmos and Spatial Audio aren't just technological advancements; they can become strategic tools for record labels looking to expand their offerings.

By providing a richer, more immersive sonic experience, labels can engage existing and new audiences alike, attract young talented artists to their roster, differentiate themselves in a competitive market, and open new avenues of revenue and partnerships.

Being an adopter of Dolby Atmos positions a record label as an industry leader at the forefront of the ever-evolving music landscape.

If you have questions about how to bring Dolby Atmos to your company, please feel free to send me a message.

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