Julian Treasure – Sound Business

This week’s guest is the sound evangelist Julian Treasure.

Julian has done five TED Talks, all of which have been viewed collectively more than 20million times.

And there’s a reason for this. Julian’s message is truly revolutionary when it comes to high performance.

I think it’s something we all know intuitively, if not consciously: Sound is a crucial part of our daily experience.

If we are in the wrong sonic environment, it can seriously hamper our abilities to concentrate and be on our game.

Conversely, if the right sound environment is available to us, it can be the secret of successful performance in any field.

For something that is so crucial, it’s also something we are not particularly good at in the modern world.

I know when I’m walking around London, I am constantly searching for a place that doesn’t jar my brain with noise overload.

This is in age dominated by the image, and we have all become far more conscious of the the inputs we give our eyes, our taste buds and increasingly our sense of touch.

But it seems we actively ignore our ears. Which, once you’ve listened to Julian preach about the importance of this sense, you will realise is madness.

Julian advocates what he calls “conscious listening” and we talk a lot about that in our discussion.

It’s a detailed concept, but the upshot is taking responsibility for your sound environment.

Julian advises big business and institutions on their sound management.

If large companies are putting a lot of resources into this, then we would do well to start actively thinking about how sound affects us.

It’s also useful to think about the sounds we are putting out there. Julian’s last TED talk was on how to speak and get people to listen.

In this culture of noise overload, it’s more important than ever to know how to capture people’s attention.

This is especially true if you are an entrepreneur, because your messaging and your ability to inspire others are going to be a crucial part of your work.

And you need to know the sounds that people listen to, and those that put people off.

Julian is a mine of knowledge on this stuff.

He’s also got some great insights into the challenges of the modern technological environment, and the ways we need to improve it sonically.

He quotes Oscar Wilde saying our minds are often like soup bowls – broad but shallow!

We have this amazing ability to compute and function with a complex mix of sound inputs, but the more sound we take in, the less good at listening we become.

Julian has some really fascinating things to say about listening.

It’s a skill that has become neglected to such a degree that it’s affecting our social relationships.

Listening is a vital part of the human experience but it something we seem to be getting worse at with every generation.

Our lives are dominated by environments with very negative sound value.

Julian goes on a big riff about open plan offices, and we also talk a lot about retail environments and their poor sound choices.

Most decisions about marketing and user experience are visual, but all the effort we put into these factors is cancelled out by poor foresight when it comes to sound.

Big retail outlets look great, and they’ve invested in the look and structure of their shops.

But as Julian says, there’s enough evidence to show that people will simply leave if they don’t like the sounds they are being exposed to.

I thought it was fascinating when Julian said this is something that our forefathers were entirely aware of.

I didn’t know that the large tapestries in old castles were not put up to look good, but were actually used as ways of dampening the sounds that would bounce off the thick stone walls.

He also talks about how old cathedrals were designed in such a way that the sound was maximised at the entrance, and minimised towards the alter.

I don’t think you can name one high street store that has thought about the effects of sound that deeply.

Sound is a physical phenomenon. As a result, it’s not just something that affects us and we should think about, it’s a matter of health.

If we are spending so much time trying to look good, eat well and boost our performance, then we have to start treating our ears like we treat the rest of our bodies.

The wrong sound can trigger hormonal responses, and the sound environment we are in can be the difference between success or failure.

This episode is packed full of information and insights, and it will help you reframe the way you think about the sounds in your life.

There’s a lot here, and Julian moves at quite a pace. He didn’t ace five TED Talks for no reason!

But he’s also got a smooth, gentle, and quite hypnotic voice. I loved talking with this man – and listening to him!

London Realers, kick back, shut off all other noise, and give your concentration over to Julian Treasure.

[0:08:34] Introduction

[0:10:00] Listening. We are so used to surrounded by sound. Every city has its song.

[0:12:00] Sound and noise is personal. Savouring sound around us.

[0:13:40] Very few buildings are designed to sound good.

[0:14:50] Zagat is now rating restaurants down by noise.

[0:16:14] Designing for our ears. Architecture acoustic.

[0:17:41] We have no ear lids. The ears are working all the time.

[0:18:00] When the birds are singing.

[0:19:45] Nobody can understand 2 people talking at the same time.

[0:20:11] Jeremy Myerson on office design.

[0:23:30] Privacy in large open offices.

[0:24:43] Stochastic sound is gentle.

[0:25:56] Sound changes the way we behave.

[0:28:28] Using sound to filter customers.

[0:29:39] The sound needs to be good.Sound is more than half the emotional impact.

[0:30:45] How to speak so that people want to listen. Yin and Yang. Listen and tell.

[0:32:10] The voice. Prosody.

[0:32:15] The joys of intonation, register, pace and pitch.

[0:33:25] Prosody varies by culture.

[0:34:54] Changing the meaning of the things we say by the way we say things.

[0:35:07] Register. There are 4 registers. Forceto. Modal

[0:37:31] Vocal fry.

[0:38:37] The art of listening.

[0:39:23] Real listening is conscious. We tend to think of the ears as passive.

[0:40:00] Listening is making meaning. Hearing is passive.

[0:40:46] Attack journalism.

[0:41:31] Count to 3 after you have finished.

[0:43:30] Respectful listening.

[0:44:05] Are we losing touch we our own consciousness.

[0:45:05] Multiple inputs are making us impatient and shallow.

[0:47:00] Politicians should go for listens instead of talks.

[0:47:26] Are men more visual and women more auditory?

[0:48:05] Brand Sense

[0:49:33] Max Keiser on Russia Today. Radio is holding its own. More intimate. You can upset people far faster through their ears than through their eyes.

[0:50:24] Billions are invested in speech recognition and voice synthesis.

[0:51:17] TedTalks is the Olympics of public speaking.

[0:54:00] If you are going to practise, practise the gestures as if it’s real, because there is muscle memory.

[0:55:30] The siren. Bob.

[0:56:46] Rolling an R.

[0:57:43] Have a session with a vocal coach or a singing coach.

[0:57:57] Timbre. A balanced vocal chord.

[0:59:25] Speaking into a listening.

[1:00:00] Autocues. It’s dangerous to go with memory.

[1:00:51] Alain de Button’s TEDTalk.

[1:02:26] TEDTalks

[1:03:38] How to be a KPI?

[1:05:43] Passion for sound.

[1:06:40] Good sound is good business.

[1:09:30] Brand voice. Virgin Atlantic’s “Hello sexy!”

[1:10:44] Brand music.

[1:10:00] Intel Inside music.

[1:12:35] Ear worms.

[1:13:10] Audio podcast.

[1:13:30] Product sound. Harley Davidson. Ferrari.

[1:13:57] Soundscape in spaces.

[1:14:00] Malmö in Scandinavia. Wind, water and earth notes.

[1:15:12] Cafe Nero. Apple store.

[1:16:46] Sound is intimate.Three tiny bones.

[1:17:23] Dame Evelyn Glennie.

[1:18:10] Take responsibility of the context in which we listen so we can listen consciously.

[1:19:15] A conversation about mindfulness.

[1:20:25] Headphone culture. 85 decibels is appropriate.

[1:23:12] Hearing loss.

[1:24:00] Success Secret

[1:26:10] Pamela Mayer’s TEDTalk on tells when people are not being truthful

[1:27:38] Use of the word ‘just’.

[1:28:11] Best advice ever received. The best is the enemy of the good.

[1:29:44] How to speak at a TEDTalk and become a KPI.

[1:30:42] Derek Sivers, how to create a movement.

[1:32:50] Give ideas away. People will pay to go deeper.

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MariaEtienneAlex Almad Mantidakis ACraig BevanLisa May Recent comment authors
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A revelation about how Julain exposes the possible mistakes
Great interview

Alex Almad Mantidakis A

great interview!

Craig Bevan

Lovely conversation and great inspiration. Thanks again Brian,

Lisa May

Although I no longer perform, I keep up with vocal coaching twice a month because I talk *a lot*… and sing in the shower. I found that I tend to talk in a “fry” voice with friends and that’s exactly what it does to the vocal chords, fry them. It becomes work to talk if I don’t do the exercises.

Mirela Amariei
Mirela Amariei

Absolutely brilliant. I’ve learned so much by really listening.

Brian Rose

I have taken much of what Julian Treasure said here and applied it directly to London Real and my personal life. I use daily the “water splashing and bird chirping” background music while I’m creating and we are currently designing a “sound logo” for London Real with Academy superstar and recent TEDx speaker Akash Thakkar. I also use those warmup voice exercises before EVERY show (ask Luis!) and constantly think about my voice sound attributes when communicating. And if that wasn’t enough we are constantly working on our episode dialogue audio and investigating on how to make the studio work… Read more »

Mikael Henriksson

Great episode! I’ll look into some improvement to my acoustics.

Andrew Hutchinson

excellent – especially interesting to me right now as the “book” i have written contains information relating to the physiological effects of over stimulation, both visual and aural – and the “cure” ;). Anyway, thanks again Brian – and Julian.


found myself making ” la la la la ” sounds whilst on a silent packed train lol. Julian’s perspective that the audio element has been removed from buildings design is so right, 15 years young in the building game and I love working on the older buildings, they talk to you, the new ones remind me of an empty box in the corner. Great Interview and some really good content.