About The Stand For Sonic Diversity

What is The Sonic Color Line?Top

In her book, Binghamton University professor Jennifer Lynn Stoever coined “the Sonic Color Line” to describe the existence of a hierarchical division between the perceived “whiteness” and “blackness” of sounds, derived from listening practices exerted by a dominant culture. These listening practices perpetuate sonic stereotypes so effectively that, over time, we have been socialized to associate white voices as representative of the American identity.

Why launch this initiative?Top

In the aftermath of the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, the Black Lives Matter movement grew from a hashtag into a global cry for equality, equity, and justice. As a result, addressing racial injustice has become a long overdue business imperative.

This particularly true for brands, advertising agencies, and marketers. We are being challenged to move beyond hollow messaging and address the need for change at a systemic level within our industry. For too long, color lines have been drawn that perpetuate white privilege, elitism, and discrimination.

While political structures and visual symbols can, and do, perpetuate racism, we believe there are sonic markers that are just as powerful in defining how we hear (and represent) the world around us.

Given that the sonic color line exists, we in the advertising and marketing industries need to understand that racism isn’t just a visual or textual issue. It’s a sonic issue as well. These sonic color lines impact our marketing and messaging decisions, amplifying white voices, and creating an atmosphere where Black voices are forced to adapt in order to be heard. Crossing these sonic color lines requires us to retrain the way we listen, to diversify the sonic spaces we inhabit, and to change the creative choices we’re making that serve to perpetuate systemically racist sonic structures.

Why focus on Black voices?Top

We recognize that true sonic diversity includes all BIPOC voices. However, because systemic racism continues to oppress, invalidate, and deeply affect the lives of Black people in ways other people of color may not necessarily experience, we’re beginning our Stand for Sonic Diversity by focusing on Black voices. As goals are met, we’ll continue to expand our scope to address issues for other voices of color.

Who is Studio Resonate?Top

We are the audio-first creative consultancy serving the SiriusXM media group. In the past ten years, we’ve produced over a quarter of a million audio ads. Being one of the largest producers of audio advertising in the world, we are in a unique position of responsibility: ads that we produce reach the ears of 200 million unique listeners through the Pandora, SiriusXM, SoundCloud, and Stitcher platforms. As a result, the creative decisions we make have the potential to normalize and/or perpetuate listener behaviors and biases.

How Are We Taking A Stand?Top

Until mid-2020, Studio Resonate followed the industry standard of generally casting BIPOC actors when requested by an advertiser, or when targeting multicultural audiences. As a result, the vast majority of the voices we cast were white. We’ve also realized that we need to collect demographic data for accurate reporting.

Confronted with the need for change, we determined to address the issues with our casting practices and talent roster. We’ve made significant progress, and are close to realizing our goal of 50% BIPOC casting. Studio Resonate is also changing how we write (and who writes) our scripts, to make sure we’re not only creating more opportunities for diversity in creative and casting, but to also avoid forcing our voiceover talent to play to a type that may perpetuate sonic color lines. We still have work to do, and we’ll report back with more granular statistics as we improve our reporting practices.

Acknowledgments
Featured BIPOC Talent
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We’d like to thank these BIPOC Voice Over Artists for supporting Stand For Sonic Diversity and contributing their experiences, opinions and their VOICES. If you are looking for some BIPOC voice talents, then please reach out to these talented people directly:

Further ResourcesTop
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Listen to the Voices of Sonic Diversity or