Sonos executive Ryan Myers has spoken to Music Week about their increasing engagement with artists and the company’s key role in spatial audio.
Sonos launched its Era 300 speaker earlier this year which it says delivers the “best experience for out loud spatial audio with Dolby Atmos”.
The Beatles have embraced Dolby Atmos for the release of their final song, Now And Them, and new editions of their Red and Blue compilations.
In March, Sonos became Apple Music’s first partner to bring spatial audio to the home across the Era 300, Arc, and Beam (Gen 2) speakers.
“Spatial audio is fast becoming a primary format for premium sound amongst leading artists, producers and engineers,” said Myers, senior director and general manager, Sonos Radio. “We’re always watching and engaging with all the developing trends in music and technology, and building them into our products when we feel there’s a real benefit to the listener.”
Myers said that spatial audio is an “immersive three-dimensional experience that aims to mimic the way we perceive sound in the real world.”
Sonos users can also listen in spatial audio and Ultra HD via Amazon Music Unlimited.
Myers said that its partnerships can deliver “continued collaboration and innovations that deliver against the promise of this format”.
Spatial audio will be crucial for the sales growth of Sonos’ smart speakers. During a tough economic period, it has been facing similar challenges to other tech firms, prompting it to cut 7% of the workforce.
Sonos increased its global reach to 14 million households last year. It has more than 100 streaming content partners for its products.
With reports that Spotify is finally preparing to roll out a high-quality audio option, Spotify HiFi, later this year, that could open up opportunities for Sonos with the ‘audiophile’ audience. Spotify is already a long-term streaming partner.
Speaking on Spotify’s Q2 earnings call, CEO Daniel Ek said: “HiFi remains something that we think has value, but it’s something that has value probably more [to the] aficionados in the streaming market. We’re interested, obviously, in how we could use that as one tool, in the future, to increase our value even further.”
“When Sonos was founded in 2002, the streaming companies we know and love today didn’t exist, and now in 2023 music streaming has reached critical mass, with a healthy, competitive ecosystem of innovative music services,” noted Myers.
Dolby reported that 87% of artists in the 2022 US Top 100 Albums released music in Dolby Atmos.
Since its arrival in 2021, the number of monthly spatial audio listeners on Apple Music has more than tripled, with 80% of worldwide subscribers accessing the service. Monthly plays in spatial audio have grown by over 1,000%, according to Apple.
We want to deliver music in the most honest, authentic way possible to our listeners
A group of producers and studio engineers provide input on product development at Sonos. The company employs Giles Martin as its vice president of sound experience.
“Sonos has a long history of working closely with the music community,” said Myers. “This group helps us to ensure the products we produce represent sound that’s true to the artist’s intent. We want to deliver music in the most honest, authentic way possible to our listeners.”
As well as following consumer trends in streaming, Sonos has built partnerships with the artist community through Sonos Radio HD.
Launched in 2020, the internet radio service features themed channels and, for £7.99 a month, access to exclusive stations and content from artists including the The Chemical Brothers, Thom Yorke, Björk, FKA Twigs, Michael Kiwanuka, Tiwa Savage, Lorde and many more.
“Since launch, we’ve seen explosive growth [for Sonos Radio],” Myers told Music Week. “Original content continues to be a fan favourite with listening hours nearly doubling over the last year.”
To further expand the reach, Sonos signed a deal earlier this year for Deezer to power the curated radio service in 16 countries.
Myers said the partnership will “improve the overall listening experience for our customers”.
“The collaboration aligns with Deezer’s strategy of focusing on partnership-led expansion to deliver growth opportunities in the US and other markets globally,” he added.
Sonos Radio teamed with producer Nigel Godrich to air new audio episodes and archive from his live music show From The Basement, featuring performances by Sons Of Kemet, Idles, Warpaint, Squid, Caribou and Nilüfer Yanya.
Its most ambitious partnership to date has been with legendary artist and producer Brian Eno, who launched The Lighthouse station in 2021 to air both an extensive archive of unreleased work and new material. It features hundreds of previously unheard tracks from across his 50-year career.
“His curated station offers a rare insight into Eno’s creative genius and his work creating, producing and redefining music,” said Myers. “The Lighthouse is a great example of how we can bring exclusive music content to fans.”
As well as expanding the range of genres on the platform, Myers stressed that Sonos Radio HD is focused on “upholding artistic integrity and fairly compensating creators for their work.”
“We’re always working to expand our content selection, building on the iconic artist collaborations to date,” he added.