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Audio Collaborative 2017 - "A Change is Gonna Come"

Futuresource Event Highlights and Commentary

21 Nov 2017 - Futuresource Consulting hosted its fourth annual Audio Collaborative conference in London recently, where speakers and delegates from the heart of the audio, music and entertainment industries came together to discuss what the future holds across these dynamic and evolving sectors. 

This event's reputation has grown year-on-year due to the calibre of speakers, topics and candid conversation and this was exemplified by both the number and internal flavour of the audience, from Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Portugal, the UK and the US. The poignant theme, 'A change is gonna come,' was based on the singer songwriter Sam Cooke's hit, encapsulating a time of anticipated change which is certainly the case in the audio entertainment and playback space. Change, disruption and opportunities are happening at an exponential rate and this was truly portrayed by the energised discussions between the speakers and the delegates at the event.

Adriaan Thierry, Managing Director of EMEA at Sonos did the welcoming, scene setting and keynote address, a worthy mantel for such a brand given its success in reinvigorating the consumer's desire for a premium audio experience and establishing the multi-room wireless home audio category. Thierry emphasised the importance of ease of use for the end consumers and championed a movement that promotes a seamless and smooth experience between products and platforms, together with a strong spirit of collaboration, open networks, platforms and collaboration with content owners. "Sonos has opened up its platform to partners and 100 developers are said to be joining the 'Works with Sonos' program in 2018," commented Thierry. This was indeed an interesting concept for speakers and attendees to consider.

Next up was the Futuresource moderator Simon Bryant, who set the scene for the 'Role of Audio in the Smart Home,' positioning Virtual Personal Assistants (VPAs) as the next generation interface, connecting many products and applications in the domestic environment. Bryant amplified the significance of VPA technology by sharing some of the latest WW CE trends. "At this point there are 9 platforms, 33 brands and 64 products offering voice assisted technology globally."

Bryant then joined his panel comprising Bragi, 7digital, IBM, Orange and Qualcomm to discuss how, in the Smart Home, VPAs have the potential to galvanise an otherwise fragmented space, while unleashing media and other functionality from a broad range of dumb, screen-less objects. Important issues such as security and privacy were discussed, similar to challenges the TV space endured, resulting in cameras and recording equipment being taken out of products. Qualcomm highlighted the fact that examples of security and payment best practice could be taken from the mobile category. Local and cloud based processing and storage were discussed together with artificial intelligence, all in the form of additional solutions, highlighting how products, brands and technologies can capitalise successfully on this growing product category.

Zlata Jelisejeva, Market Analyst at Futuresource Consulting, was next on the podium. Zlata eloquently shared details of the key market and worldwide value, technology adoption and regional trends from this growing $15.5 billion worldwide headphone sector, with almost 40% of the market being wireless. The true wireless headphones category demonstrated 2680% growth in one year, with Apple leading the march and driving this growth. Jelisejeva highlighted how user cases are evolving, "It's not just about the music; there are massive opportunities within the health, fitness and hearing-aid categories too."

Next up was the Immersive Audio Panel, where technology drivers came to the fore with panellists from Jaunt VR, Dolby, Earcom & Microsoft and Xperi, all of whom discussed how immersive audio is already being used beyond the established sectors of cinema and home theatre and into newer innovative and creative areas. These include mobile, VR and automotive or enhanced content-based experiential pieces such as The Pink Floyd Exhibition or The Ministry of Sound and its Dolby Atmos installation, all of which place the end-user in the centre of the action and provide the possibility of including interactive immersive experiences.

The expanding role of social media platforms for marketing music and artists was the next item on the agenda, where moderator David Sidebottom, Principal Analyst at Futuresource Consulting, warmly welcomed panellists from Lewis Silkin LLP, Twitter, FRUKT and Gleam Futures to discuss the potential of social media within this space. The panel discussed real-life examples with regard to how it is a tool that complements traditional communication methods, as well as providing a way of reaching and building online digital communities to follow and promote artists in order to drive monetisation, either through record sales or touring. The concept of the 'digital first' artist was also explored, looking at how social media lowers barriers of entry for new musicians, enabling them to build a following via personal promotion, by-passing the more traditional route of getting signed by a label.

The theme then switched from social media to automotive with Andrew Till, VP Technology & Marketing of Harman, sharing the market leader's vision of connected car solutions with the world's automakers. Till discussed the massive shift that is happening right now with key themes colliding involving audio, smart home, digital assistants (VPAs), autonomous cars and 5G, which Till stated, "Is one of the fundamental enabling technologies for the automotive industry. Innovation is exponentially growing and digital assistants are helping to automate the current experience, with the new one which is evolving, becoming more interactive." New monetisation opportunities will be borne from these developments for OEMs, especially relating to personalisation of the connected car driving experience. Till also commented that during his grandchildren's life time he would not be surprised to see the replacement of the steering wheel as we know it.

The penultimate panel of the day was moderated by Futuresource Consulting's Jack Wetherill on the topic of the extremely healthy luxury audio market. Esteemed panellists that brought this discussion to life were from AWE Europe, Devialet, Bowers & Wilkins and MQA, all of which were extremely well placed to discuss the definition of luxury high fidelity or 'as the artist intended' content and formats, providing a luxurious higher quality user experience when played back on high-end devices. The key to this is consumers understanding what this experience sounds and feels like, with collaboration and education of this being key to the ongoing healthy status of the luxury audio market.

Finally Riad Hawa, VP Global Hardware Partnerships at Deezer, one of the world's leading music streaming services, provided the closing key note of the day and addressed how service providers are embracing the key technology and market developments that have been discussed. He commented on how the use of the voice is changing CE device and music engagement, driving consumers towards higher quality audio and boosting the role of music streaming services for breaking new artists.

The event wrapped up with a product demonstration and prize draw from Devialet, one of our title sponsors, who demonstrated the Devialet Gold Phantom wireless speaker, worth over £2,000.

As always, the Futuresource conference ended with canapes, cocktails and the opportunity to network with all speakers and attendees from the following companies: 7digital, Abbey Road Studios, Amazon, Analog Devices, Apple, Home Electronics, Audinate, Audio Engineering Society, Audio Technica, AudioXpress Magazine, AWE Europe,B&O Play, Bang & Olufsen, BBC Click, Bose, Bowers & Wilkins, Bragi, Bray & Krais Solicitors, Cable & Satellite International, Cambridge Audio, Cirrus Logic, Cisco, Components in Electronics, Consumer Electronics Daily, Deezer, Devialet, Digital TV Europe, Dixons Carphone Group, Dolby, DTG, ERA (Entertainment Retailers Association), ERT Weekly, Fitbit, Frontier Silicon, Frukt, Fujitsu Ten Europe, Gibson Innovations, Gingerdog, Gleam Futures, GP Acoustics, Gracenote Nielsen, GRAS Sound & Vibration, Harman, Harper Collins, Honeywell, House of Marley, IBC, IBM, InPlayer, Invision, IXION, Jaunt VR, JK Imaging Europe Ltd, John Lewis, JVCKENWOOD , Karlsen Consulting, Knowles, L-Acoustics, Lautsprecher Teufel, LENBROOK INTERNATIONAL, Lewis Silkin, LyricFind Inc., Meridian Audio, Microsoft, MQA, Naim Audio, NEC, Orange, Panasonic, Penreach, Pioneer, Plantronics, PRS for Music, Pure, Qobuz, Qualcomm, Roberts Radio, Samsung, SCV Distribution, Sennheiser, Sky, Sonopsis, Sonos, Spotify, Starscream Communications, Strax, StreamUnlimited Engineering, T3, Talk Stuff, JayKay Media Inc Ltd, TechUK, The Economist, The Guardian, The Verge, Twitter, Universal Music, Warner Music, Warwick Audio Technologies Ltd, What Gear Reviews, What Hi-Fi?, WMP Creative,XMOS,Xperi and Yamaha. The Futuresource 'Audio Collaborative' is an annual affair that is part of a global series of technology focused conferences that run throughout the year. There are opportunities for speaking, sponsorship and product demonstrations at all events. All of the recordings from the presentations are available on YouTube here. For more information on the latest technology trends, contact the Futuresource Media Contact.


Futuresource Consulting is a specialist research and knowledge-based consulting company, providing organisations with insight into consumer electronics, digital imaging, entertainment media, broadcast, storage media, education technology and IT. With a heritage stretching back to the 1980s, the company delivers in-depth analysis and forecasts on a global scale, advising on strategic positioning, market trends, competitive forces and technological developments. 

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James Edwards

Marketing Executive