Grace Hammond is not just the co-founder of SoundOut, she is, as we will find out below, the Lennon to David’s McCartney. And it’s that combination that has helped to create a world leader.
Why did you join SoundOut?
“I joined Slicethepie in 2007. I was recommended by a friend who worked there. I started in customer support/artist relations and my job was to look after unknown artists that our testing identified as worthy of crowdfunding. In all, we helped to finance over 30 unknown bands through our version of Kickstarter, two years before it was launched! When we launched the music testing with consumers, we soon found that people began to try and cheat the system. So, it became my job to create a sophisticated review checking process to ensure that all the reviews we collected could be trusted by our customers. I pioneered that process. David and I then realised that human tests of music could be very valuable, and so set up our SoundOut division.
What's your current role?
Although we are a very collaborative company, we realised that we can't develop by consensus. So, it's my role to steer development around products both on the music review side and on the sonic branding and sonic marketing side. BrandMatch is one example of a product I helped to develop.
The original DNA mapping project was very exciting. We didn't know where the data would lead us, we just knew it would deliver something of significant value. I think this is an excellent example of our belief in investing in research and development, what David would call intellectual alchemy. Since we completed the explicit DNA map, we’ve refined BrandMatch and delivered two other breakthrough products, Attribute Visualizer and Attribute Mapper. I love dreaming up ideas for products and then working iteratively and collaboratively to bring them to life. We are in the process of mapping the implicit DNA of music, so I’m very excited about what we will develop from that unique insight.
What do you find most exciting about the business today?
I’m excited by the fact that we are creating ground-breaking tools rooted in music psychology, that are both needed and valued in a sector that is taking off. More exciting still, are our unique capabilities. We are the only source of insight that can predict likely outcomes for sonic branding and sonic marketing. I'm excited because we are in a sector that traditionally has been skewed by opinion not data, and we are the only company that can deliver rational data based on human feedback. It's this combination of data from people that really makes us stand out.
More exciting still is the way the world has changed in the last two years. It's a period in which we have transformed the business while simultaneously allowing me to spend quality time with my 3-year-old son. I can work flexibly and still deliver world firsts for the business.
Why do you think you've been able to achieve world leadership status for Sonic testing?
The first reason is our team. They are dedicated, loyal, and always go beyond what is asked or expected. We have an ethos of working hard but having fun. And we all like each other. I know that sounds cliched, but we really care about the work and each other.
I also think David and I have complimentary skillsets. He's very forward looking and I'm quite reflective. It's a combination that ensures that ideas become reality and that our innovations work.
The second reason is about our preparedness to fail. You sometimes have to get things wrong to get them right. So, we believe that making mistakes is fine because innovation is faster if you are constantly pushing the boundaries.
And that's my third reason, it's our innovation. We are always innovating. And to support our innovation, we give our people high levels of autonomy. If you read the post from Antoine, our data science lead, you'll see that it's the autonomy we give him to bring his ideas to life that made him want to join us and makes him want to continue to work with us.
My fourth reason is that the timing is right. Many of our current ideas we've had for years. It's the emotional DNA map of music that has brought them to life. It's enabling us to ride the wave of interest in music because we are in the unique position to satisfy the hunger for data. Timing is everything in life!
Finally, it's because music is genuinely in our DNA. We are all passionate about it. And our 15 year heritage in music testing for the world’s leading record labels and radio stations, means we have a unique depth of experience in the music industry to draw on.
Where do you see the future growth of the business coming from?
I think there are four significant drivers of growth for us.
Firstly, I think future growth will come from the testing of music for marketing and songs for advertising. The unique data we provide will be very valuable for deciding on the best creative routes that also reinforce the core brand personality and drive purchase intent.
Linked to helping brands select the right music, is our ability to sort the world’s music. Funnily enough, ‘sorting the world’s music’ used to be our tagline when we were a Kickstarter for bands. Because we have mapped the emotional DNA of music, we can help brands find the perfect music match for any given campaign or advert from their existing catalogue.
I think voice technology will be a significant driver of growth for us. My 3-year-old gives Alexa instructions every day. He often asks her to play Bruce Springsteen or another of his favourite songs. It just shows how pervasive voice technology is becoming in our everyday lives and, how it can enable us all to embrace music whenever we want.
Finally, I think our growth will come from the fact that we have the world leading panel of consumers that deliver quality feedback because of our rigorous AI-supported checks. This means we can add a human dimension to testing. If brands want to trigger a human reaction with music, our panel is the best place to test it. And, as a result of the investment we've made in our panel, we can take testing excellence in other directions.
I'm excited by the fact that we are an innovative technology business not a research business. I'm excited by how our insight can create excellent products that enable us to help brands at multiple stages in sonic branding and sonic marketing development. Research is a means to an end. It's how we prove the human reaction to ideas that is truly transformative for the brands that we help.
If someone was thinking about applying for a job at SoundOut what would be the main reasons they should apply?
They would benefit from joining a world leader that is growing fast. This would give them huge scope for career growth in all key areas of our business.
They would also be joining a genuine expert who wants to help brands unleash the power of music. If they have a passion for music and/or data science, then there’s no better place to work.
Finally, although this sounds fluffy, it’s true, we sometimes feel like a family – we care for each other and come together with shared purpose. I recently saw this quote, which resonated with me (being the one that makes tricky decisions that impact individuals personally), so I’ll say we might feel like a family, but we’re definitely a community, and a fun one to be a part of.