This Composer and Sound Studio Founder Believes in Sonic Branding

Man Made Music creates sound signatures for clients

Joel Beckerman is the force behind countless instantly recognizable sonic themes. - Credit by Mickey Alexander for Man Made Music
Headshot of Kristina Monllos

Sound probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you think about branding—maybe you see a logo or a 30-second spot or a pithy tweet—but according to Joel Beckerman, founder of strategic music and sound studio Man Made Music, it’s a crucial factor.

“We’ve moved from a communication-focused world to an experience-focused world—and sound is the emotional engine for every one of those experiences,” said Beckerman. “Sonic branding, done right, can help you feel the brand in an instant.”

Beckerman would know: He’s the force behind countless instantly recognizable sonic themes for brands (Subway, Allstate), TV networks (HBO, A&E), shows (ESPN’s 30 for 30, CBS Evening News) and even the Super Bowl.

One of Beckerman’s recent projects involved the rebranding of AT&T. The communications giant is in the middle of a transformation as it seeks to become a major force in the entertainment business, and tasked Beckerman’s shop with using sound to signal that change.

“We had to evolve the sonic identity,” said Beckerman, adding that his team changed everything from the “sonic logo” used at the end of an ad to the brand “anthem” and navigation sounds for AT&T devices.

He added: “We even evolved the expression of the four ‘notes’ that define the brand experience across the range of product, sponsorship and experience assets to be inclusive of entertainment.”

Figuring out the sound of a brand typically goes far beyond creating a traditional ad campaign.

Take the indoor theme park experiences that Beckerman scored for Cartoon Network or the sonic brand identity and “soundtrack of ‘safety’” he developed for a global car manufacturer’s new electric vehicle. “The connected world of consumer products we live in … has pushed us into so many exciting new territories,” Beckerman explained. “And sound is the red thread that ties all these experiences together.”

Curriculum vitae
Man Made Music
1998 – present
Founder and lead composer

1993 – 1998
Composed for brands like Coca-Cola, Nike, Old Spice and Discovery Channel

1992 – 1994
Studio manager and “aspiring rock star”

Job profile
“I’m a sonic humanist, evangelist and composer,” explained Beckerman. “My job is to hold the vision for what we believe and build our capabilities and talent pool. We serve audiences—including clients, customers, educators and partners—by unlocking the power of sound to build brands by shifting how people think, feel and even buy.”

How he got the gig
Beckerman began his career as a producer and composer, moving into the branding, advertising and marketing side of the business in the mid-’90s and launching his own company. “I’m a storyteller, and continue to tell the story of brands through innovation in sound and music,” he said.

Looking ahead
“Innovation is written into our DNA—I never anticipated that we’d be working in smart homes or theme parks or positional VR soundscapes to serve brands,” said Beckerman. “We will
go where our audiences go.”

This story first appeared in the Sept. 4, 2017, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.

@KristinaMonllos Kristina Monllos is a senior editor for Adweek.