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April 2014
Issue: October 1, 2013

Open House: Sonixphere's expanding universe

CHICAGO — When CEO/creative director Greg Allan launched Sonixphere in late 2011, he knew what he had to put in place to make his new venture a success: An agile and diverse collective of both in-house and global composers. He wanted a team that could work collaboratively and independently, providing the finest sonic content across all platforms to a diverse range of clients. After 14 years as a partner in Spank Music and Sound Design, Allan knew how to bring together a team of talent who were diverse geographically and stylistically, and fluent in delivering great audio across all media and multiple time zones. 

“We love coming into work every day and working on something different,” says Allan. “No two days are alike. At any given time, we are working on commercials, new TV shows, Webisodes and sound design projects simultaneously, while also producing a band project.”

In just two years, Allan’s creative direction, his discerning ear for talent, and knack for taking a collaborative approach when working with clients has paid off. On any day his composers and sound designers are working on national commercials, including US Bank for Olson Agency, creating memorable mnemonics for Payless (Marc Agency), cranking out music for multiple TV shows (Bar Rescue, Great Food Truck Race), as well as providing audio branding for integrated campaigns for McDonald’s and Webisodes (Boeing, Harley Davidson). They also won a BMI Original TV Music Award for Discovery Channel’s Flying Wild Alaska.



THE TEAM

Constantly on the lookout for new and different talent to add to the Sonixphere roster, whether it be someone in Venezuela, France or California, his ears are always open to forging new relationships — even if they have never worked on a spot or TV show before.  
“I like to develop new talent and I love to see my in-house composers grow every year,” Allan explains. “Hiring someone as an intern, fresh out of music college and seeing him accept a BMI award for composing a theme song within a year is an amazing feeling and an affirmation that we’re hiring the right talent.”

THE WORK

“We’ve noticed our advertising music clients have grown much more aware of the way sound can tie their multimedia campaigns together and strengthen brand identity,” observes Allan. “It’s cost effective and even more so when they bundle the job with us so we create the music and sound design. It streamlines the process and creates a superior and cohesive final product.”

An example of this was a recent national campaign for US Bank for Olson, MN. For these spots, sound design played a major role in enhancing the dramatic story lines. Then, the team came up with the idea of adding music that punctuated the upbeat endings.

“It’s great to see advertising clients have this new respect for the huge role sound can play in the success of a campaign. And we love the fact that our clients have made their clients aware of the expanding power of sound and the ability to communicate a strong, consistent brand message across a variety of media — one that is instantly recognizable.”



A Payless campaign for Marc USA is another example. Sonixphere’s task was to score new spots and also maximize the effectiveness of the new tagline, “Everybody Loves To Pay Less,” for an integrated campaign. The Sonixphere team created a musical mnemonic with the new tagline. It is being used throughout TV, radio, and Web advertising. 
 
“A big kudos to the Payless client, and folks at Marc USA,” Allan adds. “The creative team had the vision and follow-through to make this mnemonic a recognizable and very valuable part of the Payless brand.”

From TV shows to commercials, mnemonics, audio branding and sound design, Sonixphere’s portfolio of clients spans advertising, publishing, broadcast, Web and film. With the new TV season breaking now, the studio is busy cranking out music for Bar Rescue (this is their third season with the show), Undercover Boss, Great Food Truck Race Season 4 (contributing since its inception), Secret Millionaire, and Celebrity Wife Swap.

For Great Food Truck Race, Allan and iSpy Music CEO Doug Bossi take a unique approach in composing thematic music for each truck that is reflective of the cuisine and culture. “Season 1, we were writing French music for the Crepes Bonaparte truck and Zydeco music for the Ragin Cajun truck,” says Allan. “Now we’re in Season 4 and we are writing traditional Hawaiian music for the Aloha Plate truck and modern Indian music for the Tika Tika Taco truck, but with a contemporary twist.”



Bar Rescue has also evolved. The first season definitely had an edge to it, and bar rescuer Jon Taffer kept everyone on edge with his fiery outbursts. The music from the first season was tense, and as the show has progressed, viewers have grown to enjoy the final transformation.  

“The music still has a lot of drive to it,” points out Allan, “but we’ve been conscious of the emotional journey that these restaurant owners and employees go on... and really heighten it with the music.”

Sonixphere is in the middle of constructing a new recording and mix facility near Navy Pier. “As the amount of work continues to grow, so does our footprint in Chicago and across the globe,” says Allan.”

THE GEAR

Sonixphere’s gear includes digital technology and old-school hardware. The Chicago headquarters uses Pro Tools|HD for composing and mixing. It’s important that the final sessions be mixed in a format that is compatible with any post house in the US. “Our composers are located all over the globe, and use every digital platform available to create music, but in the end, everything gets transferred into Pro Tools,” says Allan. 
The studio is also home to a collection of vintage mics, including a 1950s AKG C12 and a1960s U67. 



“In the end, the real magic happens in front of the microphones,” says Allan, “before the sound ever reaches the digital domain.”