Sonic Branding with Dallas Taylor

Creative agency Bigeye’s podcast interviews Dallas Taylor of Twenty Thousand Hertz who reveals some of the stories behind the world’s most iconic sonic brands.

IN CLEAR FOCUS this week: Dallas Taylor, Creative Director of Defacto Sound and host of the Twenty Thousand Hertz podcast, joins Bigeye to explore sonic branding. Hear how Dallas and his team approach sound design for clients like Disney and HBO, and what it’s like to work on shows like Game of Thrones and Westworld. Dallas also shares Twenty Thousand Hertz‘s production process, and we go behind-the-scenes to learn how the iconic Netflix sonic logo was developed, including audio clips.

Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant: Coming up in this episode of IN CLEAR FOCUS:

Dallas Taylor: Being in this sound design world, there are all these really cool stories like the story of the Wilhelm Scream or the NBC chimes, or what’s that voice on your phone, well, who is that person? There are so many stories out there of these great sounds that have these very intricate histories that I wanted to tell!

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, fresh perspectives on the business of advertising produced weekly by Bigeye. Hello, I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, VP of Insights at Bigeye. An audience-focused, creative-driven, full-service advertising agency, we’re based in Orlando, Florida, but serve clients across the United States and beyond. Thank you for joining us. Changes in consumer behaviors and media preferences accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic have presented new opportunities for brands to reach target audiences through advertising on streaming TV platforms like Hulu, as well as digital audio platforms, such as Spotify and Pandora. But purposeful sound design is also an important aspect of computer games, mobile devices and apps, and even the sounds that your car makes. Our guest today is Dallas Taylor, a successful sound designer, and a sought-after expert on the emotional power of sonic branding. Dallas is the Creative Director of Defacto Sound, where he’s led thousands of high-profile projects ranging from blockbuster movie trailers and advertising campaigns to Sundance award-winning films and major television series. You’ve most likely heard Dallas’s work without realizing it as his company produces audio branding for media clients including Disney, Discovery, ESPN, HBO, and Netflix, as well as automotive brands like Alfa Romeo, Audi, BMW, Ford, and Tesla. In addition to being the Creative Director of Defacto Sound, Dallas is the host and creator of Twenty Thousand Hertz, a bi-weekly podcast that reveals the stories behind the world’s most recognizable and interesting sounds. Dallas, welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS!

Dallas Taylor: Thanks for having me.

Adrian Tennant: First of all, what led you to pursue a career in sound design?

Dallas Taylor: I was a trumpet player for most of my school age. Back then I grew up in a really poor town, and somebody put a trumpet in my hands and I excelled at it. And so that took me through school and into college. In college, I had a bout of performance anxiety over playing the trumpet, which derailed my entire performance ideas in the future. At the time, I was also really into computers and composition and conducting and I kind of pivoted. One thing led to another, I got into a news station, which led me to an audio board, that led me out to LA. And then I was working for Fox and NBC. And then that led me to the East coast to work for the Discovery Channel, which led me to uh, making my own studio about 11 years ago – Defacto Sound.

Adrian Tennant: Dallas, you’re the company’s Creative Director. Can you describe a typical day in the life of Defacto Sound?

Dallas Taylor: Ooh, it can kind of go anywhere. We are very focused on short-form now. So meaning advertising promos for networks. Over time, I really loved kind of the quick, concentrated creative things that are sub-five minutes or so. Most of our days a couple of people might be working on a Netflix trailer or there could be somebody on an HBO trailer. As you mentioned earlier, we work a lot with Discovery, Cartoon Network. So those commercials and trailers and promos come through daily. We also work with a lot of ad agencies on car spots or sneaker commercials, or really all kinds of stuff, everything from pretty straightforward things where maybe sound doesn’t have like a huge creative focus all the way up to very stylized sound design driving an entire story. So just every day is just completely new. And that’s one of the reasons I wanted to start the company is I just wanted to work with just everybody.

Adrian Tennant: You mentioned Defacto Sound designs sound for movie trailers and network promos. How far in advance of release or transmission are you typically working?

Dallas Taylor: Probably a couple of days, usually. So we’re right on the tail end, oftentimes, depending on our place. If it’s something that is very stylized on the sound design front, we’ll usually bounce things back and forth with the editor. We’ll really try to dial in this soundscape before it even goes to the client. Because sometimes it can go a little sideways if we’re not involved early enough. But on a lot of things, maybe stuff that is already really worked out with the editor and there’s a really clear vision for how they want to finish, that could be something anywhere from I’d say, probably a couple of days to maybe a week. So usually when we’re working on something, we see it come out within a week or two unless it’s a big ad campaign. We did the Ford Bronco relaunch announcement. I think we worked on that for like seven or eight months before anyone knew about it. So it all just depends on how concentrated the sound design creative is. But yeah, it just all depends.

Adrian Tennant: When you’re creating trailers, do you typically only have access to finished tracks or are you more often having to create soundtracks sometimes before the sound for the actual show has even I’m being recorded?

Dallas Taylor: Yeah, that’s pretty fun. And that’s specific to the promo trailer world where we were doing a lot of recaps for Westworld and True Detective last year. Because we were so far ahead, we were getting raw tracks straight from the set. The show wasn’t even mixed yet. So it all just kind of depends on where we’re coming in. I’d say probably 60, 70% of the time, we’re working with tracks that may have been pulled straight out of the show, after being mixed and sound designed. But then there’s a good third, maybe more than that, where we’re getting tracks straight off the set and we’re cleaning those up, you know, cause what you hear on set and even recorded well never makes it to final. Because there’s a lot of sound editing we want to do and get rid of all the little pops and ticks and noise and all that to make it just really clear. But yeah, again, it kind of depends like how far ahead are we? How big is the piece that we’re working on? Back when Game of Thrones was in its last couple of seasons, we were working on a lot of those trailers. And so when we’re working on enormous stuff, usually we’re in pretty early, and then it’s just kind of scalable, from there. Now on the advertising side, which is a kind of a whole different world, I would say 98% of the time we’re building that entire soundtrack minus music from the ground up. So we focus very heavily on sound design, and we do some music, but only in a tonal, sound design-y sense. When we have like music tracks and stuff, usually it’s from a composer or from a library. But we kind of have a hard line between like, is this a track of music versus sound design?

Adrian Tennant: Defacto Sound’s website showcases the breadth of work that you do. In one of your showreels you say, “when we’re doing our best, when noticed the least.” Can you unpack that for us?

Dallas Taylor: We never want to like work on something where we’re doing it to be self-serving, where someone watches something and goes, “Oh my goodness, that sounds like it’s so good.” Now, if you watch our reels on our website or on Instagram, that’s very much designed to put sound in your face, just where you know exactly what we do. However, when we’re actually working on most projects, trailers, promos, documentaries, all of those things, it is very geared toward the mission of the story. It’s very supportive of where the story is. We never want anyone to be like, “Oh, that was a sound effect there.” We just want to mind-meld the listener and the viewer into the story. And so what I love about what we do is we’re usually the first people that actually consume a piece of content and its final in our rooms, even before a director or producer or writers. And the other thing that we’re just always thinking about is removing the boundaries of the framing. How do we support the cinematography by mixing in a way where we’re pointing through sound, pointing the viewer to where the focus is? But if they look somewhere else, they also hear that, but in a secondary way. So we’re guiding the eye around what the cinematographer is framing. But then, in the next step, we’re really trying to eliminate framing from the editor’s perspective. Sometimes we’ll highlight what the editor’s doing. Sometimes we’ll try to do the opposite, depending on where the story is. So sound is this thing that really can open up this framing and kind of wrap someone around and it could tell stories off-screen. It can kind of push you around the screen. But most of the time, my goal is to really erase the edges for the viewer and just get their minds like completely inundated into this story.

Adrian Tennant: Looking back over Defacto Sound’s history, is there one project in particular that you’re proudest of? And if so, why?

Dallas Taylor: Wow, there’s so many. I love just big sound design. That’s always fun, but I think that the ones that I’m most proud of are the ones that had the biggest emotional impact. So one thing I would say that I’m probably most proud of is a couple of documentaries that we did. One was called Blood Brother. It’s on Netflix. It won Sundance in both of the big categories. It’s about this guy who goes over to India to help support orphans who have AIDS. And it was just a very sound design-y piece. It’s very well crafted. We’d been working on this thing for years, working on the actual doc for months and months. Director Steve Hoover came in, sat down, and on the final day, started pulling music out of the documentary, which is something you really just don’t think to do at the very end of a process. But he had the understanding that he had been editing in scenes and now he really needed to give the viewer time to process rather than just have more music on them. And so I was really proud because there were times where he’s like, “Let’s just hear it without music.” And then the entire soundtrack just played beautifully without it. You know, on set I don’t even think they had a sound mixer, but we had filled the entire soundscape and it was very lush and we were trying to be very respectful of the actual locations and sounding real. You watch that film and you really never, at any point, think about the sound design, but there’s so much sound work just to blur the line between reality and this fakey picture thing. That one, and then the follow-up from that director was a piece called Crocodile Gennadiy that happened back when Ukraine was where there was a lot of Russian pressure going in. Atticus Ross, the other Nine Inch Nails person, was the composer on it, so it was just really heavy and dark. And then all of our sound design, like really supported that too. But beyond that, probably properties that I just love, like things like Westworld, Game of Thrones, Fallout Four, Fallout New Vegas. I got to mix all of these launch trailers and stuff, and I love games. So yeah, I think that those, but then also just things that like, I just naturally enjoy. We do a lot of cartoon mixing too. Whether it be Adventure Time or… trailers that is. Heck, even like True In The Rainbow Kingdom. Things that are for kids – and I have kids and I just love all of those things. But I’d say that the thing I love the most that I’m proud of is just how much different content we’re working on, on a weekly basis. It’s just always new.

Adrian Tennant: Let’s take a short break. We’ll be right back after this message.

Sandra Marshall: I’m Sandra Marshall, VP of Client Services at Bigeye. Every week, IN CLEAR FOCUS addresses topics that impact our work as advertising professionals. At Bigeye, we always put audiences first. For every engagement, we’re committed not just to understanding our clients’ business challenges but also learning about their prospects and customers’ attitudes, behaviors, and motivations. These insights inform our strategy and collectively inspire the account, creative, media, and analytics teams working on our clients’ projects. If you’d like to put Bigeye’s audience-focused consumer insights to work for your brand, please contact us. Email Bigeye. Reaching the Right People, in the Right Place, at the Right Time.

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. I’m talking with Dallas Taylor, who, in addition to being the Creative Director of Defacto Sound is the creator and host of the podcast Twenty Thousand Hertz, which he started back in 2016. In each episode, you reveal the hidden backstory behind a famous sound or sonic phenomenon. Dallas, what inspired you to create the podcast? 

Dallas Taylor: Even in the industry that I’m in, where we only have two human senses to work with – our sense of sight and our sense of hearing – it’s still like sight 99.9% of the time. And like hearing is this far secondary finishing thing. Yet, it’s a core human sense that can be really used to push people emotionally if it’s just taken seriously. So I started thinking about this podcast probably three, four years prior to even putting it out. And being in this kind of sound design world, there are all these really cool stories that we just tell each other as sound people – like the story of the Wilhelm Scream or, the story of the NBC chimes, or what’s that voice on your phone? Well, who is that person? Or what is this thing about – people talk about mastering, what the heck is that? And, yeah, so there’s like so many stories out there of these great sounds that have these very intricate histories that I wanted to tell and to hopefully just to get people more in tune with that sense. It’s not preachy. It’s just fun. It’s just like, “Oh, that’s a sound I’ve heard all the time. And now I know this entire rich back story of what led it from point A to point B.” And so the show is very much a show about sound for everyone, to really start to enjoy, hopefully, to open up their sense of hearing. And that was really the inspiration. I wanted to give this passion that sound designers and these audio people have to the rest of the world. Because if we let the rest of the world in on it and they get super excited about sound and they start working with sound and being creative with sound and changing your own sonic environments, then that’s going to move our whole culture forward. And so it’s very light for the most part. There are some serious episodes, but it’s very peppy, highly produced, and yeah, for everybody.

Adrian Tennant: What’s the origin of the podcast’s name, Twenty Thousand Hertz?

Dallas Taylor: Yeah. So it’s Twenty Thousand Hertz. H E R T Z, named from Heinrich Hertz,  who, I guess coined that term. So Hertz is a cycle. So if you think of a speaker cone that goes out, pulls back, and then goes back to the middle – that’s one cycle. The way that sound works in our atmosphere is it’s basically like compressing air and then it’s like doing a vacuum of air super, super quickly. And, one cycle is so low that you can’t hear it. You know, you get to about 20 cycles if you see a big woofer moving, and you kind of feel this “Whoa,” like really low thing. The fewer cycles, you know, 40, 60, 100 Hertz, you’re going to hear that as a super low sound. But Twenty Thousand Hertz is basically the highest average of human hearing. Well, for kids, not adults, because we’ve kind of lost all of our super, super high pitches. But Twenty Thousand Hertz is essentially the limit of human hearing.

Adrian Tennant: Previous episodes of Twenty Thousand Hertz have covered a really wide range of subjects, whether it’s discovering the inspiration for the sound of the lightsabers in Star Wars or interviewing voice actors, or deconstructing the elements that make up the most recognizable audio identities in the world. How do you come up with the ideas for each episode?

Dallas Taylor: My whole team is really diligent. Anytime an audience member sends in an email with a show idea or a tweet or a Facebook message, or you know, on Reddit, we always put that down on our list. We’re not really evaluating all the time, but anytime I have an idea or somebody on the team or just any listener has an idea, we always put it in a special place. And then when we’re looking for episodes, we’re going through every idea that’s come through our inboxes and ideas and stuff for the things that just really get us excited. And stories about things that sound really cool, that we don’t know the story behind, but is a huge cultural influence. The thing about sound though, I mean, we probably have 600 stories just sitting there because this well never ends. You know, by the time a sound goes away, a brand new sound replaces it. Like right now, the Netflix sound is not that old – I think it’s five or six years old – like we think of it as like the most influential sound in all advertising. Yet it’s not, I don’t even think it’s a decade old.  And what happened? What was that phenomenon? How did it succeed? What did they do to come up with that sound? And so we tell these like very human stories. And what you find out oftentimes is they have this deep meaning of like every split second of something means something to the brand. You know, even kind of Star Wars and stuff, there’s a whole reason why the TIE Fighters have an elephant in it – it’s just to cause fear in our “fight or flight” brains. So there’s just so much fascination with psychology and how our brains work and just nature and that all kind of comes together when we make these sounds. And I just wanted to highlight these really fun stories.

Adrian Tennant: In episode number 100, you reveal the never-before-told story behind the iconic Netflix sound. So Dallas, how did this episode come together? What’s the story behind the story?

Dallas Taylor: Yeah. This is about the Netflix, TA-DUM – that sound. So there’s a lot of ideas and speculation of where this came from. But we noticed that there was never an acknowledgment of actually where it came from. So there was this whole idea of like, “Oh, it must be the end of like House of Cards, season two.” There’s this part where Frank Underwood bangs on the desk and he goes “ba-boom” like that. And if you listen to it, you go, “Oh, okay. That sounds a lot like the Netflix logo, pretty fascinating.” So there’s all this speculation online. “Oh, that must be it.” You know, and I can understand if they want to stay away from that or whatnot, but I wanted to get to the bottom of that. So immediately just in my circles wrote the sound designer of House of Cards, who actually put the sound in. This person was Ren Klyce, very famous in the sound world. And I was like, “Hey, you know, a lot of speculation that the Netflix audio logo is this sound that you made or your team made…” And he immediately wrote back like no time at all, “Nope, not me. Like, you’d think that it sounds like that, but I know exactly who made it, this person Lon Bender, so reach out to him.” So then I went over there and then we talked and one thing led to another, I eventually kind of put it on Netflix and said, “Hey, you know, we got these people, but we really want Todd Yellin”, who was the client on this. So Todd Yellen was at Netflix, he was the one guiding Lon and Charlie to create some sort of sonic brand and they spent an entire year on it. But that really stalled because when you’re going into a multi-billion dollar company PR and they’re like, “Whoa, who are you?” Like, “What is happening here?” So we had to show our history, that first, they were like, “Oh, okay. What are you about?” I think it took us about a year to get Todd. The actual episode came together pretty well and pretty easily compared to many episodes. However, it just took a long time to get access. But once we had access to Netflix, everyone was super friendly, everyone was really open.

Adrian Tennant: Yeah, let’s hear a clip from the episode. The first voice we’ll hear is Todd Yellin, VP of Product Innovation at Netflix.

AUDIO: First off and arguably most important, it had to be really short. And the reason it had to be short is, as opposed to in a movie theater when you have a captive audience and they’re going to be there and they paid their 10 bucks and they’re going to watch whatever you throw at them. So some of the grander sound idents you can imagine like THX – a great one. It’s really long. The “bom-bom-bom” from 20th Century Fox – long! Even Leo the lion was too long because, in our age of click and play, you get to Netflix. You want to be able to click. And there’s no patience. And you want that great experience and you almost want it immediately. So the first thing is that had to be short. Past that I said, “I don’t want an electronic sound that is reminiscent of a game platform like X-Box or a computer, like Apple operating system, like Microsoft launching because we are in the entertainment business.” And even though we are the double helix of entertainment and technology coming together, I wanted to make sure that it sounded more cinematic than electronic and computer-ish.

Adrian Tennant: The Netflix sound is heard countless times every single day, all over the world. Yet you were the first to reveal its backstory and learn what went into its design.

Dallas Taylor: So yeah – another thing that Todd said earlier in the show that really hit home for me. And even Todd didn’t really like sink into this thought, one of the first things he said on the interview, he was like, “Oh, we just needed something short. And it needed to be like, ‘TA-DUM, it’s Netflix’.” And I was like, it sounds exactly like what you just said. It’s like ‘TA-DUM, it’s Netflix’. That’s like the bones of what this was.  It’s just fascinating like that, that’s what they came up with, among multiple versions. They tried all kinds of like random sounds and random, ideas and it took them, I think about a year to settle on it.

Adrian Tennant: In that episode, we also learned that the Netflix audio identity might have gone in a very different direction, right?

Dallas Taylor: Yeah, very much so. Surprisingly, they wouldn’t let me play the actual audio file, but they did say it was perfectly fine if I talk about it and perfectly fine if I do an impression of it.

Adrian Tennant: Let’s hear that clip now.

AUDIO: One thing I was initially attracted to was if we’re going to do that call and response that like create tension and then resolve it really quickly. I liked the sound of a goat. It was funny. I thought it was quirky and it was our version of Leo, the lion. And so for a while, we were stuck on that code sound and I thought that would be a good time. – – So I can’t play the sound for you, but I did hear one of the goat options they considered and it’s a very goatee, it was basically an ending response to the ‘TA-DUM’ we already know and love. Here’s my best impression of what I heard. – – Yeah.

Adrian Tennant: Great! If you’d like to hear more of that, it’s episode 100 entitled, “TA-DUM, It’s Netflix” from 2020. Staying with iconic sounds, Twenty Thousand Hertz also produced an episode in 2019 focused on sonic branding in which you deconstruct some of the most impactful audio logos in history. Let’s hear a clip from that episode. The first voice we’ll hear is Scott Simonelli, CEO of Veritonic, a company that measures the commercial effectiveness of sound.

AUDIO: The big benefit of an audio logo versus a visual logo is that it stays with you after you’ve experienced it with a visual logo. You might remember what it looks like, but not in the way that you would remember an audio logo, and certainly nobody’s humming or singing a visual logo. As soon as you hear that three-note or four-note sequence, you know exactly where you’ve heard it before. That longevity, that memorability, and that recall is so powerful. – – Memorability in audio logos is key and it’s not always because the product is so amazing. Sometimes the audio logo is something we might call an earworm, something that just gets stuck in your head and you can’t get it out. Mennen aftershave had a great example of this in the eighties. “Buy Menned.” It was so popular that it became the basis of a storyline in an episode of Seinfeld here, Georgia Constanza tries to make himself more memorable to a woman that he’s dating. “I’m like a commercial jingle first. It’s a little irritating. Then you hear it a few times. You’re humming it in the shower by the third date. It’s buy Mennen.” “All right, George, the first time we went out, I found you very irritating. We’re seeing you a couple of times. You sorta got it. Stuck in my head – Contanza”.

Adrian Tennant: So Dallas, did someone on your team just remember that episode of Seinfeld?

Dallas Taylor: I think what happened is like, when we were just talking about where we want to go with the show that may have just come up in conversation, like, “does anybody remember like “Buy Mennen?” And then I think someone else bounced off. I was like, “Oh yeah, the Seinfeld thing.” And I was like, “What are you talking about?” And then like, I think someone found it, and then we just kind of wrote it into the show as a funny anecdote of how huge that, you know, the theme was, or that little jingle back then, but I mean, I find this fascinating. I think that anybody who heard that…  there’s just so many sounds, I mean, just like “Liberty, Liberty, Liberty, Liberty,” it just sticks with you. The brand almost doesn’t exist without their sonic logo. And I love that.

Adrian Tennant: If you would like to hear more of that episode, it’s number 48, entitled Sonic Branding. Where are the clips that you use in Twenty Thousand Hertz sourced from?

Dallas Taylor: Yeah, usually it’s a YouTube pull. We have this amazing thing called Fair Use, that if we did not have the ability to have Fair Use, news would be different. If we’re using a sound or a clip or something as an educational tool – and now there’s a lot of nuances to this – but if we’re unpacking a specific sound and we’re commentating on that sound that is protected by Fair Use. This is how news stations can play things because they’re talking about it. Parody is also a big part of that too. If you want to parody, you know, SNL doing like a Lexus parody commercial, that’s protected by Fair Use. And so, we have a legal team that occasionally if we feel like we’re in sticky situations, we’ll pass it through them. They’ll say, “Oh, just, you know, make this edit, make this, that it make this edit” But for the most part, it’s all protected with Fair Use. When it gets hard is with music. Like if we’re doing something like mastering, or we’re doing a thing where we’re talking about the 808 being so prevalent throughout hip-hop, we have to be really careful with how we use the music. It’s one thing to say, “You’ve heard this in this piece”, and you hear, ‘dum-ta-ta-dum’ you know, whatever. It’s a different thing altogether to use that Jay-Z piece or something and put it under me talking. And so there’s a lot of aspects of how you can use things and how you can’t use things. And we’re extraordinarily careful. We’ve been like that since the very beginning, but usually, we’re sourcing it from a super high-quality YouTube video or something with the very high consideration of it being Fair Use. But do we need to get NBC’s permission to talk about or play the NBC chimes? No, because we’re using that as education.

Adrian Tennant: You mentioned the 808. That’s the Roland TR-808, a drum machine manufactured in the early 1980s. You tell the 808’s story in episode number 72. As a drum machine, it wasn’t a commercial success at the time yet it accidentally changed music forever.

Dallas Taylor: Yeah, it’s still even such a huge, prevalent sound. 808 kick and the variations on it are still just what makes a lot of hip-hop sound like hip-hop. And it’s fascinating that Japanese engineers from Roland created a machine that ended up influencing so much of what we hear today. And those seeds were planted with a lot of these eighties hip-hop groups.

Adrian Tennant: From first determining the topic of a Twenty Thousand Hertz episode to publication, what does the production timeline for an episode typically look like?

Dallas Taylor: Usually it’s four to six months of time that it takes us to make a show. We’ve calculated it before, and usually, it’s somewhere between 200 and 300 hours of work to do it. Right now we have 23 episodes in production simultaneously, just because the lead times are so long, to make it. And some of the writers have full-time jobs, they’re freelance. We always hire external writers. So a quick, glossy overview of how we do everything is kind of: We have brainstorming meetings, we pick topics that just get us excited. And generally, I like doing fun episodes, but if there’s a serious topic we’ll tackle it. Sometimes I’ll do an interview with a guest before we decide to greenlight it. Sometimes the producers will do all the guests, the external writers. Casey’s our story producer internally. So he’s really controlling every sound edit and everything. So we’ll kick it off – me, Casey, and then the writer. Kind of just with big, broad ideas, the writer may bring an outline, may pitch certain elements to us. Then we go, “Okay, let’s do this. Let’s try not to do this. Let’s get this person. Let’s try to get this person if we can, if we can’t get that person, you know, do this.” So then there’s a phase of like, “Can we get the guests?” And usually, that takes a week to three just to get the right person. Sometimes we need celebrities, which takes longer. We get those recorded as highly polished as possible. Prior to the pandemic, we were sending everyone into a recording studio, or we were sending a sound recordist to their home or office. Now we’re sending microphones and giving people microphones if they don’t have one already. Or we’re just pulling out every trick in the book to get the highest quality recording possible. So we have a handful of different ways that we do that because sound design, music, all those things like really only work when you have a great beautifully clean warm microphone. Usually, we have two guests, sometimes three, maybe one, just depending on how compelling it is. And we’ll get these transcripts and then the writer will spend a few weeks just kind of hacking away at it. Trying to build a narrative, using narration to get us from point A to point B faster. If someone told a seven-minute-long story, that’s nearly a whole segment. So we have to chop that down and get to the meat much more quickly. So they do that, they go back and forth. We do a full table read of it. We do a first table read where I’m reading my part, we’re clicking on music. We’re clicking on sound ideas. We have the sound designer in it. We have the story producer. We have the writer just listening to it for the first time. They give a bunch of notes, the writer will go off, maybe come back and maybe we do another table read if necessary. Then we bring it into audio and then that’s a whole phase of probably a month, two months, of just crafting it. And then we just kind of rip it apart too, because some things on a script don’t work in audio. Telling an audio story is very different than print. It’s very different than what we see on a script. So sometimes something that looks like it’d be really good on a script does not work in audio. So we have to kind of rip it apart and make it work. So we back forth, back forth. About two weeks before we launch a show, I’m terrified it’s gonna be the worst show that we ever made. I’m, you know, “Everyone’s going to unsubscribe.” And then one day before we launch it’s polished to the max, we panic polish. We publish it, and it’s my favorite episode. Usually, the latest episode is always my favorite episode for some reason.

Adrian Tennant: Today, Twenty Thousand Hertz boasts over 100,000 subscribers. What has been your strategy for growing the podcast’s listenership?

Dallas Taylor: Well, the biggest things are being featured on other podcasts. So we got our big break with 99% Invisible. Roman Mars is the host of that and Roman played our second episode the day we launched our third episode. So that was a huge break. Roman and I know each other and he was just really complimentary of what I was trying to do. But once you get that attention, then it gets the attention of NPR and other podcasts, and then it just steadily grows. So usually, we’re just doing a lot of cross promos with similar types of shows – really highly produced shows that are kind of in our same range of listeners. Like if we think, “Oh, that podcast there surely those listeners would like what we do.” And the other podcast thinks the same thing about us. So sometimes, we’ll drop an entire story from another podcast onto our feed, but only if it sounds like a Twenty Thousand Hertz episode, to begin with. I’ll chime in, we’ll re-edit it, we’ll kind of make it a Twenty Thousand Hertz style. So yeah, it’s a lot of cross promos. The YouTubers really figured this out. Like YouTubers and collabs and stuff, they’re the ones that really understand how to grow an audience. And essentially, I follow that model in podcasting.

Adrian Tennant: Dallas, away from the studio what are your sources of inspiration?

Dallas Taylor: I like a lot of variety. There’s nothing like making a podcast to ruin all your podcast listening because it’s really hard in my position to listen to other podcasts and not think about the craft and what they’re doing and how they’re doing stuff. So I would say that since I’ve started the podcast, I’ve listened to less and less, but the more that we’ve kind of landed on our style, the less I want to be like overly-influenced by others. I like when certain podcasts do certain ideas and I’ll kind of borrow that, if I hear it, but I try not to get too much into this particular show, otherwise I start sounding like their host or we start editing in their way. Twenty Thousand Hertz has a very clear style now, and I want to make sure that we’re preserving that. Other things that really inspire me – this sounds so weird, and obviously, right now it’s not a good time, but I just love Disney parks and that stuff. I love the entire world that Disney has built. Especially prior to the pandemic, I was just going to Disneyland every time I was working out in LA. Anytime I could find myself in Orlando, just because the level of detail just reminds me that detail and love and care all the way to the nth degree matters to people. And so it just reminds me when we’re making this show and maybe we’re toiling over an edit and spending hours on something that’s only a blip of time, that it matters. And so I like very detailed, deep, like onion, you know, you think you’ve gotten to the baseline, but there’s another layer under it and another layer under it. Definitely music. I love classical music. I love bluegrass. I love hip-hop. I want to just devour all kinds of stuff, especially things that are surprising.

Adrian Tennant: If IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners would like to learn more about Defacto Sound or the Twenty Thousand Hertz podcast, where can they find you?

Dallas Taylor: Defacto Sound’s website is However, what’s probably even more interesting is if you’re on Instagram because we do some goofy stuff on Instagram and we’re keeping that updated. So a lot of times we will find our reels there, any time we post an episode, we’ll post over there too. But we also do these funny things, like re-sound design serious clips and being silly. And so I would recommend following Defacto Sound on Instagram. If you want to take it a step further, and if you really like weird, funny, sound design videos, follow Defacto Sound on YouTube as well. Cause we’re doing weird stuff over there too. But I would say since everyone right now is listening to a podcast, I know you have the ability to go to Twenty Thousand Hertz. And tap subscribe. So Twenty Thousand Hertz is all spelled out without any numbers. So T W E N T Y et cetera, Twenty Thousand Hertz, big purple icon. I guarantee you no matter who’s listening right now, you’re going to find a topic that you just have to know about. Click on anything. The whole show is evergreen. You can listen to any show at any time. There is no through-line through the show, sometimes we do like a two-parter, but we make sure that every show is evergreen. Every show is self-contained. And I would say, the number one thing you can do above all things right now would be wherever you’re listening to my voice right now, while I’m talking, I’m giving you all the time in the world, go to your search. Twenty Thousand Hertz. That’s going to pop up and you tap ‘Subscribe’, and then you can either forget about it or listen right away. But go tap that subscribe button.

Adrian Tennant: Thank you very much for being our guest this week on, IN CLEAR FOCUS!

Dallas Taylor: Yeah, this was so much fun. Thanks for having me

Adrian Tennant: Coming up next time on, IN CLEAR FOCUS:

Christia Spears Brown: Gender stereotypes are so pervasive that I think parents really have to be committed to helping their kids learn about them and push back against them. In a lot of ways in which parenting practices play out along gender lines, LGBTQ parents are much more egalitarian and you can see that filtering down into their kids.

Adrian Tennant: An interview with Christia Spears Brown – author, researcher, and professor of developmental psychology. Dr. Brown joins us to discuss some of the results from Bigeye’s national study of attitudes toward gender identity and expression. That’s a preview of Gender: Beyond The Binary, next time on IN CLEAR FOCUS. Thanks to my guests this week, Dallas Taylor, Creative Director of Defacto Sound, and the host of the podcast Twenty Thousand Hertz. You’ll find links to the resources we discussed on the IN CLEAR FOCUS page at under “Insights”. Just click on the button marked “Podcast”. If you enjoyed this episode, please consider subscribing to IN CLEAR FOCUS on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, Audible, YouTube, or your preferred podcast player. Thank you for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week, goodbye.

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