David Reviews

 "You're not an artist, Peggy. You solve problems." Don Draper.

VIRTUAL SOUND'S SOUND PROPOSITION
7 November 2022

DAVID recently had the opportunity to catch up with Toby Slade-Baker and Alex Lodge, and ask them - among other things - if their business, which appears tailor-made for lockdown conditions, had thrived during the difficulties of the past couple of years.

As if the amplify the point about how difficult things have been, our plans to meet in one place were derailed by a positive COVID test for Toby Slade-Baker, and his appearance at the meeting was 'virtual'.

The duo come from very different backgrounds: Slade-Baker is a former DJ who has worked in various aspects of sound for twenty years prior to the creation of 'Virtual Sound', whereas Alex Lodge is a classically trained musician whose path into the business was quite different.

This contrast in routes is reflected by their personalities in exactly the way you'd expect... Slade-Baker, the more direct and ebullient of the two, with Lodge often deferring to his partner and proving more circumspect, but always providing insights of equal merit.


We are great evangelists for an integrated service which manages all of the audio assets from music across to voiceover and sound design.

 ”

It turns out that Virtual Sound came into existence as a side hustle. The already established business Thirty Two Music, which continues to exist independently, was successfully providing a service to a variety of clients for a number of years before Slade-Baker and Lodge determined that there was an opportunity to create a new service to meet a demand which could not be met by the existing company.

So is the idea that their clients will see no connection between the two companies, or do the duo aim to pitch them as complementary services?

"We are great evangelists for an integrated service which manages all of the audio assets from music across to voiceover and sound design and everything else that goes into a commercial because the workflow that we've created lends itself perfectly to overseeing all of that, to managing all of the assets centrally."


it's an interesting dynamic when we come to a bespoke composition job

 ”

Unsurprisingly, given Lodge's classical training, one aspect that they both really enjoy is composition, and Slade-Baker says that it's an area where their differing skill sets work really well together: "it's an interesting dynamic when we come to a bespoke composition job... there are certain things that I can't communicate to a classical composer in terms of notation and core progressions and those sorts of things.

"Then there's lots of production stuff about how things are put together in the mix and the mastering process that Alex wouldn't naturally bring to the table. So we very much put our heads together to bring those elements to every composition job."


"If there's a favourite studio that they have, we don't have to say, 'Okay, well, if we are having your business, we have to take it away from the people that you like to use.'

 ”

What though is the benefit of providing a 'virtual' service rather than one built up around a London studio?

"When we conceived Virtual Sound," Says Alex Lodge, "we wanted flexibility to be a core asset of it because we wanted to pass that flexibility onto our clients.

"So we didn't say, 'Okay, well, we've got availability on Tuesday afternoon for you to do this thing.' We would take their project and be able to put it together so it could happen instantly, and also, we can put them in whatever studio they want.

"If there's a favourite studio that they have, we don't have to say, 'Okay, well, if we are having your business, we have to take it away from the people that you like to use.' We can integrate all of that into our workflow. So it's flexibility but also familiarity and a way to give a client exactly what they want, rather than them having to compromise for whatever reason."

Toby Slade-Baker nods approvingly at the way Alex Lodge describes this and adds: "The unique thing that we created is the path of least resistance for very busy producers who now - instead of having to raise six POs and set up six new suppliers on their system - can receive one invoice because all of the sound things are coming from one place."


So we were saying, 'Look, you don't have to go there, neither does your ECD and in fact, neither does your brand client, and neither does the voiceover either. We can dial you in to a central facility so that it seems like you're there, but nobody actually has to attend.'

 ”

Asked if the pandemic had been good for business, the duo reveal that things were as tough for them as they were for everyone else during those first three months when the whole industry was paralysed by uncertainty.

But, once things started moving again, they benefited hugely from having an existing infrastructure that was ready for the challenges of quarantine.

Alex Lodge explains that COVID created an acceptance for a working practice they were already attempting to encourage: "Before COVID, we were trying to educate people about the reduced need to attend sound sessions.

"So we were saying, 'Look, you don't have to go there, neither does your ECD and in fact, neither does your brand client, and neither does the voiceover either. We can dial you in to a central facility so that it seems like you're there, but nobody actually has to attend.'"

It would have put Toby Slade-Baker and Alex Lodge on the spot to ask whether another benefit of this approach is less interference from the client and senior agency personnel, so that question went unasked. We had, in any case, run out of time which - diplomatically speaking was probably just as well.

To learn more about Virtual Sound, contact Holly Abey on holly@virtualsound.co or on 07912 193975.

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