“The sonic color line” is a phrase coined in a 2016 book of the same title, in which Binghamton University professor Jennifer Lynn Stoever examines how race shapes the audio we consume each day, from our favorite streaming shows to the advertising that airs between songs.
She described a hierarchal divide created by industry standards that prioritize a sound more closely associated with whiteness—one that Pandora’s in-house consultancy, Studio Resonate, says has been widely regarded as the default “American” voice among casting professionals, even though nearly 40% of the country’s population are people of color.
To address this, Pandora, SiriusXM and Stitcher have launched a joint initiative called Stand for Sonic Diversity, aiming to eradicate the sonic color line with concrete policies meant to boost Black voices within the audio industry, especially in advertising voice-overs.
The initiative invites fellow brands, agencies and publishers to commit to the Sonic Color Line Pledge, a list of actions meant to significantly diversify each company’s internal roster of creatives. This includes an effort to have people of color represent 50% of hired talent—a goal born of Studio Resonate’s past shortcomings when it came to inclusion.