Marketing, Video & Audio

5 Biggest Music and Audio Trends on Social Media

Want to know what sounds are currently trending on social media? From podcast music to sound effects, here are the top audio trends to keep an ear out for over the coming year...

Portrait for Kelsie Rimmer By Kelsie Rimmer
Posted 27 Nov 2020
social sounds trends

Social media is an inherently visual space. Social platforms such as Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, TikTok and YouTube have built their empires on photos, GIFs, memes and short and long-form videos. However, as social media evolves, more social networks are beginning to highlight audio-based content and integrate aural features into their platforms. 

Facebook now enables its users to send voice clips via Messenger and Stories, on Instagram you can share songs from Spotify directly to Stories, and the introduction of TikTok and Instagram Reels has seen a huge increase in short, catchy audio tracks in our social feeds. In fact, many musicians are even becoming famous from performing on TikTok or having their songs featured in TikTok videos due to the viral impact of the platform.

So, what sounds are currently trending on social media? From podcast music to sound effects, here are the top audio trends to keep an ear out for over the coming year… 

1. Podcast Sounds

Podcasting has absolutely exploded over the last few years. From film reviews and sporting analysis, to true crime and business advice, podcast enthusiasts now have the opportunity to tune in to a diverse range of audio offerings from across the world with the tap of a finger.

An art that was once exclusively owned by radio hosts and DJs, DIY broadcasters are now popping up left, right and centre and using unique podcast audio and sound effects to stand out on social media. In fact, many podcast creators are now exclusively promoting and distributing their shows across social media – such as Gimlet Media’s @how2saveaplanet podcast, social media stars Brittany Hockley and Laura Byrne’s @lifeuncutpodcast, and @shamelesspodcast from media personalities Zara McDonald and Michelle Andrews.

The popularity of podcasting has seen the medium thrust into the mainstream. Transitioning from DIY shows made by friends in bedroom studios, to highly-polished, professional pieces of media with big budgets behind them, podcasting has continued to grow as both an audio trend and an industry in its own right. 

Companies are so confident about the podcasting trend, that they’re spending big bucks backing it. Spotify recently purchased Gimlet media and Anchor, two major podcasting companies, in a deal worth $340 million. We predict that podcasting is set to continue growing, with the voice economy–including voice start-ups–set to be a trillion-dollar market by 2025. 

When it comes to creating a successful podcast, choosing a catchy audio track and recognizable sound effects is key for hooking your audience. From the opening notes of the Serial theme tune to the guitar riff that introduces WTF with Marc Maron, a good podcast music track often becomes synonymous with the show itself. Which is why you should carefully select your podcast intro music based on current trends, the context of the content, as well as the type of mood you want to evoke. 

If you’re looking for the perfect podcast accompaniment, check out this round up of the top 10 best podcast music tracks. Or if you want to learn how to create your own podcast, check out our step-by-step podcast guide.

2. ASMR

The ASMR trend – which includes relaxing videos featuring audio triggers such as whispering, tapping and cats purring – has fast become a big business around the world, as well as one of the most prominent audio trends on social media. A YouTube phenomenon that began back in 2010, ASMR (which stands for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response) is a relaxing, often sedating sensation that originates on the scalp and moves down the body. Also known as “brain massage,” it can be triggered by calming visuals and sounds such as whispers, tapping and crinkles.

While ASMR is by no means a new trend, the world’s fascination with it has continued to grow in 2020 as users are looking for an escape from the stress of the global crisis. According to Google data, there are 2.3 million global Google searches for ASMR every month, which is dwarfed by the 11 million global searches every month for ASMR on YouTube. And some of the growing number of ASMR influencers online are now making over $1m a year – such as Gentle Whispering, who has over 2 million YouTube subscribers.

Just as nature sounds can support relaxation, ASMR triggers can reduce stress, alleviate pain and even put listeners into a focused or meditative state. This makes ASMR sounds a perfect accompaniment for podcasts, videos and even study tools. If you want your listeners to concentrate and really focus on your content, then integrating ASMR sounds is key. 

Next time you’re choosing audio content for your reel, video or podcast, think about how you can offer some ASMR aural treats to your listeners – such as the sounds of hair brushing, pencil on paper, a softly-spoken voice over, or calm music to set the tone.

If you’re keen to jump on the ASMR trend, check out the top triggers on Envato Elements and start giving your listeners some tingles.

3. Social Media Video

Everyone knows that social media video is the most engaging form of digital content online. Driven by the introduction of TikTok and Instagram Reels, short-form video is more popular than ever. And what’s the perfect accompaniment to a trending video? A catchy audio track of course! 

Choosing the right music track is particularly important when creating short-form video, as you only have a small window of time to hook your viewers. Music is one of the most powerful ways to create a specific mood or atmosphere. Whenever we hear a music track that we love, our brains respond by releasing the happy chemical, “dopamine” – the chemical that regulates pleasure, motivation, and goal-oriented behavior. Because music is so tightly linked with most fundamental reward systems in our bodies and brains, the right track can raise mood, reduce mental fatigue, fuel productivity and motivation, and inspire us to take action. 

The short-form video trend has continued to grow this year. Big names such as MAC Cosmetics and the NBA have jumped on TikTok, while others were quick to make use of the newly launched Instagram Reels, including luxury and lifestyles brands such as Louis Vuitton and Sephora

TikTok has been full of viral music clips throughout 2020, resulting in a tonne of TikTok tracks blowing up online and gaining plenty of attention – such as Laxed by Jawsh 685 and Roses (Imanbek Remix) by SAINt JHN and Imanbek. Featuring a mixture of original songs and remixes – from the relatively unknown track “ROXANNE'” by Arizona Zervas to the certified hit “Boss Bitch” by Doja Cat – there’s no denying that the most popular music on TikTok is fun, fresh and upbeat. Lo-Fi Hip-Hop is also one of the most popular subgenres on social media, becoming Gen Z’s online soundtrack. 

Whether short-form videos are in the fields of fitness, fashion, makeup or even sports, the most popular form of audio for short-form social videos are often tracks that are uplifting, epic, motivational and upbeat. In fact, motivational music – particularly the categories ‘happy’ and ‘epic’ – were two of the biggest audio trends throughout 2020, due to the sense of energy, hope and determination they evoke. 

“In 2020, it’s interesting to see that “Happy” has overtaken “Corporate” as far as what’s most in demand,” says Envato Audio Specialist, Adrien Gardener. “This could be hinting that in the midst of our ongoing Covid-19 reality, as the months have worn on, a shift has taken place where people and projects have sought to cling to hope, to reminisce or make memories of happy times, deflecting slightly away perhaps from the otherwise everyday business as usual.” 

To find some uplifting, punchy audio for your next short form video, check out these great motivational tracks on Envato Elements!

4. Retro Audio

The resurgence of retro design has absolutely exploded over the last year, bringing a landslide of trends, techniques, and styles along with it. Companies, artists and designers alike have embraced the retro trend with open arms, providing us with an opportunity to experience the familiar through a modern lens. Even the world’s biggest brands such as Nike, Pepsi, and Gucci have integrated retro design into their advertising campaigns, recycling retro trends, marketing and products with incredible results.

And in the midst of this retro rebirth, audio trends have also taken a step back in time too. With most modern musicians now selling their music in record form, the popularity of vinyl has gone through the roof. Trendy 90s cassette tapes are making their way back into the mainstream too, and even modular synthesizers are returning to the spotlight. 

Simultaneously, digital technology and online accessibility has never been greater or more powerful than it is today. Digital streaming has surpassed downloads as the most popular means of buying music, and the world of iOS Audio Production continues to expand with the growth in music apps.

In a world of ever-evolving technology, it’s quite clear our obsession with retro audio is not about necessity or efficiency. So why is retro audio being resurrected?

The short answer is – the power of nostalgia. Described as ‘the pop-culture equivalent of comfort food’, instead of anticipating the next great thing, nostalgia urges us to focus on things we already know, and recycles the familiarity of the old to sell the innovation of the new. In this fast-paced, technology-driven world, looking back on the past can be a welcome comfort for many. In fact, nostalgia is so powerful that it’s actually proven to reduce stress, improve our mental health and even make us more willing to spend money on consumer goods and services. 

As a result of our love of nostalgia, retro audio has been popping up all over social media. Retro hit ‘Dreams’ by Fleetwood Mac has fast become a TikTok sensation, and even retro sound effects are coming back around, such as these  rock and pop sounds of the 80s and retro arcade sounds.

If you wanna go retro with your next video, podcast or design, check out our handy guide to all things retro!

5. Sound Effects

Sound effects have always been the bread and butter of multimedia. With their use dating back to the early days of radio in the 1930s, sound effects are now widely featured in film, videos, music, video games and even podcasts. They’re an essential audio tool for creating mood, atmosphere, context and personality, and are now one of the most sought after forms of audio online. 

The evolution of technology has led to a huge range of available audio libraries – in fact, Envato Elements alone now has over 420k available sound effects! If there’s a sound you need, chances are you’ll be able to find it there with the click of a button. 

Ranging from common sound effects such as laughter or nature sounds, to everyday noises like a paper bag explosion or a seat belt buckling, there really is a sound effect out there for every kind of project. But, what are some of the most popular sound effects catching our ears this year?

According to Envato Product Marketing Specialist Bianca Pellizzari, transition sound effects are trending big time. In fact, four out of five of the most downloaded sounds on MixKit, Envato’s free video & audio platform, are transition sound effects – such as whoosh, swoosh, sweep and zap!

These transition sound effects are perfect for short-form videos and podcasts, as they help to add momentum and dynamics to your content. Other classic sound effects such as game effects, applause, keyboard typing, and birds chirping are also in the top 10 most downloaded sounds, but transition sound effects are without a doubt the biggest trend for 2020. 

If you want to add some sound effects for your next video or podcast, head over to Envato Elements to browse our huge library of sounds.