Some Say Dolby Atmos Mixes Are Expensive. AlexProMix Begs to Differ.

“Everyone is on the same starting line in Dolby Atmos,” says Alex Solano. (Photo: Apple Music )
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“Everyone is on the same starting line in Dolby Atmos,” says Alex Solano. (Photo: Apple Music )
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“Everyone is on the same starting line in Dolby Atmos,” says Alex Solano. (Photo: Apple Music)

Back in October, Digital Music News first reported that Apple Music was introducing higher royalty payouts for Dolby Atmos mixes. That has sparked some pushback, particularly from indie and unsigned artists who feel Atmos upgrades come with a hefty price tag. AlexProMix is hoping to dispel that notion.

An early adopter of Dolby Atmos immersive formats, AlexProMix founder Alex Solano recently shared his thoughts on  how the rapid evolution in the Dolby Atmos ecosystem paves the way for musicians to gain ‘creative and monetary benefit.’

According to Solano, labels already understand the need and value of the format, with high-priority playlisting and better revenues. However, artists are still unaware that spatial audio doesn’t just make music ‘sound expansive and immersive’ but offers an incredible monetary benefit.

But can they afford it?

Absolutely yes, according to Solano. AlexProMix is currently offering fully-upgraded Atmos mixes for ‘as little as $350 per song,’ a more workable price range. Suddenly, the math could make sense for artists hoping to score a bumped-up royalty rate on Apple Music.

Solano, a music mixing engineer and educator for artists, labels, and music studios, also sees a big opportunity for producers and mixers as well. He predicts that gaining expertise in the heavily invested space of immersive audio could be ‘the biggest opportunity for audio professionals today.’ Just recently, AlexProMix partnered with DMN to further expand awareness around spatial audio possibilities.

Diving into his take on the importance of spatial audio in the current music industry terrain, Solano clarified that despite popular belief, spatial audio is ’not just an exclusive service available to the majors.’

Solano points out that many of the largest distribution platforms for indie artists — such as Avidplay, CD Baby, The Orchard, Audio Salad, Distrokid, Golden Dynamic, Rebeat, and Rock Mobile (to name a few) — currently support Dolby Atmos as a deliverable format. “Any indie artist who’s self-publishing and self-distributing can hire an independent immersive mixer and upgrade their audio to Dolby Atmos,” he added.

Backed by almost two decades of experience in music mixing and his unique position as an early adopter of immersive audio processing, Solano believes the evolving technology will be ‘creating a whole new set of job opportunities for audio professionals who want to have a sustainable career in the music industry.’

“There’s going to be a huge need for Dolby Atmos mixers like myself and thousands of others who have become early adopters.”

Before Dolby Atmos, anyone could have the tools and gear to mix and master — all from a home studio using headphones. But Spatial Audio, Solano says, is ‘different.’

Immersive mixes require expensive gear, specifically equipped studios, and distinct professional knowledge. These extensive requirements for Dolby Atmos have reset the terrain for mixers and offer a blank slate for experimentation, Solano explains. “Mix engineers at all levels are exploring new ways to expand the sonic possibilities with Dolby Atmos,” Solano noted. “Everyone is now at the same starting line with Dolby Atmos, with lots of new possibilities ahead.”

Speaking about AlexProMix, the spatial audio professional told DMN that his background has allowed him to ‘build a complex type of service’ for artists, labels, and studios.

His journey to becoming a spatial audio professional started in 2005, when Solano says he began ‘working behind the scenes for companies ahead of the curve,’ such as Avid Technology, the makers of Pro Tools. From there, Solano went on to gain early certifications from Universal and Warner. 

Speaking about the advent of his role as educator, Solano says he had to go through the whole process of educating his clients on spatial audio, why it’s needed, and the required equipment details.

“So I took that format and basically started creating videos on YouTube on what immersive audio is and how it benefits music producers and artists,” says Solano.

Solano admits he’s in a ‘unique position’ as an early adopter of immersive audio because he’s a music mixer, an online educator, and is ‘flying out to studios to teach immersive mixing.’

“All of that centers around something that I enjoy doing — my passion for music technology and music services and my early adoption of immersive audio.”

Solano also recounts his recent stint in Dubai, where he was called by LPME to assist with three recently built studios with two Dolby Atmos rooms. “They made the investment but needed a seasoned professional to train their in-house staff of producers and mixers in the new format.”

“That’s significant because you can have a multi-million dollar studio. You can have a lot of capital and resources, but there’s a very steep learning curve on knowing what to do when you sit in a room with speakers.”

The technology has been quickly growing and evolving, but audio professionals still need guidance and education when setting up a studio. “A Dolby Atmos music studio is a dedicated room for immersive mixing,” Solano explains, adding, “It’s not like a traditional recording or mixing room — it’s not a multi-purpose room.”

“It’s much easier to get into it now than two years ago, but it’s still quite a bit of an investment. You’re talking about 12 speakers plus all the rigging gear and acoustic treatment everywhere. And everything needs to be treated because sounds are coming at you from different directions, so there’s more possibility that audio reflections will bounce around the room,” explains Solano.

Solano believes his work impacts the music ecosystem beyond artist and label knowledge, adding, “As an early adopter, I’m supporting both Dolby and all the companies who are creating software compatible with Dolby.”

Looking at the bigger picture, what does the future of spatial audio look like in terms of traction on major streaming platforms like Amazon Music, Apple Music, and the 20+ other DSPs supporting Dolby? Moreover, in the spatial audio realm, what’s happening at Spotify?

Recalling a panel discussion he attended at MUSEXPO 2023, Solano pointed out the possibility that by the end of 2024, Apple Music and Amazon will require Dolby Atmos to be a deliverable format. Similarly, he mentioned that in March of 2022, major labels had set a mandate to go through the archives and convert everything into Dolby Atmos.

And leading from that progression, Spotify can’t possibly be so far behind. Solano relays that even though Spotify isn’t currently in a financial position to make that jump or investment into spatial audio, the streaming giant built a Dolby Atmos studio at its facilities in late 2022.

However, Solano predicts that when the streaming giant finally steps into the field and adopts Dolby Atmos as a format, ‘every music mixer who’s working in immersive audio will see their rates going up. Because there will be such a high demand for their skill.’