By Gabe Hilfer
Establishing relationships with clients is one of the most exciting parts of working in the advertising community. Getting to define what it is they need, and how best to service those needs, is always interesting and never the same twice.
Music is a subjective form of expression… a universal language, as they say. With that in mind, it’s our job to refine and streamline our clients’ message through their musical choices.
While it might be easy to find a killer song that looks great with the visuals of an ad, there are always ways to bring fresh energy to the process. With a wide array of sources available to us – whether major record labels, independent publishers or bands themselves — we often shake things up and provide alternative ideas to the client.
Bands like The Black Keys have a sound that fits with a lot of brand images, but there are great bands from all around the world and right here in our own backyards that are flying under the radar and might have the perfect sound for what a client is looking for.
If a client wants to pursue a big song for a big spot, we help them get that done. We know about navigating licensing and clearances and can accomplish this if that is what the job calls for. It can be a very nuanced process — one that requires a fair bit of patience and diligence in tracking down the writers, publishers and labels involved. Many times, we have to wait for writer approvals that can take days or weeks, depending on the bureaucracy and physical location of those with the power to sign off.
While nothing is impossible, there are instances where we have to take a step back, let the client know about issues that pose a problem from a logistical point of view and move forward with alternative strategies. Being able to explain these situations in terms that those outside the music community understand is incredibly important.
Certain projects also have a completely different feel and angle from anything we’ve been tasked with before. Working with Bacardi (main image shown), we were part of a project that involved rearranging music by some up-and-coming artists with an Afro-Cuban flavor. This required our normal clearance process, but also the details of tracking down artist availability and then determining exactly the best way to line everything up.
Recently, we worked on a spot for Google where we were asked to present musical options as well as look into some ideas the client had for the spot. The trick in this case was that from shoot to launch we had less than six days to find the perfect song and get it cleared. Once we narrowed it down to a couple strong options, we stopped at nothing, not even the most inconvenient international time difference imaginable, to get the approvals we needed.
After initially hitting some dead ends and being told in no uncertain terms that a 24-hour approval would be impossible, we made it happen. The track was “Elephant” by Tame Impala, and at the time it was brand new. Our approvals came from Australia, and with the deadlines looming, everyone came through at the last minute.
Getting To Know The Music
We spend our time listening to the newest music out there and hunting down old gems that need a second chance. There are millions of songs out there, and we work with a lot of resources that specialize in unearthing rare and unknown recordings and bringing them into the digital age.
There are instances where we’ve licensed songs that haven’t been heard for 40 years… and they sound just as good as some of the biggest hits since. This is similar to placing an independent artist as opposed to someone with a lot of name recognition.
Gabe Hilfer is the founder of MAS (Music And Strategy), a music service company providing creative solutions for brands and agencies. They have offices in New York and Los Angeles.