A Wide Vocal Range: Music Industry Survey Offers Sound Advice

The pandemic, new technologies, markets and platforms, changing roles, megabuck deals for music rights/catalogs of superstar artists and songwriters – these are some of the dynamics being implemented in the market music and sound spanning advertising and entertainment – as well as hybrid forms of both.

Some of the emerging platforms could represent new opportunities. On the other hand, they can also lead to familiar exploitation. On that last point, Neil Cleary, music supervisor at advertising agency Team One, observed: “It seems like nine out of ten times I hear about a new market or a new platform, it ends up by being another way to further separate artists from their intellectual property. Decades of extractive big tech business models have decimated the ability of musicians to make a living from their art and it’s like the polar ice caps – we’re not reclaiming that. We have to realize that music is an ecosystem. You can’t keep stripping music for profit and expecting it to be there for future generations. Music comes from people, and people have to be paid. If they can’t get paid, they can’t devote their life to music. If they can’t do that, the world will have fewer musicians and worse music.

On the other hand, Wendell Hanes, owner/composer/creative director of Volition Sound, said, “I think emerging technologies can be huge and advance the advertising/music synchronization space in new creative ways. These technologies can be very useful in reinventing and developing our industry. THE VR and NFT world is booming and the value is surreptitiously increasing. I believe this world will force creators to take their music to another level in order to keep up with the value of NFTs, and better music is always a good thing.

Hanes and Cleary’s observations are examples of feedback collected during a SHOOT survey of music industry professionals from the advertising agency, music/sound reinforcement, and music consulting communities. Other topics that drew mixed reviews included Zoom meetings and remote working methods. For example, Kelly Bayett, creative director/co-founder of music/sound house Barking Owl, shared, “There are a number of lessons learned in 2021 that we will pick up on in 2022. One thing that came out of the pandemic is that I absolutely loved it was Zoom. I realize that’s not a popular answer, but before the pandemic I questioned a video call, and now I’m so disappointed when it’s just a regular phone call. Because music can live in a bubble, I never really knew who I was working with and now I can see their faces, and it’s really refreshing!

“For mixing and sound design,” she continued, “I think remote work is really hard. Even when we’re all listening in the same room, people hear things differently. With remote work, people are listening on different speakers, they’re being pulled in a million directions and it’s brutal.”

Kurt Steinke, Director of Music Production at Townhouse, said: “Remote work has unexpectedly helped to strengthen relationships with many colleagues and external partners/composers. The rise of video calling (instead of dial-up in the conference calls of yore) prioritizes being present and checking in with others. In the usual pre-pandemic workplace (the turmoil), these moments of connection were sometimes taken for granted and people misinterpreted closeness as connection. The past two years have reminded us that mindful collaboration can bridge any physical gap and produce exceptional work.

Meanwhile, Mike Ladman, Sr. music supervisor at Droga5 New York, says, “The biggest learnings and best practices I used to succeed were empathy and energy. We know Zoom fatigue is very real, resulting in tedious, slow, unproductive, blurry, and monotonous meetings filled with awkward silences and weird little conversations. Showing empathy and bringing lightness with enthusiasm can change the tone and outcome of a meeting. Getting everyone excited about the project rather than sitting around saying nothing encourages everyone to join us. It may seem trivial or obvious, but it seems like a lot of people have given up on having fun in meetings. In most of my meetings, we talk about music which is a source of joy and passion for most creative people. I want any meeting I attend to be something to look forward to. I often put on music at the beginning of meetings to break the silence while waiting for everyone to join us. I often end meetings by also sharing links to recent music that I have discovered. This passion helps me sell good music and projects for internal and external meetings. I look forward to bringing this contagious energy back into real life meetings.

In this music and sound survey, SHOOT asked a cross-section of the industry the following questions:

  1. What lessons have you learned from 2021 that you will apply to 2022 and/or what processes and practices necessitated by the pandemic will continue even when the pandemic is (hopefully) over? (Remote work, use of Zoom allowing more people to be involved in the creative approval process, etc.)
  2. How do new technologies, markets and platforms fit into your creative/business plans in 2022? For example, with the rise of NFTs, are you planning any related sound and music work? Same for VR/AR? Will the increase in content spurred by the emergence of additional streaming platforms open up musical and sonic opportunities for you? Growth prospects in the advertising and/or entertainment industry?
  3. How has your role, or that of your business or your company, changed in recent years? What do you like most about this development? What do you like least?
  4. What has been the biggest creative challenge you have faced with a recent project? Tell us about this project, why the challenge was particularly remarkable or rewarding, or what valuable lesson you learned from it.
  5. What recent work are you most proud of and why? Or what recent work (advertising or entertainment) – yours or someone else’s – struck a chord with you?
  6. A growing number of superstar artists and songwriters are selling their music rights/catalogs through megabuck deals. What will be the ripple effect on music from a creative and commercial point of view in relation to the markets of advertising, cinema, television and streaming platforms?
  7. What are the implications of emerging dynamics such as the pandemic and relatively new markets like NFTs, podcasts, streaming platforms, etc., on the music library industry?

What follows is the feedback we received from a wide range of respondents…click on the NAME or HEAD below (listed alphabetically by last name).

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