The Christmas Holidays are over and it’s the start of a new year! To get you excited for 2020, our Licensing & Marketing Assistant, James, has compiled a list of upcoming artists that should be finding their way into your music libraries this year. If these 5 acts are anything to go by, 2020 should be another groundbreaking and exciting year for music. Happy listening 🎶🎧
Currently leading the resurgent UK Jazz scene from the front, KOKOROKO, which means ‘be strong’ in Urhobo, are a multi-cultural collective of young musicians led by trumpeter Sheila Maurice-Grey brought together by the love of Afrobeat. You might already know their track ‘Abusey Junction’ as it has so far amassed over 35 million views on YouTube and almost 15 million streams on Spotify. Initially released as part of the infamous ‘We Out Here’ compilation in 2018, the track formed part of the group’s eponymous West African-inspired debut EP released on Gilles Peterson’s Brownswood Recordings. There’s more to come from KOKOROKO in what’s set to be an exciting 2020, which includes a gig at the Roundhouse on 28th January.
Brighton-born alternative R&B artist Celeste was named BBC Music Introducing’s Artist of the Year in 2019 and it’s clear to see why. After putting out debut EP ‘The Milk and Honey’ on Lily Allen’s Bank Holiday Records in 2017, she signed to Polydor Records and has released a string of acclaimed singles and EPs since, picking up praise from the likes of Jorja Smith, Sam Fender, and Jools Holland along the way. Celeste toured across Europe with Michael Kiwanuka in 2019, and headlines Shepherd’s Bush Empire in April of this year. ‘Yes! 2020!’ she told the BBC’s Huw Stephens, “I’ve been looking forward to this year for so long.” Celeste will release her debut album this year, so keep your eyes peeled for that.
3. Arlo Parks
19-year-old musician and poet Arlo Parks has only just left school but is already turning heads. Inspired by Earl Sweatshirt, Portishead, and King Krule, her ‘confessional and tender’ music draws from indie, soul, bedroom pop, and folk. Signed to Transgressive Records, Parks’ first EP, ‘Super Sad Generation’ (a four-track collection entirely self written between the ages of 16-18) was heavily championed last year by BBC Radio 1, Beats1, Radio X, COLORS, and many more. Parks’ 2019 also featured gigs at The Great Escape, Glastonbury, and Latitude Festivals, and the release of her most recent EP, ‘Sophie’. A special and intriguing artist who will embark on her first ever headline tour this year, Arlo Parks is definitely one to pay close attention to.
2. Easy Life
Formed in Leicester over a shared love of classic hip-hop, Easy Life have come a long way since their debut single ‘Pockets’ was released in 2017. A self-proclaimed ‘hedonistic vision and form of escapism’, Easy Life are one of the most aesthetically out-there and sonically pleasing bands around at the moment. Fusing smooth hip-hop swings, jazz melodies, and downbeat vocals, the five-piece have already signed to Island Records, had a song placed in FIFA 19, and headlined the Glastonbury 2019 BBC Introducing Stage. Easy Life’s new mixtape, ‘Junk Food’, drops on January 10th and the group have already sold out Camden’s Roundhouse for their March gig…impressive!
If you haven’t heard of Bakar, then you’ve been doing something wrong. With debut album ‘Badkid’ (*bash records) already under his belt, 2019 saw the Camden-born singer-songwriter really come into his own. Bakar signed with Black Butter/Sony Music, released EPs ‘Chill’ and ‘Will You Be My Yellow?’ (in my opinion one of the best releases of the year), and sold out Electric Brixton in December. And to add to that he collaborated with Arsenal Football Club for the re-release of their infamous ‘Bruised Banana’ away kit…not a bad year. Bakar is adept at creating genre-spanning music, drawing on indie, punk, ska, and grime, and has attracted admirers such as Elton John and Skepta. 2020 is set to be a big year for one of the UK’s most exciting artists at the moment, and I can’t wait to hear what he has in store.
It’s that time of year again! As the end of another great year for music beckons, we take a look back at the best albums released in 2019 – featuring Michael Kiwanuka, Billie Eilish, Special Request, George Ezra, and Press Club, among others! Let us know your favourites.
Thomas – Head of Procurement
1). Shafiq Husayn – The Loop
2). Ari Lennox – Shea Butter Baby
3). Anderson .Paak – Ventura
4). Solange – When I Get Home
5). Michael Kiwanuka – KIWANUKA
James – Licensing & Marketing Assistant
1). Palace – Life After
2). Special Request – Bedroom Tapes
3). Metronomy – Metronomy Forever
4). Seb Wildblood – sketches of transition
5). Shanti Celeste – Tangerine
6). Honorary mention to Bakar’s ‘Will You Be My Yellow?’. It’s technically an EP but 6 tracks is almost an album, right? Either way, it’s too good not to include.
Kerry – Insights & Business Development Manager
1). Sam Fender – Hypersonic Missiles
2). Press Club – Wasted Energy
3). Rosie Lowe – YU
4). Billie Eilish – WHEN WE FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?
5). Petrol Girls – Cut & Stitch
John – Head of Creative Product
1). Billie Eilish – WHEN WE FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?
2). Lana Del Ray – Normal Fucking Rockwell!
3). Shura – forevher
David – Business Affairs
1). Bruce Springsteen – Western Stars
2). Elbow – Giants of All Sizes
3). Lewis Capaldi – Divinely Uninspired To A Hellish Extent
4). Lana Del Ray – Norman Fucking Rockwell!
#musicmatters #soundlounge #sonicstrategy #AnEveningWithBob
The ad opens with her Father, sitting at a kitchen table by a Christmas tree, thoughtfully leafing through an Argos catalogue looking for presents. He stops on a page featuring a mini drum kit, which his daughter has circled in red and he stops to think. We hear a loud guitar chord going off in his mind – the transition that begins a journey into an incredible realm of musical fantasy.
The drum kit on the page becomes real in front of him and, as he begins to play and work out a basic beat pattern, the opening riffs of the drum dominated ‘Don’t You (Forget About Me)’ by Simple Minds begin to emerge.
In a beautifully choreographed pyrotechnic sequence household items burst into life around him, one with each beat, brilliantly illustrating the breadth of the Argos range, including a television set which switches on showing the original Simple Minds video for the song.
Stage by stage the set gets bigger and bigger and now Nandi is creeping down the stairs to see her Dad in full flow. As she joins him for an incredible drum solo the camera pans back and they’re in front of a massive cheering crowd, lights flashing. There’s even a fluffy bear crowd-surfing. The attention to detail is awesome.
The final shot of the catalogue is the title on the front cover – Book of Dreams. It’s brilliant.
The song was huge in 1985 and is clearly chosen to appeal to the generation that would have watched the video on MTV as a teenager, but it’s more than that. There’s a spirit of unbridled joy about it that conveys Christmas in a way most seasonal numbers only hint at.
There’s a personal element for me too because I was the first person to interview the group on TV, in New York in 1979.
Few songs would work better. The equally drum dominated ‘Swingtown’ by the Steve Miller Band and perhaps ‘I Feel For You’ by Chaka Khan from 1984 would be contenders but personally I wouldn’t change a thing. There’s no point in messing with perfection.
My mother, when she felt particularly playful and had time on her hands, would always take unsolicited calls. You know the ones – coming from a call centre somewhere in the world. She would patiently listen to their sales pitch and lure them into a false sense of security, like the time when a loft conversion company called her. She let him give her the whole sales pitch and when he got to the point of arranging a site visit, she asked whether he thought her neighbour above her would have any objections. Because she lived in a first-floor apartment. She definitely wasn’t a silly girl, just a razor sharp 86-year-old who wanted to have some fun.
So, what goes on in commerce when companies are invited to set up a meeting to introduce a new product or service? Time is invested prepping a deck and travelling across town. They meet, chat, and have a great conversation where ideas are challenged and shared. A thank you for the meeting email is sent and then…nothing. The person who invited them doesn’t reply or follow up. Literally radio and email silence.
Has ghosting someone finally made it from the dating scene into mainstream commercial transactions? Why are we scared to say “Thanks, very interesting but not for me at the moment”? With communication now almost totally through technology, it’s very easy to ‘ignore’ someone trying to contact you. Or are we just having fun and playing with someone, just like my mum?
Yeah, I know, we all get bombarded with emails that we have not initiated or invited into our mailbox and it’s a pain. Sometimes my inbox is bulging with unread emails, but it’s courtesy to reply to those that require an answer.
Perhaps it’s because I am what in today’s marketplace is called a Founder. When I started, I had to ‘kiss a lot of ugly frogs’ to get a positive response when I was chasing new business. It was hard work. So today I will always respond to someone after a pitch or meeting when they send over further information. I even admire all those tenacious salespeople who follow up on a lead when I have clicked through for further information. I try to take their call or even to say “not interested at the moment” – they have a thankless job.
In The Sunday Times India Knight commented that this year was the first in too many that she was actually writing and sending out Christmas cards. She said it was a way to spread joy in an uncivilised world.
Let’s all make a promise to ourselves in 2020 to bring back a little civility to our pressurised commercial world. Let’s just take the time to say, “Thank you”. I am sure we will all feel better for it.
Hello, James here.
‘James? Who’s that?’ I hear you asking. I’ll forgive your confusion! This is because, after navigating a whirlwind two weeks, in which I interviewed with and met the amazing team here at soundlounge, I embarked on my journey last Monday. What a week it’s been!
In my first week at soundlounge, to my delight, I’ve been thrown straight in and have already learnt so much in a short space of time. Under Thomas’, Kerry’s and Ruth’s guidance I’ve started working on tasks across both licensing and marketing. This has included researching tracks to license for a well-known British dance group, and getting started on the soundlounge social media channels. But the highlight so far came on Monday.
soundlounge are hosting a monthly industry discussion series, ‘An Evening with Bob’, where a stellar list of guest speakers at Shaftesbury Avenue’s Century Club will talk all things music in advertising with our fantastic music supervisor, Whispering Bob Harris OBE. The first event, on music strategy in advertising, is next week, on Tuesday 29th October.
On Monday, in preparation for the event, we met at the venue with the guest speakers. This month we have the amazing Les Binet, adam&eveDDB’s Head of Effectiveness and Tara Austin, Kindred’s Chief Strategy Officer. The afternoon included a coffee-fuelled discussion about potential talking points for the evening, as well as a photo shoot for Bob and the guest speakers. Not a bad first day!
It was a fascinating afternoon and a really enjoyable first week, which has only increased my excitement on getting into a part of the industry that I’ve been passionate about for a while now. Whilst I’ve only scratched the surface in my short time here, and there’s clearly lots to learn, it’s exciting to think how much I could develop here at soundlounge. I can’t wait to get into it further, and can only thank John, Kerry, Thomas, and especially Ruth, for the opportunity.
A bit about me…
Favourite band: Tame Impala
Favourite album: Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side of the Moon’
Favourite festival: Houghton
First ever gig: Foo Fighters at Wembley Stadium, 2007
Favourite use of music to picture: Bob & Earl’s ‘Harlem Shuffle’ in Baby Driver’s opening scene – AMAZING!
Hobbies: Updating my Instagram music blog (@jimsjams__) or attempting to play hockey
Fun fact: I’m in a film with Bill Nighy, David Tennant, Eddie Redmayne, and Sir Christopher Lee*
*as an extra…
I am literally in the middle of writing a job spec for a new Music Supervisor. My last supervisor (who was, BTW, brilliant) recently got head hunted by a major music publisher. She is not the first of my staff to be enticed away after a lengthy education process. We have had many star pupils, some of whom are now Heads of Sync. So we are always excited to look for new talent.
Looking back at previous ads for Music Supervisors, I read: ‘must have deep music knowledge and an ability to build a relationship with the rights holders’. This description simply does not cut it today.
In times gone by rights holders (RH) relied on music supervisors for their sales pipe. Today, they have set up their own ‘Music Supervision’ departments – read ‘sales and marketing’ – that offer music from their own catalogues and supply it as free research. Worse still is that some RH are trying to cut out the middle man who made them aware of the campaign activity in the first place. Not nice – you know who you are!
There are also TV producers who used to have favourite music suppliers and briefed accordingly. Today they are spread betting the same enquiry across as many music supervisors as they have in their contacts. It can get a bit cut throat when music supervisors discover they are competing with each other after they have sent in their ideas or, worse, have been led to believe they have been contracted to negotiate a license.
But this isn’t a blog about what is wrong. It’s a blog about opportunity. None of the above “developments” alters what is still inherently weak in the current system. And when things get broken you look at the ‘blue ocean’ and see where to do something new.
So I was delighted when Simon Cook, Managing Director of Cannes Lions, said this year that “Cannes Effectiveness Lions are a striking correlation between world class creatives and commercial”. My sense is that this introduction of a new award is not a coincidence. Brands are now discovering that a campaign may be visually brilliant but simply doesn’t work commercially and doesn’t sell product.
We all recognise that music can change everything that we see and understand in a visual. But because of the way music has historically fitted into campaign production schedules as a last-minute consideration, ads are rarely tested with consumers until six months after the first airdate. This is a long time to wait to discover the music isn’t resonating with the customer. In this day and age this is ridiculous. You should – and can – know which tracks will actually resonate with your target market and why before you go to air.
As part of our music supervision process we can now provide comprehensive scores, generated by our AI platforms, for marketers and others to understand how their audio creative choices stack-up and make fast, informed decisions from the get go. Then we can explore availability and costs. Seems obvious, doesn’t it?
My Job Spec now reads:
soundlounge are looking for a bright person who loves their music to join our new Neuro-Music Supervision Team. Applicants should have an eclectic knowledge of music, but are also curious to understand trends, why music works and how. And we will still teach you how to license music. Interested? Then give me a call. It’s the future of music supervision.
All enquiries to Ruth Simmons – firstname.lastname@example.org
Have you passed Selfridges lately? It’s only September. Mums still have not sewn the labels on the new school gear. And yet the shop windows are dressed to the full Christmas ‘Nines’. I haven’t been inside yet, but I am guessing that it will be the whole “Jingle Bells” experience.
The Ad Industry has to keep up with High Street retailers’ demand to be the first on air with their big Christmas TV commercial. So as Music Supervisors we too have been working on Christmas ads since May!
It may seem ridiculous, but we need that extra time. It doesn’t matter how many times Creatives are advised not to fall in love with music ideas they cannot have because of legalities or costs. Time after time, we are still seeing visuals being created around tracks that haven’t been checked out and with so many more third parties involved in the Christmas ad process, this is presenting all sorts of challenges. We find that we are firefighting and soothing anxious brows even as the new school term is just rolling into view.
So here’s an early Christmas present from us for anyone who is considering music for a commercial: a ‘To-Do’ list before your team starts to throw their toys out of the pram because they can’t get what they want from their Christmas list.
- Work with an experienced Music Supervisor from the moment someone mentions that music is part of the brief.
- Talk to them about what you need the music to achieve, budgets and timelines.
- Think about target markets, not just tracks that someone in the team loves. There are some brilliant Christmas gems out there that have not been licensed a thousand times before.
- Check availability, timelines and potential fees and check again!
- Ask yourself if you really need the original master when a track can be reimagined and re-recorded.
- Put the tracks out to consumer research – find out if they actually ring a (Christmas) bell with key markets and why. Understanding what music elements resonate will give any commercial a huge advantage.
- Work with the music and your music supervisor to explore and develop the visuals. One track change can affect the whole perception of a visual message. How your visual is wrapped with great music will at least create a curiosity that will take your customers beyond the ‘skip ad’ stage.
Do you despair when someone wants to license a Beyoncé track with a budget of £30,000? Or do you marvel at the resilience of belief of the creatives and the TV department in the face of impossibility?
With many a commercial’s music choice being powered by “I’ll know it when I hear it”, it’s easy to hear the perfect track and side-line the practicalities: Why someone at the agency or brand is not asking the following questions remains a conundrum for us at soundlounge:
Does the artist actually license their work? You can take Adele, Radiohead and Coldplay off the table. Yes, we regularly get asked for them. And then watch clients contort themselves trying to be the creative team that succeeds where none have before. In the time that is allowed for music decisions, our best advice is: Move on to your next choice!
Do you have the budget? Yes, we have been asked to license Beyoncé for £30,000. Be practical! To paraphrase the super-models of the ‘80s, Beyonce doesn’t get out of bed for £30k.
Is your timeline practical? Don’t expect anyone to get a result from Metallica, who all have individual managers and lawyers, within two days. We’re very good at doing the near-impossible, but no-one tells Lars, James, Kirk and Robert what to do. They’re Metallica!
The truth is we deal with these challenges on a regular basis and our job is to find solutions. So as a heads up from us, before you fall in love these are some of the other pitfalls to avoid:
The latest example of thinking that the music in an ad is just some aural wallpaper is the new Domino’s Pizza commercial using Soulja Boy’s “Tell’em Crank That”. Surely someone must have done a 10-second check of the lyrics and the Urban Dictionary and raised a red flag. Obviously not!
Guys! When the world is finally addressing the equality of women you really need to rethink using a song that boasts “Superman that hoe”.
Two Brands Use The Same Track At The Same Time
When you hear something you want, it pays to save embarrassment and check that it hasn’t been licensed by another brand in the previous 12 months. Or worse, due to go out on air at the same time as you. This is even more important when the track that captures your imagination is highly memorable. Chances are other people will notice that too.
Case in point: Innocent Smoothies and Samsung both used the instantly memorable “Get Dat” by Rayelle within the last eight months of each other.
There is an easy way to avoid these pitfalls. Platforms like our Traffic Lighting or Music Mapping can make your life easier in ways no-one else can – providing everything you need to know about track availability, costs, and UK sync history. Or, of course, you can go out on air and take your chances that nobody will notice your mistakes. But then it begs the questions of what’s the point of broadcasting that ad?!
I am not a great fan of sound-alike bands that consist of a bunch of look-alike session musicians and one original band member touring the provinces, often to packed houses reliving the past.
Similarly, not keen on all the shows that take an artist and use their repertoire to create a story. I know, there are some exceptions, like “Jersey Boys” or “Beautiful”, or even “Mama Mia”.
So what is it about the Elton John biopic “Rocketman” that has got me evangelizing about the man and his music? To start with it is how the film simply bursts onto the screen in a blaze of colour mashup between the brilliant choreography of “Slumdog Millionaire” and “La La Land”. And how Taron Egerton as Elton explodes into the story in the most bizarre costume any costume designer could have imagined or expected anyone to ever wear, to enter the corridors of his life.
The insights into the total isolation that Elton experienced from his early years as a child through to the crisis point in his career were sensitively narrated. He had a seriously tough childhood – a lot of people do – with one grandparent who loved him and was his safe place – yeah, that’s a familiar story too! What captivated me – and I had never appreciated – was how his sheer raw talent and genius became his saviour from a bland unloved life where money was a challenge and catapulted him into a flamboyant life where he felt even more unloved and isolated, where money was simply no object!
The whole film was a series of contradictions: discovery and loss, love and betrayal, and material wealth and spiritual poverty. Tim Bell surely deserves an Oscar for best supporting actor as Bernie Taupin, as do the set designers and costume teams.
I would suggest that every wannabe on “BGT” or “X Factor” watches and learns. The music industry is cruel. It gives and takes away.
I came away with two emotions: a great sadness and sense of a lost childhood and youth with a sense of rebirth as Elton actually discovers who he is and what he wants from life. At times the journey was excruciating to watch and yet a glorious extravaganza of life on the edge, culminating in a generous legacy of some of the best music ever written, each song telling a chapter of his life. And I’m not even a fan.
Even in the darkest of times, music has the power to take us to a different place, a place where we can deny our fears and trick our brain and heart into feeling something different.
Today, as we mark the anniversary of D-Day, we are feting and honouring the veterans who are still alive (and in their 90s) and remembering all those who gave their lives.
It is poignant to remember the music that took this generation through the most difficult days. This was a generation who never knew if they would ever see each other again, even if they were saying goodbye to go to school or work — let alone going off to fight. “See ya later” or even “laters” took on a whole new meaning for any parting.
Checking out Classic FM’s playlist tribute to the war years as a music supervisor I find myself looking at this playlist with different eyes. All these songs have stood the test of time and still can be heard in all national celebrations and family parties. These were songs that were written, sung and recorded to help people get through pain and loss, and at the same time encourage positivity and the will to go on.
So what would the brief for these songs look like? ‘Nostalgic’? ‘Hopeful’? ‘Patriotic’? ‘Inspired’?
Of course, contemporary music still plays those roles in managing people’s emotions. It got me wondering how different would today’s playlist look If we were briefed for songs that made us feel inspired, hopeful and nostalgic. What songs would we have submitted? (I hesitate on “patriotic” In today’s political climate – “patriotic” may skew the list.)
These are a few of ours:
- Greenday – “Wake Me Up When September Ends”
- Oasis – “Don’t Look Back in Anger”
- Simon & Garfunkel – “Bridge Over Troubled Water”
- Andra Day – “Rise Up”
- The Waterboys – “The Whole of The Moon”
These songs have stood the test of time and we hope that they are still around in another 75 years. What would your list look like? Let us know your 5 top songs that work to that brief. The best list will receive a bottle of bubbly so we can all celebrate and thank the extraordinary contribution a whole generation made for the rest of us to live in the most peaceful period ever in history.