Music may be the food of love, but it’s also the basis of many a successful ad campaign. Sander van Maarschalkerweerd founded Amsterdam-based music agency Sizzer in 2005 after he felt that music companies were lacking in creative vision. LBB spent five minutes with Sander, to talk talent, tunes and having an opinion.
LBB> What makes Sizzer Amsterdam unique?
SM> We are the sum of our parts – our people, our artists, our talent. Combined, they are our most important assets. Our creative director Michiel Marsman and I have years of experience in this business. We know what we want and what we don't want. And what we like and what we don't like.
From what I hear, it seems to be pretty rare these days for a music company to dare to have its own opinion. We are on a constant quest for authenticity and only work with the best of the best. Sometimes even a great artist can come up with a really cheesy track because they think that advertising needs to sound like advertising. But that's precisely what we don't want.
LBB> Since being founded in 2005, how has Sizzer evolved?
SM> In 2005 I started by myself working together with top-of-the-bill freelancers. Because of the low overheads, I was able to work with the best people available for each specific project. The size of the company is bigger now, but that system hasn't actually changed. We're still able to choose the specific artist, musician or studio that will best fit to a particular project.
A year ago we did some soul-searching and discovered that our raison d'etre is still the same as in 2005; we get excited by big, inspiring ideas. It's never been about going there where the money is. Our goal is to work on challenging projects where music can play a vital role.
LBB> What have your experiences setting Sizzer up and growing the company taught you?
SM> I've learned to trust my instincts - to stick to the plan and to keep a focus. The best entrepreneurs are not necessarily those who take the biggest risks, it tends to be the people who can keep focused and who are almost manic about achieving their goal that are most successful.
LBB> How did you get into music production?
SM> I studied communications, had an interest in advertising and a huge passion for music, so when I was invited to come for an interview at an advertising music production company I was over the moon. I learned a lot but left a few years later because I felt the management lacked creative vision. And started my own company. Of course.
LBB> Why do you think you were drawn to working in music rather than any other medium?
When you're not working, do you have any other creative pursuits?
SM> I actually think I was drawn to music and film rather than just music. The combination of those two media fascinates me. I would love to do some directing at some point, but I’m having too much fun still doing what I do now.
LBB> You were on the Music Jury at this year’s London International Awards - do you enjoy judging at Awards events, and what do you get out of the experience?
SM> It's a good thing to question your beliefs every now and then. After being in the business for several years, it can be dangerous to become too certain about what’s good and what's not. It's interesting to sit in a room with your peers and have a discussion about work that you're not personally involved in.
LBB> Are awards important to you?
SM> They used to be; the awards we won in 2005 after Sizzer had just started operating definitely opened some doors that otherwise would have stayed shut. Now they're less important - but still a great way to show that your work rocks without having to say it yourself.
LBB> How do you source the composers and producers you work with? And musical talent aside, what do you look for in people that you work with at Sizzer?
SM> It's difficult to find that unique, raw talent and preserve it. We are bombarded with emails from composers who want to work for us. However, our best people are those who never had any intention of doing work for hire. We actively scout them in music schools and online and gradually build up the mutual trust and loyalty. Most of our artists are working on their own music careers and work for us on a part-time basis.
We enjoy working with creative trouble-makers; people who have the guts to fight for an idea if they think it's really good. We strive for the best possible result and often you have to walk the line of controversy to achieve that.
LBB> What are the challenges facing the sound design and composition side of the industry
at the moment?
SM> We started out as a music production company, but now we're a music agency. We're music supervisors; we find the best music solution for the project. It could be an original composition, a remake of a classic hit or a new song by an up-and-coming artist from the underground.
Brands and music need each other more than ever. Brands can create a much-needed platform for artists. And for brands, music is a way of connecting with their target groups on an emotional level.
It has become so much easier for brands to touch into all that the music world has to offer. Music specialists are needed to bring these two worlds together, and that's where we come in.
If brands and agencies really want to use music to its full potential, I think they have to change the way they approach things. In many cases music is merely an after-thought. The agency comes up with an idea, a production company produces the film, and it’s not until the offline is ready that the composer is involved. I think that way of working will soon become outdated. For real innovative ideas you need to bring people together from different disciplines. And that includes music specialists.
LBB> What projects have you worked on in the last year that have particularly resonated with you?
SM> Our most prestigious clients are Audi, Diesel Fragrance and Martini. For Diesel and Martini we work together with agency Fred & Farid in Paris. For Martini's 'Luck is an Attitude' campaign we provided a fresh remake of the classic song 'Oh Johnny'. And for the latest Martini Royale spot we searched and synched the song 'I Wanna Be Your Man' by up-and-coming star Willy Moon.
For Audi we're not just creating many original soundtracks for their TV campaigns, but we have also been hired by the agency Thjnk (former kempertrautmann) to supervise collaborations with artists. For a recent spot we recorded a track in New Orleans with blues singer Sophie Lee. Last year we teamed up with Danish band Efterklang for the worldwide Audi Brand campaign.
There’s also a recent project for Dutch department store De Bijenkorf which is really special.
Selmore, a local agency, approached us to compose the score for a unique modern dance piece by high profile Dutch choreographer Nanine Linning.