The KUAMP founder opens up about his MTV schooling, early musical influences and how a specific genre or BPM sets the creative tone
Without music, creativity would not be the same. Whether it’s a rhythm and cadence provided in the background, or the transcendent emotions music can push to the foreground, so much of our creative history is linked to music and its unique ability to communicate directly with our senses.
It’s that link which this new interview series, supported by SoStereo and inspired by their What About the Music podcast, sets out to explore. Over the coming months, we’ll be speaking to high-profile industry figures about how music has influenced their relationship with their craft, getting their take on the process of marrying melody to creativity. In the second instalment of the series, LBB’s April Summers sits down with Antonio ‘Tronic’ McDonald, founder, CCO and director of KUAMP, to hear his thoughts on the transformative power of music in advertising.
LBB> So, we are here to talk about music! What’s your earliest memory of interacting with music, and how would you describe your relationship with music today?
Antonio> Early on I listened to a lot of Soca, Calypso, and Reggae... My family is from the Caribbean. Then it shifted into a lot of top 40, as my mom and dad were heavy into Lionel Richie, Tina Turner, Diana Ross, Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers. Also, a bit of oldies, Jazz, and classical! Once I got older, I discovered Michael Jackson, Bobby Brown, and New Edition. Finally I landed on Hip Hop in the late 80’s early 90’s! I’d say my music taste is very eclectic today, I listen to everything, depending on my mood. Music is an amazing tool to draw on your emotions.
LBB> How did you first start in the world of advertising, and how did you get to where you are now?
Antonio> I started out as an intern in the promos department at an ABC news affiliate in Connecticut. From there I interned at MTV in the production department, finally landing in the MTV on air promos department which handled all of their internal commercials and branded content - it was a natural progression. I worked really hard and was able to move up the ladder very quickly by doing the work that others didn’t care to do. This meant going on runs, volunteering for jobs, showing up early, and leaving really late. Doing extra work outside of my everyday role.
LBB> If you had to pick one moment where music played a pivotal role in your career, what would it be? One moment or one project, and why?
Antonio> Early on in my career at MTV, my boss mentioned to me that someone had inquired about a music choice that I made on the spot. He said that was always a great sign for an ad, because it meant that it truly grabbed the viewers attention. That really stuck with me throughout my career. As a music lover, I always try to make sure any music I use is really engaging for the viewer and offers something fresh and new to them.
LBB> What is your favourite-ever example of music in an ad?
Antonio> The classic Paul Hunter, Nike freestyle spot for sure! It really inspired me at the time.
LBB> What’s your process like - for you personally, and with your team - to find and work with music?
Antonio> Finding the perfect music can come from anywhere. Lots of the time the initial discovery of the track is a process in itself, but then pairing the track to the visuals and making the right tweaks can take the piece to another level.
LBB> What’s the most frustrating thing about dealing with music? And what improvements would you love to see?
Antonio> I would say the clearance side of the process is the most challenging. Working with publishing, etc. can be a job in itself.
LBB> On the other hand, what’s the best thing about dealing with music?
Antonio> Finding that perfect sync and everything just works so well sonically.
LBB> Oftentimes we see that unless music IS the campaign, music is the last thing on a campaign's line-item or priority list. Why do you think that is?
Antonio> Most people don’t understand how important music can be to a piece, so they overlook it until the very end.
LBB> What might a solution look like to that issue, and how can it be given the priority it deserves?
Antonio> Start your development with a type of music track in mind. It could simply be a BPM or a specific genre. By thinking about music early on, it sets the tone for all of your creative choices as you move forward.
LBB> If you could give one piece of advice to production teams about how to handle music, what would it be and why?
Antonio> Stay up to date on the latest and greatest. Understanding what's currently trending allows you to make better choices, even if you don’t end up using new music for your piece, it may help spark an idea for a take on an older track.
LBB> Finally, what music are you listening to now?
Antonio> Lots of Drake these days! Feeling very house and “dancey" for the summer.