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Halo Music & Sound: Finding the Mischief in Music


Company founder Peter Gannon talks LBB through the formation of Halo Music & Sound, the audio company mixing solid business sense with a healthy drop of creative chaos

Halo Music & Sound: Finding the Mischief in Music

What’s in a name? For Halo Music & Sound founder Peter Gannon, the answer is a mixture of serendipity and drawn-out brainstorming. “I guess if nothing else”, he laughs, “Halo has a nice ring to it”.

In reality, however, Peter (a self-confessed ‘music tragic’) has settled on a name and a company which can express the musician’s unique approach to his craft. “The best names have some truth and usually come intuitively”, he explains. “Halo was that way, and to me it combines the two sides to a company that provides music for advertising. The creative side can sometimes be chaotic and mischievous, but the business side has to be buttoned up and tight. We love walking away from a job where all parties are happy, but we have a wry smile because we felt we pulled something off. It's a great feeling”.

Perhaps illustrating that duality best is Halo’s logo. “A monkey with a Halo”, smiles Peter. “Kind of sums it up”.

Launching in 2020

Chaotic is one word to describe the events of the past twelve months. From the outside looking in, choosing to set your new company up in 2020 of all years is a remarkably challenging undertaking.

“To me, being open for business and launching your company are different things”, notes Peter. “We’ve been working throughout the year and we’ve already built up a nice body of work we’re all proud of which is brilliant to say. But no, it didn’t sit right in the stomach, the thought of telling the world there is another music company to consider with the suffering of Covid, and the vital conversation around race and equality being the priority. Our launch just wasn’t important”.

With light at the end of the tunnel beginning to emerge in the form of successful vaccines, however, the time is more appropriate for Halo to announce its arrival. “Everyone is still producing amazing content - ourselves included, I hope!”, says Peter. “We’ve been growing slowly and organically all year, but it feels more appropriate to say that we’re here now”.

Making Room for Music

Underpinning Halo’s philosophy, then, is its founder’s unique take on the role of music and sound in the creative process. Over the years, Peter’s perspective has been forged through time spent at Ogilvy, Wieden + Kennedy, and McCann - not to mention touring with his own band. 

“It does give you a kind of sixth-sense, in terms of when and how to react and adapt”, he acknowledges. “We can preempt pitfalls, and navigate curveballs because I used to be on the side that threw the curveballs. The agency experience conditioned me to be equally comfortable in original composition, and music supervision, as well as licensing and talent negotiation. We don't promise we can do everything, but we have experience doing pretty much anything you can think of related to music and brands”.

Such experience within the industry has given Peter a unique vantage point to observe the ways in which it has evolved, including the role of music and sound. “On the one hand, yes, music has gotten squeezed with shorter timelines, shrinking budgets, plus quick and ready-made tracks”, he observes. “But, on the other hand, agency creatives, brand clients, and directors have elevated music to new levels”.

To illustrate his point, Peter compares and contrasts. “Before, you got a brief, called a music house, got demos, worked on one or two, and then shipped the spot”, he recalls. “Now, we approach a project simply by asking ‘what's best to complete the creative’? It's an exciting time where we are able to bring in our favorite artists to the process, but can also quickly send library tracks to an edit in thirty minutes. The former is a little more musically fulfilling, but the latter can be great too, as you may be solving a really stressful problem”.

Getting to Work

Despite not officially ‘launching’ Halo yet, the company has nonetheless set about building up a body of work in its first few months of operation. “It’s been great to hit the ground running as it were with a kind of soft-launch”, says Peter, “and it’s been immensely rewarding.

“One project that stands out as especially satisfying has been our work for DoorDash with The Martin Agency. In October we worked on an online film for them focusing on the Krazy Hog BBQ restaurant. Of course, the realities of running a family restaurant during Covid, and the community it serves, are difficult. DoorDash had become a lifeline to help the Krazy Hog reopen its kitchen, and to not have to keep its doors closed. The context behind everything was The Martin Agency wanting to tell the story in an authentic way, so props to them and Director Rodney Lucas at Even/Odd Films for fleshing that idea out”.

- Above: The Martin Agency’s work for DoorDash tells the story of Krazy Hog BBQ restaurant, which overcame the odds to stay open and provide food and work for its community in 2020. Halo provided the music for the spot. 

Looking forward, what kind of client would Peter most like to work with in the future? “It’s a cliche to say”, he laughs, “but it’s true that the great clients are those who prioritise relationships. That feeds into the context of the brand, the moving pieces and everything. It’s all helpful”.

For Peter, that level of relationship-building and communication is so essential as music and sound has a key role to play when it comes to storytelling. “The director wants to tell a story, and that story is told through the technical and the emotional”, he explains. “They pick a certain lense, or color grade, and that literally informs us of keys we may write in, or genres we search in, or even down to something as granular how close we mic the bows on a violin. We love to know all of it. It's intellectually interesting, and pretty basic, simple stuff. My experience has taught me that most of the great ideas are the ones right under your nose”. 

It’s a Long Way to the Top

It doesn’t take long speaking to Peter to realise that music is in his blood. It’s unsurprising, then, to learn halfway through our interview that the Halo founder once toured in his own band.

“It was dark, brooding, moody, independent, and high concept. Think Dr. John's "Gris Gris'' meets Massive Attack, or early Sun Studios meets Autechre! In any case, you see why there’s a day job”, he recounts through laughter. “But you know, I would not trade the experience for anything. We traveled the world, we made albums, worked with our heroes, and signed to our dream label. I've played in front of 20,000 people in Portugal, and to two people (including the sound person) in Ohio. It's been a well rounded experience - but you know, moving on has been positive, too. I have health insurance now, for one thing”.

When it comes to Peter’s work today, however, the experience still plays an important role. “It taught me everything about the music industry from recording to rights, from PR to budgets”, he explains. “I was the one making sure we got everywhere on time, on-budget, and not getting fleeced. I also started getting introduced to licensing, and even into some demo opportunities presented to us. It’s probably influenced me in ways I don’t even understand”. 

And would he ever go back? “Ha, well it’s funny you should say. Our last show was in 2007 but I don’t think we’ve ever officially broken up. It’s just been one of showbiz’ longest hiatuses”. 

Just Getting Started

Halo, then, is only at the beginning of its journey. “It’s been rewarding so far, but I can’t wait to really put the accelerator down”, says Peter. “We’re especially hopeful that it won’t be too long until we’re seeing each other in person again, or enjoying live music and all of that good stuff”. 

Until then, Halo is set to keep doing what it does best. “We consider ourselves hugely fortunate to be in the business of doing what we love. And as for myself, I’d say I’m roughly at the start of chapter three in a very, very long book”. 

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Halo Music & Sound, Tue, 15 Dec 2020 14:05:20 GMT