Asche & Spencer founder Thad Spencer on the company’s innovative new iteration of its music search tech
Heightened by the coronavirus crisis, the need to work efficiently and without constraints is more important than ever. In a bid to ease the working lives of agencies and clients, Minneapolis music company Asche & Spencer has developed an innovative piece of technology for finding music for ads. The upgrade to their online platform means it'll be faster to search the Asche & Spencer library, sync the music with video, and safely save the unpublished piece of media, privately. It's free of server or cloud uploads, so the exported clip is saved directly to the user’s private computer, allowing them to share it immediately with their teams, clients and editors.
Asche & Spencer first launched its online search environment seven years ago. An iteration of its search technology was launched in the fall of 2019 by giving clients the ability to bring their video into the platform and allowing them to instantly sync their clip to any song in the collection. By eliminating all guesswork, the users could see immediately if a piece of music was working with their cut, download the track, and move towards mix.
The latest feature was developed to give clients the ability to safely save this unpublished video remotely. Eliminating privacy issues that arise from uploading or downloading files, the synced video is saved directly to the user’s desktop, and lives nowhere else on the web.
The upgrade further streamlines the process between agency, music house, and editor to source, sync, and deliver bespoke music for moving picture. Addison Capper chatted with Thad Spencer, creative director and founder, to find out more.
LBB> What is the starting point for this piece of technology? When did the idea first come to you and how did you set about building it?
Thad> Several years ago I had the idea to create an environment where you could search for music and pair it with a video that worked easily on any browser. I envisioned something that would allow people to hear our music synced to their picture without the slow performance and hassle of uploading their video to a third party app or server. But at that time the two prominent web browsers, Google Chrome and Apple’s Safari, were incapable of supporting this idea. Last summer, while attending a wedding, I had an interesting conversation with a young computer science prodigy from Stanford University who told me that recent upgrades in browser technology might make my idea possible. We decided to work together on the project and he soon began coding a first draft of the video sync player. In two weeks he had a rough version of the player working on both browsers. It was incredible! The final version that is on the site today took an additional seven months of code refinement and feature design to complete.
LBB> Can you outline the product and how it builds upon the service that you previously offered?
Thad> The Asche & Spencer site offers an incredibly fast and intuitive music search environment based on a concise group of preexisting keywords and genres. This new Video Sync feature allows users to search and listen to any song in our collection synced to their picture. They can slide the music forward or backward to change the alignment to the video while also adjusting the level against the VO or dialogue. When they find a song that they like they can output a new video containing the music they have chosen mixed with the audio elements on their video.
LBB> Talk us through how a client would use it and how it can ease their workflow.
Thad> When someone is looking for music for a commercial or film it is common to search multiple sources, gather a group of suitable tracks, and load them all into a video editing system to see what music works best with their video. This process takes a great deal of time and often requires the help of an editor. Our Video Sync player allows you to search and listen to all of the music in our collection paired with any video on your computer giving you instant feedback on whether a track is working or not.
LBB> How does this new piece of technology particularly aid people at the moment, given that many of us are stuck in lockdown?
Thad> While working in isolation with limited resources most of us do not have the opportunity to work in an editing suite to audition and decide on music. Our site gives you the ability to pair music to picture quickly and easily at any time of the day from any location with a wifi connection. You can then share the music you have chosen with anyone on your team and collaborate virtually from separate locations.
LBB> How does the site safeguard the privacy of clients’ unpublished videos?
Thad> The user’s video is never uploaded or shared with any computer, cloud, or server. Instead, the video plays directly from the user’s computer and can only be viewed and downloaded by that person.
LBB> How do you see this side of your business evolving post-Covid?
Thad> The pandemic has changed how we are all working right now. Communicating and collaborating is done largely through phones and laptops, and we’ve been forced to challenge the boundaries of how we create media in a world with evolving social limitations. Asche & Spencer is fortunate to have a business model that allows us to serve the music needs of our clients in many ways. Being able to write original music, license music from our collection, help our clients with music searches, or amend and tweak all of the songs in our music collections has allowed us to be a valuable music resource during lockdown and beyond.
LBB> What sort of reaction and usage have you seen since launch?
Thad> The response has been amazing. People who are using the video sync player are loving it. The most common reaction I hear from people is that they can’t imagine searching for music without picture again.
LBB> Tech has always been in the blood of Asche & Spencer it seems - would you agree with that? Where does that edge of your business come from? And why is it important for you as a music company?
Thad> I’m not sure I would say we are a tech company. We are artists and composers who have made an alliance with technology and software development as a means to deliver our music eloquently to our clients. Years ago, when we set out to design a music search environment specific to advertising, we were amazed at what was currently out there. All of the sites had clunky and confusing interfaces that rarely delivered the music your entered keywords had specified. They hadn’t thought about the needs of editors, the time constraints associated with advertising work, or the language we use to describe music.
So, we started from scratch and designed something that we would want to use: a search environment that was clean, elegant and, most importantly, delivered the music your search parameters specified. It has been an incredible learning experience. We now have a full-time computer engineer on staff, allowing us the ability to amend, alter, or redesign any aspect of our site quickly to best serve the needs of clients. It has also given us the ability to monitor the needs of our clients and make sure our technology is in lockstep with their needs.
LBB> When it comes to building these pieces of technology, how does that work?
Thad> It’s pretty simple really. We get an idea of something we would like to build and pencil out how we would like it to function and how it should look. We then sit down with our software engineer and talk about the feasibility of our plan. Once it’s agreed that the idea is possible, he starts writing the code. Throughout the process, we see beta versions of the development site that allow us the opportunity to troubleshoot and fine-tune everything from the design layout to each element of the functionality. This process continues until we have a fully operational version and can push it live to the site.
LBB> You are a musician - did you ever see yourself working so closely to innovative technology like this? How do you find the experience?
Thad> No. Not in my wildest dreams. But it has been an amazing ride. The past 10 years have allowed me to grow and learn new skills I never thought possible.
LBB> With that in mind, how important is the human touch these days when it comes to sync?
Thad> With music, human touch is everything. Music itself is pure emotion. It connects with our hearts and that binds with the media in a truly powerful way. One of the greatest virtues of our collection is that all of the music has been recorded live in the studio. We don’t use sampled instruments. We record all of our music using real human beings playing actual instruments. It takes longer to produce, and can cost a bit more, but the end result is so worth the effort.
LBB> What other trends can you see playing out now / the rest of the year when it comes to the sync industry?
Thad> I think time is everything right now. People are working under extreme pressure creating media in isolation, often with tight deadlines. To succeed today you need to be able to respond immediately to any need your clients may have. I don’t see things backing off or becoming more relaxed anytime soon. It’s a challenging time, but it’s amazing to be a part of the innovation and change that is occurring right now.