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Sam Rendle Short: “Music Can Inspire More Emotionally Rich Film”

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Mother’s Sam Rendle Short on the power of music-first ideas and how he hid a logo in a waveform

Sam Rendle Short: “Music Can Inspire More Emotionally Rich Film”

From triggering recall to enhancing storytelling, music and sound play an important role in media and marketing, becoming an essential asset to brands. Both in the advertising and the branding worlds, music is the common denominator if you want to convey emotions.

To explore the future and power of music in advertising, MassiveMusic London spearheads ‘Sonic Iconic’, a new series on LBB, inviting boundary-pushing British creatives to explore the theme.

In this interview, Sam Rendle Short, producer at Mother, discusses how music is more than just filling space, the rise of AI, and how brands can maximise the potential of sound.

 

LBB> Outside of work, what music do you listen to, where do you listen to it and why? (IE are you someone with a super curated spotify playlist, an avid radio fan, musical podcasts, YouTube trawler, vinyl collector - why do you listen there / to this medium?)

Sam Rendle Short> I like to listen to a range of things… old as well as new. At the moment I’ve been listening to Terrace Martin, Danny Brown, Loyle Carner, Frankie Stew and Harvey Gunn, and Kofi Stone. Spotify is getting better at song recommendations, and I often go to artist and song radio to find new music and artists. 

I also rely on people with better taste than me to discover new music - so promoters, event organisers and music supervisors are interesting to listen to. I’m on the mailing list of a few labels so use their recommendations to discover new artists too.

 

LBB> Sound is more important than ever right now, with so many new touchpoints available for a brand to live in. Do you think brands are being creative enough with sound?

Sam> Not as creative as they could be. It’s obvious there are huge opportunities being created by developments in technology, media and connectivity evolving the way sound can be used. And at the same time, the global pandemic is changing the ways in which we can interact with technology and each other. We’re finding out what happens when gathering and live events are not possible, or not possible in the same ways, when we can’t travel overseas or visit friends and family, and how technology fills the void.

Before attending live sports was possible, EA Sports FIFA partnership with Sky Sports meant augmented crowd noises with team-specific chants was a feature of watching live sport. Virtual concerts, sometimes within gaming platforms like Travis Scott on Fortnite, exclusive streams, live video, apps like Houseparty and Clubhouse, and functions like Twitter Spaces all created ways to gather people virtually when not possible in person.

Podcast consumption has grown, and with it the weird phenomena of host-read podcast ads, brands like Peloton have expanded home fitness equipment and content, short-form video platforms like Tik Tok and Instagram Reels have become huge platforms for creators to find audiences. Many of these platforms are creating new ways of viewing and engaging with content. All seemingly having grown up in the last few years when wearing surgical masks and swabbing your nostrils has become normal.

With people currently spending more time at home rather than on the go, understanding the difference between viewing something on a device vs. plugging into a home entertainment system will also change how we think about sound design as we account for interactivity and how sound can be designed to play in three dimensions. The latter particularly feels like an untapped area that entertainment companies and advertisers haven’t yet maximised.

 

LBB> Tell us a about a recent project in which music was instrumental to the campaign’s success.

Sam> A couple of years ago I worked on an interesting collaboration between Formula One and the Chemical Brothers. Sync has always been a powerful tool for advertisers but arguably involving artists in the creative process has a greater cultural impact.

For the launch of the 2019 F1 season we worked with the Chemical Brothers and Universal Globe on taking an unreleased track from their forthcoming album No Geography and releasing a remix accelerated to 15,000 beats per minute (BPM) to reflect the 15,000 revs per minute (RPM) a modern Formula One car is capable of reaching. The result, which we called ‘NEEEUM’ has a canny resemblance to a Formula One car passing at high speed. A nice hidden gem was hiding the logo within the waveform so anyone with a Spectogram iPhone app can scan the track while playing and see the logo hidden in the sound waves.

In addition to the collaboration on the remix, F1 used the full track as the theme of their 2019 season and we then worked with the Chemical Brothers and Universal on a music video with an F1 crossover. The result, We’ve Got to Try directed by Ninian Doff at Pulse, features a neglected street dog who is trained to race a Formula One car, before applying his new-found skills to fly a spacecraft and establish a Dog Planet. It was the logical place to go.


LBB> What is your approach to setting a music brief for a campaign?

Sam> It helps to have an understanding of the role you think music might play at the beginning. It’s part of the creative process and giving yourself as much time as possible to consider music, test your theories and involve artists early will get you to a better place and influence the other disciplines. It’s never great if you’re trying to solve an edit problem with music or using it to fill space because you can’t find the right track.

I like going into pre-production or a shoot with a clear idea of what the music will be. When working ‘Dream for the Next You’ with Billy Boyd Cape on Nike we found a great reference track by (‘Mount’ by the Blaze) quite early on that had a build and energy we liked, and it allowed us to influence the tone and ultimately get to a stronger edit more quickly. After the shoot through Nike’s internal music supervisor JT Griffith we discovered we were able to licence it and suddenly the whole process became a lot more focused. We could create a film more emotionally rich having been inspired by the track in the first place.

Although talking about music is hard, if you’re composing original music, taking time to brief properly and being as detailed as you can is important. It’s hard if you’re time-starved and needing to brief multiple parties but putting a clear written brief together and taking the composer or music supervisor through it in person or on the phone will make a big difference. If the composer or artist understands the brief and resonates with the idea, the result will be stronger.

It’s sometimes more difficult to manage but briefing out several competing companies will lead you to something more interesting. It’s important to not be too precious and keep the possibilities open. Being overruled when you like a track is usually for the best. It’s good to have a small core team of people you trust to test ideas against, even going back to the editor if you’ve arrived at it late and seeing how they think it influences their edit. They will have spent more time with the footage than you. And it’s always worth testing the idea against no music, ambient music or sound design to see if that makes it more interesting.

 

LBB> Music is scientifically proven to evoke emotion. Do you often think about or measure the effectiveness of music? How do you approach this? 

Sam> Music can be a powerful way to reach us emotionally but that’s difficult to quantify. Data and testing can be helpful information to contribute to the creative process, but there are lots of examples of it being used badly, at the wrong time or for its own sake. Most people in agencies will have stories of focus groups killing off a piece of music or creative route (or justifying the creative recommendation and thereby strangely enforcing the process). 

Ideally data and testing would be used earlier on to propel creatives into more interesting places to create great work, rather than having a strange creative power after the fact that rarely gets you anywhere interesting. If research around the role of music, its effectiveness and the audience that will most resonate with it takes place further up the line, in strategic development rather than the last weeks of production, it will be much more successful.

 
LBB> New social platforms like TikTok are inspiring musical trends all over the world. In advertising the need to quickly engage consumers has never been more important. What are your tips for using music to quickly grab people’s attention?  

Sam> Ads have always borrowed from culture more broadly so I’d probably start by looking to the most interesting people making their own content and see what they’re doing well. New platforms will often have their own mechanics, and understanding how they work and how to use them properly will help you avoid looking like Steve Buscemi with a skateboard. Ultimately though just following best practice guidelines won’t make you go viral, so I’d probably revert to seeking out interesting collaborators and try to make content your audience would engage with if it wasn’t branded.

 

LBB> What would you like to happen with music for advertising in the next couple of years?

Sam> I’ve always loved music-first ideas, and closely integrating sound and music in the execution of an idea. People’s attention is short and if you can control how music and sound interacts with the visuals, the result is often more impactful. So bringing musical possibilities earlier into the creative process, and working more proactively with artists, supervisors and labels in strategic and creative development, would be an exciting place to go.

Advertisers are in a unique place to innovate and influence culture so I’d also like to see more artist collaborations like Mother were able to do this year with Samm Henshaw and Samsung and have done previously with D Double E and IKEA, and innovations with technology that allow music to be accessed in different ways.

It will be interesting to see how developments in music tech will influence sync in the years to come. Music companies are already finding AI tools to search and categorise their own archives are throwing up new information on material they may not have found otherwise. Similarly while early attempts at AI-generated music might seem bland (see ‘Daddy’s Car’ a data-led Beatles inspired AI composition), with some human intervention we could find AI helps us get to some really interesting possibilities. AI voice simulators are also getting better and could be used creatively.

One of the areas I’m most excited by is that progress is being made to give opportunities to new talent and underrepresented artists, and I’d love to be able to look back in a year’s time and see a more diverse roster of talent represented across the main production companies, post houses and music companies, and being awarded the biggest jobs. There’s a myth that’s pervaded around underrepresented talent that there’s a talent shortage. There’s not. Brands just need to give opportunities to different creators, from different backgrounds, telling different stories. Hopefully we’ll see more of that next year.

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MassiveMusic London, Mon, 24 Jan 2022 15:07:51 GMT