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Thinking In Sound: Owen Ingram on the Joy of Making Clients Happy



SoStereo's senior vice president of artists and repertoire on making music a priority, hanging out with The Clash's Joe Strummer and always listening

Thinking In Sound: Owen Ingram on the Joy of Making Clients Happy

Owen Ingram is senior vice president of Artists and Repertoire and Software as a Service at SoStereo, the music for advertising company that matches real artists making real music with brands that want to be remembered. 

Owen has extensive experience working within record labels, music publishing, and sync, an area in which SoStereo specialises. Sync is the matching of music within a movie, TV show, commercial, video game or any other form of visual media. This niche is completely different from other music licenses. For example, Spotify doesn't require sync licenses for its music streaming service since it doesn't match music to visual content. 

Owen has a proven track record of building prosperous companies and teams while managing complex lines of business, production, technology development, and developing creative strategies. He retains a superb network of industry leaders within the creative world and holds both USA and UK passports.

LBB> When you’re working on a project, what’s your typical starting point? How do you break it down and how do you like to generate your ideas or response?

Owen> We tend to work a little differently here at SoStereo – we partner with talented independent artists who write music that evokes an emotional connection with audiences that share compelling stories. Our starting point is with the artists, and that’s a different approach than many standard production library companies. 

Our technology platform gives indie artists more exposure and opportunities to diversify their income streams while establishing themselves in the music industry. Our clients are content creators in marketing and advertising who don’t always have full-fledged music teams, and sometimes they may think of finding the right tune toward the end of a production project. We make it easy for them to find the perfect sound for a piece, and also specialise in creating full-fledged sonic branding strategies that catch your ear, make you pay attention, and create long-lasting memories. I love working with independent artists and giving back to and supporting up-and-coming stars of the future. 

LBB> Music and sound are in some ways the most collaborative and interactive forms of creativity - what are your thoughts on this? Do you prefer to work solo or with a gang - and what are some of your most memorable professional collaborations? 

Owen> My role focuses on clearing all of the obstacles that could be in the way for content creators so they can quickly find the perfect sound for their brand or campaigns. I ensure the path is smooth when the right piece of music is found. This means working with artists, managers, record labels, publishers and lawyers to eliminate hurdles before an agency or brand even hears the music they’d like to select so that as soon as they hear it and know it’s the right piece they can use it immediately. This is critical so their projects can remain on time and on budget. 

Our creative partners will then not have to chase anyone down for their rights percentage of the profit if they’re not reachable because they may be on holiday in Trinidad or in the middle of a tour. 

With marketing and advertising deadlines getting tighter nowadays, it’s the only way to go. Our catalogue is all pre-cleared and pre-approved, and we make it simple for our partners.

LBB> What’s the most satisfying part of your job and why? 

Owen> I love making sure our clients are happy with the music they need for their projects, but personally, there’s nothing better than calling up an independent artist with a placement confirmation and letting them know they just landed a spot that will probably pay their rent for the next year. It’s priceless.

LBB> As the advertising industry changes, how do you think the role of music is changing with it? 

Owen> It’s a difficult one. Music has historically been an afterthought, and is often last on the list for the brand or agency, especially when it comes to the budget of the spot being developed. The more data-driven the industry becomes, the more people see that the music is driving the emotion. 

You can see what tracks spark real interest in consumers, so instead of shooting a commercial and then trying to wedge a piece of music in at the last minute, it makes more sense for the director to shoot the ad with the music in mind and involve the music people in the room from day one. This helps with brainstorming, production, and, of course, finding the right creative for the brand and that starts with music. 

LBB> Who are your musical heroes and why? 

Owen> I hung around a few times with a guy called Joe Strummer, he was the lead singer in a little band in London called The Clash. It wasn’t my era, but to have been the spearhead with a movement like punk – what it brought to music, fashion, and simply the energy – was amazing. Looking back at some of the amazing people I’ve met along the way, I’d have to say he would definitely be one of my musical heroes, especially with some of the stories he had.

LBB> And when it comes to your particular field, are there any particular ideas or pioneers that you go back to frequently or who really influence your thinking about the work you do? 

Owen> Music is changing direction so fast nowadays, you can make a song this afternoon, upload it and someone in a country 7,000 miles away could be listening to it the same evening. For me, the true inspiration comes from the generation of kids that are coming through college now. They have amazing ideas for technology and great new ways of discovering music, and so yes, there will always be the people that paved the way, but the next generation of innovators truly inspires me.

LBB> When you’re working on something that isn’t directly music - are you the sort of person who needs music and noise in the background or is that completely distracting to you? What are your thoughts on ‘background’ sound and music as you work? 

Owen> I don’t mind it, I mean, I don’t actually hear it! I had a record store for 10 years, blasting out dance music through the speakers from 9am to 6pm seven days a week. Then a record label for 10 years, so I tend to block out a lot of music unless I’m actually trying to listen to it. I consider that to be a refined skill. 

I can be walking in a shopping mall and not even realise there’s music playing, and then all of the sudden my ears pick up a sound and I ask myself, what is that? It sounds amazing! So I’m always listening, but unless I hear something special, it’s hard to take it all in!

LBB> On a typical day, what does your ‘listening diet’ look like? 

Owen> It varies so much, I can listen through a playlist of 10 to 20 songs and then work on some paperwork and contracts, or someone may send me a catalogue of 3,500 songs that I have to get through and appraise. That’s why I love the music world and SoStereo, every day is something completely different.

LBB> Do you have a collection of music/sounds and what shape does it take (are you a vinyl nerd, do you have hard drives full of random bird sounds, are you a hyper-organised Spotify-er…)? 

Owen> I did have a collection of just over 10,000 vinyl songs before I moved to the USA, but it wasn’t realistic to keep and ship it over. I kept a few hundred and sold the rest to a collector. I do miss the sound of vinyl, the warmth. Today, I don’t really 'collect' music, it’s mostly all there available online, so I just reach for it when I need to change my mood.

LBB> What do you love about your current position?

Owen> I have worked in music licensing and A&R for most of my career, and now it’s exciting to see the technology side really come into play. We’re building an eco-system where brands connect with multiple sources for easy licensing of quality music. No one has done this yet in the way that SoStereo has worked it out. 

It’s a combination of seeing the experience I’ve regained throughout the years of record labels, artist management, music publishing, and general music licensing coming together with technology, to have the vision, work with fantastic technologies and engineers to know what will work, and what won’t. And also  to know the steps it takes to accomplish a real ecosystem that could very well change the landscape of the industry in many ways. 

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SoStereo, Tue, 14 Dec 2021 13:25:47 GMT