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"What The World Needs Now": Serendipity & Synchronicity
- Thursday, Aug. 6, 2020
As a music producer/supervisor in the ad space, I’ve sat through hundreds of creative meetings where a collaborator asserts that they want the music for the project to be so great that we should additionally produce a full-length version of the song, have it released into culture, and maybe also shoot a music video, if the artist is amenable.
It’s a noble proposal – but as with any ad-related project, not always achievable. Even the best-intentioned and well-managed projects will encounter obstacles.
I’ve been active in the ad space for several years, and have been able to execute full-length versions of tracks, released on major record labels, but these have been rarefied scenarios and very difficult. Some of these have been my greatest career achievements, a point of pride - a story to tell. But the music video part, a passionate aspiration of many a great creative director, has basically been an unattainable result.
But in the age of COVID, sometimes you just have to hope for some magic – some voodoo if you will - in the form of some unforeseen ‘serendipity’ plus a ton of unexpected ‘synchronicity.’
I was hired as a music consultant by the top-shelf Brooklyn-based creative shop Elephant. My mission was to help them secure a unique/inspired artist; produce a cover with that artist of the Bacharach/David American Pop Standard “What the World Needs Now”; help them secure the rights reasonably and efficiently; and record a full-length, as well as a :30 and :60 versions of the track. The brand was Yahoo, the direct client a creative veteran in the biz with vision.
With excellent creative vision, led by Pablo Marques and Marco Pupo, and a great visually compelling director Malik Sayeed in tow, the concept of a video maybe had legs. Ideas flowed about combining some B-Roll from the recording session with a day shoot with the artist, and then interpolating footage from the commercial shoot into a full-length music video.
The artist we landed on was Tank and the Bangas, from New Orleans (speaking of Voodoo) - the hip-hop, spoken-word, R&B, and Jazz influenced band that was up for Best New Artist at the Grammys in 2020. I had a solid connection with their management, was a fan of the band, and a geeky aficionado of NOLA music. Serendipity!
It was very early January 2020, the band had one day in their schedule to record the track. We flew to New Orleans, and did a full-day session at Marigny Studios. A team was hired to shoot B-Roll of the record. The band decided to bring in an array of talented local artists to perform on the track, including super-talented spoken word artists like Icon, local favs like David Shaw from the Revivalists, PJ Morton, Jelly Joseph, Berekley “The Artist”, Sweet Crude, Sasha Masakowski, Maggie Koerner, and others. Many were available as it was just past New Year’s Day. Synchronicity + crazy Serendipity!
To say the scene was magical and meaningful would be an understatement. Luckily the shooters caught a great deal of the 14-hour session on film. Child relatives of the band sang verses, as did most of the artists – it turned out to be a kind of postcard from New Orleans, with a collective choir singing the main choruses. One could justifiably say it was a “We Are the World,” Crescent City style. Several of us on the Elephant team and the client side actually welled up, as we were deeply moved by the experience. It was even the first day of the Mardi Gras parades, and some were able to participate in this American Music Mecca unique cultural experience - Serendipity!
We mixed the track with “Bassy” Bob, who had mixed tons of amazing iconic hip-hop tracks from the ‘90s and 2000s for P. Diddy, Biggie and many others. He had just moved back to NOLA and set-up a high-end home mixing studio. Synchronicity!
Tarriona “Tank” Ball, the inspired lead singer/poet/front-woman of the band, sang the first chorus and added additional solo choruses for the ad-ony mix.
The band, led by musical director Joshua Johnson, self-produced the track. I stepped back and acted as the music supervisor/executive music producer, and let their magic flow. Sometimes the best work comes when a producer disengages and let’s the music happen, and it did. Magic!
My work for the moment was done. We’d wait and see how the campaign was received, and then we’d revisit the full-length track possibility.
The team shot the spot in Austin, although unfortunately wasn’t able to shoot additional footage with TATB due to scheduling. The team edited the campaign in NY, and were prepping it for the media-buy in mid-March. The concept of the video was sidelined for the moment.
Then COVID hit and the campaign, like so many others, was put on pause!
As time passed during this unexpected and disassociated time, Elephant and Yahoo decided to edit the footage shot during the recording session - thus the B-Roll became the A-Roll. Serendipity!
The song was now incidentally aligning with a global message that was resonating beyond expectation. Synchronicity!
The George Floyd murder and the global reaction ensued. The song now had further relevance. A sad, yet incredibly meaningful synchronicity!
I was brought back in to deal with the band and their management and label, Verve Forecast, part of the Universal Music Group. Synchronicity!
Yahoo and Elephant finished the video, presented it to the band and label as an unbranded music video, and the band released it on their own social channels on June 15th.
Verve Forecast released the track on Spotify, Apple Music and every other DSP on June 26th. Wowza!
The result was an unbranded music video, which seemed destined for the dustbin, produced by a brand, yet released by an artist. And, an exponentially meaningful and relevant track gets released into culture.
Mission accomplished in a synchronistic, serendipitous, voodoo-inflected kinda way or better, effective COVID Music Production 2020.
Josh Rabinowitz is founder of Brooklyn Music Experience, a music consultancy.