A Wide Vocal Range: Music Industry Survey Offers Sound Advice
Creative execs assess music & sound biz, impact of the pandemic, lessons learned

The pandemic, new technologies, markets and platforms, evolving roles, megabuck deals for the music rights/catalogs of superstar artists and songwriters--these are among the dynamics being brought to bear on the music and sound market spanning advertising and entertainment--as well as hybrid forms of the two.

Some of the emerging platforms could represent new opportunities. On the other hand, they may also lead to familiar exploitation. On the latter score, Neil Cleary, music supervisor at advertising agency Team One, observed, “It seems nine out of ten times I hear about a new market or platform, it winds up being another way to further separate artists from their IP. Decades of big tech’s extractionist business models has decimated musicians’ ability to make a living off their art and it’s like the polar ice caps--we don’t get that back. We need to realize that music is an ecosystem. You can’t continue to strip music for profit and expect it to be there for future generations. Music comes from people, and people need to get paid. If they can’t get paid, they can’t devote their lives to music. If they can’t do that, the world gets less musicians and worse music.”

On the flip side, Wendell Hanes, owner/composer/creative director at Volition Sound, noted, “I think emerging technologies can be huge and advance the music advertising/sync space in new creative ways. These technologies can be very helpful in reinventing and expanding our industry. THE VR and NFT world is burgeoning and the value is surreptitiously rising. I believe this world will force creators to take their music to another level in order to keep up with the value of NFTs, and better music is always a great thing.”

The observations from Hanes and Cleary are samples of the feedback garnered from a SHOOT survey of music industry professionals from the ad agency, music/sound house and music consultancy communities. Among the other topics that elicited varied assessments were Zoom meetings and remote ways of working. For example, Kelly Bayett, creative director/co-founder of music/sound house Barking Owl, shared, “There are a number of lessons learned in 2021 that we will take over into 2022. One thing that came out of the pandemic, that I actually loved, was Zoom. I am aware this is not a popular answer, but before the pandemic I questioned a video call, and now, I’m so disappointed when it’s just a regular phone call. Because music can live in a bubble, I never really knew who I was working with and now, I can see their faces, and it’s really quite refreshing!

“For mix and sound design,” she continued, “I think remote work is really difficult. Even when we are all listening in the same room people are hearing things differently. With remote work, people are listening on different speakers, they are being pulled in a million directions and it’s brutal.”

Kurt Steinke, director of music production at Townhouse, shared, “Working remotely has, in an unexpected way, helped foster stronger relationships with many co-workers and external partners/composers. The rise of video calls (in place of the dial in conference calls of old) places a priority on being present and checking in with others. In the regular pre-pandemic workplace (the hustle and bustle) sometimes those moments of connection were taken for granted, and people misconstrued proximity for connection. The past two years have been a reminder that conscious collaboration can close any physical gaps and produce outstanding work.”

Meanwhile Mike Ladman, sr. music supervisor at Droga5 New York, related, “The biggest learnings and best practices I’ve employed for success have been empathy and energy. We know that Zoom fatigue is very real, which results in tedious, slow, unproductive, unfocused, monotone meetings filled with awkward silence and weird, small talk. Being empathetic to that and providing levity with enthusiasm can change the tone and outcome of a meeting. Getting everyone excited about the project rather than just sitting there on mute encourages everyone else to join in. It may sound trivial or obvious, but it seems like many people have given up on having fun in meetings. In most of my meetings, we are talking about music which is a source of joy and passion for most creatives. I want any meeting I’m a part of to be something to look forward to. I often play music at the start of meetings to break the silence while we wait for everyone to join. I often end meetings by sharing links to recent music I’ve discovered, too. This passion of mine helps sell great music and projects for internal and external-facing meetings. I can’t wait to bring this infectious energy back into real life meetings.”

In this Music & Sound Survey, SHOOT posed the following questions to a cross-section of the industry:

  1. What lessons have you learned from 2021 that you will apply to 2022 and/or what processes and practices necessitated by the pandemic will continue even when the pandemic is (hopefully) over? (Remote work, use of Zoom enabling more people to be involved in the creative approval process, etc.)
  2. How do new technologies, markets and platforms figure in your creative/business plans in 2022? For example, with NFTs gaining momentum, do you foresee related sound and music work resulting? Same for VR/AR? Will increased content spurred on by the emergence of additional streaming platforms open up music and sound opportunities for you? Any growth prospects in the advertising and/or entertainment industry?
  3. How has your role--or that of your business or company--evolved in recent years? What do you like most about that evolution? What do you like least?
  4. What was the biggest creative challenge posed to you by a recent project? Tell us about that project, why the challenge was particularly noteworthy or gratifying to overcome, or what valuable lesson you learned from it.
  5. What recent work are you most proud of and why? Or what recent work (advertising or entertainment)--your own or that of others--has struck a responsive chord with you?
  6. A growing number of superstar artists and songwriters have been selling their music rights/catalogs in megabuck deals. What will be the ripple effect of this on music creatively and from a business standpoint relative to the advertising, film, TV and streaming platform markets?
  7. What are the implications of emerging dynamics such as the pandemic and relatively new markets like NFTs, podcasts, streaming platforms, etc., on the music library business?

What follows is the feedback we received from a wide range of respondents... click on the NAME or HEADSHOT below (shown in alphabetical order by last name).

Name Title Company
Kelly Bayett Creative Director/Co-Founder Barking Owl
Neil Cleary Music Supervisor Team One
Chad Cook President--Creative/Marketing Stephen Arnold Music
Wendell Hanes Owner/Composer/Creative Director Volition Sound
Daniel Kuypers SVP, Executive Director of Music Energy BBDO
Mike Ladman Senior Music Supervisor Droga5 New York
Julia Millison Senior Music Producer BBDO New York
Dan Pritikin Creative Director/Partner SOUTH Music & Sound
Josh Rabinowitz Founder/Music Consultant Brooklyn Music Experience
Kurt Steinke Director of Music Production Townhouse
Brian Yessian Partner/CCO Yessian Music


MySHOOT Company Profiles