Thursday, June 21, 2018
  • Thursday, Jul. 21, 2016
Nick Felder, group director, Film + Music Production Global/Corporate, Coca-Cola
Surround Sound-Off: Execs On Discovering New Music

SHOOT’s Earwitness author Lyle Greenfield has departed from the regular format of the column this month to bring you a special panel discussion with six music production executives. Organizing and moderating the panel, Lyle posed the following questions:

  • In this time of fragmented media, multiple streaming services, festivals, etc., how do you hear and discover new music?
  • When you find a gem, do you add it to your playlist?
  • Are you always or sometimes aware of how new musical discoveries/trends might be relevant to the things you’re working on?

Here’s the feedback:

Josh Rabinowitz
EVP Director of Music, GREY

I discover new music through what I call my basic “matrix” of interconnections – friends + family + Facebook/Social Media + some blogs + word of mouth + music I receive from labels/publishers/third parties.  Add onto this experiences like live shows, festivals and ambient music in restaurants, bars, stores whereby I notate and/or Shazam something that sounds “ad-worthy.”

I do have a few personal playlists where I add music.  One is the proverbial “uplifting building tracks” music playlist, another where I place minimal eclectic sounding tracks.  My top playlist, where I place my fav of the fav discoveries that truly move me (aka songs I wish I wrote or produced) has about 20 songs, 2 of which I’ve placed over the last 10 years, 18 waiting in the wings.

I don’t follow trends too much in terms of what may work for something that I’m working on; I generally feel like my instincts drive me towards tracks and sounds that at this point in my career just feel correct or appropriate.   I do feel that older music can be as refreshing to a piece of film or a concept as a brand spanking new tune.  Of course, in the creation of an original/custom track I try not to let the production value feel dated and/or steeped in a previous decade, unless that’s the mission.

Wilson Brown
Executive Creative Director/Partner, Antfood

I am a huge fan of the convenience and selection of cloud-based streaming services, but they have many drawbacks.  While they democratize the playing field to a degree, the abundance of choice can actually devalue an individual’s connection with a song, artist or cultural movement.  I think the resurgence of vinyl and punk bands releasing cassette tapes is evidence that people seek out something tangible they can connect to as an object.

Personally, I listen to Spotify, SoundCloud, Apple Music and friends’ bands, I buy records and go to shows.  I also keep a running list of artists that I hear about and want to spend more time discovering.  Working in music, peers, performers, colleagues, clients and collaborators are always bringing up new points of reference.  I find that is my most valuable source of discovering new music and rely on recommendations and shows to discover new artists.  In addition to staying in tune with what is current, I think it’s also important to seek out great artists from decades past that you may have missed or forgotten.  Often obscure tracks from the canon of recorded music are more relevant today than they were at the time of release. 

On a broader level, I think that the traditional record industry has been foundering since Napster.  We are in a period of flux in terms of music consumption that I think everyone is still trying to figure out.  The good news is there are more places for music to live than ever before.  While media and technology will reinvent itself multiple times in our lifetime, I don’t think humans will ever wake up and decide they can go without music in their lives.  So the onus is on us as music professionals to find new and meaningful ways to have music and sound design connect with people in a saturated and fragmented media landscape.  

Nick Felder
Group Director, Film + Music Production Global/Corporate, Coca-Cola

Most inspired:  Sometimes before I go out, especially when I’m traveling, I’ll grab some local listings, and sit down and search every band that’s playing that night.  Takes an hour, but it usually pays off.  

Most embarrassing:  When I encounter daughter’s friends and ask “Hey kid, tell me the last five songs you downloaded, and why.”  

Most time consuming:  Jotting down references when I’m at parties or wherever, and I make it look like I’m busy, when I’m actually sending notes to myself: “Look up Shirts Untucked.”

Most obnoxious:  Bothering folks who have nothing to do with music, to tell me about the music I’m hearing, i.e. “Hey bartender...”

Most Ironic:   Commercials.    Yes, I said commercials.   A WK ad from few years back turned me on to Gustavo Santaolalla’s latest studio album (Camino) for which I will be eternally grateful.  It’s amazing. 

Most Lazy:  Listening to and reading everyone’s year-end lists.  

Second most lazy:  Taking snaps of strangers digital radio displays.

Most obvious:   Random playlists and algorithm selections.  But somehow, these are usually the least rewarding.  
And of course, KRCW streaming, and East Village Radio, and H. Johnson for Jazz Classics; he gives Phil Schaap a run for his money, with a lot more style.  
The cruel irony, is that as the years stack up, I’m less concerned with new, and much more interested in FRESH.   And freshness takes a hunt.  My latest kick is Spanish guitar, and there are some kids out there who are just killing it.  But that took time.   If I want fresh, I have to lean in.  And it’s a pain in the ass!   

Theresa Notartomaso
Executive Music Producer, Havas Worldwide

If 15-year-old Theresa knew that adult working woman Theresa was getting endless amounts of unreleased music and concert invites but wasn’t taking full advantage, she’d probably slap her!  But in all honesty, it’s easy to get into a rut when the majority of the music I’m listening to on a daily basis is based on a brand’s creative brief.  I find it’s easier to listen to and explore new music in the mornings when I am responding to emails and starting my day off.  

My biggest peeve with myself is when creatives refer to an artist, band or song that is not on my radar—so I do my best to cover all bases!  I try to download as many label and publisher playlists as possible, but I also love streaming KCRW and even Z100 to keep up with what’s being spun on both sides of the music spectrum.  Just recently, I’ve started to create a monthly sync-worthy playlist of my favorites—and try to have as many of those instrumentals on hand as possible for easy access.

I am not going to lie—I definitely lean on publishers and my friends at  various labels to turn me on to new artists or invite me to shows.  The older I get, the more personal and professional responsibilities prevent me from going to as many shows as I like, but I do try to get to at least a few a month.  I am also super lucky to host #HavasSessions, our music showcase series for Havas Worldwide New York.  It’s so awesome to have artists and bands pretty much play in our “living room.”  And although a lot of folks have heated debates over SXSW, it gives me a lot of exposure to the many artists and bands in Austin, and I really use that trip as an outlet to see as much “unknown music (new to me)” as possible.  

Something that is not going to change about advertising is the fast paced environment we are so used to working in—so I want to be as prepared as possible!

Chris Clark
Director of Music, Leo Burnett USA

I appreciate and embrace the manifold music discovery resources available to me given my profession.  Constantly seeking and learning is  essential to providing the best creative resource to our teams internally.  On a daily basis, I’ll navigate a sporadic influx of new music discovery  opportunities in the form of 50–100 emails and/or conversations with labels, publishers, managers or independent artists.  

In addition, I rely on news feeds, new and favorite blogs, as well as savvy friends and my wonderful Leo Burnett music team members to inspire me with new artists, songs and musical happenings.  It can become daunting, so its crucial to maintain focus on the end goal of creating great work that resonates culturally for our clients.  You also have to remember that human beings are behind every possible discovery pitched my way, so patience and giving people a chance is important. 

We also have an endless sea of existing OLD recordings to discover. Classic catalogs can be the most inspiring tools for discovery.  I have hundreds of pre-made play lists covering a sometimes bizarre spectrum of potential creative conceptual themes (why do I have an “Antisocial” playlist?), so I’ll often add relevant new tracks throughout the day to past client searches or general thematic searches.  The way my mind is wired around these playlists is effectively the intellectual property that helps me work quickly and effectively. 

Al Risi
Music Supervisor/Partner, Groove Guild

Music is more accessible than ever before and more records/songs are being released than ever before.  As a music supervisor it’s my job to know what is out there but the reality is that if I only listened to what is sent to me by labels, publishers, artists, indie aggregators and the like, it would be more than a full time job and I still wouldn’t be able to listen to everything!  I do download pretty much everything sent my way and add it to my iTunes for future reference.  This is particularly helpful when searching for lyrical themes but I also sift through to get a feel for the music itself.  When I come across a gem, I will add it to my “Gems” playlist or other themed playlists for future reference.  

I also subscribe to a few Spotify playlists, and note certain songs that catch my attention.  If I’m out and about and hear a song playing that I don’t recognize, I become a bit obsessed with finding out who the artist is.  In that case, Shazam and MusicID are my go-to apps.

Another great form of discovery for me is seeing live music and I see a ton of it!  Whether at a local venue or music festival/conference.  I love to watch the crowd almost as much as seeing the band.  You can’t like everything.  But even if a sound isn’t “my thing” I still enjoy checking out the scene and what is resonating beyond my personal taste.  This becomes really helpful for deciphering trends and ultimately can be applicable to things I’m working on.

Beyond that, I depend on social media/friends to highlight cool music they are digging.  It’s the new ‘word of mouth’ in today’s digital age.  I cut my teeth on the record label side of the business for 12 years, so I’m blessed to have a massive amount of friends who are serious music heads and their opinions matter to me. 

I also like to get informed the old fashioned way—record reviews.  I soak them up as much as possible.  Sometimes I’m inspired to check out the music, sometimes not.  From there, I might see a friend post something about the same band and then another might post their video. Then I’ll likely get a download link from the label/publisher—indications to me that an artist is bubbling up and worthy to, at the least be aware of, and at best, go see them live!

About the author

Lyle Greenfield is the founder of BANG Music and past president of the Association of Music Producers (AMP).  Greenfield has been a driving force behind the AMP Awards for Music and Sound, which debuted in New York City in 2013.

Contact Lyle via email