The Search For The Right Song

By Doug Zanger

The language of music has long been considered universal. But, to be fair, it's more likely that that the appreciation of music is a better descriptor. As human beings, we know what we like, what we don't -- and enjoy the exploration of what music can bring to our lives. Throw in the language of a brand with music, and you have something that can be perplexing, even to a brand marketer.

Choosing music to compliment anything brand related -- a spot, content -- is not as easy as it seems. The lay person might think, "well, here's the brand, and this music that I like would be perfect." This is when the language of music and brands need to come together.

"It's about understanding the brand and what the client thinks the brand is," said Kenny Ochoa, Founder of Quiver, a brand and entertainment music consultancy, based in Los Angeles. "Most of the time, it's difficult for people to articulate and describe, in musical terms, what that brand or product really is or means. We facilitate that discovery. It's not as easy a process as people may think it is. Determining all of the variables takes time and experience."

In a way, Ochoa serves as an "interpreter" and "sherpa" to help brands find what will truly resonate with the audience, and serve as a catalyst for artists. This all starts with asking the right questions first and then going behind the answers to unearth the right pathway.

"The right questions at the beginning of the process are key," noted Ochoa. "The brand usually comes in initially with a specific brief, but 9 out of 10 times it changes.  A direct dialog upfront not only about creative but budget allows everyone to be on the same page and get to the right fit that best represents both the brand and artist sooner"

This more thoughtful approach also has a practical application: it doesn't waste time and gets to the answer quicker, hopefully. The alternative is to deluge and overwhelm the brand with a sea of songs hoping to find a needle in a haystack. The Ochoa and Quiver "less is more" approach is to get the right amount of music in front of brands and pivoting whenever necessary.

"Sure, clients will change their direction constantly, but when we're doing our job well, we are honing in on the nuances of those changes to get us closer to right song," Ochoa said.

Ochoa also pointed out that taking ones personal preference away, when making decisions for a brand, is vital.

"Someone might like a certain type of music -- or specific song -- but that doesn't necessarily mean that it's the right fit for the brand. Personal taste should never enter into the equation, but it does at times, and we always work to make sure that's stripped out from the beginning."

Ochoa has had several high-profile, award-winning placements and collaborations over the years including the Kinks with Hewlett-Packard, Train with Samsung, Brandi Carlile with General Motors, Johnny Cash with Jeep, Lou Reed with AT&T, The Strokes with Ford, Ray LaMontagne with Traveler's Insurance and worldwide Apple advertising campaigns featuring The Ting Tings and Franz Ferdinand as well as delivering Tegan & Sara's "Everything Is Awesome" for Warner Bros Pictures' The LEGO Movie, amongst many others.

He recently brought his expertise and experience to Google's newest Nexus mobile phones and tablet, finding the music and acquiring the rights of "Lean On" by Major Lazer feat Feat. MØ & DJ Snake and "Tongues" by Joywave feat Kopps.

"Google was a great example of how everything came together well. At first, we went back and forth but we knew a few important things from the beginning. First, we wanted to find something that had never been used before in a commercial. Next, we knew that the music for each spot in the campaign had to strike the exact tone -- one was to be more premium and sophisticated, another more playful. We initially explored some yet-to-break and more unknown artists," Ochoa said. "Whereas at the end of the day, it's how the songs feel cut to picture and it was very obvious that the two ultimately chosen were perfect for the phones, the brand and the artists."

"Lean On" is a global hit whereas Joywave's "Tongues" was more of an indie hit with a smaller, yet still potent audience. In Ochoa's experience both have a valuable place, but there seems to be additional gratification in finding and exposing the next up-and-coming talent.

"Working with the superstar and recognizable artists is great. But when I can find that unknown artist, or one that may just be breaking that a brand didn't know, that's a great feeling and been the most gratifying over the years"

Brands occupy Ochoa's head but the range and depth of artists he's worked with over the years, fill his heart.

"Working with Tegan and Sara on the first season of Grey's Anatomy in 2005 was something special," recollected Ochoa. "What was most fulfilling was the fact that they could not only benefit as developing artists economically through this kind of collaboration but as a promotional and new marketing driver for their music. I would also say Passion Pit was another. They had only been a band for maybe a year, playing smaller venues and selling a couple thousand downloads a week at best. I placed their song 'Sleepyhead' in a Palm Pixi spot and it skyrocketed to 28,000 downloads a week when the media peaked. Less than 6 months later, I watched them play a sold out show to 10,000 kids at Governor's Island in NY and felt gratification in that I had some part in that trajectory."

Quiver's future, and the brands and artists they work with, is most certainly on the right track and its foundation is based less on a "process" but a mission and philosophy that ignores the traps of politics and agendas.

"So much of that outside stuff gets in the way of true creativity," lamented Ochoa. "What we noticed is that the more neutral we could be, a musical Switzerland if you will -- while speaking both the brand and artist languages -- the better the outcomes were for everyone."

But it always starts with the creative first -- keeping artists front and center, being part of the process -- for Ochoa and Quiver.

"Agendas will never help the creative process," said Ochoa. "Creativity and bringing the brand and artists together first will ultimately win the day for both the artists and brands. There's still a ways to go with them working together in meaningful ways, but we're dedicated to seeing it through for the long haul."