Do you ever wonder how songs get picked for commercials, TV show or movie soundtracks?
The job is done by music supervisors, and while it may seem like a dream job to many, it’s a lot more work than one might think. From both a creative and business perspective, there are a lot of boxes to check, but when it all comes together, a well-placed song can transform how consumers engage with a brand and its message.
At HARMAN, we really love music – not only do we make best in class audio equipment for music reproduction and legendary performances, we truly respect the power of music and maybe not surprisingly, many of our employees are accomplished musicians themselves. So when we had the chance to chat with Jonathan Hecht – the music man behind our OEM partner, Subaru’s acclaimed “Love” ad campaign – we jumped at the opportunity to learn more about his background and career.
Growing up in the suburbs of Washington D.C., Jonathan was always a big music fan. He frequently made trips into the city for gigs and concerts, blasting tapes the whole way in his ’95 Toyota Corolla (named “Peggy O” after a favorite Grateful Dead song). “I found my community in music and knew that I wanted to participate in the music industry in some way as a career,” Jonathan shared with us.
As a student at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, Jonathan spent summers interning at various record labels in New York City. After graduation, he landed a position in advertising and this segued into his first full time industry job at Sony BMG, the precursor to today’s Sony Music. There, he worked with ad agencies and music supervisors to license Sony artists and their tracks for commercials.
“It was at a really pivotal time in the industry, right as we were seeing the shift to digital. The music industry wanted to invest in staff that would proactively seek licensing opportunities as a way of combatting the loss of record sales and promoting new artists.” Jonathan explained.
From there, Jonathan made a name for himself in licensing and brand partnerships, working with big name clients such as Verizon and Subaru at a number of firms. Eventually, he founded his own music supervision agency, Venn Arts, bringing many of his previous clients onboard. It’s a safe bet that you’ve seen some of the fruits of his labor on TV. Check out this heartstring-tugging spot that subsequently helped launch the career of Odessa, bringing her song “I Will Be There” to a national audience: Flat Tire.
It was this magic mix of record label, ad agency, corporate licensing and artist management experience that fostered Jonathan’s deep understanding of the industry and nuances of connecting artists with brands. This skill ended up being the key to his success.
“Music has never been so accessible but there’s more to wade through – if you want to cut through the clutter you need someone who has that awareness and knows how to navigate the music industry,” said Jonathan.
The process of selecting a song for a brand’s content can take anywhere from a month to just a day, depending on the client’s needs. With Subaru, Jonathan is able to take the measured approach he prefers – from initial reactions to the spot’s script to discussions with the creative team and time spent narrowing down dozens of options. But it’s not just the right sound that needs to be taken into consideration. The cost of licensing the song needs to fit into the project’s budget, and if the brand’s relationship with the artist will expand to social programs or marketing extensions, there is even more negotiation involved.
But this is just the process. What we admire about Jonathan’s work is his “special sauce” – his passion for the artists themselves and unearthing new talent, his knack for connecting the right sound to the right brand, and his keen ability to identify the audience’s nerve and hit it in an unexpected way.
“This creates the authenticity that draws consumers to a brand,” Jonathan explained. For example, Subaru consumers are adventure seekers, but the brand also stands for reliability. I think Subaru’s decision to go with independently minded artists and authenticity plays well to their brand.”
Indeed, there is a spirit of discovery with Subaru’s Love campaign. The songs featured are often among the most “Shazam-ed” songs of the year (referring to the music discovery app), and the comments sections for the ads’ YouTube videos are full of positive buzz about the campaign music.
“People look at cars as a reflection of themselves and music is also very personal,” Jonathan mused. “Brands like Red Bull and Subaru that put music as a strong consideration are often better at engaging consumers and creating brand loyalty, and fortunately for my business, there’s a stronger appetite for having a music supervisor involved. It’s a win-win for me. I give brands access to the newest, freshest music and I’m able to create more opportunities for art by supporting the artists and bands so that they can keep making incredible music.”
According to Jonathan, more and more automakers are leveraging music to reach consumers (especially millennials) in new and unexpected ways. He referenced some of the cool things HARMAN’s new partner Ford has done recently, such as debuting the EcoSport live on Snapchat with DJ Khalid and partnering with iHeartRadio for other launch events.
Those of us in HARMAN’s Car Audio group think a good deal about the link between music and car sales, and there are many similarities to how Venn Arts and HARMAN approaches the power of music. The success of the Subaru Love campaign and Jonathan’s work in general hinges on the ability of the music to create a connection to the audience that feels authentic, and that supports the brand’s overarching narrative and values. This emphasis on brand fit is also really important to HARMAN, especially when finding the right match for our audio brands and automakers. We recognize that the experience surrounding a given product is what matters most to consumers, and brand fit plays a big part in this. At HARMAN, we don’t just want to create exceptional audio systems, we want to elevate the power of music and all the moments it creates, turning the “everyday” into extraordinary.