Music Business

Behind The Curtain Of The New Balance X BEGINNERS Campaign (Part I)

Screen Shot 2019-02-26 at 3.28.42 PMSynch licensing can be one of the greatest ways for artists to gain exposure to a wider, fresh audience. Once a privilege largely reserved for already successful artists, more developing band are getting these exciting opportunities, as evidenced in a recent collaboration between New Balance Shoes and up-and-coming AWAL artist BEGINNERS.



Guest post from AWAL

Synch licensing can help artists reach a larger audience and find potential new fans who wouldn’t have discovered them otherwise. Creators get wider exposure and new sources of revenue from these synch placements. Fans find great new songs and bands, and a more compelling audiovisual experience.

One might think that only superstars can land spots in Super Bowl ads or in high-profile TV shows. Fortunately, the tide is turning and more developing artists are getting these exciting opportunities. 

To shed light on how independent artists are increasingly enjoying the benefits of synch opportunities, we turn to AWAL + Kobalt artist BEGINNERS. The LA band recently participated in a campaign for New Balance and their new shoe, the Fresh Foam Zante Pursuit. Featured prominently within the advert, BEGINNERS turned their latest single with Night Panda, “Start A Riot,” into a compelling and dynamic soundtrack for the commercial.


To find out how synch opportunities come about, and to learn more about the New Balance spot in particular, we spoke with one of the people who helped make it happen, Keith D’Arcy, SVP of Commercial Synch at Kobalt Music. Let’s dive in…

Synch plays a key role in connecting the dots between artists, songs, and brands, but how does it actually work? How do you get into a position where you can connect a band and song like this to a placement of this nature?

KeithPeople in synch over time develop the ability to listen to a song and tell pretty quickly whether or not it’ll resonate with supervisors, and where. We hear certain songs and think “this is going to make a great trailer, or this is going to be perfect for a promo, or it’ll be perfect in an ad campaign for a fashion brand.”

My job at Kobalt is about finding clients, developing relationships with them, strengthening those relationships, fielding opportunities to pitch our songs, and hopefully always nailing it when it comes to making sure I’m giving them exactly what they're asking for creatively, while still  keeping our writers and their projects top of mind.

Different opportunities call for different kinds of songs. Lyrics, structure, production style, genre, feel, and where that song is in its trajectory (is it an as-yet undiscovered gem by a super cool developing artist, or is it a super-famous song that everyone on the globe can sing along to?) all play into whether or not a song will be a fit. Sometimes it’s an amazing song that not many people have heard that drives the decision.

Do you see synch as a way of introducing lesser-known or newer artists to a larger audience?

KeithIt's really unpredictable and difficult for anyone to say definitively that a synch use is going to have that effect, but we know that certain types of synch uses are more likely to catch the attention of a large audience and hopefully help that artist reach new and different fans. For example, a TV promo that runs with frequency on network TV might be the kind of opp that really helps an artist reach new people. That’s only if the use really showcases the song in a way that audiences react to.

Thinking about this New Balance campaign, let’s chat about BEGINNERS and why you felt their song ‘Start a Riot’ aligned with what you were trying to pitch for this campaign.

KeithWe got an email back in July of last year from Nick Keenan, the music producer at VML (the agency for New Balance). He wrote and said “We're looking for upcoming singles by female artists who will appeal to urban women in their 20’s.” I put together a list of about 20 different artists from both AWAL and Kobalt that I thought would fit, including BEGINNERS and a couple of other artists that AWAL’s Ryan Kofman suggested. Nick liked a couple of them and said “Send me as much unreleased material as you can from these artists, songs with the kind of lyrics and vibe that could drive this concept.”

I sent them a bunch of songs, including the BEGINNERS x Night Panda track 'Start a Riot'. It was unreleased, and lyrically right on the nose for the ad concept. One of the interesting things about this particular opportunity was that we found out about it in July. They landed on the track they liked in August, but we knew the spot wasn't going to be running until the end of January. So there was a long period of time for planning. The band flew to New York and  shot a full-length music video with the members on-camera. The editor made short form cut-downs from the full-length music video that would become the TV/web ads for the shoe. The band was asked to keep the song exclusively for the brand in the six months leading up to their launch date.

When I was putting together the initial batch of tracks and artists to recommend, I needed to know who the band members were, if they were athletic and exciting in their live performances, because they’d be on-camera. Sam Barbera from BEGINNERS was in a bunch of punk bands. She's an awesome live performer, super cool, and energetic, so she's perfect for an on-camera opportunity for a sports brand. She's also an athlete, and so her bandmates. So that’s a crucial part of the process: everybody I pitched had to be comfortable on-camera and look the part alongside the athletes.

How often do you see opportunities for artists like this?

Keith: It’s pretty unusual for a band that isn’t yet famous to get an on-camera opportunity, especially on where the brand is offering so many different opportunities for synergy.

But it's happening more often than, say, ten years ago. We get opportunities to present our artists for on-camera opportunities. But maybe one time in 30 or 40 does it actually come to fruition, where the band and the brand are willing to do all the necessary things to make it a truly integrated thing. This was an instance where the brand was looking for a developing artist, specifically an exciting young female artist. And they also hired all-female talent for the project, including the director. It’s very rare for all these things to align so well, and a lot of that credit is due to Nick Keenan.

Are there things that artists, both more-established or developing, should keep in mind when it comes to pitching their music for synch?

KeithFor AWAL artists, it’s easy for us to get all the info we need in order to create these kinds of opportunities, but for a lot of independent artists and even those who are on a label, we may not have a full snapshot on hand with all the info we need in one place in order to present effectively for synch. The advice that I would give to developing artists is, even though you might not think you need one, have an updated one-sheet ready. Have a single web-based location for all of the pertinent information related to your career, your social media stats, and a bio that is interestingly written and concise, not simply a Wikipedia-type article. Brands want insight into your personality, likes and dislikes, and how you live your life. They want to know about your passions, as there may be a perfect alignment out there that fuels an opportunity like this one for BEGINNERS.

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