Drummer Jonathan Stone grew up in Kent before moving to London where he attended the London College of Music. After being featured on Beverley Knight’s ‘Soulsville’ tour Jon built relationships that would see him managing Beverley Knight while contributing to other artists successes such as Joss Stone and Jamiroquai. These achievements as a musician and industry figure drew the attention of Unilever and Big Sync Music where he currently works as a music supervisor for brands such as Dove, Lipton, AXE, TREsemme and Persil. Here he works to create bespoke music, license existing tracks and search for the ideal piece of music for each film. He personally heads up music operations for the entirety of North America. His most recent success story saw him working on an AXE campaign with American rapper Lil Yachty.
Jon is also an integral member of Ghosts Of Our Former Selves, an Electronic Soul group who recently completed a UK tour of some of the most prestigious venues in the UK
So, we recently sat down with the gentleman in question over a Gin & Tonic, to ask a few questions about the world of music advertising…
So then Mr. Stone, tell us who you are and what exactly it is you do!
Im a music supervisor, which can mean a lot of things, but essentially it’s a job about pairing music with moving image. I currently work within music for advertising as a part of Big Sync Music. I’ve worked on the music for brands including Guinness, Samsung but most of my time has been spent looking after all of Unilever. They have over four hundred brands including Dove, Sure, Lynx and Persil so it keeps me busy.
I search for the right piece of music for each advert on behalf of brands and work with composers to create bespoke tracks. That’s the creative side of my position but much of what I do is managing clients and working with publishers and labels, which is where the negotiation side of my work takes over.
Do you find that there is a particular genre of music that lends itself to most forms of modern commercial advertising?
Advertising agencies are constantly trying to keep up with what’s popular right now. This is a challenge given how long a campaign can be in production for. By the time your videos go live the world has moved onto something new meaning a lot of adverts are playing catch up. For example after Birdman and Whiplash came out we were hearing a lot of Free-Form Jazz drums on spots and Stranger Things led to a demand for synth-wave. The difference with truly great advertising is that it sets the trend rather than following one.
Do you have a basis for certain musical styles being located for certain products or is each it’s own entity?
Absolutely. Each brand has it’s own sonic identity and one of the main challenges when I start working for a new brand is to identify exactly what that is. Sometimes the brand themselves aren’t exactly sure, so that’s a conversation I have with them to figure out what sound represents the message the brand wants to project. A great example of this is Dove, when I work with them I know that I need to provide music within certain guidelines, because when you hear clean organic piano everyone knows that’s the sound of Dove!
Just like a graphic logo, music can be used to establish a brand in the long term consciousness. I think this is something most brands are just starting to wake up to.
How do you decide whether you either locate and license a piece of music or compose? Does difficulty of access to copyrighted music push toward a composition?
They are two different propositions and each offers something different. One of the great things about licensing an existing piece of music is the borrowed equity from tapping into the listener’s established relationship with a band or song. It’s also really great to help launch smaller acts by giving them a head start. The labels and publishers I work with are constantly suggesting so much new and amazing music that my playlist of tracks I’d love to sync one day is getting longer and longer.
Composition helps solve the main problem when putting together an advertisement; how to tell a compelling story in thirty seconds or less. There are acts and chapters in these few seconds which the music needs to reflect, in the same way that a film score ebbs and flows in a two hour movie. Sometimes this can be hard to do with an existing track because most music isn’t written that way. A composition can tell exactly the story you want it to.