Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Sapphire Ng | Trip to MassiveMusic Amsterdam [International Music Licensing]

Writer: Sapphire Ng

Berklee College of Music “International Music Licensing” April 13-22 2017 course trip to Amsterdam/Haarlem, Netherlands + Educational exchange in InHolland University of Applied Sciences, Haarlem.

Trip to MassiveMusic Amsterdam - April 20th 2017, Thursday

MassiveMusic Amsterdam
A’DAM Toren, Overhoeksplein 35
1031 KS Amsterdam
The Netherlands

We had to travel from Haarlem to Amsterdam to visit MassiveMusic. The MassiveMusic Amsterdam office was surprisingly spacious and elegant. After a quick tour of the premises, we were led to a meeting room where a beautifully crafted presentation was given. I was seated right at the front of the group and had a perfect view of the presentation and the 2 speakers.

The presentation was intellectually fascinating. We were shown prior projects MassiveMusic Amsterdam were previously engaged in, all in the Dutch context which is certainly riveting to me and my American classmates.  

First up was an advertisement by Centraal Beheer, a Dutch insurance company. The ad featured the artist and rapper Young D. According to one of the speakers—the speakers themselves were employees of the company—this Young D ad for Centraal Beheer won an annual advertising award. This ad is distinctly hilarious and certainly memorable, and is also available for viewing on Youtube at this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SxgcPuY58Js.

Next we were shown the new Renault Espace Commercial that featured Kevin Spacey. According to one of the speakers, this advertisement targeted the French market, and the ad was cleverly based on the concept that featured the actor driving through his movies. It was noted that this commercial apparently was not aired in America as the general sentiment was against the American president driving a French car. This commercial is available on Youtube here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jxZ5BHFjots.

The North Face advertisement that prominently featured the song “Miles From Nowhere” by Cat Stevens is yet another gem showed during the presentation. This commercial displayed a powerful transition in emotional content that the music beautifully complemented, not to mention the lyrics of the song that no doubt fitted the context of the commercial. The commercial could be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ayv41ZmNWtk.

My personal favorite in the presentation was the Nike Women commercial in the campaign entitled “What are girls made of?” that aired in the Netherlands, and that involved the production company Riff Raff Films and the agency Wieden + Kennedy Amsterdam. The concept and details behind this commercial is intellectually and emotionally intriguing to me. Not only Russian folk music is used in this Nike commercial, which foreignness thus seemed exotic to me, it was mentioned that this specific folk music is actually a public domain song. From the point of view of music licensing—it was my Berklee “International Music Licensing” course that brought the group here to Netherlands in the first place—this detail makes this commercial even more fascinating.

On a personally empowering note, it was also mentioned that over the duration of the commercial, the docile lyrics transformed into that of strength. With such transition in lyrical content supported also by the expressive visuals that included strong and independent athletic women, I find the message of this commercial personally meaningful even though I am not generally a Nike consumer. The commercial and more details are available at this link: http://www.adforum.com/creative-work/ad/player/34542210/what-are-girls-made-of/nike-women.

Another strikingly captivating though brief area of discussion was that of  sonic logos. It was mentioned that sonic logos can be as short as 3 seconds. The example provided to illustrate this concept was the sonic logo MassiveMusic designed for KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, otherwise known in Dutch as Koninklijke Luchtvaart Maatschappij. It was explained that in this case, the sonic logo provides a sonic identity to which consumers are then able to associate with this specific airline. It was further elaborated that this sonic identity could even be perceived or used as a form of watermarking, and that it was surely not accidental that this KLM Royal Dutch Airlines sonic logo involved its pitch going upwards in interval.

Also mentioned included MassiveMusic’s sonic branding project for banking giant UBS, which case is available on MassiveMusic’s website at http://massivemusic.com/cases/ubs. With a little more research, one could easily come across the Sonic Branding page on the company website as well at http://massivemusic.com/services/sonic-branding. More sonic branding projects with brands such as Carlsberg and Cornetto which MassiveMusic was involved in was available for further exploration through the website.

The T-mobile Dutch commercial was covered, and also mentioned in passing was McDonald’s usage of classical music to give the impression of it being a “premium brand.” An almost hilarious instance was used to demonstrate the importance of the concept of exclusivity in the licensing of music for commercials. Three commercials that used identical music were showed edited back-to-back in the presentation, including that of Victoria’s Secret, and a car brand. The speakers used this as an opportunity to highlight the fact that in the event it was not established that only one brand can use a certain piece of music, it might be awkward and even cringe-worthy when multiple brands unintentionally coincide in using identical music for their commercials.

As the presentation proceeded, the speakers revealed interesting details pertaining to the core functioning of MassiveMusic itself. Whilst there are certainly stock music companies in Holland, MassiveMusic takes pride in not doing stock music, and focuses immensely on composing original music for commercials. The benefits of such an approach was said to allow a piece of music to be associated exclusively with a specific brand, and helps avoid any potential PR disasters where the same piece of music is used for several unrelated brands. On another related note, it was mentioned that in working together, advertising agencies often communicate to MassiveMusic that they prefer music of indie and new artists over that of established artists such as Michael Jackson.

Interestingly, the spokesperson for MassiveMusic Amsterdam noted that it would be the company’s “holy grail” to be able to scientifically quantify the results of the company’s musical collaborations with brands, to objectively evaluate the effectiveness of specific music opted for by the company for its various projects. In terms of the company’s production agreement with songwriters, it was also revealed that MassiveMusic does retain some publishing share, alongside the songwriters themselves.

It was an incredibly informative session at MassiveMusic Amsterdam. It was certainly refreshing for me to get an inside look at the Dutch music licensing scene involving Dutch commercials through a local entity. It was also really valuable that I managed to learn as well of certain subtleties in the industry such as the difference between a commercial message versus a brand message. It was said that the distinct messages themselves warrant different pieces of music, and therefore one song alone would not cut it to appropriately and properly convey both messages. Another point though mentioned fleetingly was certainly thought-provoking; one of the speakers mentioned that work for hire is apparently less common in Europe than in the US. And whilst I personally was a little incredulous as I heard a subsequent statement, it was said that it is supposedly not “so easy” for one “to sign away all your rights even if you want to” in Europe. This might have been true, though I would still be inclined to be more cautious or even realistic.

As with all or most educational trips and visits, this session at MassiveMusic Amsterdam was pleasantly enriching. I certainly appreciate the stimuli this presentation had in prompting me to conduct further research into related fields in the Dutch context. As for now, I think I will be occupying myself with some online research on more Dutch commercials and music, and even Dutch advertising agencies.

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