Music is important to everyone, right? But, believe it or not, there are brands that haven't yet given a thought to how to use music in their marketing.
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That's where Sam Parvin comes in. Having been promoting music since she was a teenager, Parvin now works with brands such as Maker's Mark on music licensing, strategy, and building a brand's "sonic personality"—which is a little more complicated than it seems.
We also get into Coke vs. Pepsi, a mutual dislike of popular things, the universal "flow" of music and performance across advertising channels, and ways to wrangle pricing and usage rights.
Listen to the entire show now from the link above, or download the mp3 and listen at your convenience. Of course, you can also subscribe to the Marketing Smarts podcast in iTunes or via RSS and never miss an episode.
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"Marketing Smarts" theme music composed by Juanito Pascual of Signature Tones.
Matt Snodgrass: Welcome to another episode of the Marketing Smarts Podcast brought to you by MarketingProfs. I am excited to talk to Sam Parvin today, the owner of Parvin Music.
Sam, how are you?
Sam Parvin: I'm so good. Thanks for having me. What a treat.
Matt: This is going to be a great show. This is something that is near and dear to my heart. We're going to talk about music today. Music is something I can say in nearly 500 episodes of Marketing Smarts Podcast I don't think we've ever talked about music the way we're going to talk about it today. I'm really excited about this. This is going to be a great show.
Sam: Absolutely. This is not something that a lot of people talk about. Music is really important to most people's lives, so it's going to be an interesting conversation.
Matt: Absolutely. Before we into that, we have three questions that I like to ask of our guests. We're going to get to those, but I want to know a little bit about you, Sam. Tell me about yourself, tell me about what you're doing right now, and how you got there.
Sam: I was born and raised in the south in the US, I'm from Atlanta, Georgia. I pretty much always knew I wanted to work in music. I was promoting shows when I was 16 and 17 years old that I wasn't old enough to go to. Literally, I was selling tickets to shows at some of the venues in Atlanta and I never went to the shows.
Matt: You were marketing a product that you had never seen or heard.
Sam: Yes. They're like, "Is the band good?" Sure, they are. This was back when you had to spend $15 on a CD to hear the band. Anyway, I always was fascinated with the business side of music, the inner workings of music. I studied the business of arts in college.
In my first job out of college, I worked at an incredible recording studio in Atlanta called Doppler Studios, may she rest in peace. It was a great studio. I went there to work on the music side of things. What I found when I got there was the whole world of advertising and marketing, and film and TV. We recorded some of the most incredible records of all time there for TLC, Outcast, AC/DC, Metallica, and all sorts of people. Also, we did a ton of work on advertising, doing all the audio for radio commercials, the audio for TV commercials, ADR for films. At that time, when I was 23 years old, if I could have invented my perfect job – I actually remember having this conversation with myself – it would be bringing together the worlds of music with brands and advertising and marketing.
Fast forward a few years and I got my dream job. I worked as the global music consultant for the Coca-Cola Company in Atlanta and got to work with Coke teams all over the world. I managed all of their music assets. I also made music, composed music, and also licensed music for many of their 500+ brands in Coca-Cola Mexico, Argentina, France, South Africa, Philippines.
That was the beginning of my current way of working and what I offer to my clients. I now have my own company where I work directly with brands to help them say something through the use of music. Specifically with music licensing, so synchronizing music to their audio-visual pieces, so TV commercials and things like that. That's where I am now.
Matt: Coca-Cola, AC/DC, Metallica, Outcast… I feel like I'm way out of my league here.
Sam: Not to drop names or anything.
Matt: Right. Wow. Those are absolutely iconic. That's fantastic. Here's the big three. Ready? Tell me first what are you reading right now?
Sam: I am reading three different books.
Matt: At the same time?
Sam: Yes. I like different formats. One is an audiobook called Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents.
Matt: I like that you laughed before you even gave us that title.
Sam: Just to be clear, in case my parents listen to this, I don't think my parents are emotionally immature. I'm reading it for a friend, I promise. That's via audiobook. Then I'm reading The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
Matt: One of my all-time favorites.
Sam: Which everyone says. I have to be honest. This is my second time trying to read it and I had not gotten through it the first time. That's one of those things where it gives me almost shame to say that it's been really hard for me to get through because it's so popular with so many people. But whatever.
I also don't like Bruce Springsteen. Okay? I said it. I don't like Bruce Springsteen, I can't get behind him, and everybody loves him. So, whatever.
Matt: I feel the same way about The Beatles.
Matt: I respect what they've done, but their music is just not for me. This is a podcast full of revelations today.
Sam: We might have lost a few listeners now.
Matt: Two of the biggest music acts out there and we said that we don't like them.
Matt: What's your third one?
Sam: My third one is called Smart Work Beats Hard Work: Using Science to Perform Better, Live Healthier, and Invest Money by Mentor Palokaj. It's been really cool. It's this guy who has gone down the rabbit hole in many areas of life, all of these things, investing money, living healthier, and performing better, and researched and talked to a lot of experts in many different fields, and then kind of condensed it down into this book that is a reference.
You can read just the investing money section one day, then whenever you want to revisit the living healthier section you can go to that. It's been really interesting. Mostly confirming things that I spent a lot more time researching and it's like I could have just read this book and gotten all of the info in a couple of days. But it has been really interesting.
Matt: You're rocking a psychology neurosciences book, a sci-fi book, and a self-help book all at the same time.
Matt: That's a heck of a spread.
Sam: I'm a multifaceted person.
Matt: I love it. Tell me what you're drinking right now. Maybe less so what you're drinking right now on this podcast, but in life, what's your drink du jour, what do you like?
Sam: As far as evening drinks, I'm a huge red wine fan. Also, whiskey. I love bourbon. Maybe that's part of my southern roots. I happen to have Maker's Mark as a main client of mine, so I'm in it for the booze for sure with them. For me, both of those drinks are all about the whole experience. I have these beautiful Maker's Mark whiskey glasses that are weighted on the bottom that they gifted me, so it's a whole experience around drinking a glass of bourbon. Same with wine, I need a really nice thin glass to drink out of.
I'm also drinking a lot of oregano tea. It's a natural antiseptic, and anti-inflammatory, antioxidant. I'm working on healing my gut.
Matt: I've never heard of oregano tea before.
Sam: It's oregano in hot water, so I call it tea.
Matt: Fair enough. Final question, which of course leads us into our main topic. What are you thinking about today, what's on your mind, what's keeping you up at night when you're thinking about marketing and what you do in terms of how what you do ties into marketing?
Sam: I've been thinking a lot about brands lately, what brands need. I'm having more and more conversations, I've had a lot of new clients lately kind of finding me. It's interesting because they're like, "We need you." Typically, when I work with a brand, we work through a lot of questions about how they play in the music space. A lot of my job is asking why. Instead of just going to do something cool, it's like, "Why are we doing this? Does it make sense for the brand?"
I usually ask those questions through the process of executing, while we're choosing the piece of music and while we're negotiating deals and stuff. But more and more I've been having brands come to me and I jump into the let's find music for your spot, and they're like, "Wait. We have never had a conversation internally about how we're going to use music as a brand, so we need your help with that first, laying the groundwork."
So, while I'm also executing on this, I'm developing a new service that I'm offering to people, which is a workshop to get clear on what your brand sounds like, but more so on the strategy side what is the brand's point of view on music, how do we play in that space, and why does that make sense for us and our consumer.
Matt: How do you go about that in a brand that has never even really given any thought to this? I'm sure they maybe have used music in spot here or a campaign there, but never have thought about it from an overarching strategic standpoint. How do you even start that process?
Sam: That's a good question. I think it depends on who I'm speaking to, first of all. I need to know who I'm speaking to. Ideally, I'm speaking to somebody in an integrated marketing communications type of role. Not all organizations have that role, though. Sometimes I'm working with a brand manager or brand director. Sometimes I'm working with a senior marketing person or even a CMO. Sometimes I'm working with somebody who is more on the execution side.
Music really comes into many parts. There are many roles of music. There is the strategic piece of music, which is does this fit with our consumer, what does it add to their lives, does it make sense for our brand to speak from this point of view. A good classic example that I use it Coca-Cola versus Pepsi.
Pepsi had this Live for Now campaign for a long time and they were using the hottest, biggest, giantest global acts that there were because their campaign was called Live for Now, it was what's happening now, what's the biggest hottest thing right now. Then Coca-Cola is very democratic, they're about 'open happiness' or 'taste the feeling,' they're about love and that warm and fuzzy feeling, so they work a lot more with emerging talent, they create custom music from scratch. That's just an example of the strategic use of music.
Music also comes into the production side of things, like budgets and timing. If you have $5 for music, you probably shouldn't say that strategically we need to use the biggest, hottest global acts out there. Also, creative. Are we delivering the message creatively?
So, I kind of have to figure out who I'm speaking to. My first thing is just getting clear on what their brand already has developed around their positioning as a brand, because music just kind of goes along with that. Beginning to have them put in their conversations internally the word music. If they're briefing a new agency or they're putting together a brief for a new campaign, for instance, include the word music in that brief so that we can start asking questions about why does it make sense. I really just try to start with super simple stuff of why.
Matt: Television ads is the obvious one that comes to my mind, because I've never really stopped to think about this. Where else are brands using music effectively, besides TV?
Sam: TV and all of the digital platforms. A lot of what I do is just audio-visual pieces between 10 and 60 seconds that are for internet advertising and television, and now OTT, like the Hulu and Netflix of the world. More and more so, my hope at least, what I think is happening is people are kind of just creating flow across platforms. They might do an event in-person and hire bands, or maybe they're sponsoring a concert or something like that, and then that is translating into the music that they use on their social media, and then that's translating into their big hero pieces of TV.
Really, it's about creating this whole conversation across many different connection points. Brands that have a music person or a music remit inside their connections teams or integrated marketing communications teams, I think are either doing that or at least thinking about that now.
Matt: You mentioned flow. I'm going to absolutely destroy the flow of our conversation here for a second because I think it's important. You have used a couple of abbreviations that maybe not everyone is familiar with. Earlier on, you talked about ADR and you just mentioned OTT. I'm wondering if you could just tell the audience a little bit about what those abbreviations are for, for those who aren't familiar with them.
Sam: Yes. I don't think I can think of what they stand for at this moment. ADR is doing the audio dubbing. It's something like that, audio dubbing remote maybe. No. I probably totally butchered that. It is when you go out and film, let's say, a movie on-set. If the scene is two people having a conversation on railroad tracks in the middle of nowhere, and they have a boom microphone out there and they're recording the conversation, but it's very possible that they're not capturing the audio very well. The actor will actually go back into the recording studio after having filmed the scene on the railroad tracks and redub over that audio to make it sound better and clearer. That's what ADR is.
OTT, I also don't know what that stands for at this moment, which maybe you do. That is the format that has become very popular now of television, it's probably online something television.
Matt: I had to Google it myself. It stands for over-the-top.
Sam: Okay. Yes. It's the television format where it's being able to stream on-demand, so it's Hulu, Netflix, etcetera. Those are the two big players, but there are several others as well.
Matt: It's what we all know, it's just none of us outside the industry ever use that term, we never call it that.
Sam: When my client first asked me, "Does this cover OTT," I was like, "Hold on, let me Google it." Streaming, yes. Somebody explained to me where the over-the-top came from, but I don't really know. It doesn't really matter, right?
That's something that people are asking for. In my world, what you pay for music has to do with what media it's available on, so OTT is an important piece, and understanding OTT in order to appropriately price music is important.
Matt: When you're looking at licensing music, it has different costs based on where you're using it?
Matt: As somebody who is not in the industry, I didn't even know that.
Sam: And people who are licensing music don't know this, so it's great that we're having this conversation.
Music is priced on a few different things. One is who is the artist. You're not going to pay the same for a Rhianna track as you are for your best friend's cousin who made a song in his basement.
Matt: But it was a really good song.
Sam: Then great, he's probably going to get a nice license, but definitely not going to pay the same. So, the artist has a lot to do with how much something is priced for. Then there's a few terms, we just call the usage rights or usage terms.
The main one that makes a difference are term, how long you want to use it, three months, six months, a year, two years, etcetera. Where you want to use it, meaning the territory. Are you using it just in the US, all of the Americas, global, or Loretto, Kentucky only? The mediums, the media, so TV, OTT, online streaming, industrial, which would be industry events and conferences, or are you going to put it on the jumbotron at a basketball game, all those things. Those are the three major things that make a big difference in music pricing as far as usage rights go.
The final piece is the brand. Coca-Cola is not going to cost the same as the local version of Denny's, even if they have the same usage rights that they need, even if they're both licensing it for six months in the US, because Coca-Cola is going to put a much bigger media spend behind it because they're a much bigger brand, they're going to benefit off the music in a bigger way than the local restaurant.
Matt: I love that you threw a Denny's reference out there.
Sam: Does Denny's still exist?
Matt: I haven't thought about Denny's in forever, but I love it.
Sam: Sorry for those marketers on the Denny's brand who are listening to this shouting that they still exist.
Matt: Denny's, if you need music, I can hook you up with somebody.
Sam: I also haven't lived in the US in five years. I don't know if Denny's is still around. Maybe they've gone out of business in the last five years.
Matt: I don't think they're here in Pittsburgh, at least not to my knowledge. But I feel like I haven't left the house in the last year and a half to go out to eat, so I'm not a good barometer.
Sam: So, those are the major pieces that determine the price of music. Price of music is a whole thing. Actually, I did a whole conversation with a colleague of mine on my podcast around pricing because that's a really big piece of my world. There are some standards around how to price music, for sure. Because no two artists are the same, you just have to take every project differently.
That's a big reason why somebody might hire somebody like me who looks at pricing of music all day long, because otherwise it's really hard to know if you're getting the right deal, if you're paying appropriately for the music that you're getting.
Matt: I can't remember where you and I talked about this, if it was right before we started this podcast or if it was in email, but you mentioned a brand creating their sonic personality. I love that phrase. I had never thought of that in terms of a brand, but I love that. I'm curious, I want to know a little bit about how you're defining sonic personality. I also want to know secondarily, have you ever worked with brands that sort of change their branding based on music?
Sam: Yes. I feel like you totally just gave me a layup here. It's so funny because we have not talked about this. I work with Maker's Mark, as I mentioned. I think I can say all of this. Yes, I can say all of this. I've been working with them for about three and a half years. They are the most lovely people. It's a really incredible brand to work on. They have a beautiful brand, but also just a beautiful internal culture and working style where it's extremely collaborative. When I first got brought into their organization, I remember I had a conversation with the (then) IMC director, she was briefing me on a new project. We had never had a real conversation before.
We spent about an hour on the phone, and we did not talk about music at all. She just told me about the brand, where they had been, where they were going. For that brand in particular, they were speaking to a wider market, they were going much more global. They're from Loretto, Kentucky, they're a big brand, very well known and well respected in the US, and they were at the time launching in a whole bunch of new countries where nobody knew them.
They knew who they were speaking to, but they hadn't really spoken to this person before. They wanted to really not alienate their initial tried and true, US, a little bit older, mostly white male drinkers, because they love those customers, but they wanted to speak to a little bit younger, multicultural audience, a global audience in several other countries. We used music to do that. We have been using music to do that.
The first brief that we had was a little bit of a challenge because, again, it wasn't this complete remake of the brand, we didn't want to alienate who we had been or where we had come from. When I say we, I mean the brand Maker's Mark. We had to kind of find this happy medium.
We ended up licensing a track from a band called Moon Taxi who is really fun, lots of textures and different instruments, very organic instrumentation, but young guys, really cool band that lives in Nashville, Tennessee. We started with that, and it was the first step towards creating this younger, multicultural, new iteration of the brand.
Matt: That music, whether it's a track or a series of tracks, helped – I don't want to call it a rebrand, but maybe reidentify what they were doing?
Sam: Yes, definitely. Actually, by the time they had found me, they had already launched this piece of creative. They launched it with a piece of music that was kind of whatever, it worked okay but nobody was super excited about it. So, we did a new piece of music and we relaunched it. The next quarter after they launched the new piece of creative with different music, we saw a 10% increase in effectiveness of the campaign. That's millions of dollars on their bottom line just by changing the music.
Matt: That's huge. That's fantastic.
Matt: As a marketer, I listen to music when I'm doing just about everything. Unless I'm on a call or interviewing on a podcast, I have my headphones on. I'm listening to music all day long at work, outside of work, I always have music going on, so that's an important part of my life.
I have seen these videos on YouTube and different places where they show you a famous movie scene, but they pull the music out of it, so you're watching this scene with just the sound effects and dialogue. It's amazing how much emotion and how much less evocative those scenes are. I'm going to geek out for a second and say there's a whole host of Star Wars scenes where they've pulled the music out, and you just realize how much that score, how much that music means to the scene.
We typically as marketers don't think about those things in terms of what we're doing. I think that Maker's Mark example is so great because it shows how powerful and impactful something as seemingly simple as a piece of music can be.
Sam: Of course. It's really interesting to see. This goes back to the Mad Men ad days before television commercials, or even before that, when print ads were the main way of advertising. On a team, you have a creative director, a copywriter, and an art director. You have somebody whose one job is to write the copy, to write, to create the tone of voice. You have one person whose specific job as the art director is to make sure that the visuals are communicating what you want to say. In the modern world of advertising, we haven't really developed a sound director or a music director, so there's not a person who is in charge of that.
I think you're right that we're just not as present to the power and impact of audio on our lives, and that's reflected in the way that advertising and marketing is structured. We haven't evolved to add in that audio sound now that the way that we consume content is through audio.
Matt: I think we're starting. I think we're at the very early stages. Conversations like this and having guests like you on the podcast helps that. I think podcasting as a whole helps that because it is oral, it is another medium, another mode of learning.
Sam: Yes. Totally. There's a lot of conversation now about Alexa and the interaction in that way with audio in your home, where Alexa is like your assistant and your companion, she can order your groceries for you and all of these things. You're right, we are definitely evolving.
When it comes to brands, specifically in marketing, there's a huge opportunity out there. There's a huge opportunity out there to be using music more intentionally as part of the way that you connect with your consumers and have them feel what you want them to feel and do what you're looking for them to do, or even just be valuable to their lives. Music is very important for a lot of people. How can you use music to contribute to the lives of your consumers?
Matt: Sam, thank you so much for coming on the show today. What a fantastic conversation. Thanks for being here.
Sam: It's been a real pleasure, Matt. I appreciate it.
Matt: Where can folks learn more about you and what you're doing?
Sam: You can see a whole bunch of my recent work on my website at SamParvin.com. Also, sign up for my email list. That's where you'll get a little bit more of a deep dive into some of these concepts that we've been talking about and some specific takeaways that you can implement in your business right now. I never send more than two emails a month, so don't expect spam. That's a good place to start. Of course, I'm @SamParvin on Instagram and LinkedIn.
Matt: Excellent. Thanks again, Sam, for being here. We really appreciate it.
Sam: It's been a real treat. Thanks, Matt.
Matt: Friends, if you like what you've heard today, do me a favor. You don't have to leave a review. You don't have to give us a five-star rating. What I would love for you to do is if you would find one of your fellow marketers and let them know about the Marketing Smarts Podcast. It makes you look like a hero for giving them another great podcast to listen to, and it gets them a whole host of new marketing tips on a weekly basis.
Thanks, everyone. We'll see you next time.
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Published on September 30, 2021
Samantha Parvin, who has connected some of the world’s best musical talent with brands, globally. She was the Coca-Cola Company's global music consultant; she has won 30+ internationally recognized awards, including two Cannes Lions; and she has supported brands such as GMC, Corona, Dos Equis, Maker’s Mark, and Procter & Gamble. At Parvin Music, Samantha works closely with a select roster of clients to elevate creativity and advocate for independent talent..
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