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  • Roundtable with Human Music and Sound Design
  • Marc Altshuler (bio), Andy Bloch (bio), Morgan Visconti (bio), Gareth Williams (bio), and Linda M. Scott (bio)
Linda Scott:

I am sitting here today at the Gramercy Park Hotel in New York, talking with the partners of Human Music and Sound Design, a company that specializes in original music and sound for commercials, but also film and other forms. I normally open the roundtable just by going around and asking everyone to identify themselves.


I'm Andy Bloch. I'm a partner in Human, along with Marc, Morgan and Gareth. I compose, produce, and help manage operations.


My name is Marc Altshuler and I handle the sales and production at Human. I'm the only non-composing partner.


My name is Morgan Visconti and I am also a partner. I handle composition and production.


My name is Gareth Williams and I'm a partner and I handle composition and production.


I thought it would be interesting to start with where you see yourself as sitting in front of trends in regards to issues such as licensing and forms like jingles.


Well, I think that there is always going to be a consideration to licensed music and when you ask me specifically about how they write music, that is something I probably wouldn't answer because I'm the only non-composing partner, and we try to keep things very separate between the ways we do things, which is just a little background knowledge. One of the reasons I think we've been so successful is because we allow each other to own different parts of the business and we trust each other to do it.

We're always going to be up against licensed music because there is always that factor of advertising where they chase "cool." There is always that group of people, whether they are creatives or account people, client-driven on the brand side, that are going to chase "cool"—regardless of product, regardless of strategic objective, regardless of anything that they are trying to achieve. You could say, "I'm trying to move this Schick razor to these women in this part of the world," and they are going to interpret that with, "We have to chase cool. We have to chase the director; we have to chase the hottest new band, because we are in essence, borrowing equity off of those people." I don't know if it's an insecurity thing, if they don't feel strong enough with the equity that they have within their product. When you license music, you are borrowing equity, or sharing equity at the very minimum. It takes a lot of confidence to say, "Well, we're going to build an idea and we are going to stand for that idea. If that idea sucks, our idea and that initiative dies." If our idea is awesome and it takes off globally in all these different markets, kids pick it up, people pick it up, people push it around, people let everybody else know how cool it is: we've won. The risk you run when you license and borrow equity is that people are not going to pick it up and push it around. They just won't. It's not going to get moved virally, it's not going to get moved verbally, you're not going to sit there and say, "Oh my God, I saw the most unbelievable ad the other night," when they are borrowing ideas off somebody.


The band might sell a few extra records.


But also just to elaborate on that, I think that brands have always borrowed equity throughout advertising, but there is also a culture of advertising within advertising itself amongst the creatives, where they are trying to win awards and one up each other, and it tends to become insular. So within the actual advertising industry, there's a lot of caché and a cool factor if you borrow things and use licensed music, and I think there is a lot of competition among creatives to outdo each other, so that is also driving...