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“It’s incredibly satisfying when Serena Williams, Ronaldinho & Travis Scott share your work” The World of Synchronisation

Talking with the founder and Executive Creative Director of Syncsmith about art, business, tech and synchronisation.

Image credit: Syncsmith

We sit down with the man who’s sourced and synced music for the campaigns of Gucci, Meta, Nike, BMW, Dior and more.

Have you ever wondered who’s responsible for implementing the right music for film and TV trailers, advertising campaigns and fashion shows? The process of selecting or creating the perfect music and licensing it for these applications is called synchronisation (or syncing), and there are entire companies that have made it their mission to provide bespoke soundtracks to some of the biggest brands in the world.

Source: Syncsmith

One such company is Syncsmith, a hybrid audio consultancy with a team of experienced in-house music supervisors, along with an innovative roster of composers and record labels with whom they’ve built close relationships over the years. The UK-based company has delivered ground-breaking music to automotive brands such as Maybach, Range Rover and BMW, as well as fashion behemoths including Dior, Moncler and Gucci to name a few.

We spoke with Syncsmith’s founder and Executive Creative Director, Gavin Mee, about his approach to synchronisation, creativity, technology and more.

The ever-evolving role of a Music Supervisor is critical to ensuring that visuals are amplified through compelling audio.

From the outside, it seems that a music supervisor must tread that tricky line between art and business, and we were keen to understand Gavin’s involvement in the creative side of Syncsmith’s operation.

“I’m fully embedded in the creative process on both sides. The ever-evolving role of a Music Supervisor is critical to ensuring that visuals are amplified through compelling audio, and that can only be achieved by embedding yourself in all aspects of the creative process.

“On the artist side, we pay particular attention to the “creative kick-off” phase, ensuring that research is conducted thoroughly, composers are fully informed and supported throughout the writing process. It’s our job to make sure that they are fully briefed and read into the project, and that they are supported with accurate feedback and encouragement to elicit the best results. For a lot of composers, writing to brief can be a touch alien at times, so we go above and beyond in providing a safe environment within which to flourish.

“On the client side, the level of creative input varies by the day, but we prefer tasking where we are fully entrenched in the creative process right from initiation. For example, we have just completed the “Nike On Air” event in Paris.

“Creatively, we assisted with the overall audio strategy for the show, prepared extensive mood boards for three product-related immersive art installations, and also the main event; a 20-minute score including sound design spread across three acts at Palais Brongniart.

“So we provided all audio aspects, bespoke composition and sound design services, we processed Athlete’s voiceovers in native languages, captured fresh voiceovers of Nike’s CCO, produced an array of social media deliverables and assumed final mix duties. It was quite an affair, but it’s incredibly satisfying when Serena Williams, Ronaldinho and Travis Scott share your work after the gig.”

Plainly, there’s more to the role of a music supervisor than meets the eye. So from initial consultation with the client to the delivery and implementation of music, how does that process work?

“Without giving away the crown jewels here, we like to be very hands-on and offer an all-encompassing service that operates “cradle to grave”, such that our clients' pain points and needs are accommodated right from initiation. We work with many clients who simply aren't familiar with the process of audio acquisition.

“For us, it's a fusion of a relationship-building cycle, a creative exploratory exercise and a light-touch mentoring process, all while delivering greatness and taking away all their concerns and worry beads.”

As any creative will know, accurately capturing and interpreting the brief is the first major challenge of any artistic project. Gavin’s role at Synsmith not only requires him to understand the client’s brief, but to relay it to the artist accurately, too.

“I think understanding any brief is a composite process of understanding your clients, understanding the agency, the brand, their past campaigns, their influences and the director's creative vision. It’s then a case of testing that brief through multiple means to ensure it’s robust.

“We always compile our own creative deck to answer any brief which helps us demonstrate our understanding, and helps to consolidate a myriad of emails, decks and treatments. It also helps us to brief our internal teams accurately, including composers and sound design specialists. At this stage, we are usually working with creatives directly, so if sufficient information hasn't been received from non-creative resources we have direct access to enable a deeper understanding.”

I'm a big fan of niching your capabilities in any walk of life, it's how we get known for something, isn't it?

As demonstrated by their impressive portfolio, many of Syncsmith’s clients operate within the spheres of high fashion, culture and lifestyle, but what is Gavin’s perspective on specialising in a particular field or industry?

“I'm a big fan of niching your capabilities in any walk of life, it's how we get known for something, isn't it? We never set out to specialise in any particular industry, so fashion is not an industry we have targeted specifically at any point. That said, our roster and recording labels do have natural synergies with avant-garde fashion, agreed, hence the mutual attraction.”

Given Syncsmith’s breadth of experience in certain industries, it must be easier to identify emerging trends in the kind of music being requested by clients, or the message they hope to convey.

“As with most domains, there are trends in sync, but by the time it’s identified as a trend, the world has already moved on. I do laugh, though, when we get a “can you make it sound more like Bonobo or Fred Again” type brief, with no particular track reference or indication of messaging that the brand wants to convey.

Source: Syncsmith

“At the end of the day, our focus has to be on the creative side, and sourcing the optimal sonics for picture. Brand messaging, brand legacy and director vision are paramount, and they should be the beacons for any successful campaign.”

AI has no place in what we do creatively and I can't see that position changing anytime soon.

It’s clear that two fundamental components of music synchronisation are people and relationships, and in that sense, it feels relatively AI-proof. With that in mind, we were intrigued by Gavin’s stance on AI and whether it’s helped or hindered his work at Syncsmith.

“As an engineer in a past life, I don't buy into the whole fad of AI. It’s very much the emperor's new clothes for those who don't understand the logic behind the facade. Data sets have always been around, and the ability to train an algorithm or make data-driven decisions based on large data sets is nothing new.

Source: Syncsmith

Apologies for being blunt here, but AI has no place in what we do creatively and I can't see that position changing anytime soon. We recently produced a book in collaboration with GFSmith, Pitchfork’s Philip Sherburne kindly wrote the foreword, and I think he consolidated our position on AI perfectly.”

AI aside, are there any new services or technologies you're exploring to enhance your offerings?

“We're innovating daily, our roster is continually performing at the ICA, MoMA PS1, Barbican, Serpentine, Tate, Mutek, Unsound, Sonar etc. As a Composer or artist, you simply don't get to perform at these art institutions unless you are continually innovating and engaging in R&D, breaking new academic ground, developing technologies and unearthing new techniques.”

I prefer a much more relationship-based and tactile approach, and I think those values stand out in today's economy.

In the creative industry, we’re often expected to be marketers, business people and salespeople too. It’s clear that Gavin has a grasp on this challenge, but we were eager to understand Syncsmith’s approach to securing new work.

“We now have the luxury of a solid portfolio of work behind us, so we're finding that more and more work naturally gravitates in our direction, purely through word of mouth and off the back of previous projects. I'm keen to let our art and creativity speak for itself, so we don't invest heavily in marketing, business development or sales specifically. I prefer a much more relationship-based and tactile approach, and I think those values stand out in today's economy."

Timing is key, but it's not everything.

While we’ve got the attention of someone with such valuable experience, we asked Gavin if he had any advice for artists aspiring to secure syncing opportunities.

“Timing is key, but it's not everything. If the music is unique, has rawness, real integrity and dynamic arrangement, then there's every chance that it will sync at some point.

“In terms of pointers, I would always avoid falling into the “production music” trap of producing paper-thin music that clearly sounds like it was produced with a sync mindset. We can spot this stuff a mile off and avoid “library-gear” at all costs, that's simply not us and not a route I would advise for any artist.”