Music Supervisors Sound Off 2015


Gabe McDonough
Executive Producer & Music Director, Music and Strategy (MAS)
Contact: [email protected]

Company: MAS connects brands with music. From original compositions to commercial production, MAS develops music that matches the brand’s identity and voice.

Credits:  (Commercial Campaigns) Apple, Samsung, Sprint, Kellogg’s, McDonald’s, Allstate, Anheuser-Busch

Honors/Awards: No. 1 Track of the Year (“Royals” by Lorde) for Samsung’s “The Developer,” Best Ad Song of All Time (“A Minha Menina” by Os Mutantes) for McDonald’s “Victory,” Best Ad Song (“Creator” by Santigold) for Bud Light Lime. McDonough was also one of Billboard’s “40 Under 40 Power Players on the Rise.”

What does your job entail?
I work on music, entertainment and brand strategy. I provide music supervision services, executive produce original compositions, negotiate licenses and consult on music, entertainment and branding projects.

Do you focus exclusively on music for advertising?
I’ve always worked in advertising. Musically I work with jingles, licensed tracks, original music and scores.

How did you become involved with music?
I was a bass player and worked at an indie label. When I started working at ad agencies (because I needed a job) I pitched the idea of music production and created a position for myself.

How do you choose music for a commercial campaign?
I talk with the creative team and sometimes get a music brief. From that I form an overall strategy. I want the music to create an emotional connection so that people feel something even if they don’t know why they’re feeling it. The right music has an “X Factor” that communicates emotion and makes it ad-friendly.

Would you consider an unknown act for commercial placements?
Absolutely… In fact, there was a female artist who emailed me out of the blue. She seemed nice and her material was pretty good––it had an ad-friendly sound. I ended up licensing her music while she was totally unknown. Now she’s had multiple placements and even helps other artists get them.

Do you ever get strange requests from clients?
It happens more than you think. The strangest was a faucet company that wanted someone to perform a recognizable song using only water to produce the sound. So I contacted Wilco drummer Glenn Kotche because I heard that he created music using 24 crickets. Glenn ended up on camera in the national commercial.

How well do commercial placements pay?
The money alone is not life changing, but exposure can be invaluable––and you get a lot of exposure with commercials. In the commercial field, budgets are better than elsewhere, but they’ve come down, too, so licensing fees aren’t as high as they were. The rate depends on the spot and the campaign size. But, the real money is on the backend anyway, via Performing Rights Organizations that pay a royalty whenever music is broadcast. Or, you could get more if it’s a “buy out” (with no performance royalties). Additionally, a singer/player might be entitled to payment through SAG-AFTRA as a commercial performer.

What kind of music is best for commercial placements?
It depends on the campaign, but usually the music is upbeat with major chords. It should also project an emotion, an attitude, that intangible “X Factor” I mentioned.

How do you find music for commercials?
I have regular contacts that I like to use. But, I also search online and will even check out unsolicited submissions when I have time. You never know what you might find––so I’m pretty open.

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