The advertising industry’s music supervisors, producers, composers and other musically-minded members are constantly on the search for new tunes. To discover the perfect songs - new and old - to soundtrack their latest campaigns, they are perpetually adding to and curating an endless array of playlists for different moods, and constantly keeping one ear open for the next big thing on obscure online radio stations.
We at LBB love the process that goes into finding the ideal music for an ad - and selfishly, we also want to be listening to what the cool kids are listening to. So, LBB’s Ben Conway spoke to a variety of music supervisors, producers, composers and more, from both agencies and music companies, to find out how these experts are discovering their latest favourite tracks - and asked for some top tier recommendations.
See below to hear what the media maestros had to say about uncovering hidden gems, branching out of your comfort zone and more, and to check out our handy playlist that compiles all of the recommendations.
Coming from Chicago, I am very much a supporter of Chicago-area artists. So with that spirit in mind, one of my favourite Chicago bands is the very young Lifeguard. Their newest EP, ‘Dressed In Trenches’, has a song that makes me wish I had been able to write something so mature at such a young age. Check out their song, ‘17-18 Lovesong’. Clearly the folks at Matador are smitten with them as well, seeing as they have begun releasing their efforts.
Chicago-adjacent artist Califone (now based out of LA) and the late Jamie Branch (NYC) are two others that I have been listening to with great frequency.
Califone has been kicking around since the early ‘90s (as Red Red Meat and then migrating into Califone). Fronted by the magical Tim Rutili, Califone has been cultivating beautiful angular music on the heels of the progressive/experimental, blues/rock/indie sounds of Red Red Meat. Their new record, ‘villagers’, has one of my favourite songs of the year on it: ‘the habsburg jaw’.
Jamie Branch’s label, International Anthem, has posthumously released her project ‘Fly or Die’ with the release of, ‘Fly or Die Fly or Die Fly or Die ((world war))’. Her trumpet playing has always been solid but on this record her vocals have also been elevated. So many great songs on this record. I would suggest starting with the outstanding ‘take over the world’.
And I quickly want to mention Gilla Band’s album, ‘Most Normal’, and the song: ‘Eight Fivers’. As well as Home Is Where’s record, ‘the whaler’, and their song: ‘yes! yes! a thousand times yes!’.
For me, listening and discovering music is all about the new and the old. I'm always searching and digging - whether it's online, record stores or in thrift stores. Genre and artist-wise I'm never listening to one particular thing, but what's inspiring me in the moment.
A few of my favourite places to find music are:
Songs I'm digging today are Y La Bamba’s ‘Boca Llena’ - it reminds me of Cocteau Twins, which is never a bad thing; Sampha’s ‘Without’ - those drums are delicious; and Norma Tanega’s ‘Jubilation’ - just sublime, it transports me to another time.
I feel so lucky to have so many sources of inspiration that have cultivated my musical taste. I grew up on everything from Fleetwood Mac and James Taylor to Luther Vandross, Motown and Public Enemy. Combine that with living in different countries around the world, being exposed to so many cultures of music from such a young age has completely moulded my appreciation for music and what it can do for society. Currently, I’ve been in a sort of sonic rebirth. I’ve been delving into the world of the lesser known, and seeking out artists that make songs my soul connects to. I’ve always loved underground, indie, alt and guerrilla artists, and I find I definitely keep circling back to these sounds every now and again to discover new moves. I love to digitally crate-dig by using DSPs, Bandcamp, local shows, social media and different media outlets to find new gems. Right now I’ve been obsessing over pretty much ‘alt’ anything lol. Alt hip hop, alt indie rock, alt R&B (Ski Mask the Slump God, Dominic Fike, Souly Had). Afrobeat and amapiano (DJ Maphorisa, Kabza De Small) are finally getting their chance to shine, so of course I had to include some of my absolute favourites. Those picks [which can be heard in Playlist Picks and separately here] are deeply rooted in the time I had growing up in South Africa. Enjoy!
Music supervisors all have their trade secrets and sources for where they go to find and collect new music. I learned awhile back to guard against giving away too much IP with this sort of thing. I will say that the best way to access new artists and sounds is still through a good ol’ fashioned trusted recommendation from friends, family and others whom you respect greatly.
Case in point: my very dear friend and esteemed peer, Kristen Hosack [VP at Capitol Music Group, previously senior music supervisor at Saatchi & Saatchi], pulled me aside at SXSW earlier this year and said that I had to listen immediately to Lil Yachty’s new album, ‘Let’s Start Here’. As usual, Kristen was right - this is definitely a standout album from 2023 and a very cool change in creative direction for Lil Yachty, who embraces psych rock and classic rock as new influences on his otherworldly music. You could say it's heavily indebted to Pink Floyd - and you’d be right - and yet it still feels fresh, through Yachty’s subject material, lyrics and subtle production techniques that expand upon a genre of sound many of us think we know through and through.
I’m grateful to people like Kristen and the others in our community who share great music that they believe in, thereby turning us supervisors into believers as well.
At the moment, I am finding so much new music on TikTok. I don’t interact with the app, I don’t like, comment or follow. I’ve dared the algorithm to figure me out without giving it any clues, and it won! When it’s not trying to get me to pay attention to the Island Boys or PinkyDoll, some surprisingly great things have popped up.
The latest thing I’ve discovered is this artist CHELJI - not sure how to define her. She was affiliated with Lil Peep, so those vibes ring through, but it’s leaning more pop, with a touch of a ramshackle Libertines attitude. I, like half of the country, am obsessed with ‘Boy’s a Liar part 2’ by Pink Panthress and Ice Spice, literally every song that Mura Masa produces is gold, and Ice Spice is the future!
A really quality single, ‘My Year (This Is Going To Be)’, recently came out by 12 Rods, a band from back in the early 2000s. It’s got a bit of throwback indie vibes, sort of a cross between XTC and Sebadoh maybe? My current throwback gem is ‘Happy In Love’ by Wilbert Harrison - the music supervisor in me really wants to find a placement for this track.
As music supervisors, what we listen to is constantly changing and we’re often inspired by the projects we’re working on. Whether it’s favela funk, indigenous folk music or songs you’d rage out to at a club, we look high and low for new (and old) music for our advertising, film and TV clients, and also for our own listening pleasure - whether that’s hit singles, inspired cover versions, or the latest underground artist who is bound to be the next big thing.
We may be immersed in music 24/7, but when looking for something new, we highly suggest diversifying the way you search. On a daily basis, we’re looking at everything from live shows and music conferences, blogs, labels and publisher blasts, Spotify and Apple Music playlists and a whole lot of social media. And nothing beats word of mouth from someone whose ears you trust!
Here’s a (very!) small selection of what we’ve been enjoying so far this year! [Also featured on LBB’s Playlist Picks].
In the past I’ve been a bit of a radio junkie, particularly listening to Tom Ravenscroft on [BBC Radio] 6. I also got very into Cillian Murphy [who recently hosted a 10-part radio show on the BBC station] and [independent community radio station] WFMU during lockdown. [DJ] OK Williams plays some great music on NTS also. More recently, I’ve been listening to kid-friendly stuff during the earlier hours of the day, so we’ve been leafing through a book called ‘The Great Rock Discography’ by Martin C. Strong. It’s nice to mix up the music discovery process and not rely on algorithms all the time.
On the work side of things, we get sent some great material from our network of labels and publishers, and it’s important to listen in to other people’s tastes and see how audiences react to things - I really enjoy that. It’s something we nurture in the office too, with our agency playlist, ‘5 Trax’, it’s a great way to share new music and identify genre specialists to support on the work we do day-to-day.
‘Journey Among Worlds’ (AKA: ‘Tuur mang Welten’) is a track from Niklas Paschburg that I always find myself going back to listen to. Originally released in 2016, it’s a beautiful neo-classical song, centred around the piano and performed in a unique way. It’s a great example of how instruments can be played and manipulated in unconventional ways to create unique sounds and, in this case, define a piece of music.
In this instance, the artist places his hand over the strings of a piano to dampen the sound and with his other hand he plays the keys in a traditional way, but in a hard, percussive manner to achieve a distinctive plucking sound which he incorporates seamlessly into the song. I first heard this song when I was on holiday back in 2018. This version has since been re-recorded and released as part of their debut album, but there is something about the rawness of this version that I absolutely love.
I’ve recently been on a US tour playing drums with Remember Sports, so I’ve had a ton of time to listen to music - new and old - in the van. Here’s some of my fave albums from this trip: