Without music, creativity would not be the same. Whether it’s a rhythm and cadence provided in the background, or the transcendent emotions music can push to the foreground, so much of our creative history is linked to music and its unique ability to communicate directly with our senses.
It’s that link which this interview series, supported by SoStereo and inspired by their What About the Music podcast, sets out to explore. Over the coming months, we’ll be speaking to high-profile industry figures about how music has influenced their relationship with their craft, and get their take on the process of marrying melody to creativity.
Up today is Rob Baird, founder and CCO at Preacher, an agency based in Austin, the self-proclaimed live music capital of the world.
LBB> What’s your earliest memory of interacting with music?
Rob> The first moment I can distinctly remember was being given a little clock radio as a second grader, plugging it in, and discovering ‘Another One Bites the Dust’ by Queen on heavy radio rotation. I'd tune in day and night and just wait for it. I didn't know exactly what the song meant, but I knew it was maybe a little wrong and I knew that I loved it. My mom later finding it to be an awful song only added to its allure, and also started a long and drawn out battle with my folks over my music and music video consumption.
LBB> What’s your favourite-ever example of music in an ad that you’ve been involved in and why?
Rob> I've been exceptionally lucky in my ad music experiences throughout my career. But I guess it would be tough to beat having the chance to work with the band Survivor and re-record their legendary motivational song ‘Eye of the Tiger’ for Starbucks Double Shot and an office worker hero named ‘Glen’. Ironically, Survivor wrote that track for ‘Rocky III’ at the request of Sylvester Stallone after Queen denied him permission to use ‘Another One Bites the Dust’.
LBB> And how about a project that you weren’t involved in, but love the music on. What is it and why?
Rob> I absolutely love the new Apple iPhone Spot ‘R.I.P. Leon’ featuring the track ‘Alive’ by Hanni El Khatib (a long-time favourite artist of mine that everyone should listen to). That song sets one the best moods since ‘Washed Out’ on the Portlandia opening titles, and I can't remember a spot so funny where the track actually triggers the joke playing out. It's just perfection.
LBB> What’s your process like – for you personally, and with your team/agency – to find and work with music?
Rob> Well, we're blessed to be in Austin, Texas, the self-proclaimed live music capital of the world and the home of ACL Fest and SXSW. Our head of hospitality culture also drum techs for Weezer and Spoon, we built a recording studio in our office, and have taken playlist ‘debates’ to an artform. All that to say, our process seems to be one of total and constant immersion, experimentation and obsession with music of all genres. We try to be brave in what might work for a given project, and folks from every department are encouraged to help find an unexpected direction.
LBB> If you had to pick one moment where music played a pivotal role in your career, what would it be?
Rob> Not just for me but for Preacher, I think a project we did for Squarespace with Leon Bridges felt pivotal in forming our dream way of working as a company. We were lucky enough to see Leon play a small club in Austin (C-Boys Heart & Soul) at the very start of his meteoric rise, and were floored. As we were working on a music vertical project for Squarespace, we were able to recommend Leon, then partner with our friend and legendary rock photographer Danny Clinch, and before you knew it the project blossomed into a spot on the Grammys, a 20-minute documentary, Squarespace templates and sites featuring both Leon and Danny, and some of the loveliest images we've been a part of. It felt like saying, ‘well why not?’ and humbly asking like-minded creators to come together exploded the project's potential, and we've applied that spirit to campaigns as often as we can.
LBB> Oftentimes we see that unless music IS the campaign, music is the last thing on a campaign's line-item or priority list. Why do you think that is? What might a solution look like to that issue, and how can it be given the priority it deserves?
Rob> That's a really interesting provocation. It's sadly often true. I think given the power music has to make work truly memorable it really should be prioritised and budgeted from the start more, versus being pushed and hustled for as a great bonus. If I quickly think about my favourite work of the last five years, most of them have an amazing music piece in them that's a huge part of the story or concept.
LBB> If you could give one piece of advice to production teams about how to handle music, what would it be and why?
Rob> Keep a really open mind. I so often find our amazing editors are genius at finding something a little left of what everyone thought might be. I'm also constantly awed by what original music companies are able to do under such crunched time, almost always at the end of a project. If you give them some freedom and trust to surprise you, they do.
LBB> Finally, what music are you listening to now?
Rob> I've been really nostalgic lately and revisiting albums whose cassettes I wore the text off of. I highly recommend playing New Order's ‘Ceremony’ and Run-DMC's ‘Raising Hell’ in their entirety. Oh, also Vince Guaraldi Trio's albums beyond ‘Charlie Brown’ make mornings pretty wonderful.