Dan> Exactly. In order to remain competitive in this era of creative production, there is clearly a push to be fast, nimble, and flexible: able to turn on a dime so to speak. This has led many companies (including ours) to become smaller. Fewer staff employees and more modest (sometimes no) facilities. As SOUTH evolved in this direction, we made sure that we didn’t lose the essential aspects that would allow us to execute larger scale and more complicated projects. I believe we have an unrivalled blend of creativity and experience in our staff. While still a relatively small group, from top to bottom, our team consists of folks who have both created and produced cutting edge works and spent countless hours on shoots and in sessions. We are listeners but also leaders, and I think many of our clients can attest to that. Further, we have stubbornly kept a fully functional recording studio and creative space. While many emerging music houses have embraced the “fully remote” model, that was never really an option for us. We absolutely must have a creative home where our team and collaborators can come together to make their magic face-to-face.
LBB> What makes SOUTH Music able to provide this offering?
Dan> As I alluded to, our staff is pretty unique. Of course we have artists, writers, and composers who have been a part of countless records, albums, films, projects etc…that make them excellent at what they do creatively. But we also have people with deep experience as producers and engineers, both in studio and on location. And we maintain a facility that supports and enables them to excel at their craft. I think many newer music companies would feel comfortable farming some of the latter out as needed, which can definitely suffice. But if you want to have a deeper role in larger-scale projects, and we certainly do, these skills and assets have to be a part of your internal DNA - not just your rolodex.
LBB> Tell us a little bit about some of the campaigns you have worked on that used this 360 approach.
Dan> There are a variety of reasons to create music in the pre-production phase (ahead of the shoot). The most obvious is when actors are going to be tasked with performing along with a song or track. You really only get one shot at capturing these performances visually, and we ALWAYS want to be involved in making sure the agency, client, and talent have our support so everything ends up looking perfect!
Our most recent work for Call of Duty is perhaps our most exciting example of this level of involvement. The agency had us collaborating not just musically, but lyrically as well, weeks before the shoot. We were basically tasked with proving to the client (and ourselves) that this idea could work. And then of course the on-set coaching of talent during the shoot was absolutely essential (celebrities can be tricky). Finally a wide and involved musical exploratory in the post-phase and sound design arena were paramount to really elevate the project.
A few months earlier, we did a project for DoorDash with a lot of the same needs and challenges. Somewhat different was our role in casting. We wanted to maintain the option of combining pre-recorded vocalists with the real performances of the on-set actors, as we weren’t ready to decide how “produced” the final product should sound until well into the post-phase. So we spent the days leading up to the shoot sourcing actors as well as real life soccer fans to fill out our demo, aiming to have it sound like “the real deal” before the cameras ever rolled. In the end, we got exactly what we needed. While some of the featured voices are the on-set actors, a lot actually came from our pre-shoot recording. And if the actors hadn't had those recordings to perform to, it’s hard to imagine the final product would have looked and sounded as good as it does.
And then a couple of years ago we had the pleasure of producing probably our most unique example of this type of project: Gatorade Bars. Because the original idea was to perform a recognisable Kayne song by young amateur singers with food in their mouths, the “proof of concept phase” was a BIG deal. We spent days perfecting a demo, choosing the ideal talent and experimenting with how best to sing with food in their mouths without compromising the recognisability of the song. Once we did that, the battle was far from over. Next we had to fly to South Africa and be on set to coach the young athletes (many of whom had accents) to perform the track (mouths full) as good as our demo talent did, while they jumped, and danced, and stomped, etc… Oh and we also needed to be a part of recording these performances and to teach a high-school marching band to play our track and record that as well. The post phase here was also a beast, as we helped the editor stitch together the song, enhancing and sometimes totally re-recording whole sections of the track where needed. Again, this couldn’t have been done if we didn’t have the full faith of the agency and client from the very beginning.
Of course there have been other less obvious examples of this approach. One more that comes to mind was a recent Sherwin Williams project where the actor needed to dance to our track on set. This was a fun project as well, because we all landed on a particular track ahead of the shoot, and the actor did an amazing job performing to it. But then in the post phase, things creatively evolved and we ended up experimenting with some newer compositions, essentially 'ADR-ing' a dance track after the fact. Without the trust and partnership of the agency at the onset of this project, the final product would have been at risk of feeling disjointed and underwhelming. So we’re very glad that this team recognised our 360 approach was the way to go.