One of advertising’s top music supervisors has just made a big switch. Ryan Fitch, a top Music Producer for agency Saatchi & Saatchi for ten years, now joins music rights management concern BMG Chrysalis US as Director, Marketing, Film & TV/Advertising there.
Fitch witnessed major changes impacting advertising music supervisors while he was at Saatchi, a tenure that saw him integrate music into TV/radio/interactive campaigns for such brands as Procter & Gamble, JCPenney, General Mills and Cadbury. Saatchi, won the prestigious Cannes Award for Agency of the Year during his tenure, and he was recognized himself by The National Association of Record Industry Professionals as one of the “Top Music Ad Agency Executives.”
Along with his new title, Fitch is experiencing a 180-degree role reversal: no longer a gatekeeper, he’ll now be the primary pitchman in BMG’s efforts to secure synch placements in the advertising world. If you think he’s daunted by the prospect, however, think again – as he explains it, this may be the perfect time for a sharp music supervisor to build new bridges between advertising, publishing catalogs, brands and bands.
Ryan, you were at Saatchi & Saatchi for ten years and depart as one of their top music producers. Why make a change now?
I had been at Saatchi long enough to see a lot of changes. Changes with the craft of how music was being made. Changes with how people discover music. Changes with advertising creative trends. But the biggest change in my tenure was seeing how advertising agencies like Saatchi had to adapt to a digital marketing landscape.
The traditional models of broadcast television and print ads for magazines and newspapers continue to shrink as more and more people turn to the internet for everything they do. A lot of the big agencies are struggling to stay relevant and new boutique digital agencies are popping up every day. After being at Saatchi for ten years, and seeing where the industry was heading, it felt like the right time to take everything I learned about the music advertising synch process and apply it from another angle.
And how would you characterize the evolution of the ad agency music producer/music supervisor position in the time that you were there?
It has evolved immensely while I was there. At the beginning there were a lot of live recording sessions going on at studios like The Hit Factory and Right Track. Now most of the big studios have closed and music houses today rarely have agency people over to work on a project together.
I also started when the commercials you were working on were viewed on ¾” tape, and if you needed to overnight something there was a cutoff time to when FedEx would ship it. Now everything is digital and immediate. You can email somebody on the opposite side of the globe a Quicktime and they can email you back a bunch of music ideas sometimes within an hour.
It also has been interesting to watch how synching music has changed. When I started, it would only come up if there was an iconic song you wanted to license and you knew you had a big enough budget to help entice the artist to “sell out” and be connected with the ad. Now very few artists look at it as “selling out” and most artists hope to be synched in a commercial.
You probably had a lot of choices as to where to go next, after the ad world. What about the organization made you decide to join BMG-Chrysalis?
I’ve been fascinated with BMG for awhile. They have a long history of being in the music industry and they realized that the traditional record label was broken, so in 2004 they sold a lot of their recording assets. In 2008 they founded BMG Rights Management with a clear philosophy: it was not to be either a traditional music publisher or a record company. It was to be something else entirely – a rights management business.
They are one of the most forward thinking and innovative music companies out there today. There is an energy and passion in the company which is rooted in music, but born in the digital age. I feel very lucky to be a part of their team, and I’m looking forward to helping them continue to be successful.
Tell us specifically about the BMG catalog – what makes it attractive for you to work with?
The depth and the diversity of BMG’s million-plus song catalog is incredible. Everything from iconic legacy artists like Quincy Jones, The Rolling Stones, Aerosmith, Johnny Cash… to some of today’s top pop music artists like Bruno Mars, Black Eyed Peas, Back Street Boys (their new album will be released on the BMG label 7.30.13)… to some of the biggest indie buzz bands like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The National, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club… to really cool up & coming indie bands that we control both master and publishing for like The Features, Matt Pond, the new Fratellis album (which will be coming out soon but we’re already pitching)… and lots and lots in between.
Since we have offices in 8 countries there is also a lot of great music from all over the world that is part of our catalog. I just recently learned about the artist Macaco who is blowing up in Spain right now and has the most infectious, ear-grabbing sound. His songs are usually sung using English and Spanish, and there’s been a few song search requests from agencies where it seemed like his music would be a great fit!
Having a deep international catalog is also great for agencies who are signatories to the union and who are concerned with paying SAG talent fees for anything that was recorded inside the US.
I could go on and on about all the great music in the catalog. We joke at work that you’ll regularly have these “wow” moments where you realize we have something. Like learning that we have a few songs on the new Daft Punk album and on the new Yeezus album. Or sometimes it can be a guilty pleasure… like for me, realizing that we have Rush’s ‘YYZ’ which I must have played drums to a million times when I was growing up.
In your post, are you also responsible for seeking out artists qualified to join the BMG Chrysalis catalog?
We have a great A&R team who focus on scouting new artists. If something grabs my ear that I think they should be aware of I’ll let them know, but anything that gets signed goes through them.
You’ll be reporting to Dan Rosenbaum, Vice President of Marketing & Licensing, Film & TV. What kind of teamwork do you envision between you and Dan, the rest of your colleagues in LA and internationally?
Dan was one of the first people I met when I started at Saatchi so I’ve known him as long as I’ve been working in the ad-music industry. He’s a great guy and one of the best license negotiators around. I feel extremely lucky to be able to work with him at this point of my career.
So Dan and I are in the New York office. Wendy Griffiths is the head of our TV & Film department and based in LA. She is a great department head and she has assembled an amazing team. Alex Flores in our LA office is also helping us connect and pitch to agencies in LA. Alex has been a movie music supervisor for many years and I am really impressed with her music tastes and her knack for finding songs for film. I’ve been having a blast brainstorming with her when song search briefs come in.
We also have offices in eight core music markets around the world including offices in the UK, Berlin, Spain, and Ireland. It’s an immersive network and it very much feels like one big team. I’ve worked with other labels and publishing companies when I was at Saatchi, and it always seemed like we were stuck in a US bubble. It’s great to be working with a global network that can help out wherever is needed.
As Director of Marketing, Film & TV/Advertising at BMG Chrysalis US, you will be “spearheading all pitching and outreach efforts to the advertising community and will secure synch placements for BMG’s catalog.” How will you approach going from being the one who is pitched to, to the one who is doing the pitching?
After being in the position where everybody was pitching to me, I was able to see what works and what doesn’t. I was able to see how people organize their song suggestions, how they present it, and what little tricks help get songs listened to and noticed. Not everybody does a good job.
I also understand what the agency music supervisor is going through dealing with budget limitations, deadline pressure, fussy creative teams, and also understanding the sensibility of the brand and their target market. It can be some intense search criteria and expectations, almost like trying to find a needle in a haystack sometimes, but I’m used to it.
Luckily, BMG’s song catalog covers the full music spectrum so I know there’s always a song solution. I just need to find it and pitch it.
What makes this an especially challenging time for both music supervisors and rights holders, when it comes to synch licensing?
There’s more music in the world than ever before and it can be hard for great music to cut through the clutter and get noticed. If you’re at an agency, and send out a song request brief, there’s literally hundreds of labels, publishers, indie shops, music sups, and music nerds standing by you can send it to, and within a few hours have hundreds of song suggestions back.
Not to mention, most agency creative teams feel that music is super accessible today. The teams want music options quick and they want a lot of them. They’ll even go on Spotify, Hype Machine, or iTunes themselves and try to find songs. Unfortunately, at the end of the day, only one song gets licensed so there’s an extreme amount of competition out there you have to get through.
Finally, on the flip side, what are the expanded synch-related opportunities out there for everybody now – artists, catalogs, content producers and brands?
Artists and brands are more into working together than ever before. I’ve recently been seeing brands who haven’t had much history licensing get excited about looking into synching songs. You also see artists actively look to partner with brands to reach a deeper fanbase through consumers. It can really be a win-win for everybody involved when you can reach a larger audience and give the marketing campaign more legs to stand on.
Agencies are also being proactive with partnering with artists and exploring new media. They are actively trying to develop new ways to get people’s attention as more people move away from traditional media. It’s definitely an exciting time to be the bridge between both sides. I’m having a blast working at BMG and helping them navigate the advertising world.
You can locate Ryan Fitch via twitter at @ryanfitch_ny, or email him at [email protected].
— David Weiss is Co-Founder/Co-Editor of SonicScoop, and co-author of “Music Supervision: Selecting Music for Movies, TV, Games & New Media.”