What are your recent sync licensing successes?
There’s a commercial on the air right now for Android and it’s the cutest (I’m an animal lover, I have 3 dogs and a cat) It’s a branding commercial which means it’s not really selling anything, and it’s a 60 second spot featuring animals hanging out with each other that don’t usually hang out with each other. So it’s a dog and a monkey playing, it’s an elephant and a cow. And that features a Roger Miller song called ‘Oo-De-Lally’ from Robin Hood, an animated movie from 1973 and that’s a placement that I’m very very proud of.
This summer we licensed ‘Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo’ from Cinderella to a Gatorade commercial featuring multiple stars from the World Cup. As a big football/soccer fan I was very proud of that. We have an eBay commercial on the air right now featuring ‘Come & Get It’ by Selena Gomez. We also have a Netflix commercial on the air right now featuring ‘Dracula’ by Bea Miller.
I’m looking at my board here – we also own half of the copyright to a song called ‘Dangerous’ by Big Data, we’ve had a Hyundai commercial on the air and we’re about to launch (I can’t say the brand) but it’s a big communications company commercial that’ll start in a couple of weeks. We also have a roster of about 16 writer/producers and they’ve started doing some custom work, and we have a car commercial (again I can’t say the brand) that’s about to start that was a custom piece that they did. We also own the copyright and master to ‘Good Thing’ by Fine Young Cannibals which was written for the movie Tin Men. That’s currently being used by Tesco in the UK.
In Japan I’ve got ‘You’ve Got a Friend In Me’ being used by Honda – that’s currently on the air and that’s a localized version. For a lot of our big movies we localize the big songs for the various territories, for instance ‘Let It Go’ we have 42 different versions! But often times, depending on the territory and especially when it comes to commercials, they want to create their own version which we do allow. In fact last year we allowed UK grocery store chain Morrissons to re-record ‘Be Our Guest’ and change the lyrics to fit their brand, which was a first for us.
What steps do you take to protect the Disney Music Group catalogue?
I can only speak from a licensing perspective, although I work for the Disney Music Group so we’re always worrying about songs leaking before their official release date. But frankly I’m not as much in the conversation about people downloading illegally.
When I talk about protecting – if there’s a brand, especially with commercials outside the US you get a request to use a song from a brand that frankly you haven’t heard of because it’s unique to a territory and so you have to do research. My easy way to do research is ‘whatever the brand name’ is then comma ‘scandal’ to see nothing’s gone wrong with that company. As I said the brand is so special and you don’t want it to appear that we’re attaching our brand to something that is in any way controversial.
Have you noticed any trends in the sync and licensing industry?
I would say before the only thing licensing people focused on was film, TV and commercials but now there are so many kinds of uses, be it from apps that are various video games to consumer products. Music is a great way to enhance everything, be it a picture, a consumer product, an app. I would ask anyone listening to pay attention to your day and how you consume media or just in everything. You will see how music is such a big part of it, so that has helped grow the various revenue streams for music licensing. It’s a growing business for us and I think all music companies.
As the landscape for music retail has shifted with streaming services becoming more popular and sales decreasing, have you found that licensing revenue has made a big impact on Disney Music Group’s bottom line?
Yes it has. I will say this and it’s stating the obvious, when you license a song, for example a classic like the ‘Oo-De-Lally’ Android spot I mentioned which has almost 12 million views on YouTube, you’re re-introducing that brand to folks that may not know what it is. Certainly on the frontline artists it helps generate streaming, downloads, and exposure for your artist. So it serves two purposes; it is a revenue generator, but also in the case of classics it generates awareness. You’d be surprised you know, for example the music from Beauty and the Beast, there’s a lot of millennials that haven’t seen that movie, it was released before they were born. So when you do license that music you’re bringing it to a new audience
What’s your absolute favourite Disney soundtrack?
I do love The Jungle Book, and I do love the Daft Punk score to Tron. I’m lucky and honoured to work at The Walt Disney Company and there’s so many soundtracks that are part of people’s lives. As I said I’m honoured to work with these iconic songs.
They’re just so firmly placed in global culture, it really is something special. So Joel the CEO of Synchtank asks what it’s like working on a Disney studio lot – does it provide a lot of collaboration, do you see a lot of stars, and have you ever done any extra work.
Yes I have seen stars. What’s it like working on a lot? I love it – sometimes you take it for granted and then you go visit some of your colleagues that work in other music companies and you realise “oh, ours is very different!” And have I worked as an extra? Yes! Not while working for The Walt Disney Company. If you don’t blink through the movie Reality Bites you can actually see me in a scene in that.
How have your licensing philosophies changed from say your catalogue pre Frozen vs. post Frozen?
That’s a great question because I would say about 3 or 4 years ago, especially when it came to the classics, we were not known as a company that would license those classics and frankly I fought hard to change that. Everyone was worried that through licensing our classic songs we’d do damage to the brand, and that’s a very valid concern. So what we started to do was to pick a market, and we picked Europe (UK especially) and we dabbled there to see what happened. We were very successful and no damage was done to the brand, and as I mentioned earlier we were re-introducing these classics to a new audience and also generating revenue for The Walt Disney Company.
So we took that philosophy and we introduced it to other territories around the world. We’ve been very successful with Asia. And as I said we’re starting to see some success in the US and we hope to grow that business. With regards to Frozen what is a little different with how we handle licensing with that, especially ex US initially, is we started allowing those songs to be used in commercials in various territories around the world while the movie was still in the front and centre of everyone’s conscience.
So we did several commercials in Asia, several in Europe. We did this great spot with Lipton. Lipton Ice Tea have these two guys that create these online videos and we licensed ‘For The First Time in Forever’ and it’s just the two Lipton guys in the car singing the song which mirrored many of the videos that appear online. The numbers they’ve given me of people that have covered songs from Frozen online is I think 200,000 different videos which is incredible.
Do you have anything in the works for Christmas this year?
Yes but I can’t divulge. Anyone in our business knows that you’re dealing with Christmas songs often times in the middle of June which is weird that you’re listening to Christmas songs in the office. But yeah you’re constantly working campaigns 12 months ahead. So I’m not being coy but you can’t divulge because number one you don’t know if it’s going to go on air, number two especially with commercials these are all very private; one brand doesn’t want the other brand to know what they’re doing and so forth.
What’s your advice for reaching music supervisors?
As I said earlier be nice, but also you’ve got to remember people’s names, you’ve got to remember what sports team they follow, you’ve got to remember if they love cats or dogs.
You’ve actually got to build a relationship
Yeah, I mean don’t be fake about it – you know don’t show up wearing a Pittsburgh Steelers hat! Just as in any line of business or in life I try to pay attention to people.
Thank you so much for spending your time speaking to us, it was really valuable