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Sync Opps in Cannabis; Kanye's Black Keys Moment; We The People vs Schoolhouse Rock
From The Sync Journal - Important News, Analysis and Trends in the Fast Changing Sync Licensing Industry
Sync Opportunities in the Cannabis Industry
You know what’s been making a lot of news lately? Weed! Marijuana. Cannabis. And I don’t mean just from the Olympics controversy.
As more and more states are legalizing the use of cannabis, that leads to the need for marketing which leads to possible sync opportunities.
As of now, this is still a very tricky area for a few reasons: First being, cannabis is still a Schedule 1 Controlled Substance so mass marketing efforts are severely restricted.
Secondly, two of the largest channels for digital marketing, Google and Facebook, don’t allow cannabis marketing at all.
Still, the industry is growing and marketers are finding creative ways to help new brands get their names out.
I’ve seen a couple agencies using programmatic ad tech to help brands find their audience. The ability to target digital ads to particular regions or focus on particular age groups (like those over 18) allow the marketing to comply with federal regulations.
There also seems to be opportunities in the many channels that deal with cannabis culture. I’m thinking of all the podcasts and youtube channels that focus on this space. They use music. They want to brand themselves with a sonic identity.
A number of sync professionals that I’ve spoken to are all optimistic that this could be a big play for syncs as it opens up. Many hope that just as we now have Big Tobacco and Big Alcohol (which include huge brands that make large investments in music for marketing), we may one day soon have Big Cannabis.
This also leads me to wonder what musical genre will be most in demand as this opens up. Is this a ripe opportunity for hip hop? And, will this give the genre the bump it needs to be more utilized in the ad space (Interestingly, hip hop is the number one genre in the world but incredibly under-utilized in the ad world).
It must be said that hip hop is the one genre who’s relationship with cannabis has been present almost since its origin and continues strongly to this day. Think about it. Who would be better brand ambassadors than Snoop Dogg or Wiz Khalifa?
In fact, I just saw that popular 90s rapper NORE recently partnered with cannabis company Cherry to promote his own custom strain. I suspect, as legalization expands and ultimately becomes federal, we’ll see more of this. The potential here is really exciting even to a non-consumer like me. I see lots of opportunities for creators in general but hip hop artists and producers in particular.
Will the Kanye West sound have its Black Keys moment?
Since even mentioning Kanye’s name these days causes controversy, let me start off by saying I’m a fan of the “old Kanye”. I don’t really recognize whoever this is performing songs in his name.
Still, I can’t deny his influence on culture and more specifically, in the world of sync licensing.
Kanye is a heavily licensed artists in general, but there is one song that has really become a template for cinematic hip hop: his 2013 single, Black Skinhead.
The first single from his Yeezus album, the song transformed movie trailers when it was used in the trailer for Wolf of Wall Street that same year.
One of the defining elements of this song is the triplet rhythm played on some bombastic sounding toms.
Now, 18 years later, you can find this triple rhythm repeated in quite a number of hip hop songs created for movie trailers and TV promos.
In fact, while companies are cautious not to ask for “sound-a -likes” these days, you will still see lots of briefs that include Black Skinhead as a reference.
This leads me to wonder whether the songs that fill theses briefs might one day encounter the same types of problems as those that referenced the Black Keys about a decade ago.
If you’ve been composing for sync for a while, you surely remember the Black Keys craze.
The group released their album Brothers in 2010 and, like Kanye, their sound would impact sync music in a major way. Their unique sound featured simplified bluesy rock arrangements with a uniquely colored distortion (on instruments and vocals) that seemed to work really great to picture.
Almost immediately, every brief was looking for sound references and sound-a-likes.
This sound soon flooded TV shows, commercials and movies.
Then everything changed in 2012 when The Black Keys issued a series of lawsuits. Between 2012 and 2013, they sued Home Depot, Pizza Hut and casino developer, Pinnacle Entertainment for commissioning sound-alikes of their music.
They also sued the production house that created the sound-a-like in question.
This caused a lot of companies to rethink the wording of the briefs that they sent out. Sound-a-likes became “sound references” and the messaging was clear: Don’t make songs that sound like “insert reference” - make music that’s influenced by “insert reference” (or that can be included in the same playlist).
Fast forward to the present day, and I sit here wondering if we’ve come sort of full circle.
There haven’t been any lawsuits as far as I know and, also, publishers are smarter about requesting references as opposed to sound-a-likes. But, in my opinion, the number of songs copying the tempo and syncopated rhythm of this one song is a risk that no one is talking about.
I should also say that a number of prominent publishers have pointed out a key difference between the Black Keys scenario and Kanye West’s: The Black Keys created a sound, an aesthetic that involved the distortion, the instrumentation and even the mix elements. The common theme for music influenced by Black Skinhead might just boil down to a drum pattern. And that pattern isn’t unique and can’t be attributed to any one artist.
This is a valid point so, hopefully, the legal risk here proves to be insignificant. Still, as a producer, I am personally staying away from anything that sounds like Black Skinhead. I think the sound has been overdone. And, there’s just so much more worth exploring in the area of cinematic hip hop.
If you’re got thoughts on this, hit reply and let me know.
We The People - Why it’s Not Today’s Schoolhouse Rock?
Did you hear all the buzz about We The People? Yes? No?
I asked this question in a few different forums and was surprised that some people, like myself, were very excited about it. While others had never even heard of it.
We the People is an animated television series that launched on Netflix on the Fourth of July of this year. It was created by Chris Nee (Doc McStuffins, Vampirina) and executive produced by Kenya Barris (black-ish, grown-ish) along with Barack and Michelle Obama.
It attempts to be a modern day Schoolhouse Rock and on paper the concept is really strong. Each 4 minute episode covers one citizenship-based topic like taxes, the Bill of Rights, or The First Amendment. The topics are delivered by feature artists including H.E.R., Cordae, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Brandi Carlisle and more.
Overall, the music and production are pretty strong in my opinion. So, how did it miss the mark? Why isn’t it the next Schoolhouse Rock?
Primarily because it came and went without much of a splash. One the one hand, it seems like a top notch production and everything a sync professional could ask for - original songs about worthwhile subjects sung by notable artists.
But here’s the issue. Schoolhouse Rock was on national television. It was pushed and promoted regularly. School kids had no choice but to see it cause it was attached to their favorite cartoons.
And this reveals the two sides of being a sync professional during these glorious Streaming Wars. On the one hand, more content is being created than ever before. It’s an awesome time to be a music creator - every genre, every niche is needed in abundance. It’s a very exciting space and time.
On the other hand, content still needs to be promoted and promotion takes time. But if there’s always new content on the way, then promotion windows get decreased for everyone. Add to that fact, promotion audiences are algorithmically determined so, many people may not even get exposed to new content when it becomes available.
And that significantly limits the possibilities of who gets to see our productions and hear our music.
So maybe there will never be another Schoolhouse Rock. As a creator, that’s concerning because the impact of that program has lasted multiple generations. Many of us become artists because we want to make such an impact - not to work tirelessly on something that will be discarded as soon as its released.
No solutions here for now. Just a sobering personal realization: it’s easier to create than ever before. It’s easier to get your music placed than ever before. But, it’s harder than ever to make an actual impact. And that problem is one that our creative minds should be focused on solving. That’s what I’ll be thinking about, a lot. I’ll let you know if I come up with any ideas. I’d love to hear any thoughts you have on this. Hit reply and let me know.