Music As Identity

Today's extract from HIT BRANDS describes the ongoing process of managing the identity of the brand in sound across time, territory and touchpoint.

Throughout the history of humanity, people have been using music to identify ideas and beliefs, tribes, teams and nations. Music is a natural phenomenon; a unifying love and lan­guage with deeper and more emotional meaning than any other, so it must come as no surprise that whenever and wherever a brand seeks to identify itself, music should be at the centre of that identity.

This chapter is not the only place to learn about how music forms a part of a brand's identity. It is not the only section of this book that deals with the subject because, semantically, everything a brand ever does with music contributes in some way to its identity. But to make things clear, this section deals in the first instance with the corporate identity of a brand and examines how music lines up alongside col­ours, shapes, typography and iconography within a brand's register of assets.

Corporate Identity

By way of introduction, it is worth laying out what corporate iden­tity really is, what it does and why it is important. Sam Sampson, the branding guru, described corporate identity to me as the first stage of any relationship between a corporation and the consumer. He under­stood that the core components of an identity are the things the con­sumer can see or hear, and that the written or spoken name of a brand is the most important element of the corporate identity.

Naming has always been critical to defining a brand. In fact, the New Oxford English Dictionary defines a brand as 'a type of prod­uct manufactured by a particular company under a particular name'. This rather dry definition of a brand highlights the importance of names and it is fairly clear to see that without one, no brand has an identity. When we are considering music as forming a part of a brand's identity, therefore, we have to consider how and where the brand name fits with the music.

Taking a logical step forward, it's fair to say that any name exists not simply as a metaphysical entity but as a real word that can be written or spoken. The written word has always been the dominant form of corporate identity and, as printing and design have pro­gressed through the years, the visual styles within which the words have been written have become ever more complex and emotionally nuanced., which boldly makes the claim to host the world's largest collection of fonts, has well over 100,000 typefaces freely available. Each of these has a subtle but discernable difference that may be used to convey a distinct emotional driver of a brand when viewed in print or on screen. There are 2058 different colours defined in the Pantone Goe System. Pantone developed their original system of standardized col­ours to facilitate the printing industry's desire for consistent reproduc­tion, and today Pantone sets the global standard. We live in a colourful world and I struggle to think of any brand that is solely black and white but even if you can, there are 34 whites and over 70 different blacks from which to choose.

So, here's an amazing equation. For even the simplest brand to express itself visually through printing its single colour font, on a single colour background, there are 423,536,400,000 possible combi­nations. That is a staggering number of options, so it is no wonder that most people these days go for a simple sans serif, if only to nar­row the choices to something like a manageable number. With too many choices we become paralyzed, which is perhaps why so many brands choose to copy others rather than stand out from the crowd. Helvetica, anyone?

A mark of distinction

If the number of choices within corporate identity have exploded, it is also fair to say that the sheer number of entities seeking an identity has also gone through the roof and into the stratosphere. While the proliferation of brands has been a hot topic since I started in adver­tising 20 years ago, the truth is that we didn't know how fortunate we were to be in a world where new brands launched every month. Today they launch every hour, in their hundreds, via digital market­ places and 'app stores' where corporate identity real estate is a small icon, a name, some meta-data and, most critically, user reviews. Very few of these new offerings gain any major recognition and in many respects the app market is a direct descendent of the music industry. There are lots of contenders, very few hits and while every app - just as every artist - has an identity, very few of them could go on to be called brands.

So what is a brand and how does 'being a brand' differ from sim­ply 'having an identity'? This is a topic on which libraries of books have been written, so here is a little synthesis and synopsis. Brandsare our emotional responses to the products and services that we are offered and consume. A subtle point here is often lost on the more arrogant executives; the brand's value is ours, as customers and stakeholders. We decide how we feel and despite the whistle­ blower Martin Lindstrom claiming we are all being emotionally 'manipulated; it is more a case of the adage that the 'truth will out'. Companies can project their identities onto the world but only their customers can decide what the brand really means to them, how they will react to it and how loyal they want to be.

In this context, a brand's identity is really a small part of the brand as a whole. It is an important part, nonetheless, acting as a signpost to where we can find the brands we love. The identity has the same functional needs as any traditional signpost. It must be clear and point only in one direction. But in our age, when we exist in so many physical and digital dimensions that we can no longer be certain of which way is up or down, just writing the name of a place on a white arrow is no longer enough to differentiate an identity and help us navigate to our chosen brands.

Today signposts use color-coding, symbols (as currently being understood through the practice of 'semiotics') and sounds. Each of these works together to create today's multi-dimensional, multi­ sensorial corporate identities. That those identities have taken on third and fourth dimensions is a common-sense response to hav­ing access to the rich media environments afforded by technol­ogy today. The downside is that an identity 'arms race' has been created, where every brand is seeking to add more and more dimen­sions to their identity and consequently the cognitive load upon the consumer is increasing massively. Fortunately, our brains seem well set up to process multi-sensory messages and there is plenty of research that tells us that bi-modal visual-auditory sensory experiences in particular are processed very efficiently by two of my favorite parts of the brain - the superior temporal gyrus and intraparietal sulcus.

It's not brain surgery

Anyone who thinks that neuroscience has anything to teach us about how music can create a 'hit' brand identity needs his or her head examined. I've read the books and conducted experiments using brain imaging during listening, but I'm yet to find out any­ thing useful when it comes to creating hit musical identities. What I know about creating hits is what I have learned from experience, which is why Eric, Richard and I have made a conscious decision to focus on case studies of work with which we have been personally involved.

In this section, we have two contrasting cases - NESCAFÉ and Barclaycard - both brands with which I have been deeply and per­sonally involved for some years. The reason these brands have taken up years of my life rather than the few weeks it might take to create a mnemonic or jingle is simple. A 'hit' brand identity in music is not a one-off project. It is an ongoing process of managing the identity of the brand in sound, across time, territory and touchpoint. It encom­passes not just the design of musical 'signposts' but the soundtracks to TV commercials, video content, physical devices, apps and any other digital media where sound is enabled and the brand has a presence.

So while this section starts in corporate identity, the reality of music as identity is that it relies heavily on a brand's communications- ads and content - to become real, to live and breathe and ultimately to be a 'hit'. So let's be under no illusion, it is the ad agencies that still control the method of creating brand hits. They are trusted with the most critical creative processes that put music into a customer's ears via the media, without whose support musical identities cannot exist. This is why it is such a shame that ad agencies are the last major busi­ness area to embrace the music planning approach, the final piece in the jigsaw to support a strategic use of music and the development of musical assets for a brand.

I'll know it when I hear it

The worst excesses of the ad industry, the deepest seated issues they have in their lack of process or governance, the basest of their instincts and the greatest of their strengths are summed up in this simple phrase. 'I'll know it when I hear it' has become the greatest cliche of the music-brand relationship with regard to advertising music. Ad agencies have used this truth - we'll all know it when we hear it - to avoid having to engage with the concept of music plan­ning, which is usually deemed to be creatively inhibiting.

Consequently, the last ten years of growth in sonic branding have mainly taken place outside the ad agency, in independent businesses, servicing the brand directly. While this was a shame for the early mover music planning agencies - ad agency support could have really accelerated the growth of ideas - it is now becoming appar­ent that things are getting better. There is a new cordiality between ad agencies and those with music identity processes, as music has ceased to be a universal joy in the ad process and has become expen­sive, in terms of both money and time, in relation to other produc­tion elements.

More important to this new, peaceful relationship is the advent of musical identities and strategies that are in line with the core associ­ ations of building value into brand assets, at the same time showing sympathy to the difficulties of the communications process. Given how mired the advertising process has become in the complexities of the consumer and media landscape, it is still a minor miracle any ad ever sees the light of day. The reliance upon testing and research has arguably gone too far with many major advertisers (arguably not far enough with others) and the difficulty for a creative team to con­ jure a new line or a new positioning is now greater than it has ever been. It is natural then that any process (such as sonic branding) that removes one level of complexity and delivers the framework for high levels of creativity should begin to be embraced.

What is a hit identity?

The successful signpost is clear and points in one direction. So it is with musical identity. The listener should recognize what they hear, and understand the brand to which the identity refers. All great sonic branding ticks these two boxes and can be measured through two simple questions to listeners: do you recognize this sound? And can you tell us the brand with which it is associated? Hit identities can and should be measured and valued through these foundational research questions. Think of any jingle or mnemonic and it will score really well with these questions. For a long time in the history of advertising, good recall and a link to the brand were the only measures that mattered - in fact they drove a lot of behaviours that resulted in the overwhelming popularity of the jingle as an advertising trick of the trade. But recall and association, though fundamental, are not the only measures of a hit musical iden­tity. They are simply functional benefits of having a well-designed 'ear­ worm' (from the German Ohrwurm) and being able to afford or having access to enough listener impacts to embed the worm in the ear.

The next level of judging a hit has to be aesthetic and emotional. The measure of the emotional impact of the musical identity can best be summed up through the research questions: 'Do you like this music?' and 'What does it make you feel?'

If the answer is that the music is liked and that the feelings are in line with the objectives of the brand, then we start to have some­ thing really special - a musical identity that is no longer a signpost, simply pointing at a destination, but is now also a symbol for some of the ideas of the brand. This is much more powerful, as a system of symbols can be used flexibly and can be taken out of context while retaining meaning. Most importantly, musical symbols, just like their graphic equivalent, work perfectly well without syntax. This makesa musical symbol capable of meaning the same thing across the globe, whereas the jingle or sung copy does not travel nearly as well.

When designing the musical identity for brands, I start with the aim of creating a set of musical symbols that are clear, recog­nizable, have the ability to be inextricably linked to the brand and share the brand's emotional context. This is not a simple task and it is not always understood at the beginning of a process how this varies from developing a functional mnemonic or simply finding a good piece of music for an ad. Given that you're reading this far, you may be interested to understand the difference, so I shall explain a little.

Mnemonics are easy

Musical mnemonics, of the kind asked for by clients and (in mod­ern times) reluctantly delivered by ad agencies, are empty vessels. They shout 'Remember me!' at the listener but do not, intrinsically, have anything worth remembering. As far as briefs go for the musi­cal identity, 'write me a mnemonic' is entry level - it just about gets you a ticket but don't expect to see the show from way back there in the bleachers.

A mnemonic - a device designed to aid memory - in the context of music usually manifests in one of three ways: a jingle, a sung ad copy or a sting. For the avoidance of doubt, a jingle rhymes, sung ad copy doesn't and a sting has no copy at all. An arch example of a rhyming jingle would be 'For Mash Get Smash' from the UK in the 1970s. Of the hundreds of examples of sung-cop y mnemonics, I’d cite Tm Loving It' from McDonald's and, finally, Intel Inside is the classic sting. Creating any of these devices is not terribly hard. Being memorable is something that music just 'does' without too much effort. The only real consideration, assuming that the creative has the correct 'craft' as songwriter or composer, is the difficulty in getting a brand's many stakeholders to sign off and agree on the ideal mnemonic. Of course, I am totally in favor of a brand's music or sound being memorable. It's just that I, along with other right­ minded thinkers in music planning, believe that the music should do more - that memorability is not the sole aim and purpose.

The future for mnemonics is already here and it is audible in sounds such as the iPhone 'swoosh' that signals an email being sent. You can also read about it in the Barclaycard case study in this book. The next-generation mnemonics work across touchpoints and their main purpose is to signify some kind of function or meaning. In the case of the 'swoosh' it is a successfully sent email; in the case of Barclaycard, a successful payment. Memorability is something inher­ent in the sounds but it is a secondary concern to the sounds being linked to things that happen in 'the real or digital worlds. When a sound has utility, it is more easily accepted by the listener - being useful is always a good thing. If a brand can own the sound of a func­tion (as Apple does with a sent email) they may have a serious hit on their hands. Only a few brands are trying to achieve this but inno­vation has a long nose and we can see it coming!

Music is easy!

Finding the perfect soundtrack for an ad, or any other singular expression of a brand, is easy - comparatively easy, of course, but the numbers stack up. There are tens of millions of songs available, they're all searchable by lyrics and genres via web platforms, and picking one that will appeal to the majority of stakeholders is not that difficult when compared to what's really hard. So why do com­munications agencies make such a song and dance about it? Why is music so often a pain point rather than a pure pleasure? Part of the answer is cultural. Agencies view music as relating to a single communication instead of being a part of the brand identity. This is because most brands have not taught their agencies that the develop­ment of identity and assets is of paramount importance. If they did, then music would not be leased and returned on an endless cycle but would be commissioned and owned.

Ownership of music is an intrinsic element of building a music identity. You cannot lease or borrow your own corporate identity, which means either brands must start with a clean sheet and com­ mission new compositions and acquire all rights, or they must find pieces of music that are 'ownable'. This is what Nokia did when it created the Nokia tune and then through repeated use of time, ter­ritory and touchpoint it built the case for 'owning' the piece through a musical trademark. Nokia stands as one of the few brands in the world to have understood how to develop a musical identity and it continues to lead the industry on consistency and identity manage­ment. Its case study is well placed within the music as identity section of this book (see Chapter 4). Even though Nokia has made great efforts through the years to establish music as a part of its brand experience and as currency, its only true hit has been the Nokia tune. But was it an intentional hit or a happy accident?

Hit brand identities are hard

We are writing this book for people who want to create hits and this section is for those who want hit brand identities. It makes sense, therefore, to include as a case study the biggest hit with which we have been involved. Over 24 months and with enormous input from our client, CORD Worldwide has developed and launched the musi­cal identity for NESCAFE. The work has, at the time of writing, launched in more than 30 countries and is well on its way to achiev­ing its aim: to make the NESCAFE musical identity the most famous five notes on the planet. That I have personally overseen this work is a matter of pride. That it is successful is down to the team and the method of execution, and I need to be clear and say that noth­ing about the process was easy. It involves the use of functional and aesthetic sounds and is deeply rooted in the heritage of the brand. It is rapidly developing as an archetype of next-generation music plan­ning, with central ownership and development of assets, together with de-centralized ownership of communications and nuance. We hope that in reading this case study you may be inspired to create your own hit identity to rival NESCAFÉ's.

Daniel M Jackson - CEO, CORD

with Eric Sheinkop and Richard Jankovich

Rough on Rats

HIT BRANDS is the second in a series of books about the relationship between music and brands. In today's chapter we examine the evolution of this partnership, tracing back to the first published commercial jingle in 1882.

Music is bigger than itself

The history of music and brands is best described as a palimpsest. The relationships have been written and rewritten many times but the roots are still visible and still inform the present.

In the present field of music and branding, which is extremely vibrant, there are people striving to be the first to launch a new and innovative idea. Whether it is being the first brand to own their own recording studio (Converse's Rubber Tracks in Brooklyn) or the first brand to embed their sonic logo into a pop song (Coca-Cola and K'naan's 'Wavin' Flag'), our peers and colleagues are always clamour­ing to adopt new technologies and new paradigms for music-brand partnerships. Every week, technology offers new opportunities for music branding through apps, devices, social networks and traditional for­ mats such as broadcasting, film and events. And when we talk about music branding we are specifically talking about brands using music as a tool in their marketing and communications, whether they are trying to engage with their consumers via free content or to reinforce their brand identity. This idea feels very contemporary but it bears noting that the concept of music branding has its origins long ago.

In fact, if we look at instances where music acts as a vessel for messaging (as it does in, say, commercial jingles) we can look all the way back to Gregorian chant. In 600 AD, Pope Gregory collected and codified all the Catholic chants. The citizens of 600 AD did not sit around and rock out to Gregorian chant on their headphones, rather this music acted as the conduit by which the Church could trans­mit dogma to its audience. Therefore, Gregorian chant, commonly thought to be the oldest recorded Western music, is also the earliest example we have of music that has messaging embedded within it. People learned these chants and it helped them retain the teachings of the Church while aiding in the spreading of their beliefs.

As the world progresses, we see music adopt many different pur­poses greater than itself. National anthems become the standard method for countries to drum up patriotism, particularly during times of war or global events such as the Olympic Games. Religious hymns, like Gregorian chant, continue to help the world's religions spread their teaching and beliefs. Lullabies become a vital tool in par­enting, with just one single purpose: putting children to sleep. Folk music becomes the easiest way for societies to transmit their stories and folklore down to the younger generations. Music has always been there - pushing our societies forward, providing a soundtrack to our belief systems and the evolution of our cultures.

The birth of jingles

A quick definition: the word 'jingle' has come to mean lots of differ­ent things but ultimately is as simple as 'sung copy'. Strictly speaking, it should rhyme but in reality, it does not have to. It started off refer­ring to a rhyme, then to one that was sung, and it has now become a generic term for any lyrical musical expression by a brand in adver­tising. But let's go back to where it all began.

In the 1500s and 1600s, the crowded London streets were filled with bustling shops and street yellers. These men and women would stand on the streets and sing short musical quips about the prod­ucts that were for sale in their shops. These savvy marketers were using music branding tools before we even had brands! Some of these jingles survive as children's nursery rhymes even today. Many of us remember 'Hot Cross Buns'. originally a street yeller jingle, and while we may not know exactly what a hot cross bun is, we do know that they are 'one a penny, two a penny'. These street yeller jingles were revolutionary and laid the groundwork for classics like 'I Wish I Were An Oscar Meyer Weiner' or 'Plop Fizz Fizz'.

In 1882, a rat poison company released what just might be the first published commercial jingle. 'Rough On Rats; containing the mem­orable pop hook 'We give a plan for every man to clear his house', was published as sheet music and was distributed in order that people could sing along on their home piano. Remember, this was a time in American history when every home had a piano instead of a stereo and people bought sheet music to be able to hear the new hits. It is amusing to imagine a roomful of family members listening to this jingle being performed in their living room.

For the first recorded jingle we turn to 'Have You Tried Wheaties?' from 1926. General Mills was close to pulling the poorly perform-ing Wheaties cereal off the shelves, but a savvy marketing manager in Minneapolis commissioned this jingle to fill radio airtime rather than a typical voice-over spot. By the end of the year, they evaluated their sales and found that of the 53,000 cases sold in the US, 30,000 of them were bought in Minneapolis, the only market where the jingle had aired. This offered irrefutable proof that the jingle was an effective marketing tool and started a trend in advertising that still exists today.

In 1944, one commercial jingle leaps from the advertising medium to become a hit song. Chiquita Bananas 'Chiquita Banana Song' transcended the commercial from whence it came and became a fixture on American radio. At one point, the memorable jingle ('Bananas Taste The Best And Are Best For You') was aired 376 times a day on the radio. It's around this time that the golden era of jingles in the US takes off and brings us such classic lyrics as 'Hamm's the Beer Refreshing', 'Nobody Doesn't Like Sarah Lee' and 'Rice-A-Roni , The San Francisco Treat!'

In 1971, the most impactful and lasting commercial jingle hit the airwaves - Coca-Colas 'I Want To Buy The World A Coke; of course - and this became a worldwide phenomenon. This jingle was so meaningful to Coke's consumers that people began calling radio stations and requesting it. That is an advertiser's dream scenario: free airtime for your jingle. At one point, in the Billboard Top Ten, there were two different versions of the song charting at the same time. The world has seen many jingles since but none as powerful and transcendent as this one, and soon the advertising industry began shifting away from original jingles and toward licensing existing songs in their ads.

Appropriating music in advertising

As already uncovered in 2003 by Daniel M. Jackson's Sonic Branding: An Introduction, in 1905 the songwriting team of Gus Edwards and Vincent P. Bryan wrote a song called 'My Merry Oldsmobile' which became a big hit for sheet music and popular artists. The song had the then somewhat risqué line: 'You can go as far as you like with me in my merry Oldsmobile: By 1908, Oldsmobile began using the song in its marketing as an anthem and in 1927, the Jean Goldkette Orchestra was invited by General Motors to make an updated record­ing of the song. What makes this interesting is that it starts a trend of agencies licensing existing songs for their clients.

Through the l960s, 70s and 80s we see this start to take off, albeit almost always with very popular songs - think Sunkist's 'Good Vibrations' (in the US) or Levi's 'Heard it Through the Grapevine' (in the UK) - but a major milestone occurred in 1999 when Moby released his seminal album 'Play'. Now that may not seem innova­tive or original upon first glance but it represents a dramatic change in the way brands and the music industry work together. On top of being the top-selling electronica album of all time (10 million cop­ies), 'Play' was unique in that all 18 of the album 's songs were licensed to appear in either a commercial, television show, film or video game, many of them even before the album was released. The songs appear in commercials for brands as diverse as Nordstrom, American Express, Nissan, Volkswagen, Baileys Irish Cream and Super Bock Beer. Fatboy Slim's 'You've Come a Long Way Baby; out around the same time, also saw a massive amount of licensing, such as ads for NYSE, The Virgin Suicides,the Pittsburgh Steelers and PlayStation. Around this time, we had shows like Dawson's Creek telling us where to buy the music we heard on the show, and a real trend where the music industry and the branding and entertainment industries are starting to work together. Commercials also begin to become a new promotional channel for albums.

Brands slowly begin to realize that there is more to the power of music than just the jingle or the commercial license. In an early example of a deep, strategic relationship between an artist and a brand, between 1951 and 1963, Dinah Shore acted as the voice and spokesperson for Chevrolet, which included the unforgettable line 'See the USA in your Chevrolet, America's the Greatest Land of All': Shore sang 'The Chevy jingle' at the opening and closing of every one of her shows and became synonymous with the brand. During the 2011 Super Bowl, American audiences of a certain age were thrilled to hear the memorable jingle, this time sung by the cast of Glee.

In 1981, The Rolling Stones were about to embark on a US tour, but before doing so signed their first tour sponsorship agreement with Jovan Musk. In this deal, Jovan Musk paid $1 million to have their logo appear at the bottom of posters and ticket sales for the tour. This partnership proved fruitful for both parties and so began the tour sponsorship industry. By 1985, pop music and marketing were becoming synonymous and Pepsi released a commercial that was often mistaken for a music video. Michael Jackson's 'You're a Whole New Generation' was set to the tune of 'Billy Jean' and was even more famous for the pyrotechnic error that almost cost Jackson his life. The pay-off for Pepsi was huge and people began calling radio stations to request the Pepsi song, rather than the original single. Marketing and music tie-ins had become the norm by 1986, illustrated so clearly when even Rolling Stone magazine began pub­lishing an edition titled 'Marketing Through Music' specifically to track the latest music-brand pairings.

By 2004, when faced with how to release their new single 'Vertigo', U2 decided to premiere the song in an Apple iPod commercial rather than the typical cycle of press, radio and promotions. And by 2008, Groove Armada, a successful European electronica act, decided it no longer even needed a record label, opting instead to release a new recording through Bacardi.

Soundtracking physical spaces

Something dramatic happened in America in the 1930s. Skyscrapers went up in big cities and people were faced with something new: elevators that went up 30, 40, 50 stories. Understandably, people were nervous about getting into these metal boxes, so a company called Muzak was born to pipe in relaxing music and soothe these nervous elevator riders. Muzak, founded in 1934, started a revolu­tion of music being provided to businesses, offices and in just about every public and private space.

By the 1980s it was becoming more usual for stores to have music playing, and by the turn of this century it had become a common business requirement. Brands today have complex audio identities and custom music programs designed to accentuate their brand iden­tity, engage with their target demographic and create a compelling and deliberate environment. Whether a brand such as Abercrombie & Fitch (with its well-known and polarizing retail soundtrack) or a brand such as Sephora (which we will explore in Chapter 6), every major retail or hospitality brand today uses music as a central com­ponent of the shopping experience.

Chimes, IDs, Sonic Logos                        

There is much debate as to when the first sonic logo originated. Television and radio stations had been using station IDs for decades and NBC's three-note sequence is widely considered one of the most successful examples of a branded chime. But in 1994, the entire notion of mnemonics was turned on its head when Intel commis­sioned the 'Intel bong' from composer Walter Werzowa. Intel included this five-note audio signature at the end of not just their own commercials but also on any PC that was using their processor. As a result, this sonic logo was heard once every five minutes in its heyday in the late 1990s. Today, sonic logos or stings remain a popular model for linking music and brands, albeit one that may be viewed as 'residual' rather than dominating current thinking or representing the future musical elements of a brand's identity.

Where we are today

Today, the music branding (or sonic branding) industry is thriving, made up of consultants, original music composers, music licensing agents, background music companies, lifestyle marketing agencies and the struggling legacy music industry itself, which has created departments devoted to brand partnerships. In 2010, Billboard and Adweek hosted the first 'Music and Advertising' conference in New York City, which represented a meeting of minds between brands, agents and musicians.

In 1999, when sonic branding was still in its infancy, the agency Sonicbrand conducted a study in which fewer than 10 percent of brands responded that they considered music as part of their brand­ing. A similar study in 2009 by Heartbeats International found that '97% of top global brands think that music can strengthen their brand'. The industry and profile of music for brands has come a long way and today brands seem to be acutely aware of the importance of music across all their various channels.

Customers engage with brands through music in the product itself, while present in retail establishments, while viewing and hear­ing brand messages in advertisements, while encountering the brand in new environments such as music festivals and concerts and even with on-hold messaging and voicemail systems. Brands invest in music for all these touchpoints but at the moment, they tend to do so in silos. While this is not ideal, it is the reality and the reason why we have split this book into three parts, dealing firstly with music as identity before examining music as engagement in the physical space and music as both hard and social currency.

Daniel M Jackson - CEO, CORD

with Eric Sheinkop and Richard Jankovich







5 GIGS YOU CAN'T MISS THIS WEEK: 25th September - 1st October

The last week of September has something amazing for people who love the music scene in the UK. Get out there and support the talent that surrounds you!

 Jazz in the Round, Monday 25th September 2017,  The Cockpit Theatre in London


On the last Monday of every month a group of talented musicians are thrown in to create an unforgettable night of contemporary music. They are joined by Headliners: Liam Noble/Tom Herbert/Seb Rochford and soloists, Tom Hewson Solo (with new Bosendorfer Grand Piano) Album Launch.

Get your tickets here


The Wilko Johnson Band 30th Anniversary , Tuesday 26th September, The Royal Albert Hall


This is a once in a lifetime event where Wilko celebrates the 30th anniversary of the “Wilko Johnson Band” and celebrating the guitarists 70th birthday. Due to Wilko being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, this celebration is much more meaningful. Don’t miss the event of a lifetime.

Get your tickets here


RHYS CHATHAM presents Guitar trio 40th anniversary, Wednesday 27th September, Jazz Cafe Camden


Rhys Chatham, a legend of the New York avant garde scene is celebrating his 40th anniversary with his guitar trio. He has a range of work going from minimalism and no wave to experimental and punk rock. He stands next to his contemporaries Philip Glass and Steve Reich. Come down and celebrate with lots of music and fun.

Get your tickets here


Justice, Thursday 28th September 2017, 02 academy Brixton


The duo are coming back to the London scene since we last saw them in 2012. Their debut album was released 10 years ago. These guys know how to throw a party with their amazing electronic music which you will dance all night long to. Don't miss it!!

Get your tickets here


Discovery 2 , Thursday 28th September 2017, Venue 229, London


At this years September discovery showcase venue 229, is joined by Gramercy Park Indie Rock band from Sheffield, Itchy teeth a known noisy pop, Laura Elvin who has a mixture of rock, classical, pop, Jazz and an amazing songwriter Martyn Peters. This night is full of a variety of music which will keep you moving until the night ends.

Get your tickets here


On this weeks label series we are going to talk about Positive Records (created by EMI). At the end of this post if you like what you read and you love dance music, go check out the playlist that has been created at the bottom of the page containing some of the labels most successful tracks that you can rock out to.

Why do people love dance music? Dance music is something everyone listens to, it is a form of music where you can let loose and not think about anything. The label Positive Records has helped produce some of the most well known dance tracks that have been played in clubs all around the World.

This legendary label was founded in 1993 by Nick Halkes who previously ran XL Recordings and was approached by EMI to help set up their new label along with Dave Lambert, Nick Robinson. Since this label has been around they have helped the younger generation create music that will bring back the hype that was once owned by Punk music. In February 1994, a DJ called Erick Morillo, who was not well known the time, produced a track called “I Like To Move It”, this track hit the billboards hot 100 and managed to hit NO.5 on the UKs singles chart and is known as “club classic”.  Over the years they signed more artists such as Barbara Tucker who released tracks such as, "Beautiful People" and "Stay Together” in 1995.  Alice Deejay's “Better Off Alone” which became a hit track in the U.S and Europe, Kenny “Dope", pres The Bucket-heads “The Bomb” NO.5 in the charts, and many more. He is mostly known for signing the dance act “The Prodigy”.

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Positiva records has now been running for 20 years have continuously been releasing successful music. They have now had so many tracks such as “I Could be the One” by Avicii & Nicky Romeo, hitting No.1 on the charts which is really pushing their reputations as one of the most successful Dance labels around, "Titanium" by David Guetta, being know to have sold over 1 million UK singles and so so many more. With more coming from these artists the label It is safe to say that Positiva records has so much more to bring to the evolving dance music scene. They have helped create history by producing so many successful artists who have gone on to influence the younger generation to do what they love and be themselves.

There is a lot more coming from Positiva so keep your eyes peeled for some amazing music that will be coming your way.





Why Brands Hold All The Aces

This week's extract of HIT BRANDS describes the 'intentionally irrational, explicitly obtuse and unapologetically illogical state' of the B2B market for music.

Introducing the Hit Brands Model

If the game is called Hit Brands then the aim of the game is to create value between the players: consumer brands, customers, musicians and the agencies that connect them together.

Everything we do is aimed at building, adding, banking and spending 'value' in some form or another. Value is not necessarily monetary; though dollar signs certainly help us to keep score. Value is not soft and fluffy either, there always has to be a measure. Value is a combination of practical, emotional and reputational factors that combine to deliver measurable benefits to the business.

In setting out to write this book, the three of us set ourselves the goal of fully defining the complex relationships between music and brands. In doing so, we discovered a model that (to date) has been both specific and general enough to allow us to classify all the case studies we have seen into just three essential categories that together touch all the various components of any brand. The creation of our model is useful as, now defined, it provides a framework for creating and measuring value. It serves neatly as shorthand for the types of activity that brands undertake, and also enables us as practitioners (albeit with interests in the theoretical) to help the marketing and music industries to talk together positively and with clarity.

This sidesteps us to another reason why this book had to be writ­ten. The music industry as defined by its key stakeholders - artists, labels, publishers and distributors - has traditionally viewed the marketing industry, comprising brands and their agencies, as little more than a piggy bank. The view that brand money was somehow 'soft; to be taken and spent as a kind of bonus or subsidy to the 'real' music industry pervaded throughout the late 20th century and into the start of this century. The only thing that has changed in recent years with the demise of physical sales of recorded music, is that the record business (the part of the music industry that used to sell plastic discs to people) has run out of steam so thoroughly that any­ one left in that business is not only lucky to have a job but probably smart enough to know that playing nicely with brands is a smart idea. Each of us is on the receiving end every week of hundreds of requests from the music industry on how they can get involved with brands. So the music industry has had to work out how it can bring value to brands. Not just by way of licensing tracks to commercials, which we could label as the lowest common denominator in the Hit Brand model, but also by moving into truer partnerships, where a brand's ability to distribute music is appreciated, and music's ability to con­nect with an audience is paramount. Distributors used to be the people who would ship first vinyl, then cassettes, then finally compact discs to retailers. They would physi­cally distribute music to the public through the retail channel while the public, completely in the thrall of the music industry, was utterly addicted to buying and owning recorded songs. Then everything changed. First with Napster, then with a slew of torrent sites for peer- to-peer file sharing, and now streaming ser­vices such as Spotify, Pandora and even iTunes have come along to feed the public's addiction to music to such an extent that they no longer need to buy CDs. People still need to hear music; in fact it is now a ubiquitous accompaniment to every waking moment from the alarm in the morning, to the gym, the commute, shopping, at work and at play. But people don't need to own it any more and certainly don't need to pay anything like the levels they once did for the joy of ownership. We know that music has value in spite of people's reluc­tance to hand over their cash for a copy.

So the buyers stopped buying, the retailers stopped selling and consequently the distributors stopped distributing. So what? So the people making and recording music lost part of their ability to get heard, to get in front of a buying audience. No longer 'racked' and promoted in store, the music industry had to find new paths to mar­ket. Live concerts filled the void, as did a return to old-fashioned radio plugging and as much online and direct-to-consumer activity as they could manage. While the rest of the music industry was in flux, however, one line of income stayed steady and started to grow. You could call it the Business to Business (B2B) music industry, which has been a con­stant and a salvation for many record labels and publishers. It has an intact supply chain, in fact its distribution model is growing all the time. It is a fully functioning market and though it is, forgive the pun, a little 'unsung; it nonetheless provides the context within which hit brands reside.

Brands are acting as distributors of music. The money they spend on licenses and the media amplification of the music they choose makes them a serious force for breaking new music, getting it heard and even getting it bought. This is a truth and also an opportunity that some brands are failing to realize while more and more brands are managing to seize. The budgets that successful businesses across industry sectors are putting into the music industry are significant but the value of the assets being created in 110 way reflects the invest­ment. Why are brands - and we use the term as a shortcut for the marketing and advertising folk who control the budgets - unable to see that they hold the aces? That the music industry does not serve them well and that things could be so much better?

It has always occurred to us, your humble authors, that the B2B market for music is almost wholly irrational, by which we mean there is 110 globally accepted method for choosing the music for a brand, no globally accepted method for pricing the music for a brand and no globally accepted method for measuring the usefulness of music for a brand. In fact, there is such a complete lack of these things that the conclusion might be that the B2B music market is intentionally irrational, explicitly obtuse and unapologetically illogical. The answer to the question 'How much would it cost?' is invariably 'Whatever they say' and recalls the old joke that, when asked what he does for a living, a music publisher once responded 'I answer the phone.'....

Daniel M Jackson - CEO, CORD

with Eric Sheinkop and Richard Jankovich

Using Music To Build Value For Brands

Welcome to HIT BRANDS. This book will help provide tools, insights and strategic thinking for how to create lasting and valuable con­nections with consumers through music.

Chapter 1

Brands have challenges

Nestled somewhere in an innocuous office building in a neighbourhood wedged between the Upper East Side and Yorkville, just off Manhattan's Central Park, is the financial news and opinion website called 24/7 Wall Street. The reporters for 24/7 Wall Street spend their days publishing opinion pieces on the health of compa­nies, stocks and investment opportunities. These articles get repub­lished all over the web on sites such as MarketWatch, MSNBC, MSN Money, Yahoo! Finance and The Huffington Post. In June 2012, one such article began to ruffle the feathers of those whose job it is to help consumer brands stay relevant to their audience. The article provided a prediction of ten American brands that would fail in 2013. The list included some landmark consumer brands such as American Airlines, Research In Motion (better known for its product, BlackBerry), Avon, Talbots and at least one sports franchise, The Oakland Raiders. The article cites operational issues, changing competitive landscapes and management deficiency as the primary drivers of impending failure. Prior predictions by 24/7 have proved surprisingly accurate.    

There exists today an entire industry employing thousands of people whose job it is to help brands maintain a healthy relation­ship with their customers. We call this industry by lots of names: advertising, marketing, branding. It is a challenging industry as it is, without financial experts predicting your failure. The good news is that consumer brands generally recover from public failures. In 2007, McDonald's launched an ill-advised 'I'd Hit It' tag line, while The Cartoon Network launched a publicity stunt to promote 'Aqua Teen Hunger Force'. which resulted in a bomb scare in Boston. Both brands rebounded and today are as relevant as ever. Even Coca­-Cola recovered from what is widely considered the single biggest brand failure, the launch of New Coke in 1985. Every healthy brand encounters on a daily basis often staggeringly complex challenges trying to stay relevant to consumers while still turning a profit for their shareholders. Launching a new brand in this cluttered market­ place is even more difficult than maintaining a known entity.

In addition to publicity stunts, advertising slogans and new product launches, brands have hundreds of ways to reach the world across multiple media outlets including social media, online, tele­ vision, radio, print, apps, retail, outdoor events and more. Attached to many of these initiatives is an audio or musical component - the ever-present indie song in a TV commercial, the background music playing while you shop, the quick audio sequence that aligns with a product's logo (think Intel's chime). Brands will invest in sound and music across their entire marketing and communications platform and are often struggling to know whether they have got it right.

On average an international brand spends annually some­ where between $10 million and $20 million on music-related rights and licenses. They then multiply that spend by a factor of five through media dollars. This means that a big brand's annual spend, estimated conservatively, is between $50 million and $100 million, specifically allocated to help associate them­selves with music and musical talent. How many of those brands become famous for their use of music? How many of them create the kind of value for that investment that their stockhold­ers would want? How many of them create lasting, valuable con­nections with customers through this music? How many of them have hits?

Put another way, how many of those brands even know the odds for or against success? How many of them have learned how to move those odds in their favor or tried to understand the rules of the game? Have these brands even developed a strategy for using music? If having a hit is a crapshoot, a brand should at least know when and how to roll the dice.

Based on the issuance of ISRC codes (the international standard for identifying music recordings), a reasonable estimate puts the num­ber of new pieces of music released each year at a staggering one million. Each song is written in the earnest belief that they have something to say and can enhance the human condition. If we make a reasonable assumption that around 500,000 artists are involved in these one million tracks then we can easily start to calculate the base chances that any brand-band association will become a 'hit'. We start at 500,000:1 - about the same odds as being dealt a royal flush in poker.

Consider a brand that chooses to use an older, preexisting piece of music rather than a current band or artist's track as part of their music strategy. Our best guess at the total volume of stereo-recorded music in the world is around half a billion tracks. Now stand back in wonder at how any artist's song makes it on an ad and realize that it's not 'selling-out'; it's like winning the lottery, only nowhere near as lucrative.

We know that the chances of having a 'hit' are small to very small, but brands are still willing to roll the dice and take a chance. And there is something to be said for a meaningful connection with music that is neither a hit, nor a failure, but rather a standard part of any brand's portfolio. As long as brands want to use music, it's a moral and commercial imperative for the industry that we represent to help provide some tools; some insight and strategic thinking that will help marketers to cut down the odds to manageable levels. There is no such thing as a certainty but a little bit of clear thinking can certainly make success much more likely. And that's one point of this book. It is not a guarantee for creating brand value through music but it is a playbook, a form-guide and a 'method': We will lay out a bunch of success stories for you and try to help you move the needle in your favor, whether you are an artist trying to find opportunities or a brand trying to make the right decisions.

Remember, there is no trademark on an idea and what you read here can be stolen and used again. But also remember, there is no guarantee that any of these ideas will work as effectively once you take them and try to make them your own. After all, an idea contrib­utes to maybe 5 percent of the success of a venture, 95 percent is in how you execute it. So, good luck to us all, we'll need it. But before we roll the dice, let's go and learn the rules of the game.

Daniel M Jackson - CEO, CORD

with Eric Sheinkop and Richard Jankovich

5 Gigs You Can't Miss This Week: 21st - 27th August

Make use of the last full week and possible sunshine of August by seeing a selection of great gigs featuring a variety of talent. 

Joel Bailey, Monday 21st August, The Half Moon

Singer songwriter Joel Bailey has been crafting and performing soulful tracks heavily influenced by the blues since around 2010, and has had the chance to perform at events such as the London 2012 Olympics amongst others. Even the ever unimpressed Simon Cowell has said he is ‘quite good’, so surely that warrants a listen. 

Tickets available here. 


Vasudeva, Monday 21st August, Birthdays

New Jersey instrumental rock band Vasudeva are set to continue their European tour with a visit to Birthdays. The trio have developed a set full of unique math-rock grooves and dynamic soundscapes which are sure to get crowds intrigued. 

Free entry. 


Watercolours, Thursday 24th August, The Dublin Castle

Previously performing under the moniker ‘Sahara Breeze’, the newly formed group have impressed with their recently released debut single ‘Feel Tomorrow’. Watercolours sound can’t be described by one particular genre and they are ready to showcase their full band (after a few stripped back performances) in Camden. 

Tickets from £4.50 on the door. 


Kate Simko & London Electronic Orchestra, Thursday 24th August, Jazz Cafe

Set to be the LEO’s biggest gig of 2017, the string quartet consisting of two cellos, violin, a harp and Kate on Keyboards - with guest vocalist Alex Marshall - are ready to showcase their innovative mixture of rich strings, synths and grooved beats. With previous appearances at Latitude and Bestival, the group are creating a huge buzz. 

Limited tickets here.


JADED, Friday 25th August, KOKO

London trio JADED have been quickly developing a reputation as a high energy live act with a sound heavily influenced by UK house and garage. Two new tracks ‘4000Hz’ and ‘In the Morning’ have been extremely well received and the group are sure to keep growing in popularity. 

Get the remaining few tickets here. 

5 Gigs You Can't Miss This Week: 14th - 20th August

With the last few weeks of August coming up, we have another great selection of varied live music for you to enjoy before Autumn rolls around. 

Sandtimer, Monday 14th August, The Half Moon


Start your week by listening to the close vocal harmonies and intricate guitar lines produced by this indie folk acoustic guitar duo who have appeared on BBC Introducing, and are garnering radio play across various BBC radio stations. They have been described musically as a cross between Kurt Cobain, Jimmy Page, Arcade Fire and Sammy Davis Jr, so high praise indeed! 

Grab some extremely cheap tickets here.


Larkins, Thursday 17th August, Thousand Island

Manchester Indie pop band Larkins - who provide catchy riffs and anthemic choruses throughout their music - are set to play Thousand Island (formerly Upstairs at the Garage). They have been touted as one of the UK’s next big arena acts, so be sure to catch them before they get too big for these kind of venues.  

Get your tickets here.


Ephemerals, Friday 18th August, Nells Jazz and Blue’s

Melding the genres of jazz and soul and interspersed with some African influences, Ephemerals are now a regular name on the European live scene. With increasing play on Radio 1 and other major stations in Holland and France, the group are gaining a growing following. 

Get your tickets on the door. 


Punctual, Friday 18th August, KOKO

Bristol based DJ/Producer duo Punctual will be headlining BURST, a night of electronic music at KOKO in Camden. Heavily inspired by garage and even classical, the pair have worked to create atextured and rich sound. Fresh from the festival circuit, the duo are sure to be on top form for this one. 

Tickets here.


Brooklyn Shakers, Saturday 19th August, 100 Wardour St

Playing a mixture of ska, funk, soul and New Orleans jazz and boasting an impressive lineup that has together played with the likes of Simply Red and Grace Kelly, the Brooklyn Shakers are an impressive live act. The band say that they bring the attitude of Amy Winehouse and the energy of James Brown to their shows - an effective combination indeed. 

If you would like a table you can email or phone 02073144000. 







5 Gigs You Can't Miss This Week: 7th - 13th August.

Regina Spektor, Wednesday 9th August, Eventim Apollo.

Kick off the week with singer song-writer, Regina Spektor's highly anticipated return to the U.K. Touring off the back of her 2016 release 'Remember Us to Life', Spektor once again promises to deliver a phenomenal show to all those Alternative Folk fanatics.

Grab the last few remaining tickets here!

Luciano, Wednesday 9th August, Boisdale.

Reggae legend Luciano heads a show at Jools Holland curated Boisdale. Expect a blend of soulful and spiritual Rock and Reggae, coupled with an optional Jamaican inspired 3 course meal. The perfect evening activity to shake off the midweek lethargy.

Get your tickets and check out the menu via this link.

Jarreau Vandal, Thursday 10th August, XOYO.

Soulection wunderkind and expert selector Jarreau Vandal brings his talent back to London for his collaborative event with Mystic Bounce. He'll be joined by legendary producer Lunice, De School's Vic Crezée,  and some of Mystic Bounce's own.

Tickets are still going cheap, so take the chance to see one of the most promising rising DJ's in the world. More info and tickets via. the XOYO website.

DJ Stingray, Friday 11th August, PHONOX.

The Brit Funk Association, Friday 11th August, 100 Club. 

The 100 Club hosts a huge night of jazz-fusion, funk and disco. Channeling all late 70's British Funk and Disco the lineup consists of musicians from Beggar & Co, Central Line, Hi-Tension and ex-members of Light of the World and Incognito. If you're looking for something to get nostalgic to, this is exactly what you need this weekend! 

Find out more and grab your tickets here

A Few Bands You Should Know in Scandinavia

 Isak Strand vs TOE

A music group that has journeyed out of the darkest corners of Sweden and into the light of the grander music industry. The unique Isak Strand vs TOE... Normally it is easy to track the influences of a band, but in this case you cannot single out a specific genre, artist or era. The band channel sounds from reggae, jazz, pop and hip-hop, and that is what makes their sound unique. 

In 2013 the band released their last album, ‘Theory Of Everything’, which was nominated for ‘Breakthrough of the year’ by Gaffa, one of Demark's top music magazines. Although in 2014 they sadly announced that they would not be playing as a band anymore, they truly made their impact and solidified themselves as one of Sweden's most memorable underground bands. Their tunes are all available on YouTube and Spotify for your listening pleasure. Listen to


Jacob Dinesen


Jacob Dinesen, is a name that has been swirling around in the Danish media recently. The 21-year-old singer/songwriter has already taken Denmark by storm, with his first album and two radio hits (Dancing Devil and Will You Stay). His huge talent as a Folk/Rock/Americana/Pop singer continues to be shown on his two new singles, Beautiful Sight and Roll With Me. Jacob Dinesen seems to have proved himself as an artist that is here to stay and not fade away, and his mature sound considering his age is something to be admired.


Ulige Numre

Ulige Numre was a Danish Rock band that sadly ended their 6 year run this year. On the 13th of March the members broke the news to their fans on Facebook that they were no long continuing their project. They wrote: ‘”We had a great time, but everything has an end”.  

Of course the band didn’t just go out without any history, their previous albums such as Grand Prix and Nu Til Dags garnered wide critical acclaim and solidified them as a truly great modern Danish band. However, this is not the total end of the road for the group, as lead vocalist and lyricist Carl Emil Petersen has now gone solo and released his first single entitled "Life Before Death" (Liv Før Døden).


Written by Sebastian Johannsen

Tyler, The Creator - 'Flower Boy' Album Review

‘Flower Boy’ is the fourth full length album from Odd Future founder Tyler, The Creator and marks a turning point for the famously controversial rapper. 

Continuing the theme of some of our favourite albums this year, such as 4:44 and This Old Dog, ‘Flower Boy’ shows an unexpected level of self reflection, personal growth, maturity, and vulnerability. The rapper who was previously regarded as being so profane and tasteless that he was even banned from entering certain countries, The United Kingdom being one such example, has now blossomed into a softer, more self-aware and more complete individual resulting in his most accomplished album yet.

In an age where it is no longer essential to appear bullish or insusceptible to harm to be idolised, where strength is no longer reliant upon appearing brash or omniscient, Tyler, like many other artists seems to have learnt that much of the adoration in modern music comes from sympathy, and understanding. ‘Flower Boy’ is certainly Tyler’s best and most cohesive work so far, it is no longer bogged down with attempts at creating outrage. The public now know what to expect from Tyler, The Creator his shock value has decreased and his lyrics are no longer as provocative as before. In fact, the most shocking thing Tyler may have ever done is this unexpected growth in character and the revelation of his true emotions. In acknowledging his confusion and weaknesses Tyler has opened himself up to a new kind of respect. The previously violent, misogynistic and homophobic lyrics of his past albums are totally sidelined in favour of a more meditative and reflective collage of songs, memories and emotions.

As the title suggests ‘Flower Boy’ shows a transformational and softer side to Tyler. As per usual, he addresses the things that have shaped him as a person, however, this time around Tyler fully gets into the essence of his ideas, not being sidetracked or rushed he injects an elegance and care into his work that we have not yet seen before. There is a carefully constructed and thought out plan, where in the past, Tyler’s albums have been bloated and messy. It is very clear to see that within Tyler’s past work he often gets carried away and too self involved, adding jokes, making oddball references, juxtaposing tracks or features where they are not necessary and occasionally even detrimental to the overall flow of the album. However, this is not the case with ‘Flower Boy’, it feels like the first fully realised album that Tyler has constructed. Every collaboration feels well thought out and complements the themes and sounds Tyler is aiming for. Throughout the album the trademark Odd Future sound is fused with orchestration, beautiful vocals and unpredictable chord progressions, fully discarding the aggression of his previous work in favour of an exploration of more smooth, soulful and jazz inspired direction. Where before his raps could be considered fairly  juvenile and substanceless attempts at creating controversy, Tyler now confronts some of the most significant subject matter possible. Throughout the album Tyler tackles, loneliness, the breakdown of friendships, love, confusion and, above all, coming to terms with oneself. 

This huge focus on coming to terms with oneself has led people to make a large fuss about what is Tyler’s apparent confirmation of his homosexuality, resulting in them completely overlooking his actual personality traits and artistic decisions and focusing simply upon the shock-value and repercussions of this potential revelation. This is resulted in a lot of invasive questioning and even a degree of de-legitimization of Tyler’s self-exploration upon the album. Regardless of sexuality, Tyler opens himself up bravely on ‘Flower Boy’, exposing a deeply intimate aspect of his psyche. Tyler has not directly addressed the subject of his sexuality upon the album’s release, nor should he have to. The album acts as means for Tyler to come to terms with himself, and less about stirring up the public. It is reductive and narrow minded to view the album simply as an explanation or an apology for his past controversies, former homophobic slurs and misogynistic lyrics. 

‘Flower Boy’ is a more positive, sincere and wistful evolution to Tyler, The Creator, which perhaps, if not hindered by the media, will mark the beginning of his metamorphosis into his full potential.

JAY-Z - '4:44' Album Review

Following on from what could easily be regarded as his weakest album, ‘Magna Carta Holy Grail’, Jay-Z has burst back onto the scene with his new album 4:44, arguably his best work in 12 years.

4:44, feels as though Jay himself is now finally aware of his previous failings and has constructed this album almost entirely as a plea for redemption, both musically and personally. What makes 4:44 so impactful is the degree of vulnerability the seemingly impervious Jay-Z injects into his revival. The album opens with the overtly self-critical ‘Kill Jay-Z’ through which we are introduced to the current of self-loathing and introspection that runs through the record. From here on out the whole album seems to a metaphorical autopsy of the man that is Shawn Carter: Dissecting his very essence, analysing his vices and his drives, peeling back the hardened outer shell of his public persona and revealing his true emotions and most personal aspects of his life. The record revolves around the title track “4:44”, the self-described ‘crux’ of the album, named as such in reference to a moment of clarity at 4:44am, where Jay-Z claims to have had an epiphany and began writing. This epiphany could be very much be considered the end of Jay-Z’s Mid-Life Crisis, the moment of realisation and maturation which led to the introspection of this record. We see Jay come to terms with the effect of fatherhood and marriage upon him, the irresponsible actions he took as an attempt to preserve his youth and his own idea of himself as a ‘hustler’. 4:44 see’s the persona of Jay-Z discarded in order to confront the man behind the name and the impact this side of his life has had upon the real Shawn Carter. 

This revival signifies a rebirth for Jay-Z, rendering himself a more complete and mindful individual. This newfound profundity and self-awareness naturally leads Jay to face the most serious subject matter surrounding him. A Jay-Z album has not been this polished or intelligent for over a decade, his observations are as astute as ever and his complexities have never been laid out so bare. In comparison to the past efforts of 'Watch the Throne', 'Blueprint 3' & 'Magna Carta Holy Grail', where Jay had exhausted his usual rags to riches narrative and seemed caught in a lyrical vacuum, unable to reinvent himself and only capable of gloating superficially about his riches, talent and success, Jay has finally been able to find a new struggle to comment upon. Jay-Z reflects upon his personal journey, inner-turmoil and redemption in the same slick and perceptive manner in which he used to rap about his success story. Much of the failure of his previous works saw Jay-Z move further and further away from his accessible lyricism. This reinvention, finds Jay-Z updating his old style to a modern audience. Truly impactful Rap is no longer centred around sex, money and self-praise. The truly groundbreaking and long lasting albums are ones that speak to the crisis of now and the plight of others. What Jay-Z provided when he was younger was a voice for the troubled youth, the strain of a hard knock life. Now with this epiphany Jay-Z dismounts his high horse, humbles himself and accepts that behind the fame, fortune and praise it’s the man that counts, and no matter your reputation and public persona it doesn’t necessarily protect you from immoral actions. This naturally finds Jay confronting everything from his past infidelitiesto shooting his brother in childhood, to his Mother recently coming out as a lesbian and of course, most importantly, the grander exploration of race. 

Jay-Z is not the only person to be congratulated on 4:44's success, the production behind every track on the album is just as masterful as the lyrical content. Once again, Jay-Z seems to have learnt from his failings on Magna Carta, and perhaps recognised in retrospect that it has utterly no proficient or memorable aspects to it, leading him to discard the bland one dimensional club beats and put his complete faith in producer No I.D. Much of the album’s personality and charm can be directly credited, rather ironically, to No I.D’s production style. No I.D injects his unique and soulful Chicago style into all ten tracks on the album, however, perhaps the most impressive element of his production is the sample selection.

The samples are not only phenomenal in melody but profound in context. Every track has an instrumental that reiterates Jay’s primary concerns. They summarize Jay-Z’s thoughts and clarify his stance upon the issues he mediates on. On Jay’s powerful exploration of colour “The Story of O.J.,” No I.D implements a recurring Nina Simone sample that acts as a reminder that within society assumptions and stereotypes based upon skin colour are ever present. Then on “4:44”, Jay’s desperate apology track, once again the sample makes plain Jay’s shame and regret stating: “I’m never gonna treat you like I should!”. And perhaps most powerfully, on the closing track “Legacy,” Jay speaks up against the modern manifestations of black segregation, accented by Donny Hathaway’s empowering reminder that “Someday we’ll all be free”. 

 Legacy is the central theme to the album, Jay-Z is no longer looking back to his roots but instead looking forward towards the future, how will he be remembered by his friends, family and society?  Where does he stand in the history of music and what was his contribution to culture? All these questions culminate in an album that not only allows us a deeper insight into the true Shawn Carter but one that offers us a deeper look at ourselves and the state of society in the process.

CORD Label Series // Soulection

This week our focus turns towards independent hip-hop and R&B label Soulection, a truly unique success story.

The story of Soulection begins with DJ and curator Joe Kay who, at only 23, formulated the idea that eventually developed into Soulection. Kay, now 27 runs his label and curates and hosts the Soulection radio show on Beats 1 Radio for Apple Music. 

Based in Los Angeles, Soulection has established itself as creative hive for genre-bending musicians and a strong contender to all major labels in picking up fresh talent. 

It has only taken Kay and Soulection a few years to accumulate a huge range of talent and create one of the most eclectic catalogues in hip-hop and R&B. Soulection has become a haven for genre-splicing beatmakers operating on the fringes of more traditional sound. There are no predetermined guidelines for being on the label, and yet every release has a unique unity. 

From the very beginning everything has been DIY for Kay and his co-founder Andre Power. The truth is Kay and Power weren’t even trying to start a business, to begin with they were simply looking for new and exciting sounds to showcase in their own sets and radio shows. Having fallen into the label business the two have taken a very hands on approach and owe much of their success to their ability to tap into the hyperconnectivity of the modern age, relying heavily upon internet platforms like SoundCloud, Mixcloud, BandCamp, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to grow its business. Within their first two official releases on Bandcamp the label made enough money purely through public appreciation naming their price for the downloads.

Soulection truly is one of the most inspiring entrepreneurial success stories in modern music, an impressive story within the context of the slowly declining industry. 

Listen to just a few of the sounds of tomorrow below:

5 Gigs You Shouldn't Miss This Week! 10th - 16th July!

Tuxedo, 10th July, XOYO.


If you're looking to get over the Monday morning blues there's no better place to find yourself than XOYO for a one-off live show from Stones Throw Records' Tuxedo. Churning out funky-disco beats the duo, made up of soul maestro Mayer Hawthorne & Hip-Hop producer Jake One,  have been injecting their signature styles into a new avenue of music. Together they have defined themselves as one of the most captivating acts on the Disco circuit.

This is a sure fire way to dance away the stress of your Monday morning, grab your tickets here.


A Night of D'Angelo, 10th July, The Jazz Cafe.

If you're looking for a smoother start to your week, then look no further! The Jazz Cafe will be hosting an acclaimed D'Angelo tribute night for the more tender of you out there. Grab yourself a drink, find yourself a date and sit back and unwind to the sleek and seductive sounds of the Black Messiah. 

Grab your tickets via. this link.


Rhythm Section: Prequel, Ruff Dug, Z Lovecraft, 14th July, Bussey Building. 

Following on from their massive Corsica Studios event with Infusions the Rhythm Section gang are heading to Bussey Building with yet another amazing lineup of selectors. Australian Rhythm Section alumni Prequel takes to the decks with RUF KUTZ label boss, Ruff Dug & the renowned Z Lovecraft. Between the three of them the deepest cuts from a collective vinyl crate will be spinning all night long.

Get in there early to make the most of the cheap prices, tickets available via. Resident Advisor.


Late Night Tuff Guy, 15th July, Oval Space.


The master of Disco edits joins Bunker resident Mike Servito and London favourites Horse Meat Disco to take the reigns of Oval Space's Lovebox After Party. Although there are a number of after parties being held across the city this one certainly gets our vote! Expect a variety of funky, infectious beats and good vibes all night.

More tickets and info, here.


Henry Wu & Glenn Astro, 16th July, Oval Space Terrace.

To wind up the weekend and keep riding the high of Saturday night get yourself over to Oval Space's terrace for an amazing day party hosted by the glorious Henry Wu and Glenn Astro, two of the most diverse and interesting rising selectors around London. Renowned for their masterful broken beats, future jazz and soulful house music this is certain to keep Sunday shining. 

Tickets via. this link!

Audio Branding: Unlocking Creativity

Today's final extract from Sonic Branding: An Introduction concludes by encouraging brands to take their stakeholders to places that they have never been, by providing a vision for the scope of sonic opportunities available to them and using audio branding to unlock creativity.

Chapter 25 - Experience

Stage one to three of the sonic branding engine are fundamentally concerned with how a brand seeks to identify itself in sound. These stages lead to the creation of a model and a set of internal management tools that can be referenced by all those who seek to represent a brand to its stakeholders; ad agencies, interactive designers, call centre managers and so on. It is important for all those in control of a brand touchpoint to take responsibility for the relationship they establish with the stakeholders and to ensure it is a consistent with the brand and its values. It is crucial to this relationship. It is crucial to this relationship that a sonic identity is referenced and for the framework it provides to be appreciated if a brand experience is to be effective. To make an analogy with visual branding, stages one to three create the typographic style, a logo and a framework in which these can be utilised. Stage four turns these visual elements into letterheads, uniforms and signage that all communicate something about the brand. 

The keys to ensuring that the sonic identity is effective wherever a brand seeks to communicate with its stakeholders are the branding criteria of flexibility and consistency. The first three stages of the sonic branding engine provide points of distinctiveness and memorability by creating an understanding of the sounds that effectively communicate a brand and in doing so provide a palette of music, voice and ambient sounds with almost infinite flexibility. It is then up to those in charge of the various touchpoints to implement this palette in the most contextually sympathetic way. By opening up the world of sound to those who seek to communicate a brand it is possible to provide them with the creative tools they need to reach stakeholders in the best manner. Their understanding of their touchpoints and their audience makes them the right people to decide how the brand’s sonic identity should be implemented and by providing a sonic palette and guidelines, it is possible to encourage creativity while being in a position to enforce consistency. 

For too long now the controllers of the traditional media have feared sonic branding due to the constraints they feel it places on their creativity. In fact sonic branding as explained in this book could be the key to unlocking creativity and allowing brands to take their stakeholders to places that they have never been. If a voice can communicate everything about a brand then there is the opportunity to take the visual elements to uncharted territories. If a sonic logo is as recognised as a visual one then there is no need for a pack-shot.

Brand experience, with the help of new technology, is changing and changing fast. Stakeholders are now able to exercise far greater control over the messages they receive and experiences they have. No longer is our understanding of a brand solely determined by a celebrity endorsement or an expensive advertisement during half-time at the Super Bowl. Brands must now understand every point at which they communicate with their stakeholders and must appreciate every context. They must learn to fit into people’s lives seamlessly while at the same time encouraging them to take certain paths. 

If brands are to retain their position in society they must learn to appreciate the true nature of experiences they can offer. They must learn to harness the power of each sense in order to remain distinct and relevant. They must understand the role they play in stakeholders’ lives and ensure that they fulfil this role. They must quickly learn the potential for new technology and ensure they utilise it correctly and effectively. It would be too complicated to explore this role and how sound fits into it in all the experiences a brand can offer. Instead, by providing an understanding of the scope of opportunities offered by sound, we hope to allow brand-owners and communicators to fully explore its potential. The challenge is great and if brands are to be up to it they need to understand and appreciate what sound can do for them, then they must use it creatively. 

Daniel M Jackson - CEO, CORD

5 Gigs you should see this week: 3rd - 9th July.

DJ Q, 6th July, Phonox.

Get yourself an early start to the weekend and head down to Phonox on Thursday to catch Bassline legend DJ Q. Taking over the decks for the whole night Q is bound to bring some high energy tunes to kick off the weekend hype early.

For tickets and more info, click here.


BBZ x Ballamii, 7th July, Corsica Studios.

This Friday Corsica Studios provides the perfect event for Pride weekend! Queer, Trans, Non-binary, POC celebrating night BBZ and Peckham's rapidly growing Balamii radio have joined forces to bring you a celebration of London’s finest femme identifying DJ’s, Producers, Dance Do-ers, Broadcasters, Artists and so much more.  The night  will be centred on positive feminine energy and eradicating misogyny for queer women and genderqueer folk of colour boasting a banging line-up of some of the most unique acts working in music.

More info and tickets available via. Resident Advisor.


Erol Alkan, 7th July, XOYO.

The Boss of the highly revered label Phantasy, coveted remixer, producer of countless critically acclaimed albums takes to XOYO this July to kick off his huge 13week residency. Curating a diverse lineup of talent across a number of weeks, Erol Alkan will undoubtedly provide months of unmissable entertainment worth being on your radar. 

Find out who he has in store for week one and grab your tickets here!


Daniel Avery, 8th July, Phonox.

Phantasy alumni, Daniel Avery, picks up from where Erol Alkan left off this Saturday. The electronic music maestro heads to Phonox with hard-hitting, Coconut Beats resident HAAi. Together the two promise a hectic night of the best Techno, Trance and House going.

Don't miss out, grab your tickets here!


Flux Garden Party, 8th July, Studio 338.

If you're looking to spend your Saturday outside surrounded by music then look no further than the Flux Garden Party at Studio 338. The rooftop bar will be taken over by a whole host of DJ's. Joining them in the Garden will be Moodymann's pal, Detroit house and hip hop legend Andrés, Cologne’s soul-driven selector Damiano Von Erckert and rising Bordeaux talent Laroze. Ably supporting them will be Madtech’s Voyeur, Holding Hands head honcho Desert Sound Colony and Noa. 

Tickets for both day party and after party available here.

5 Gigs you cannot miss this week: 26th June - 2nd July.

Real Estate, 26th June @ Rough Trade East.

The week kicks off with a live show and album signing from U.S. lazy rock icons Real Estate. After having played Glastonbury the night before the band are swinging by Rough Trade to give something back to their fans before continuing their tour around Europe. First come first serve, so get yourselves down to Rough Trade East for 18:30 to avoid disappointment!


Mike Will Made It, 29th June @ XOYO.

Hip-hop producer extraordinaire Mike Will Made It will be taking over the decks of XOYO this Thursday for his UK Debut. Fresh off the back of Kendrick Lamar's 'DAMN.' Mike can easily be considered one of the most sought-after names in modern hip-hop. With beats for the likes of Future, Rihanna, Migos & Rae Sremmurd, expect a night filled with the highest quality hip-hop.

Final release tickets available on Resident Advisor!


The Maccabees, 29th - 30th June @ Alexandra Palace.


The London indie rockers return for one final tour before their deeply upsetting departure from music. After 14 years of making music together the band promise to throw an incredible farewell show as a thank you to all their fans continued support. If you have never had the fortune of seeing these guys perform we cannot urge you more to get down to Ally Pally this week!  

Don't sleep on it! Grab the last few tickets here.


Rhythm Section X Infusions, 30th June @ Corsica Studios.

London's most exciting independent label and Stamp The Wax off-shoot Infusions join forces this weekend at Corsica Studios. Across three rooms Rhythm Section, Stamp The Wax and Australian Wax'O Paradiso host a variety of the most exciting and diverse DJ's from around the globe including German maestros Session Victim & Rhythm Section label boss and all around good guy Bradley Zero. 

This is certainly the place to be this weekend, more info and tickets here.


DJ Yoda, 30th June @ The Jazz Cafe.

If you're not in the mood for house this weekend then don't worry, Soul City at the The Jazz Cafe has you covered! Mixing a variety of, hip-hop, funk and soul this weekend they host London's own DJ Yoda, renowned for his huge range in style and live video DJ sets. The perfect feel-good event for anyone looking to get down this weekend.   

Early bird tickets still available here!


CORD Label Series // Stones Throw Records

Over the next couple of weeks we will be sharing a series of posts based on some of our favourite record labels to date. Each post will include a write along with a playlist showcasing the artists represented by the labels. To kick off this series we are taking a look at one of the most significant labels in hip-hop...
If you were to ask any dedicated music fan what the most influential and progressive label in modern hip-hop is you are almost certain to hear the name Stones Throw Records. 
Founded in 1996, by Chris Manak aka. Peanut Butter Wolf, Stones Throw has continuously pushed the most unique and progressive new sounds in hip-hop to the forefront of the modern music scene. Over the years Stones Throw has boasted a huge variety of groundbreaking releases from Madlib and MF Doom’s ‘Madvillainy’ to J Dilla’s ‘Donuts’. From the very beginning Peanut Butter Wolf sought to establish this label in order to create a home for the outsiders of the music world, perhaps most importantly the music that he and rapper Charizma had made throughout the late 80s and early 90s. However, this desire to promote Charizma & Peanut Butter Wolf did not stem from a vain desire for fame and profit, but in fact a selfless desire to posthumously commemorate his friend in the world of music. Manak has stated that it was through Stones Throw, DJing and beatmaking that he was finally able to come to terms with the tragic and untimely loss of his music partner and best friend. 

It is for this reason that Stones Throw has always been a deeply personal project for Manak, it’s reputation and legacy reflecting not only upon himself but that of his former-collaborator too. Now 21 years old, Stones Throw still continues to challenge our perceptions of music and genre due to Manak’s unrelenting and uncompromising musical subjectivity. Manak has stated that for him Stones Throw is reserved exclusively for artists and music that he is personally inspired by, not what the public may enjoy, but instead purely what Manak himself sees as innovative. It is for this reason that Stones Throw has always seemingly favoured the outsider. This passion for the unique and eccentric has established the label as one of the most creatively liberated spaces in music attracting a variety of oddball artists such as Dam-Funk & Quasimoto. Having passed on a multitude of more successful and established artists in favour of these lesser-known experimentalists it has become even clearer than Manak and Stones Throw will always value personal expression and innovation over financial gain and will be remembered as one of the most distinctive and diverse independent labels in recent history.
This exceptional musical range is on full display across the label’s roster, from the trademark Stones Throw hip-hop sounds of skewed and distorted psych beats and soulful and jazzy samples to the world outside of hip hop such as the Disco stylings of Mayer Hawthorne, or the Hallucinogenic Slacker Rock of Mild High Club:

 If you’re looking to expand your knowledge of the label even further, then have a listen through our Stones Throw dedicated playlist and put some time aside for the critically acclaimed documentary “Our Vinyl Weighs A Ton”: 

The Sonic Logo

Today's extract from Sonic Branding: An Introduction focusses on the short-form version of a brand's musical identity, the sonic logo. In my many years of working in the field, I have found sonic logos to be the 'Marmite' of audio branding - you either love or hate them!

Chapter 23 - Sonic Logo

Particular reference within the guidelines must be given to how and where to use the sonic logo. The visual symbols of brands are important. Often viewed with a reverence that dictates they should be used sparingly and sympathetically. The guidelines for a sonic logo must convey the same understanding.

It is always going to be undesirable to overplay a logo, just as it is undesirable to neglect it and not play it enough to gain recognition and build associations. The guidelines, therefore, must lay out the rules for when and where the sonic logo is to be employed, as well as identifying the key applications where the sonic logo could have particular resonance.

A checklist for usage of a sonic logo on television is shown in Table 23.1 (below). The same questions and evaluations need to be made for commercial radio; Table 23.2 (also below) indicates additional points to consider here.

An area of specific interest with regard to radio, rather than TV communications is opportunities to hear (OTH). Radio tends to deliver more frequency of exposure than television, because of its relatively low media costs, so the danger of creating listener fatigue to a single sonic logo is far greater. Listener fatigue is the single greatest hazard in the usage of a sonic logo. Very high frequency of exposure will tend, in many instances, to lessen the effectiveness of any sound to draw attention. Furthermore, the ability of a sonic logo to cause audiences to switch from hearing the radio to listening directly to a brand communication will usually be diminished with overplaying.

Sonic logos will behave like any sound that is heard so often that it becomes wallpaper. Think of the person who lives next to the railway but sleeps through the night no matter how trains pass. The brain can become accustomed to sounds and learn to ignore them. Thus, the overall frequency or OTH of any sonic logo must be carefully monitored.

There is no universal truth, however, regarding effective frequency. The optimum number of exposures is not yet known but there is a common sense correlation between the musical complexity of a logo and the OTH at which listener fatigue will become an issue. The relationship is as follows: a sonic logo made up solely of a simple melody line, played on one instrument, will be very easily remembered and understood. In Europe, an example of such a sonic is the one that belongs to Direct Line, the insurance services group.


Direct Line

If you have heard it once, it is as if you have heard it a 1,000 times. It holds no mystery or complexity. It is a fairly generic ‘cavalry charge’, played with heavily synthesized brass sounds. It was created under the aegis of ad agency Davis Wilkins around 1989 in the UK, when Direct Line launched as one of the first telephone-based companies in Europe. Chris Wilkins, creative director of the agency at the time is said to have described the sonic logo as an ‘old fashioned advertising gimmick’. It is said by Andrew Ingram, now of the Radio Advertising Bureau (RAB) but then account planner at Davis Wilkins, that the development of a sonic logo, together with a visual counterpart, a red telephone on wheels, was encouraged by Steve Ashman, marketing manager at Direct Line, because he believed they would maximize results from audience testing of memorability, branding, communication strength and persuasive power.

In the tests, specifically the Linktm test carried out by research company Millward Brown, Ashman was proved correct. Direct Line’s launch TV commercial is said to have ‘blown the numbers off the dial’. The sight of the little red telephone driving over a hill to the rescue, accompanied by the sound of a cavalry charge played on what sounded like a telephone keypad had tremendous resonance. The launch activity ran for around six months on television and by the time follow-up activity was being planned, the red phone and the sonic logo had become a part of the TV audience’s understanding of the brand to such an extent that it was deemed impossible to drop the sonic from future advertising.

Direct Line was and remains one of the most important launches ever in the UK insurance market and it set an agenda for ‘direct’ marketing of services from the supplier to the consumer via the telephone that continues to impact countless brands in the UK. Almost every retail sector now has a number of players with ‘direct’ in their brand name as a consequence of Direct Line’s impact as a business model and as a consumer launch.

The ad campaign won the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) award for effectiveness in both generating response and building a brand at the same time. At the start of the 1990s, this was one of the holy grails of the media planning and buying industry and Direct Line became an iconic brand for those working in the industry just as it had for audiences. Creatively, too, Direct Line was aspirational to such an extent that a number of copycats hit the insurance market very quickly. Most notable of these was Admiral Insurance. It launched in 1993 with a strategy closely mirroring that of Direct Line. It had an admiral, holding a telescope to his eye, on the lookout for the best insurance quotes and he had his own sonic logo to accompany his search. Like Direct Line, the sonic logo was a single melody line, this time a sailor’s hornpipe rather than a cavalry charge. It was played on a synthesized instrument of no discernable lineage but it sounded very, very similar to the synthesized brass of the Direct Line logo. The similarities were so close that in research carried out by the sonics team at Capital Radio, there was over 70% misattribution of the Admiral sonic back to Direct Line.

It was pretty clear that the copycat sound was potentially damaging to both brands and Admiral seems to have abandoned it some time in 1998. Admiral, though, made Direct Line realize that its sonic logo was too open to being copied by other brands and, in 1998, they made some changes. The melody of its logo become more distinct — replacing the traditional, generic cavalry charge — and was made longer. The arrangement became slightly more complex, too. This allowed the new logo to become easily copyrightable as a piece of music, as a result of which it became easier for Direct Line to apply for and gain trademark status for its sonic logo. The Direct Line logo is incredibly powerful and is well respected within the organization for what it does. Jim Wallace, marketing director of the insurance company, who oversaw its regeneration and trademark registration, told us that the audio—visual logo regularly achieves astonishing results in research groups. Recognition and recall levels of over 90% are the norm, the kind of levels that only Coca-Cola and other ‘top’ brands usually achieve.

Sonicbrand’s own research tells us that people in the UK do remember the Direct Line sonic logo more than any other apart from Intel. This has a potential downside to it, however. in that the same research shows Direct Line’s sonic logo to be the most irritating around. This is not necessarily the bad news it seems. First it is only irritating because it is so memorable. Second, the ‘irritating’ sound of the logo ensures that it cuts through the background hum of advertising and grabs attention; it is most definitely distinct in the current marketplace. Third, the simplicity of the logo fits emotionally with the simplicity of the offering.

Direct Line has recognized that their logo is potentially irritating and altered the way they use it to accommodate this factor. It is not overplayed. lt is not on every ad for every product and it is sometimes used quite softly as underscore to a voiceover and only rarely given a full volume, ‘listen to me’ outing. Wallace makes the excellent point that the redesign of the logo has created a musical property that could. if the need arose. be extended into full brand scores, which would give the brand some healthy flexibility in its approach to future sonic branding.

Daniel M Jackson - CEO, CORD

Audio Branding Guidelines

Today's extract from Sonic Branding: An Introduction takes us from the creative process to the development of musical guidelines.

Chapter 22 - Sonic Guidelines

The third component of the some brand identity is the guidelines document. In conjunction with the brand score and the sonic logo, this document should contain all the strategic, technical and creative information required to create expressions of the brand that are consistent with the identity and thereby relate back to the belief and values of the brand. Guidelines documents can vary greatly, dependent upon the scope for sonic branding exposed during the audit phase. Each sonic touchpoint will require its own guidelines and as a result, the document can become very weighty indeed.

Creatively, the guidelines should describe the sonic language, brand score and sonic logo adequately that two skilled composers could create new works that fit seamlessly with one another and have the desired emotional fit with the brand. The compositional guidelines, therefore, must include musically technical information such as the melodic and harmonic structure of the brand score and sonic logo. Standard musical notation is used to describe this.


Melody is defined as the series, one after another, of musical notes that make up a tune. Melody is the component of music that is most readily processed by our brains, requiring a low level of involvement from the listener to become recognizable and memorable. It is generally the melody of a piece of music that we will whistle after listening. It is rare, except for the most involved and trained musician, to remember and whistle a bass line or rhythm guitar part of a popular song.

Because of the ease and speed with which we remember melodies, this part of the identity is usually at the very heart of the sonic logo and always forms a major part of the brand score and guidelines.


If melody is the series of notes. defining harmony is to identify the notes that are placed in parallel, underneath the melody. Sonic guidelines are not always the place for advanced musical theory but some reference to the type of harmonies that are core to the identity is generally deemed useful. In this way, specific modes of harmony as might be archetypal of jazz or rock or classic styles can be defined for future reference.

Key signature

The key is a particularly important piece of information for establishing a creative platform that can be built upon independently by composers. The key of a piece of music describes which set of related notes have been used and the notes that can seamlessly be used in further work.

Simplistically, there are two types of key: major and minor. Major keys ound characteristically comfortable and minor keys are characteristically interesting.

Time signature

One other element of the compositional guidelines that is always included is the time signature, which defines the overall rhythmic feel of the brand score. Thus, by defining a key and a rhythm in the guidelines, we can help ensure that all subsequent sonic branding has a basis in the identity.

A full description of the sonic language is also desirable. This is the technical definition of the instruments used, including. Where applicable, the names of keyboards, sound modules or samplers and the settings employed. Again, this is very useful information for composers and ensures consistency in all new work.

On some occasions, for example where singing has been used as a part of the language, the contact details of an individual performer have been included in guidelines as they have provided a unique contribution to the sonic language. A specific vocal element may or may not become a key brand property but should it do so, it is important that future sonic branding can utilize the same voice and thus be consistent...

Daniel M. Jackson - CEO, CORD