Advertising and music synchronisation are taking on an increasingly vital role in promoting and remunerating artists and songwriters. So we met up with music supervisor and former Warner A&R Jane Jacob; originally from London but who now lives in Melbourne working for Mana Music. Her A&R successes include Amy Macdonald & Paolo Nutini.
Jane Jacob – Music Supervisor, Mana Music, Australia
Describe your job. What do you do?! How did you get there?
I’m a music supervisor so I work on commercials, TV shows, films and promos consulting on music. My days are spent working on music briefs that can be anything from a car commercial to a promo for The Bachelor to obscure briefs such as searching for some Lebanese hip hop for a strip club scene!! Then I have to negotiate fees with the copyright owners and try and get the song over the line for my clients . I meet with agencies, TV producers, publishers, labels, new bands and composers on a daily basis.
I have an A&R background so it’s a natural progression although the biggest challenge was learning very quickly about Australian music and what pleases the audience here!
I did 10 years of A&R in London before coming out to Melbourne.
How did you start out in the music industry? What was your big break?
I started out working for the MD of ITB (the live booking agency). His clients were Robert Plant, Aerosmith, Lenny Kravitz and Ozzy Osbourne so it was an amazing experience for a 21 year old. Full on and demanding but the best training. It taught me to think on my feet and realise that the industry is fun but a lot of hard work!! I guess my big break was working at Warner/Chappell as I had always wanted to do A&R.
What was your first/last hit as an A&R?
My first hit was Paolo Nutini’s first single ‘Last Request’ which went Top 5. And my last hit as an A&R was not a hit as such. I had an incredibly talented artist called Phildel whose music was used in a worldwide Apple Ipad commercial. It doesn’t get much bigger than that in the synch world!
Paolo Nutini – ‘Last Request’ (2006)
How closely do you work with artists & management now you’re working in music supervision? How transferable are the skills you developed in A&R to your new role?
We work with artists and management primarily at the start of their careers or if they are not signed. Once they are signed we negotiate with their representatives at their label or publisher. As in A&R, strong relationships help whether it is with the artist, the advertising agency or with the licensing team
What is the general attitude toward syncs and music placements in Australia?
Most artists love them and are really happy to get them. Sales here are low in comparison to the UK so it is an important revenue stream for them and synch fees here are quite high. There is a lot of competition to get synch placements because it’s one of the few ways they can be heard by Australia as a whole rather than select radio stations.
What are the main differences and similarities between the music industries in the UK and Australia?
Radio! The radio structure here is totally different to how it is in the UK. Certain artists really fall between the cracks here i.e if they don’t fit into the pop/dance mould but then don’t fit into the indie/left mould. Like them or loathe them, radio 1 and 2 do break artists to millions of people. We don’t have an equivalent radio station here that can break someone as pop as Aviici at the same time as a more leftfield artist…..So the process of breaking artists is a lot slower although maybe a bit more organic. It’s a bit more cutthroat in the UK. i.e if you don’t get on Radio 1, you’re dropped.
…and how do the music scenes compare?
Like in the UK Australian audiences are passionate about their music. Here in Melbourne, there is so much musical activity, it’s hard to keep up!
There have been some huge international successes coming from Australasia over the years. Can you see a time when the continent’s music business is on a par with that of Europe and the US?
To be honest, no! But that’s not necessarily a bad thing!
What do you miss most from A&R and the UK music industry?
I love UK music and always will. It’s so diverse and culturally that’s what I comprehend as a music lover. That said, the Australian music industry is so exciting at the moment because there’s so many artists getting worldwide recognition and it’s not as cynical as the UK music industry. A&R is a fantastic job and there is nothing like finding an artist that really excites you. I’m very lucky I’ve been able to do it. I miss my writers most of all.
As an A&R, you’re credited with signing and developing unheard of talents such as Paolo Nutini and Amy MacDonald. Can you tell us the story behind their discovery and development into multi-platinum artists?
I literally bumped into Paolo and his manager at Glastonbury and went to see him play at the Bedford in Balham shortly after. I thought he was amazing and signed him up. He was only 17 but there was something about him and I was convinced he was going to do well. I was a Junior A&R then so I was lucky that the MD of Warner/Chappell shared the same view and so Paolo became my first signing. It was at the same time that James Morrison was buzzing about the A&R world so the focus was very much on him. I presented Paolo’s music to a few of my A&R contacts but they thought he and his music was ‘too early’. So I put Paolo with a few writers who were very popular with the key A&R people at the time. I’ve read in a couple of interviews that Paolo was not particularly happy about it but at the time it was a good way to get your artist noticed and known and some good songs did come out of those sessions. However, one of the first and most successful co-writes he did as a W/C writer was ‘Last Request’ with Matty Benbrook and Jim Duguid which was a brilliant song. After that Atlantic signed him and the album went on to sell over 2 million. He is a very special artist and I was very lucky to bump into him that day many years ago!!
Amy MacDonald had an unusual rise to the top. She didn’t come up the normal route of playing gigs or co-writing. She was from Scotland and had hardly been down to London and she wrote everything 100% herself which is a rarity. I was introduced to her by a W/C writer called Pete Wilkinson who went on to be her manager. She sung and played her guitar to me in a room and I was so impressed with the maturity of her songwriting. I literally played her songs in my car to death!! Still, I thought she was quite young and inexperienced so I thought I would sign her to a development deal and see what happened over the next year. I couldn’t have been more wrong! Over the next couple of weeks, somehow Pete had created such a buzz, offers were flying in from everywhere and she hadn’t even played a gig! Luckily my relationship with Pete and Amy meant that they still signed their publishing deal with me. Phew! She’s gone on to sell millions of records and has an incredibly loyal fanbase.
Which campaign that you’ve worked on are you proudest of? Why?
Anything where music can be used as a good cause is always rewarding. We recently music supervised an advertising campaign for breast cancer. They used the Divinys song ‘I Touch Myself’ and got Australian celebrities to sing it. The impact was fantastic. We also did a campaign for Brisbane after the devastating floods a few years back to try and get people back to visiting the city. They re-recorded ‘Come Together’ with a local act and it worked really well.
Where/how do you look for new talent now?
I have a toddler so don’t get out much these days but I have two amazing interns who scour blog pages and go to gigs and let me know what they have seen.
When was the last time you bought a CD or vinyl? What was it?
I’m very lucky in that I get given all my music but I did buy ‘Cold Fact’ (Rodriguez) a while back. My husband and I watched the film and wanted to hear the music again over a few drinks! Apart from that I think it I bought a Wiggles CD for my daughter!!!
Rodriquez – ‘Cold Fact’ (album, 1970)
What’s the best piece of industry advice you’ve received?
Follow your own path and go with your gut instinct. Especially in A&R it’s really important to sign what you believe in rather than what everyone else is signing. I’ve learnt the hard way that that can often backfire!
Describe the music industry in 3 words.
Who were your role models growing up?
What makes the perfect song?
Meaningful lyrics and a memorable riff
What was the first album or record you owned?
‘Like a Virgin’ – Madonna. I was 5 and had no idea what the lyrics meant but I thought she was pretty cool.
Madonna – ‘Like A Virgin’ (1984)
What’s your favourite song and album?
Stranglers – ‘Golden Brown’
Soul II Soul – ‘Club Classics Volume 1’ – must be 25 years old now but sounds just as good today. Was the album that made me want to move to London! I also never tire of ‘Rumours’.
Soul II Soul – ‘Back To Life (However Do You Want Me)’ (1989)
Do you have a party trick or any hidden talents?
I play the flute although probably quite badly now!
What advice do you have for people starting out in the music business & want to do what you do?
Be totally open to every genre of music as you never know what you’ll be asked to look into!! It’s also helpful to have a knowledge or interest in film and advertising.
What is in the pipeline for you over the next 6-12months?
More commercials, more promos and more TV shows!
I’m also music supervising a film called ‘The Dressmaker’ starring Kate Winslet and Liam Hemsworth which we’re excited about.
Finally, choose a favourite from each of these pairs;
Sam Cooke or Marvin Gaye? Marvin Gaye
Rolling Stones or The Beatles? Rolling Stones
Pink Floyd or Led Zepplin? Pink Floyd
Beyonce or Lady Gaga? Neither!
David Bowie or Marc Bolan? David Bowie
Jean Michel Jarre or Herbie Hancock? Jean Michel Jarre
‘Thriller’ Michael Jackson or ‘Bad’ Michael Jackson? Thriller
Hologram Tupac or Hologram Michael Jackson? MJ