Summer is the season of coming alive, celebrating all the hard work we’ve put in so far and how far we’ve come—after all, we’re halfway through the calendar year. We’ll take our frozé and cheers to that.
In these precious days of long-lasting daylight and carefree drives to the beach or pool (we wouldn’t pass up either), summer’s offering of freedom compels us toward embracing change, newness. If you share in this summertime affinity, we invite you to check out our New Music Mixtape for July.
Dive in and bask in all new, good things—enjoy.
Like what you hear? Click on the artist name to discover more gems of these newly added artists. Listen and license your favorite music—while supporting the artist community—with Marmoset.
When Mahesh Madhav set out to create his first documentary film, he envisioned a two minute project profiling innovator and designer, Neal Aronowitz. Around six months later, Madhav pieced together a 25 minute journey nodding to one’s integral passion to create, to then selflessly detach from one’s art to share it all with the world.
Madhav’s background is in engineering, but his pursuit of filmmaking comes from a desire to tell compelling, unique stories through a creative lens; ultimately drawing him to direct music videos and eventually, an almost half-hour long documentary that film festivals are taking notice of — the short has already been accepted into over five festivals and is still circulating.
After continuously running into Aronowitz several times around Portland, Madhav found a way to collaborate with the designer; the two discovered they shared a lot of common ground, including their artistic approaches.
“We kind of had the same ethos in our creative production, whether it’s the ideation process or the meticulousnesses. He’s [Aronowitz] very careful, he doesn’t want to expose a flaw to the public,” says Madhav. “In the same way, I had a bunch of footage and realized some of it worked and some of it didn’t. My problem became not ‘how do I craft a story’ but ‘what story do I tell?’”
Throughout the documentary, Madhav incorporates background music to ebb and flow throughout Aronowitz’s simple 108 step construction process. Licensed from Marmoset’s catalog, Madhav secured music rights for his film by utilizing the site’s search tool and functions.
“Part of the documentary filmmaking process was creating a soundtrack,” says Madhav. “There was this funny thing about how you spend 10% of your time making and editing the film, then 90% of the time searching for music.”
Madhav chalks up his timesaving abilities by referencing a song’s filters — being able to quickly see if a song exudes the right type of crescendo via its graphic icon.
“The Marmoset user interface is amazing because it lets you chop down thousands of possibilities to 30 songs,” says Madhav. “Also the ability to try out music without having the watermark is really great because Marmoset ends up giving a sense of trust to the filmmaker. It’s like ‘here’s the music for you to use, if you want to actually get it out there, you should license from us.’”
With his directorial music video background, Madhav honed in on perfecting his sound design mix, tackling the editing process himself. With the encouragement of another film director, Madhav finally submitted the film for a Best Sound Design & Editing nomination. And won.
“One of my mentors told me that the audience will forgive you if you have bad video,” says Madhav. “But they won’t forgive you if you have bad audio.”
The way Madhav immerses himself into his work mirrors the film’s very subject—Madhav and Aronowitz apply the same dedication to their work, investing themselves into every detail in order to feel confident in sharing it with others.
The documentary filmmaker offers some insight to his pursuit of precision and excellence in filmmaking. and why the craft offers him an equal amount of liberation.
“When my mom grew up in India, they had a dirt floor and there were like six kids. They would all share writing utensils, but pencils and paper were precious,” says Madhav. “And the eraser they would share eventually went to dust, so they went to their dad and said ‘look we ran out of eraser can you buy us a new one?’ and he said, ‘why do you have to make so many mistakes?’.”
This mentality of never wasting anything tangible carried over into Madhav’s upbringing, spurring his interest in digital media. “I found it very freeing because I’m not wasting paper or anything like that, I’m using bits or pixels and they’re purely ephemeral.”
Madhav’s How to Bend Concrete in 108 Easy Steps not merely captures an artist’s creative process, but demonstrates how to give the right amount of care, dedication and attention to something—to lend a piece of ourselves to a process just long enough, then being being vulnerable when inviting others into the room.
“This story is for any content creator,” say Madhav. “Like all content, you have to learn to let it go out into the world, to let others judge it. If they don’t like it or if they do like it, that’s up to them.”
Madhav’s film is currently being showcased internationally across festivals. His next local screening takes place on August 11th at 5th Avenue Cinema, get tickets and learn more here.
Kingsley is an artist on the go; leaping into change and chance, she punctuates her music with a furtive attitude telling listeners her work is as much for them, as it is for her. Things naturally gravitate toward her and she doesn’t disappoint the universe’s beck and call—meeting probability face on.
Her ambitiousness is the undercurrent for creating and performing music. When signing on to be the opener act for SG Lewis, the production asked her to forgo performing with her band and instead do a DJ set; without skipping a beat, she said yes. Although unchartered territory, Kingsley remixed her songs specifically just for that night. It was a testimony for seizing every opportunity that aligns with her creative mission, not being afraid to figure it out as it goes.
Without a musical upbringing, Kingsley’s pursuit of songwriting can be traced back to when she was in kindergarten; her diary was a place for unleashing all her musings, her poems and eventual songs. She jokes that her upbringing was too supportive, a loving environment that didn’t spark a “artist’s angst” commonly found in so many successful artists’ lives.
Minus any great tragedy, Kingsley relents as a woman of color in a predominately white city. She doesn’t attribute her assuredness in identify and circumstances as growing to have “thick skin,” but to only care about the right things—meaning, relinquishing judgemental outside opinions.
“I think I’ve spent my whole life being black in a white setting,” says Kingsley. “But I just got to the point where I can either embrace it or I can spend my whole life tiptoeing around people. No, I’m loud. My personality is loud and my skin is loud.”
This drive to be her authentic self, Kingsley admits she’s still exploring her sound—the unknown being more welcoming territory than falling into a genre others have decided on her behalf. In the past, producers attempted placing Kingsley into the R&B category, advising she stick with a “soulful sound.” Instead Kingsley embarked on reinventing a single EP through a different genre lens with each release. The heart of the production was to create freely while exploring what feels challenging but fulfilling.
“This is me, this is it. Going to an all white school, you know I had to know the whole Hannah Montana theme song and every Snoop Dogg album,” says Kingsley. “I got really comfortable with being like, damn I like all these things. With my music, I can say yeah, I wrote this song, I picked this beat for myself, this is what I want to move, this is what I want to sing along to.”
Kingsley’s work is an ongoing exploration of who she is, a reminder to never shy away from ideas that feel unfamiliar or uncertain; her music and presence is an example to never settle, to never be afraid of asking ‘what’s next?’
License and listen to Kingsley’s latest album, I Am Because I Dance. Then hit play on her Top Ten list to see what she’s currently listening to.
In Portland? Catch Kingsley live at Bit House Saloon on Saturday, July 20th. See you there!
When it comes to making music that not only fulfills an artist’s creative mission while dually serving as a licensable asset, there’s a lot to navigate. Speaking on this topic at the annual Hawai’i Songwriting Festival, Marmoset’s founder Ryan Wines, Dear Nora’s Katy Davidson and music composer Jeff Brodsky challenged a crowded room, asking songwriters what they think it takes to write a song for a Super Bowl commercial.
Respecting the art of creating original music, let’s start with this disclaimer: it’s not possible to force one’s music into a Super Bowl ad campaign — or any type of commercial for that matter. This isn’t clickbait, there isn’t an quick one trick solution to jumpstarting one’s success in sync licensing. But look close enough and there’s a pattern for music successfully landing big creative campaigns.
An Energy Kick
Think back to some Super Bowl ad campaigns from past years, the ratio of upbeat to music of lesser enthusiasm couldn’t be greater. There’s a reason for this — according to a study by Microsoft, the average person has an attention span of roughly eight seconds; so if Nike wants viewers to stay invested their creative campaign in just doing it, it’ll take more than just compelling visuals.
Considering the average commercial is around the 15 second mark, it doesn’t hurt to feature music that delivers momentum, the fuel to help move along the picture. Look to these songs as examples for a pumped up pulse:
“In most cases, our clients want a song that features some kind of ascending arch, meaning you come out of the gate with more energy but there’s still room to grow and layer instruments,” says Katy. “Then typically by the end of the ad, video or whatever video project it is, you’ll be at peak energy level.”
Not exclusive to the music industry, the golden grail is that special something setting apart one’s work from the rest. It’s the head-turning (or ear-opening) quality that makes a song leap out, grabs and engages
“By definition, it’s hard to define,” says Katy. “But I think it has something to do with letting your voice come through the recording. To not just sort of write the lowest common denominator type of song that technically checks all the boxes, but also has its own unique personality.”
It’s a common mistake music supervisors and music producers see musicians fall into at times, writing music with a sellable intentionality — rather than making music that speaks at a deeper level. The mistake in this is most creative agencies want music that amplifies their message in a unique and genuine way. Meaning, they’re going to pass on something that feels a dime a dozen.
Stuck on what to make of this defining set-you-apart characteristic? Look to strengthening a song’s emotional tone. It’s a tried and true method for creating content that feels relatable and human. To answer if the song meets this criteria, it’s a matter of stepping back to ask if the music is supporting or driving the video’s emotive purpose.
Exemplifying this sentiment, look to Bumble’s Serena William’s campaign featuring “Soul Survivor” by Rita Ora.
To be Technical
There’s no beating around the bush, there are some distinguishing technical factors between a song made for leisurely Spotify listening and one that lands a spot during Super Bowl airtime. Elements like a slow dragging tempo can eliminate a song from being used for commercial use.
“Somewhere like 95% of the time, if a song is mid tempo or slower, it’s almost always not going to work,” says Katy. “There’s always exceptions to every rule but most of the time, the song needs to be pretty upbeat. The dynamics are crucial. If it’s just wall to wall sound the entire time, it doesn’t leave anything fun for the video editors to edit to, the song is probably not going to do so well.”
This leads into how a song delivers rhythmically and melodically. Creating a song featuring thoughtful percussions can also increase a song’s licensability.
“As long as it's not too cluttered, anything rhythmic — even if it's a melodic instrument played in a rhythmic way — tends to help music license,” says Katy. “A guitar for example, but like with really staccato notes being played, so it sounds like a rhythm instrument.”
Lastly, a golden rule to follow when creating licensable music: be sure to present the music licensing platform with an instrumental version of your work.
“Especially when it comes to broadcast TV, there’s a lot of union rules,” says Katy. “A lot of agencies need to follow those rules and so vocals can sometimes make the spot more expensive. Sometimes they can pay for it, great, but if can’t, they’re often going to ask for they instrumental version.”