Discover the Best Undiscovered Music for Commercial Use: Bells Atlas

Marmoset presents miniature music concerts — a new series where we invite talented, touring and local artists into our space to capture a stripped down performance of their music.

Cultivating a floating landscape of sounds, surrealism guides Bells Atlas; their latest album The Mystic offers layer upon layer of abstract electronic textures and charismatic lyrics, an open exploration of pace and rhythms, likened to jazz’s uninhibited perimeters. Front singer, Sandra Lawson-Ndu’s vocals help define the band’s cosmic DNA, aesthetically blurring the lines between psychedelic rock, electronic pop and soulful R&B.

In Bells Atlas’ mini concert performance here at Marmoset, the group expresses creative agility throughout their performances of “First Gen Pisces” and “The Khamsa” — it’s an imaginative range between ebbing, alluring energy to great emotional force.

Click play above to watch/listen their performance of “The Khamsa”, then head over here for an exclusive mini concert look at their performance of “First Gen Pisces”. Read on to discover the subtextual meaning behind their two songs.


The meaning of “First Gen Pisces” in the words of Doug Stuart:

First Gen Pisces

In short this is about a mind inundated by expectations of how to exist in this world, and woven into that is a pool of fear, memory and fantasy. And then there’s sleep, a temporary path to peace of mind.

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The meaning of “The Khamsa” in the words of Sandra Lawson-Ndu:

The Khamsa 

This drifts between images of dreams, spirituality, and imagination, and the space they share in connection with the intangible. The song is about making space for each other's beliefs and being open to varied lenses of experience.

"People like you enrich the dreams of the world, and it is dreams that create history. People like you are the unknowing transformers of things". — Ben Okri, Nigerian poet and novelist.

The word Khamsa translates to five” or “five fingers” in Arabic—this is probably a symbol that you’ve seen many times of an open right hand often with an eye in the center. In many faiths this symbol is seen to bring about happiness and peace while protecting from the evil eye/ negative influence.

A Mini Concert ft. Bells Atlas: the Cosmically Soulful Band to Know

Marmoset presents miniature music concerts — a new series where we invite talented, touring and local artists into our space to capture a stripped down performance of their music.

Bells Atlas’ sound is a combo of mystic charm and soulful, experimental pop. They get you moving through creating a space that feels wandering, inquisitively open and exploratory.

As big fans of their music, when the touring stars aligned, we leaped at the opportunity to host Bells Atlas at Marmoset headquarters; hanging out in the space, they have a natural ease about them. In their stripped down performance they completely make the space their own, singer Sandra Lawson-Ndu’ vocals rule over everything else.

Check out Part One of their mini concert above, then dig into our conversation with the band below:


Marmoset: If you had to pitch Bells Atlas' sound in a sentence, what would it be? 

Derek: The rhythm of orange creamsicle earthquakes and melody of melted lava astrological comet-chords. 

M: If you could attend any musical event in history, what would it be?

Doug: Miles Davis at the Cellar Door in 1970. 

M: Who are some filmmakers, artists and other musicians you look to for inspiration? Do you guys ever pay homage to anyone with your work? 

Sandra: Speaking on this album (The Mystic),  I was very much inspired by authors and other creatives that use sci-fi fantasy or even surrealism to observe our own realities. 

For me, the best ones somehow have the potential to spark inspiration for how to interact with each other and create a sense of openness to what is possible, drifting further from an idea of acceptable norms. Ursula Le Guin, Phillip Pullman, and Sharon Shinn are authors that inspired me early on. More recently I’ve been inspired by amazing  shows like Atlanta and Random Acts of Flyness, or authors like Octavia Butler and Akwaeke Emezi who present surreal and fantastical work in which black and brown folks are often central characters. 

M: What would you say is "the heart" of your new album, The Mystic?

Sandra: The main heart of the album is really the fact that we get this opportunity to write together as a band and this music is a reflection of how we've grown in that process and also how much we love it.

Thematically this is very much inspired by a connection to someone in my life who sparked my love for storytelling and my interest in both the mystical and the fantastical. In my eyes they have alway embraced and embodied intangible realities. When they began to struggle with their mental health they still held that magic as a truth-seer and a storyteller. This narrative exists in some of the songs in the album but it’s really the questions that resulted that are the basis of many of the stories here :  what expressions needed a diagnosis? what caused pain versus what was the result of a different way of interpreting life and offering new paths of seeing? what was clinical vs mystical? How do we make space for each other's beliefs and varied lenses of experience.

M: There's something refreshingly experimental and kind of psychedelic with your music + visual work — how does the band try out new ideas? What does a creative session look like when writing new music or making a music video?

Geneva: Trying out new ideas is perhaps one of the binding qualities between all of us.  I think this creative collaboration is, in some part for all of us, an arena to do that.  

Something with The Mystic in particular, for example, was approaching a new writing technique which involved creating more from a studio production approach.  It was less about being behind our instruments and satisfying the performative aspect, and more about crafting songs and thinking about the listening perspective; compounding elements and sections of each song one at a time.  It kept things fresh and offered a new perspective on creating together, which is something we've never really been adverse to.

When it comes to visual elements for the band, there are usually a series of ideas thrown around, or perhaps just one, and then we dig deep into that world.  So the fuzzy masks in “Be Brave” started with a photo shoot we did years ago.  We honestly wanted to try getting away from having to photograph our faces together 'cause we all felt like we photograph and facially express so differently that maybe nullifying our faces would help execute something simply and quickly.

Kinda funny thinking about it in retrospect.  But the cool thing was, we were able to insert something psychedelic and fantastical instead and sort of recreate our identities. Or perhaps give some deeper meaning to our identities.  Anywho, the director took that that fantastical idea and ran with it, which we supported fully along the way.

M: We loved having you here at Marmoset, your music is so immersive — whether listening to it with your headphones on or witnessing it performed in person. How do you guys get in the right mindset before a show or wind down afterward?

Geneva: This varies depending on who you talk to.  I think there's inevitably some kind of socializing happening, but as the set time approaches, some of us zone out in the green room and do vocal warm-ups or stretch. 

Some people get some fresh air or take a walk before or after the set before greeting people. There's almost always food involved somewhere in there between soundcheck and showtime.  It definitely helps to get grounded and clear the mind in some way!  Our music is fairly involved and requires some kind of "zen" state for each of us in some way, whether that means channeling focus or just letting yourself open up your intuition and feel your way through all the nooks and crannies the music takes you to .


Check back on Monday when we dig more into Bells Atlas’ song meanings and another release of their exclusive performance.

Posted on June 14, 2019 and filed under Artist Spotlights, Music, Media Coverage, Music Licensing, Marmoset.

3 Tips for Running Your Creative Project Like a Boss

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Imagine managing a project and never running into snags or roadblocks — everyone takes ownership of their roles and every process runs smoothly all the way up to the finish line. Such a world exists! Teaming up with our friends at Wipster, we’re bringing you three important tips for streamlining communication and collaboration.

Just like how we know how to support our clients find music for videos, our friends at Wipster know a thing or two about getting everyone on the same page. Here are their three tips for working with clients on video and creative projects.


Every filmmaker strives to make their videos both creative and unique while also fulfilling the business goals of their client. The balance, however, between creativity and goals can be a fine line to walk when there are many cooks in the kitchen. So what are the best ways to set up your video for the ultimate success without losing your creative touch?

Let’s dive into the three ways to best manage your communication with your clients so everyone is happy!

The Creative Brief and Pitch Deck

When your client comes to you with a project idea, it’s best to work with a representative from  your client’s organization to draft a creative brief. A creative brief should include these three core components: the target audience, call-to-action, an overview of the video’s goals and objectives, and the production schedule or any hard deadlines.

The creative brief then becomes the backbone of the project and the starting point from which you can make your pitch deck.  

A compelling pitch deck should include the following:

  • An intriguing tagline the summarize the video (this is also known as a log line)

  • The Technical Style: How will the video be made? In what style? Animation? Live Action?

  • Voiceover Script (if any)

  • Reference and/or Inspiration videos and music

  • And mood images

Pro Tip: Include musical links or samples in your brief as well! Music is such a key component for the mood of your project and it will help your client understand the tone of the video.

Once the client approves the pitch deck, then formalize the agreement.

Formalize the Agreement

If you’re a freelance or agency, I’d highly recommend creating an agreement template that includes the production fee, deadline, and has your creative brief and pitch deck attached to it.  

Before the agreement is signed, it’s important to make sure all stakeholders approve the brief and the pitch deck. This means asking your client, “who is the person at the top of your organization that must approve the video before it goes out?” Make sure their bosses’ boss is involved so that way there are no surprises when the final edited video reaches their desk for approval.

Of course, as production carries on things might shift or change slightly in the production. That’s the nature of production! But at least you can use the agreement as leverage to go back to hold both yourself and the client accountable.
In your agreement you can list out the number of feedback cycles included in the cost production. Typically two rounds of edits is the norm unless there are any outstanding typos.

Then send it out for signature!

Use Wipster for Review and Approval

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Once your video is ready for review, there are a lot of ways to share with your team for feedback. If ever in the face of a tight deadline or pesky varying timezones, getting quick revision notes can seem challenging. But the workflow can keep flowing even in the collaborative process when using Wipster to send your video for feedback.

The creative feedback and collaboration features of Wipster allow your client to leave secure and private notes directly on the video, rather than feedback via an email chain which usually consists of a list of time-coded comments.  

From Wipster, you will get notified when your client has viewed and finished commenting on the video, making the process seamless. And all feedback will be time-coded and nicely fit into one place.

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Pro Tip: Before you send your client a Wipster link to review remember to inform them what Wipster is — so they understand what the tool is for. Remember, no surprises!

You can also send your client this list on how to give constructive feedback. More communication is better than none! Keeping everyone on the same page will not only ensure that your project succeeds, but also make your video client happy.

Once the video is approved, Wipster can also be the file delivery method. You can enable the client to download the original and approved video file.

The Wipster team is constantly working to improve feedback loops. If you’re interested in trying it out, sign up for a 14-day free trial. Happy video making!

Uncovering the Podcast License Pt II

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Our clients come from all walks of life—and industries—yet they all share a common mission: too find music that serves their content’s purpose.

We’ve spotlighted everyone from independent filmmakers whose work has premiered at Sundance to Tribeca and dug into the stories of music video directors and producers. But what about the non-visual creative projects that also make the world go ‘round?

Kicking off our Uncovering the Podcast License series last week, we looked at the number of ways music and sound can serve a podcast’s narrative and theme—how licensing the right music can intrigue listeners to tune into future episodes, while creating a signature experience for the show’s overall brand.

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Audio producer and podcaster, Megan Tan knows a thing or two about licensing music for her esteemed podcast, Millennial—a notable series on growing up and finding a place in the “real world.” While Tan wrapped up the series a couple years back, the show has been recognized by publications like The Atlantic, The Huffington Post and A.V. Club, it remains to be a relatable series that can be applied to today.

Now living in New York City, Tan is still a producer, working on Gimlet Media’s The Habitat, NPR’s Planet Money and on a Pineapple Street Media podcast. Through her podcast and productions, Tan has utilized music and sound design to cultivate an immersive environment strictly through audio.

We sat down with Tan to look back on her arrival in podcasting (when it was still new and expansive territory) and her experience in making the hit podcast, Millennial:


Marmoset: Could you give us a look into what it was like before you made your first podcast

Megan Tan: Basically I wanted to be a radio producer and I had an internship at NYC Radio Lab for a semester but I didn't actually make radio, I didn’t know how to make radio. And my background is in photo journalism—and in photo journalism, what you do is, you go out and you shoot, right?

You Take photos and you create a portfolio and then people can see your work and then they can hire you. So I guess I just took that idea and decided to apply it to this new industry and Millennial started out almost like a portfolio piece; because the closest thing that I had was my life. I just wanted to practice collecting audio, interviewing people, writing scripts, mixing, making episodes and making radio stories.

M: What did it look like leading up the Millennial gaining more momentum and attention?

Tan: The whole idea was that all the work that I was doing would be a portfolio to get me a job in public radio—which is dead. I ended up getting a job at New Hampshire public radio. There I was continuing to make Millennial, I had like almost two full-time jobs. I was making this podcast and then I was working full-time at a public radio station.

And then at one point the podcast started getting more praise and press than the shows at the public radio station. And I just kind of decided to make this leap and dedicate myself to doing it full-time.

M: Did you ever view making Millennial as a way of connecting with other people through your own experiences?

Tan: You know, that wasn’t the goal, because at the time—I don’t know how many podcasts there were, maybe 250,000—I mean, right now the market is really saturated, but even then you’re like ‘who’s going to listen to them?’ Right, so yeah and to be honest, because it was built from the ground up and a lot of the press was organic, I didn’t think anybody was going to listen.

Yeah, so when people were listening, I was like oh shit. A friend of mine just said to me last night, you know, sometimes the best dancers are the people who dance as if no one’s watching. I feel like that’s how Millennial was created. Where it was created in this way where I just spoke into a microphone like no one was listening.

M: Looking back, what did the evolution of Millennial look like from its creator’s standpoint?

Tan: It did evolve because it had to become more sustainable. That’s why there are multiple seasons, if you keep listening, we’re really trying to find our footing after we get past the first season. Instead of it just being a ‘Millennial, a podcast about maneuvering your twenties post-graduation captured in real time,’ it just becomes ‘Millennial, a podcast about coming of age.’

And so that is broader and the purpose was for it to encompass a lot of people’s stories. But the problem with that is, you know, once you give an audience a very specific character to care for—which was me— the less personal you become. It was also the identify that was changing in real-time, as well.

The purpose also changed. It was no longer a portfolio or a personal essay about growing up or a personal documentary. It also has to become a machine, had to be able to live off it full-time and pay people—it became a business. So the mission had to kind of change a little bit. 

M: What did the ‘making of’ such a successful podcast look like story-wise? How did you decide what content to focus on as a millennial yourself?
Tan: We had a bit of a formula but each episode was different, you know? Hopefully the entry was some sort of peg to my life. Whether it was long distance relationships or being Asian in a very white setting.

And then we would try to branch off, maybe do other people’s stories sometimes—it was still my story. And I would just collect tape all the time. Like if I was still making Millennial, I would say, ‘hey do you mind if I record our conversation?’

M: What’s an episode that stands out in your memory as one of your favorites?

Tan: I really enjoyed making “Brunchies,” which is the third episode, because it’s purely sound. I lavved myself when I was doing a shift one day, so I have sounds basically from an entire work day compressed to like two minutes of audio. It was just kind of fun to create that scene with all of that tape.

M: We know you’re busy plugging away in New York—what kind of projects do you have in the works right now?

Tan: Since wrapping up Millennial, I’ve helped produce Gimlet Media’s The Habitat, then there’s also Pineapple Street, they did Missing Richard Simmons; I helped them produce a couple of those shows. I helped them produce Going Through It with Ann Friedman of Call Your Girlfriend. And then also another show called The Unwinding of a Miracle and worked at NPR’s Planet Money. And just recently reported on a piece for NPR’s All Things Considered.


A big thanks to Megan Tan for taking us behind the scenes in making Millennial—it’s just one example of great podcasts utilizing music and sound to create an immersive audio experiences. Check out the full series here and more of her work here.

Songs for Commercial Use: Uncovering the Podcast License

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Every podcaster wants their series to stand out—it’s why licensing music for can be considered a secret weapon not just for the content creator but also the musician, band and artist trying to get their music licensed.

In the past, we’ve set out in highlighting filmmakers to commercial campaign creators—revealing the behind the scenes process of scoring original music to picture to finding music for videos. In our Uncovering the Podcast License series, we’ll look beyond using music in videos and refocus our attention on the non-visual medium. Let’s look at examples of noteworthy podcasts, along with uncovering why every podcast should be licensing music.

In podcasting, a listener’s experience is completely an audio sensory one. Applying music throughout a series is one of the biggest way to cultivate an immersive environment—and it can happen even before the show delves into any actual discussion point.

Even if a podcaster runner isn’t generating a huge cult following, music can attribute incredible value to setting the pacing for the content itself. Regarding music playing in a episode’s introduction, the song is operating as a quick taste of what’s to come—subconsciously telling the listener why they should be invested.

This foundation gives precedence for episode’s real story, paving way for what’s to unfold seamlessly and naturally. Sure it might seem subtle when casually listening—perhaps the music just blending together as a common introductory theme song—but a song can be monumentally influential in getting listeners onboard without them even realizing why they’re hooked, leading them straight into the next episode…and next.

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Look at the new podcast series, Gender Blender created by Bonnie Thornbury. The episode opens with “LOVE//WARRIOR” by Frankie Simone—it’s an anthemic piece of music with a message echoing the series’ discussion of queer culture and the tropes of gender norms. It’s a perfect example of using music that instills parallel themes and sentiments; the song hits home what the podcast is about, while also grabbing listeners’ attention.

A more seasoned podcast is the widely known, Millennial podcast created by Megan Tam. The series incorporates everything from licensed music environmental sound and noise (stay tuned for a one to one interview with show creator later this week).

Understanding that high quality music comes with some type of cost is one step in securing music that serves a podcast’s work and purpose. In the instance of not feeling 100% confident in finalizing a license agreement for a podcast, forgot the hassle and get in touch with our music licensing team—we can help you secure music through the podcast license before you can even say “thanks for listening.”

After all, isn’t it better to use someone’s copyrighted work (i.e. an artist’s music) correctly the first time around then having your podcast flagged for incorrect use? We know you don’t have time for that and neither do your subscribers.


Stay tuned as we continue exploring finding music for podcasts and licensing songs for commercial use.

We're Hiring! Creative Coordinator

Marmoset Now Hiring

Marmoset is seeking a Project Manager to join the greater Creative Services Team. Key responsibilities include working on music searches, quotes and coordinating various creative projects — the idea candidate is someone with strong organizational and communication skills with client relationship experience.

For more information about this position and to apply, please click here.

The closing date for this position is Wednesday, June 26, 2019. Applications are reviewed on a rolling basis as they are received, so the sooner you apply the better. Applications that do not strictly follow the guidelines may not be considered.

Learn about opportunities here at Marmoset, following the link below.

Marmoset is a proud Equal Opportunity employer, celebrating a diverse, inclusive community of people, cultures and stories.

Posted on May 29, 2019 and filed under Marmoset.