Behind the Work: The Music of Heineken's Heroes

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Wieden + Kennedy Amsterdam's "Open Your World" campaign for Heineken, featuring the super studs who stride through a room and seem to trigger explosions of all kinds of fun around them, has all the elements of great production--from casting and directing to set design and art direction. Tying all the dazzling visuals together, however, are two dynamic and unforgettable tracks: "The Golden Age" by The Asteroids Galaxy Tour, backed "The Entrance," with the band appearing alongside the spot's charismatic lead, while the Bollywood track "Jaan Pehechaan Ho" added zest to the campaign's dazzling part two. Here, Beth Urdang, co-founder of music supervision company Agoraphone, discusses how her company helped create the sonic backdrop to the award-winning spots.

So how did you first come into this campaign?
We were first called by Tony Stearns, the producer, with whom we've worked many times over the years; but the creatives were also people I've worked with throughout the years, particularly Alvaro Satomoyor.

What sort of brief did the agency give you, for the first spot, and then for the more recent Bollywood piece?
We started on both spots quite early, well before filming. With "The Entrance," it was for obvious reasons, as there would be a band on-camera. For that spot, the brief was to find first and foremost a song that just worked and embodied the spirit, tone, and anticipated pace of the spot; but additionally, that song would need to come from a band that would fit the aesthetic and could physically be on camera the dates of the shoot. So logistics mattered.

In "The Entrance," the band was to, ultimately, become a character in the "Legend's" world, so they'd need to make sense both musically for the edit and on camera for the spot. The brief itself was very open, we considered different types of bands doing their own material, covers of older songs, etc; like with many spots, we just played around and conceptualized until we found what everyone felt would just "work."

For "Date," the brief was, at least in part, to not recreate "Entrance," but instead to do something of a piece, perhaps, but notably different. The spot itself had an eclectic visual aesthetic developing, and the music was going to play into that somehow. Though we weren't sure how, exactly, until we got into it. W&K initially suggested "Jaan Pehechaan Ho" as a direction we might consider taking "Date," and then, over time, it just stuck. Though not without considering a number of other avenues and possible iterations in the meantime.

How did The Asteroids Galaxy Tour's appearance in "The Entrance" figure into the initial brief? Were you involved in securing them for the actual spot?
Once the overall tone and look of the spot had been identified - the Asteroids Galaxy Tour seemed like a natural fit. They were one of a number of suggestions we made of bands with, first and foremost, great, compelling songs, who could also be on camera. Everyone loved the song, more and more so as we got closer to the shoot, and schedules worked out and it just all came together. And, yes, as the music supervisor, I was involved with finding them, licensing the song, setting up their being at the shoot, etc.

The agency actually brought me on-set in Barcelona, and it was great working directly with them and the band, and [director] Fredrik Bond and his DP, and the editor. There was a good amount of thought on-set to the timing of the music, as well as the band's role in the spot.

What was step one after receiving the briefs? How did you proceed from there?
Step one is always listening to the thoughts about the spot and its execution and thinking about musical ideas that will both support it and push it to interesting places. I'm always interested in musical direction, of course, but more so I want to know about the spot as a spot - what it will look like, what are the nuances of its tone, etc. I think it just leaves it more open to surprises. Wieden & Kennedy is typically collaborative; they will always give musical input but equally want our input on where it might go as well.

With both spots, the music brief during our first conversations actually leaned toward the idea of covering an older song, as a jumping-off point -- so it's funny, though true to form, that we ended up with a newer band performing their own material on Entrance, and the original version of an older song for the second. But before coming to "the song" on each one, we thought about a lot of different ideas, played around with stuff, did some demos with bands, etc.

For the latest spot, was "Bollywood" written into the brief, or did that come after you provided some song options?
Bollywood was not written in to the brief, although, as I mentioned, "Jaan Pehechaan Ho" came from the agency and was a pretty early contender. There were some other possible song considerations, some competing covers that we'd had bands demo, etc., as well. Over time "Jaan Pehechaan Ho" emerged as the clear favorite, in its original form -- with some help from a fantastic music editor, Mark Vidler, who, with great subtlety, really made it work seamlessly.

Who are the performers? Were you involved in casting them at all?
I was not involved with casting for on-camera for "Date," as it became more of a casting issue for the production company than a music issue per se. We had considered and looked into having bands doing a cover, but in the end everyone felt it should be the original version of the song, so a band was cast for the shoot as characters for this spot.

For you, as a music supervisor, what have been the biggest challenges of the campaign as a whole, and on each of the spots individually?
The biggest challenges were logistics and timing -- just having decisions made, and things ready to go, before the shoot. The details are sort of trivial, and possibly boring to recount, but at the time, it's fair to say they're pretty stressful. But like I said, dealing with all the small, individual music challenges within a job is really what music supervision is, or should be. It's not just "hey find us a song, and we'll stick it on our spot" -- it's a process, and that's what these two spots were. I'd be happy to be so intricately involved in every project; it's very rewarding.

Any other interesting anecdotes about this job?
It makes me happy to know from the band how great "The Entrance" has been for the band; it's a nice side story that doesn't happen with every ad, and when it does, it's great. Also, the band had their work cut out for them after the shoot, adding in the "Legend's" freeform flute part, and they nailed it.

Since you first launched your company, has the role of a music supervisor on spots changed at all? If so, how?
Well, back in 1999 a lot of people said "You do WHAT?!" and "You get paid for that?!" And now, only some people say that.

I do think that the role of the music supervisor, for ads, has evolved toward what a supervisor does for film; which is to say (again), deal with all the aspects of music for the project. It's not simply a "song searcher" role anymore.

I think agencies are coming to see the value of having a person/company on board early, and throughout, to deal with all aspects of music. Even for smaller jobs, as they have their own unique difficulties and logistics, often more so.

Don't get me wrong, there is still the age-old ad-world practice of hiring lots of music people for searches and just "seeing what sticks," but we experience that less and less. I think agencies are realizing that, with how much there is to deal with on the music side, creatively and logistically, it can be beneficial to have one person or entity really focus on it.

See more work from Agoraphone here and on the Agoraphone site.

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