Unleashing the Singer-Songwriter Across the Cubicle

TBWA Invites Employees to Submit Music Through Disruptunes

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Agency creatives long have wound up in acting and directing roles in their clients' ads, but TBWA/Chiat/Day has now formalized its internal talent-scouring process -- and found some untapped musical chops along the way.

TBWA has established an internal web site called Distruptunes, where in the last five months, 52 of its staff members have uploaded more than 100 original pieces of music. Other creatives at the agency have an opportunity to review the performances and consider them for marketers' ads. In addition, employees get a chance to vote on the songs and those generating the most votes will become part of an album the agency plans to produce.

"We don't want to go into the music-making business," said Rob Schwartz, executive creative director. "We're nowhere near as good as our suppliers, but we can get more ideas and when we cut spots in house, there might be a song that rings."

That's what happened to Eric Ortega, by day a production coordinator in TBWA's Playa Del Rey, Calif., office and at other times a composer, lead guitarist and backup singer for The Generators, a five-piece rock band. A number he composed, "Thirty Seconds," was selected as the music for a 15-second spot for Grammy Brand apparel that ran during last weekend's Grammy Awards.

Although the Recording Academy's mission is to lobby lawmakers to protect artists' rights, Mr. Ortega was not paid for the rights to his music. Mr. Schwartz said the site is not intended as a revenue stream for young creatives, but rather "an organized playground." If songs are used for productions, deals will be cut on a case-by-case basis.

In the case of Mr. Ortega, the guitarist said he's unconcerned, happy to work on a pro bono basis for the academy's apparel line, where 20% of the proceeds go to charities such as its MusiCares program. The Grammy's TV audience of 17.5 million had the chance to hear the song, not a bad target, he said. "We take what we can get."

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Alice Z. Cuneo is the West Coast editor for Advertising Age.
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