It's a fantastic moment in life when you find that what you love to do and what you are good at also happens to be a profession. Beth Urdang, who founded New York-based Agoraphone Music Direction in 1999, remains amazed that people call her for help placing music to picture. "Five years into it, I still sit back and say, 'Holy crap, these people call us and ask for music compilations and to license music and to talk to bands and produce music.' I look at the other people who do the same thing and I think, 'I can't believe you do it either.' It's amazing to me that it exists."
But Urdang proved to have a knack for finding the right song when she was with Wieden + Kennedy in Portland. There, she found her calling quickly. "Wieden really laid out a career for me," she says. "I was a 24-year-old kid who knew about music and liked to talk about it, and the heads of broadcast were asking me my thoughts on things like the global Nike campaign. I was really lucky, but that's the way Wieden works; they aren't so interested in someone who knew about putting music into ads. They want someone who knows about music."
Urdang moved on to become the music director in Portland and then transferred to Wieden's Amsterdam office to do the same. When she set out on her own in New York, Wieden was her biggest client. But over time, other agencies began calling. "I started Agoraphone the way I would start a band," she says. "I was working out of my apartment, and lo and behold, clients called." She soon joined forces with Dawn Sutter-Madell, who has a music magazine and publicity background. "She was more of a label connection," says Urdang. "The idea, then and now, is to start a collective resource. We have four people on staff but I would like to see it grow to an even bigger brain trust."
Agoraphone's success is in part attributable to Urdang's unwillingness to let trends sway her decisions. She recognizes trends but sees them as little more than a means to an end. "I don't consider us to be trendy in terms of music," she says. "But I also think that if it's appropriate, why not be trendy? It's our job, no matter what, to present a lot of options. If someone specifies a certain kind of music, I still give them other tracks to show the different directions it could go. That's the thing; you never know what's going to work."