Debunking Job Titles: Creative Director & Head of Sync
Downtown Music Publishing started its life in New York back in 2007, quickly becoming the go-to for music publishing worldwide by taking on catalogues from the likes of The Beatles, Hans Zimmer, Mötley Crüe, One Direction and a stack more.
Steadily expanding, with offices in major music markets around the globe, including Nashville, Los Angeles, London, Amsterdam, Tokyo and Paris, they landed in Australia in early 2018 with former BMG Rights Management creative director Rachel Kelly stepping into the role of head of sync and creative director.
So much more than finding the songs that accompany your favourite adverts, Kelly guides us through what it takes to hold down the local arm of an international company.
How does your mum describe what you do?
Among other things, I find the songs that you hear on TV ad breaks.
But seriously, what does a day in the life of the head of sync look like?
The day starts early to connect with colleagues in New York. I’ll play new music from our roster while powering through 100+ emails. Afternoons will be clearing songs, working on briefs, getting on the phone or meeting face-to-face with artists, writers, producers, managers, music supervisors, TV networks, production companies and advertising agencies.
I’ll stay in touch with our sync and A&R teams in each territory to set up co-writes and share briefs, killer new songs from our roster, or perhaps the next artist I want to sign. In the evenings there might be phone calls, gigs, events or award shows. Building Downtown’s brand is in my job description and I’m waving the flag in both Australia & New Zealand with some amazing support from our global team.
What is one thing about your job that is really obvious to you, but other people may not know?
When a brand is willing to pay top dollar for music, they usually want something recognisable – or the sentiment of the song has to sell the product. It’s more important to be authentic than chase trends. George Young taught me this.
What’s the most important skill to have in your job?
Having the ability to juggle deadlines and priorities that can change at a moment’s notice. You have to roll with the punches and keep a level head when things get crazy.
The thing you find most challenging about your job is…
Working across three different time zones when you only have a tiny window of a deadline to jump through.
And the most rewarding part?
Signing Australian artists like Stella Donnelly, The Teskey Brothers and John Butler Trio – then watching our global team gear up as each artist has toured the US, UK and Europe. The enthusiasm and support from my colleagues has been really heartfelt and genuine. I know they love these artists as much as I do.
What do you think is the biggest industry misconception surrounding your position?
The biggest misconception is that I work for an independent record label, Downtown Records, when in fact it’s Downtown Music Publishing. We represent an impressive catalogue of songs including ‘Twist & Shout’, ‘Groove Is In the Heart’ and writer/producers, Ryan Tedder and Benny Blanco, among many others.
Our most recent signing out of LA is Theophilus London and we’ve just acquired some catalogues. We have most genres covered and crossover with most independent and major publishers and labels worldwide.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given about working in the music industry:
You have to get the foundations right. Walk before you run.
Give us one stellar piece of advice for anyone wanting to do your job:
First of all, I think it’s important to check your ego at the door and keep the focus on your clients. You need to be able to handle rejection, without taking it personally. Sometimes we have to deny sync requests when the money is good, but the timing or opportunity isn’t right. Unless you wrote the song it’s not your call, and you have to respect an artist’s decision.
Above all, this job requires building and maintaining relationships and being service-focussed. When you get the foundations right, there’s more time to focus on the creative parts of the business.
Finally – when you look back at your career, what do you hope to have achieved?
I hope that our clients will look back on their careers and feel that they made the right choice with Downtown as a creative partner. I always want the artists and writers that I work with (now and in the future) to feel that I’m in their corner. I hope that collectively we’ll reach our goals, recoup advances, win some awards and make some money along the way.