Musicians In The Media Agency World

I work with a lot of musicians. At EMC Outdoor we have all types: some with music degrees, those that perform in premiere choral groups, songwriters floating new work at open mics, someone diving deep into orchestral compositions, and a few cranking it up to 11 at local clubs around the city after work. We love and live both music and media.

As a musician myself, I’m familiar with the similarities between Music and Media —besides both being 5 letter M-words— and I have wondered why this dynamic works for us. There are many qualities serious musicians have that translate well into the media agency world. There’s the obvious creativity needed, but plenty of additional crossover to help musicians flourish in our agency environment.

Dedication, self-motivation, diligence

If you are stepping on stage or staging a multi-market, multi-media plan, you are going to need to do it from a place of hard work, late hours and DOING. None of it magically happens. There’s a lot of planning, practicing, working the details, re-writing — and in the end: dedicated, creative people doing hard work leading up to the sound check and curtain call.

Commitment to craft

On any instrument, and in the media world, it takes a while ‘till you know what you’re doing. At our agency, the average experience of our senior team is 15+ years in the out of home field. Commitment and craft: after a while they become the same thing. That’s the value of a dedicated specialist.

Working in teams

Musicians split the important musical elements up, support each other, and bring their specialty to a group for the greater good —larger than the individual parts and players. The same is true for media teams: the media plan, like a piece of music, is supported and executed by players who perform pieces of the client’s overall plan for best effect and experience.

Creative problem-solving and theory evolution

Any jazz musician loves to find a better way to approach a destination chord; with expert ears, testing substitutions against established chord sequences is what they live for. That creative spit-balling and expert guidance also happens in the agency world so that brands can deliver a message or result in a different way. Like chord progressions, the media progressions are endless, and pros strive for the best, most creative, and new to achieve over-arching strategy.

Getting the right mix for a perfect performance

Where should the vocal be in the mix … and the guitar, the bass, and drums? If one is too high or low, the performance could be ruined. The same is true of media allocation. As out-of-home specialists, we are usually advocating for “more OOH in the monitor please”, but always with an ear to finding just the right mix based on a client’s needs and goals, so the overall message sounds just right.

Knowing more than you play

A great musician knows all the chords but doesn’t need to play them all. In the same way, an excellent out of home expert knows all the media but selectively builds the strongest plan based on their experience and client goals. Knowing what to keep out of a plan is as important as knowing what to keep in. As Miles Davis said to Herbie Hancock when the young pianist didn’t know what to play with his left hand that would bring true value to their performance: “Well, just play with your other hand.” The results were more focused and spectacular.

What about you? We’d love to hear about the creative skill cross-overs that you find useful in your work.

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Jerry Buckley
Director of Strategic Partnerships,EMC Outdoor
With 17 years of OOH experience, Jerry has spoken on the Outdoor Advertising Association of America's (OAAA) panel at their national convention, and acted as a judge for the OAAA Media Plan Awards. When not thinking about out of home and experiential, Jerry spends his time with other creative endeavors: music, design and happy family.

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