Getting the right scream for an angry goat in a Doritos crowdsourced Super Bowl spot was just part of the job for the musicians at Tunewelders, a 5-year-old music production company in Atlanta. The shop specializes in customized music and sounds for brands and programming, ranging from goofy to solemn, such as a patriotic melody underlining NFL players reading the Declaration of Independence—another promo Tunewelders did for this year’s Super Bowl audience. Guitarist Ben Holst is co-founder, producer and creative director of Tunewelders. He and co-founder Jeremy Gilbertson work with Jason Shannon and Vic Stafford to tap into what he calls the backlash against “overcomputed, overprocessed” music and the movement toward “organic and authentic” sounds coming from real instruments.
What makes your music studio different from the legion of others out there?
We do emotional Americana using instruments like acoustic guitars and Hammond organs. We play and record real instruments, and we do music by hand.
How is the role of music and sound changing in ads and branded content?
Music has traditionally been treated as an afterthought in making an ad. But sound seems to be moving more to the front of the work, especially when clients want to develop an emotional response. Well-crafted music gives weight to the words. Also, when people are distracted, they can feel the sentiment [of the brand] when they hear the ad’s music, even if they don’t get all the words and visuals.
Can the music in a promo actually change the audience’s state of mind? Any examples?
A great example is the short film Declaration of Independence, which was part of the pregame show for Fox’s Super Bowl broadcast. We introduced calming, familiar and patriotic music to an audience that was in a party mood, with everyone getting into the flash and buildup of the Big Game. The slow pace of the sounds told people to take a break, to listen up for a second. It was like the Pledge of Allegiance in the morning in the first grade. More recently, we co-wrote, produced and recorded a gospel-influenced song that is being used as promo music for CNN’s new series, Death Row Stories. It includes the Congregation Bet Haverim Chorus and tells the story of the series.
Tell us about the chip-loving goat ad, Goat 4 Sale, which won the Doritos Super Bowl contest and seemed wholly dependent on sounds.
That spot was all about exaggeration; there was nothing subtle about it. The trickiest part was the goat’s scream when he runs out of chips. The day before the film was due we were still trying screams by me, director Ben Callner and others, but none was funny enough. Then Ben remembered a frat brother who had a great scream but couldn’t get to the studio. So we had him stand six feet from an iPhone, scream into the phone’s mic and send the recording to me. That’s how we got the scream we used. To get the sound of chip munching we had to actually record goats eating Doritos. There is something about how the sound is slightly muffled by the goats’ jowls that was more authentic than when we recorded people crunching on chips.
What is hard about treating music and sound as integral parts of an ad?
About half the creative directors we work with are musicians, so that helps. But the process is experimental, and people have to be willing to dive into the unknown, which is tough to plan and can be scary for budgeting. It takes a brave client. But the result is more impactful and memorable work that speaks the truth about the brand.