Anomaly's Ben Dorenfeld on Unlocking Authentic Stories Through Music
Ben Dorenfeld has worked in the music and advertising industries for over 10 years. He currently oversees all aspects of music supervision, production and brand partnerships across clients worldwide as director of music at creative agency Anomaly. Prior to Anomaly, he produced and supervised music at Grey Group on campaigns for Volvo, Pantene, Ketel One and more.
Ben began his career in the live entertainment industry at ICM Partners in New York, where he oversaw contract management, routing and client relations for artists across the concerts roster. Before moving to New York, he worked as a tour accountant on Oasis’ final stadium tour across the U.K. and Ireland.
Ben is a graduate of Skidmore College, where he served as president of the Student Entertainment Committee and program director for his college radio station, WSPN. He is an avid drummer and has enjoyed playing in bands since he was a teenager.
We caught up with Ben for our Liner Notes series to learn more about his musical tastes and journey through the years, as well as recent work he's proud of and admired.
Ben, tell us...
Where you grew up, and where you live now.
I spent the first 18 years of my life in Massachusetts and the last 16 in New York.
Your earliest musical memory.
My earliest musical memory is dancing in my parents' living room to my first cassette, Michael Jackson's Dangerous, but the one that really mattered was when I went to a friend's birthday party in 1st grade at Roller Kingdom, one of those '90s suburban destinations for kids. I didn't know how to roller skate, and I remember feeling left out and lonely. Then I heard "Basket Case" by Green Day. It was the first time I was ever truly excited about music, and that changed my life.
Your first concert.
My parents took me to see Fleetwood Mac at the Great Woods Amphitheatre (now Xfinity Center) when I was in 4th grade. They had to take me out because I thought it was too loud!
Your favorite bands/musicians.
There are so many artists I love, and so I'll talk about two today—Black Flag and SZA. Hardcore punk was my musical calling during my coming of age, and Black Flag were one of the pioneers. They had everything from an incredible sound to catchy songs to arguably the most iconic logo out there, and their legacy extends beyond the genre, having paved the way for and influenced countless bands from Converge to the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
SZA's Ctrl is my favorite album of the last decade. Her stream of consciousness songwriting that delivers vulnerability in a way that is confident and empowering is so inspiring. You can hear the wide range of influences in her music which have helped forge her unique sound, her voice is exceptional, she is an outstanding performer, and she continues to gift us amazing songs. She is without a doubt one of the greatest artists of our time.
How you get your music these days.
Friends, colleagues, journalists, DSP playlists, social media. There are so many ways to discover new music that it can be overwhelming, but I think it's fun to find something I like in a variety of different places.
Your favorite place to see a concert.
Living in New York, we're fortunate to have so many incredible venues where we can catch shows. After these past couple of years, I just want to be surrounded by people having a good time, so that's Madison Square Garden, that's Kings Theatre, that's maybe someone's house. My career began in live entertainment, and it will always be a part of my life.
Your favorite music video.
I'm not sure if I have a favorite but a favorite from the past couple of years is Drake's "Laugh Now Cry Later." The cameos, the references, Drake being Drake, it's fun. It brought a smile to my face during a difficult period of Covid in 2020.
Your favorite music-focused TV show and/or podcast.
Atlanta. The characters are amazing. The music's great. Also, Zazie Beetz and I share an alma mater.
A recent project you're proud of.
Our "If You Want Me to Stay" re-record for Crown Royal and "You'll Never Walk Alone" re-record for Johnnie Walker were both dream jobs because I was able to work with Ari Lennox and Brittany Howard, respectively, two artists I admire.
Most recently, I produced a mashup of "Walk This Way," "Walk on the Wild Side" and "These Boots Are Made for Walking" for Johnnie Walker. The creative director and I met up to go to the studio to work on the track with the music company just before Delta hit last summer. I hadn't seen any co-workers in a year and a half. We had a blast. When work doesn't feel like work, it's not something to take for granted.
Someone else's project that you admired recently.
There is a non-profit based in New York called Building Beats. They teach music production, DJ'ing, podcasting and entrepreneurship to youth in the city. They recently partnered with Resident Advisor for nightclub workshops and the kids in their program are so inspiring to work with.
How musicians should approach working with brands.
Understand your own brand first as an artist, and then ask yourself what you want to gain out of working with brands. Is it a revenue stream? A way to gain exposure and expand your audience? A way to tell a story or flex a different creative muscle? Maybe all of the above? Working with brands is a spectrum and by understanding your own goals as an artist, you can better position yourself to succeed in the branded space if you wish to do so.
How brands should approach working with musicians.
Similar to artists, brands must understand where music fits into their ecosystem. Maybe it's sponsorship, maybe it's sync in advertising, or maybe it's multifaceted partnerships. Artists hold the key to culture, but for brands to unlock it, they must tell an authentic story. These are the successful partnerships, and they in turn elevate both the artist and brand.
What music can do that nothing else can.
It's the universal language. I suppose that's cliché, but I think it means more today than ever. People across the world are singing songs by Beyoncé, Bad Bunny and BTS—three languages, three diverse backgrounds, three international stars we enjoy for a shared love of music.
What you'd be doing if you weren't in the music world.
Beyond music, I'm just really fascinated by culture, and so I think I would have to do something connected to it in some way, shape or form.
Liner Notes is our weekly interview series, publishing every Monday, where we chat with folks in the music industry about their creative inspirations, their favorite bands and musicians, and generally what music means to them. For more about Liner Notes, and our Clio Music program, please get in touch.