Marni Wandner, sona's CMO, on the Crossroads of Music and Wellness

Plus, her own musical journey through the years

Marni Wandner is a creative strategist and marketer with more than 15 years of experience in the music and entertainment industries. She is currently the CMO of sona, a music therapy app that relieves anxiety using scientifically tested restorative music (IG: @sonacares). 

sona's original music is created using a compositional process backed by leading neuroscientists at UC Berkeley and Nielsen and has been scientifically shown to put the listener's brain into an alpha state, lowering stress within minutes. The app's A.I. algorithm curates songs personalized for each listener based on their environment and listening habits.

Additionally, Marni is the co-founder of Equilibrium, an initiative that brings wellness resources to the music industry (IG: @thisisequilibrium). As a certified holistic health coach, Marni also provides wellness consultancy services, creating partnerships in the wellness space, adding wellness components to businesses and events, and working with individuals to meet their own health and wellness goals.

Marni ran digital agency Sneak Attack Media for 12 years before it was acquired by marketing agency The Syndicate where she served as VP, Marketing & Business Development.

We caught up with Marni for our Liner Notes series to learn more about her musical tastes and journey through the years, as well as recent work she's proud of and admired.

Marni, tell us...

Where you grew up, and where you live now.

I was born in Queens, New York, grew up in South Florida, and then back to New York 22 years ago, living in Brooklyn for about the last 10.

Your earliest musical memory.

My parents played a lot of music in the house: Lou Reed, Jimi Hendrix, the Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, Joni Mitchell, Fleetwood Mac, Tom Petty. Birthdays were kicked off by them blasting the Beatles' "Birthday" before we were even out of bed. The Cars, Tina Turner and Madonna set the (living room) stage for many, many dance routines with my sister. The shelves were filled with vinyl—until they were also filled with CDs—which I would later steal to make into mixtapes. 

Your first concert.

Debbie Gibson's Out of the Blue tour. I went with a friend and my parents and I remember feeling the incredible energy of an arena of people connected to each other by music and singing along to the same songs. It was like electricity.

Your favorite bands/musicians.

I always struggle to answer this question because I have so many and it constantly changes over the years, but here are just few favorites, of all time and more recently:

  • PJ Harvey. Her early stuff made such a deep impression on me in my teens and 20s. I loved the rawness of albums like Rid of Me and Dry, and how that edge remained but evolved on her later albums.
  • Sharon Van Etten. Moody and catchy and raw and authentic and all the things.
  • Kurt Vile. His music feels both nostalgic and current at the same time. 
  • Grimes. I love that her music is poppy yet trippy and somehow sci-fi. Visions is still my favorite album.
  • SAULT. It's complex and important, and I feel like I discover new things in the music on every listen.
How you get your music these days.

I use both Apple and Spotify and find a lot of new songs through stations I create off of tracks I love. I also listen to Hype Machine via Sonos, and swap music recommendations with friends.

Your favorite place to see a concert.

I always look forward to Celebrate Brooklyn at the bandshell in Prospect Park and SummerStage in Central Park.

Your favorite music video.

Chemical Brothers "We've Got To Try." I want to hang out with that dog.

Your favorite music-focused TV show and/or podcast.

I love Song Exploder.

A recent project you're proud of.

I'm extremely proud of what we're building with sona, using original restorative music to relieve anxiety. It's an incredible honor to be connecting it to the people who need it most, and also to have a hand in the evolution of the product.

Someone else's project that you admired recently.

I absolutely loved Ideo's Food by Design 8 episode podcast addressing various ways our food systems are being reimagined. They're doing some really cool work to redesign food growth, distribution and access. Also the Ron Finley Project and everything he does to teach and promote growing our own food, transforming food deserts and rejuvenating communities through gardening.

How musicians should approach working with brands.

Building relationships with brands they already like is always a good place to start, to ensure that a partnership will be an organic fit for the musician and also their fans. It's also important to make sure the audience the brand reaches makes sense for them—and vice versa. Artists should also understand what the brand's objectives are, so they know how to explain to the brand what they have to offer—this is especially important for developing artists.

How brands should approach working with musicians.

If a brand can do the same thing—understand not only the musician's audience but also what they're passionate about—then they can come up with deeply creative and meaningful ways to work with the artist, which can translate to authentic campaigns that resonate with audiences on both sides.

What music can do that nothing else can.

Music is magic. It's a time machine, it's a healer, and it can make you feel anything. It unites people. It can create memories and evoke them, years later. It can create a movie in your mind, and spark dance in your body. And it can be medicine, changing your brain state and your mood in minutes. I don't know anything else that can do all of those things.

What you'd be doing if you weren't in the music world.

I'm certified as a holistic health coach, so maybe leaning into that a bit more … or maybe working in the sustainable food space in some way.

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.

Tim Nudd
Tim Nudd was editor in chief of the Clio Awards and editor of Muse by Clio from 2018 to 2023.

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