Mike Boris of Jaded Melody on Prioritizing Music Early in the Creative Process
Mike Boris is an award-winning music supervisor, producer and sonic strategist. He currently runs Jaded Melody, a music consultancy for branded content, film, TV, and new media. He has honed his unique and varied skill set through 25-plus years of experience producing and curating music for the world's top brands. He is a problem solver and a connector of music and sound to human emotion.
He started out his career as a drummer and recording engineer before moving on to the agency side at Ogilvy, Bates and a tenure as head of music at McCann. As an entrepreneur, he has founded three music companies and consulted with publishers, labels and synch agencies.
We caught up with Mike 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.
Mike, tell us...
Where you grew up, and where you live now.
I grew up in the Hudson Valley, mostly in Wappingers Falls, currently in River Edge, New Jersey.
Your earliest musical memory.
Well, I have two. My mother played piano, and my earliest memory when I was a toddler was running around the living room while she played John Philip Sousa March.
Pete Seeger was very active when I was a kid raising money to help clean up the Hudson River. I remember being at a fundraiser. Pete played "Puff the Magic Dragon," "Little Houses" and walked through the crowd with his banjo turned upside down like a collection plate at church, and my dad gave me some money to drop in.
Your first concert.
Blue Oyster Cult, and I was forever changed by Albert Bouchard's drum solo wearing his Godzilla Head!
Your favorite bands/musicians.
Currently I'm loving Lake Street Dive because of the overall musicianship and clean production. I also love singer Rachel Price's other project; Rachel and Vilray is retro fun. Really like Maude Latour for good songs and really cool production and Wet Leg (saw at SXSW)—love that they are just engaging with great energy and don't take themselves too seriously. Always have been a big Foo Fighters fan. They're like comfort food.
How you get your music these days.
I am lucky because of what I do, I have great music showing up in my inbox from labels publishers and artists and synch agents. I also follow TikTok trends, listen to curated playlists on streaming services, and follow a few blogs (Pitchfork, All Songs Considered). During lockdown I spent time on Clubhouse and met some great indie artists that I'm following. I also pay attention to what I hear in film and TV, and that's an inspirational catalyst for me to discover bands or be inspired by a composer.
Your favorite place to see a concert.
Here at home, I really love The Beacon Theatre (yeah, I know).
Your favorite music video.
I don't watch a lot of music videos but I liked Lorde's "Solar Power" last year because the video was simple, smart and reinforces the message of the song.
Your favorite music-focused TV show and/or podcast.
I am a history geek, so I love the podcast "A History of Rock Music in 500 Songs" by Andrew Hickey. Thanks, Keith Darcy.
A recent project you're proud of.
I just finished a collaboration with Knock It Out Music and Bloomingdale's where we produced a reimagined cover of "Good Vibrations" by Marky Mark and The Funky Bunch for spring fashion. I just love covers! You get a sense of nostalgia and equity from the recognizability, and can get brand ownership via a refreshed arrangement. We used all-female vocal talent, a cool flip from the original.
I also recently worked on an epic endeavor in collaboration with my friends at Hitlist Music. Visit California needed to bolster California tourism after a few years of pandemic-fueled travel slowdowns. The Shipyard (VCA's agency) brought us an ambitious concept, and got us involved early toward finding the right strategy, in this case an iconic song to make a big statement for the campaign's Super Bowl pregame debut.
Someone else's project that you admired recently.
I really like the sonic DNA Massive Music created for Colgate. They used science, data and musicality to create the sound of a smile. It has a memorable hook with a genre that fit the brand, and defined the sound of a smile. It's organically and properly used across all consumer touch points. My dad was a dentist, so smiles are part of my DNA.
How musicians should approach working with brands.
They should remember they are supporting an idea, and at the end of the day they are helping to sell a product. Remember to focus on what the music's job is on a project, and how it supports the message the brand is conveying. Forget about your ego.
Listen to your clients. Listen to their thoughts and comments, don't be afraid to ask questions, and don't be disappointed if they don't have the answers you want. You are the music expert, and most clients are creative people who love music but may not be musicians. That's why you are there.
How brands should approach working with musicians.
Number one: Think about music early in the creative process, and get your music partner—strategist, supervisor, producer, composer or music house—engaged. Music is often left to the last minute, and that limits the potential.
Number two: Give us permission to fail. Music is subjective, and musicians are not mind readers. I see talented musicians play it safe way too often because they are fearful of losing the gig, and the work suffers. There is also value to learning what does not work in the process of discovering what does work. Fear kills creativity.
What music can do that nothing else can.
Music connects to human emotion, and without words instantly tells how you feel and when to feel it. It can recall a moment in your life or, with some strategy, instantly recall a brand.
What you'd be doing if you weren't in the music world.
I'd be wishing I was in the music world or maybe producing podcasts.
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.