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Turning Rockstar talent into commercial success, literally, with Jon Stone
Music Supervisor Jon Stone transitioned from professional musician to music supervisor for a number of award-winning ad campaigns.

Jon Stone found himself in an odd situation. As a successful drummer in a number of British bands, he had seen the world, played for huge audiences, and tasted the kind of success that many aspiring musicians dream of…and yet he wasn’t fulfilled.

Maturing and realizing many of his dreams, he saw the futility in a life constantly on the road with no solid roots. Taking a chance, he sent off a few emails to some of the top agencies in London. A few casual meetings over coffee and he was soon embarking on a new career as the music supervisor for Big Sync Music. These days he has a number of award-winning campaigns to verify his move was the right one, as well as establishing his pre-eminence in his field. It might seem odd to give up the adulation of adoring fans for the solace of an office or production studio but it has always been about the music for Jon Stone. Whether he is making it or finding it, that’s exactly where he wants to be.

His role as sole music supervisor for Unilever’s entire catalogue includes brands such as AXE, Dove, Degree, Walls, Persil etc. (Stone also works on campaigns outside of the Unilever sphere such as Guinness and Pernod Ricard). In his prior days, Jon was delegated to popular forms of music but as a music supervisor he often gets to explore many diverse genres and styles. The creativity it affords him to create “moments” is something he often refers to with positivity. For AXE’s “Fresher Under Pressure” series of videos showcasing how the deodorant helps with high pressure situations, Jon licensed an operatic track performed solo by a choir boy. The video showed the actor making an important basketball shot. The isolation of the vocal track mirrored the pressure falling solely on the shoulders of the basketball player while the legato phrasing made the action seem to pass in slow motion.

In a spot for Suave haircare products, Stone communicated the brand’s loyalty and deference to real everyday working women. Utilizing a cold and impersonal/thumping electronic track with models posed showing off their hair and subtly transitioning to a much more open and organic pop track accompanying everyday women, the ad mocked beauty standards, communicating nonverbally that Suave was focused on reality.

Jon stretched his cinematic music muscle for Colman’s mustard company in a series of four different ads. Licensing tracks that resembled the spaghetti western A Fistful of Dollars, an 80s synth track, epic trailer music, and a grand emotional orchestral piece; the music transformed the mundane act of spreading mustard on a sandwich into a ridiculously dramatic (and memorable) moment. All of these examples are instances of Jon’s freedom in music choices which led to successful endeavours for these products. The popularity of these campaigns are yet another example of why Stone is respected as one of the most successful music supervisors in current times.

Stone’s company (Big Sync Music) is in partnership with Unilever as their only music partner, making Jon the Sole Music Supervisor for the entirety of Unilever (400+ brands) for all of North America. The partnership has led to awards such as the D&AD Award for Creative Excellence - Use of Music for Film Advertising, Music+Sound Award for Creative Excellence-Best Sync Online, Viral + Ambient Advertising, and nomination by Cresta for Best use of Adapted/Licensed Music for the Lipton Bauble campaign and the Cannes Lions Gold and Silver awards for Marmite’s “Gene Project” campaign.

His years as a professional musician have given him the perspective to deal with both sides of the business equation as a music supervisor. He reveals, “Artists definitely see me as a business executive but I think it’s clear when they meet me that my role is creative and I know what I’m talking about musically. This is a really nice place to be at. Artists can sometimes feel that they’re the ones making the music and everyone else in the industry is just trying to exploit and take money away from them. I know this because that’s how I used to feel; now that I’m in a position where I can see what’s going on that is entirely justified. In the music industry there are a lot of business people who profit from artist’s work but don’t pay a fair share to the creators. The landscape is so complicated that many artists can’t tell a good deal from a bad one.

When I deal with artists I try to put them at ease by explaining that I’m from an artistic background and understand the struggle, the poverty, and that what they do is the biggest and most important contribution to the industry. Once they can see this they tend to feel that I’m someone who has their back and is in a position of power and can potentially help them.” He continues, “With ad-execs I tend to play up to both personas when it suits me. In creative discussions I will flex my artistic muscles, talk in-depth about musical concepts to put them at ease and gain trust in my music guidance. Brands like to work with music supervisors that are going to inject some authentic, cool vibes into their ad. I relish the opportunity to walk into their formal offices in jeans and a t-shirt. Once the song is sold in and we move onto the licensing phase, the brand and agency need to have confidence that I am going to handle their contract needs professionally as there are huge financial and legal implications at stake. I tend to be quite cold and hard-nosed in this part of the job as there is no room for error.” 

Every musician uses their instrument as a conduit for emotion. That might be love, anger, joy; whatever it is, they seek connection with their audience. Jon Stone may have traded one instrument for another but he is still creating moments just as he did when he was on stage. He confirms, “My favourite part of the job is knowing that I’ve created something that will last and will continue to make people feel an emotion. Not all of the ads I work on will provoke a powerful feeling because that’s the nature of advertising but every now and then I will work on something that will send a strong message to someone. I get an awful lot of fulfilment from finding the right piece of music to reflect the message of what’s going on in the video.”

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