There are no problems, only solutions. “Our goal is to make life easier for brands to have access to good, existing music,” says Philippe-Aubert Messier, President and co-founder of Apollo Music Store, a Montréal-based start-up that offers advertising agencies a catalogue of music for promotional uses. The trick? Making it so easy to discover music and manage copyrights that these recordings can be accessed and usable in an ad in less than five minutes. “Ten if it’s my mom filling out the online form,” Messier jokes.

Philippe-Aubert Messier

Philippe-Aubert Messier

“Our position in the market couldn’t be any clearer: we don’t do videogame music, we don’t do music for TV or films, all stuff I’ve done in the past,” he says. The repertoire of more than 100 catalogues contains music by more than 1,000 artists. The Apollo platform targets them to advertisers “for TV, radio and, mostly, nowadays, for all online formats – such as promotional videos that are increasingly produced by major brands.” Among those that have used the Apollo Music Store catalogue are Ford, Adidas, and Absolut Vodka.

It couldn’t be easier: once on the site, one creates an account and proceeds to peruse the music repertoire using expressive categories like “rhythmic,” “catchy,” “organic,” “groovy,” “moody,” and the like. If an advertiser likes a song – let’s say “Her,” a lively electro-pop ditty by British duo Seawaves, which they listen to from beginning to end – then it’s “Click!” Into the shopping cart. Then she chooses the way and duration that the music will be used – let’s say a six-month TV and online campaign. She then indicates the number of spots the song will be used in, as well as the territory – local or international. A price is then established and it’s time to pay. It’s that easy.

Messier is a musician and entrepreneur who co-founded – and used to co-own, for about 15 years  – the Apollo sound and music production studios in Montréal and Toronto. He stood “in the middle [of the whole composition transaction] because I made and sold music for [audiovisual] productions and, on top of that, I was in charge of obtaining the usage rights,” he says. “The basic observation was that the access isn’t simple.”

Another observation is that major brands that develop advertising campaigns, and the ad agencies that work on them, often have tight deadlines. That forces them to use royalty-free music libraries, often called stock music, library music, or production music. “Yet, no one wakes up in the morning thinking: for my ad, I want cheap, badly-produced music,” he jokes. “All agencies and all brands want good music!”

When Messier and his then-partners sold Studios Apollo in 2016, he kept the online platform, “because I thought there was still work to be done with that business,” he says, and adds that he still considers the project a work in progress. “My associates and I have been thinking about granting musical licences through an online platform for a while now,” says Messier. “We first launched a very simple version, a micro-site with 25 songs, and we evolved that from one version to the next, all the while validating that there was indeed a demand for such a service.”

And there is a demand, but not for any kind of music; it’s a demand for good music, Messier insists, before adding that his work and that of the start-up’s employees is to “curate” their catalogues.

“One of the elements that adds a lot of value in our clients’ eyes is our ability to find music that’s relevant to them,” he says. “Obviously, there are musical styles that are relatively timeless, and others that are more fads, but it all evolves very rapidly. I often say that it’s a moving target. There’s no way, for example, that I could make a list of the music that will be relevant over the next two years. What I do know, however, is that there are types of music that will never work. It’s too bad for those who make that music, but it does make our lives easier! And it’s got nothing to do with the quality of that music, it’s just that there’s no demand for it in this very specific market.”

Creators take note: the Apollo Music Store is open to submissions, “but as a general rule, we deal directly with publishers,” says Messier. “Some artists are self-published, but we generally deal with the publisher and the record label through them. We often only represent one or two songs per artist. We don’t try to work on their entire catalogue, we target the songs that we know will resonate with advertising agencies.”

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