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Behind the New Balance x BEGINNERS Campaign (Part II)


Synch licensing can help artists reach a larger audience and find potential new fans who wouldn’t have discovered them otherwise. Creators get wider exposure and new sources of revenue from these synch placements. Fans find great new songs and bands, and a more compelling audiovisual experience.

One might think that only superstars can land spots in Super Bowl ads or in high-profile TV shows. Fortunately, the tide is turning and more developing artists are getting these exciting opportunities.

To shed light on how independent artists are increasingly enjoying the benefits of synch opportunities, we turn to AWAL + Kobalt artist BEGINNERS. The LA band recently participated in a campaign for New Balance and their new shoe, the Fresh Foam Zante Pursuit. Featured prominently within the advert, BEGINNERS turned their latest single with Night Panda, “Start A Riot,” into a compelling and dynamic soundtrack for the commercial.

To find out how synch opportunities come about, and to learn more about the New Balance spot in particular, we spoke with Sam Barbera from BEGINNERS about her experience being part of the campaign. Let’s dive in…

What has your experience been like in terms of synch and your songs?

Sam: When I’m writing, I really focus on making songs my own. I internalize an idea and try to speak from my heart on it. The most important thing is being authentic to you and your experiences, and really taking some time to think about it.

BEGINNERS is my artist project and my main focus. My number one priority is to write songs that I love, to tour and hope our fans love the music too. More importantly, I need to love the music we make. I think about lyrics a lot. I find that the best way to reach people on a universal level is to write lyrics that are authentic to my experience in life.  Because at the end of the day, we all share much of the same core life experiences and emotions. So those lyrics most personal to me, end up being the most universally relatable to everyone. It’s got to be real to me and I have to feel it, and I think that’s why others feel it too. If those others happen to be working on music supervision projects, great!

What has helped you be successful in the synch world as an artist?

Sam: From the get-go, I’ve had a lot of luck in licensing through my other bands, as well as with BEGINNERS, before I ever really thought about what it is about my writing that leads to this kind of success. Part of it is like, if you write slow and sad songs, even if they’re really dope, it’s probably not going to get a lot of ad synchs, even if it’s fantastic.  

My songs that get used a lot tend to be up-tempo. They tend to look good with picture and move the edit along. I also think part of the reason why I’ve had success with it is because it’s the right mix of edgier production and vocals, while remaining catchy and pop at the same time. Plus, my messaging tends to be one of empowerment and I get a lot of opportunities that are looking for strong female vocals and some attitude behind it.  Which is very much BEGINNERS.

What do you feel like brands look for when considering artists to work with on a partnership opportunity?

Sam: I think it’s important to note that, as a band, we have worked really hard to develop our fanbase, we tour a lot, we really make sure we crush our live shows and it’s always exciting, we have like 15 million Spotify plays and 60K monthly listeners… we really have a history as a band, but we’re not a household name yet either.  For a lot of brands, I think they look for a buzzy artist that would be a cool new discovery for their audience. It seems like the cooler brands know the people watching their spots anticipate that they’ll hear some cool new music and maybe become a fan of that artist. We’re hoping the New Balance spot will lead to some Shazams and some more BEGINNERS fans for sure.

Thinking about this New Balance campaign, what made this opportunity special for you all?

Sam: So I was actually on a writing trip in Berlin when Keith told us about New Balance. At the time, I didn’t really know too much about it except that they wanted to use this song to launch their new women’s running shoe. I also knew they wanted it to be exclusive, where no one would hear it until their launch. So we decided to hold onto the song and to release it on the day of their launch. They flew the band out to New York and we filmed the commercial in this warehouse with cool and famous female Olympic athletes. They were all working out and running to the song and and it was incredible. New Balance were super great to work with and Nick [Keenan] and Kelli [Shannon] over at the ad agency were so considerate about our branding and about us as artists, in terms of what we wanted or felt comfortable with in the spot, since it’s going to represent us too. We’re in our own clothes. We just got to go and be our authentic selves and play every step of the way. We loved the whole experience of working with them. Everyone was really great and supportive and easy to work with. It was truly amazing for us to be able to do something with a great brand like New Balance and have them celebrate us alongside these badass women out there doing cool stuff as athletes.

Any last piece of advice for artists looking to break into the world of synch licensing?

Sam: Not that I want to give away all my secrets to every other writer, but one thing that I haven’t already mentioned that I think has helped me is writing about topics other than love. You look at a band like Queen. I’m like listening to their music and these songs get used all the f*cking time not just because they’re brilliant, but also because they aren’t all about having your heart broken. You know what I mean? Obviously heartache and love are going to happen and I definitely have albums full of songs about that. But I think it’s helpful as a writer to look outside the box and think about other things in the world besides love and romance.


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