INTERVIEW: Yash Mall on Creating Branded Music

As media and marketing have continued to evolve through the year, so too has branded music chagned with the times.

Even short jingles and branded music makes use of contemporary trends in the larger music industry, and it’s possible now for branded music to end up on peoples’ lists of favorite music in general.

Most importantly, it takes a skilled musician and composer to distill fun musical ideas into a super-short track.

One of the most compelling examples of how artful this music can be is Brian Eno’s work for Windows 95, seeing each tiny sound clip as its own self-contained composition.

On the more modern side of things, Yash Mall is a contemporary musician and composer who has his own music career as an artist and producer, recording and performing as Allowme, but he has also created branded music for huge agencies like Brand Musiq, which creates content for mega-brands like MG Motors, MasterCard, and Singapore Airlines.

Vents Magazine had the opportunity to interview Mall on the subject of branded music and the work that goes into creating micro-compositions that need to fit many different moods and emotional tones.

Do you feel that writing jingles is challenging because of how short they tend to be?

The biggest challenge in writing a jingle is getting it to match the client brief. The composer has to have empathy with the brand but at the same time retain his creative edge. Jingle writing is a combination of creativity and brand marketing. The brevity of the score adds to the complexity while also presenting a challenge to the creative skills of the composer. Writing a jingle is akin to telling a story, and the composer is tasked with doing this efficiently and in a timely manner. Working to a brief and a deadline is not something many composers are comfortable with.

Tell us more about your experience with BrandMusiq. What was it like when you started with the company?

Whilst jingle writing is challenging, it is a fairly well-known genre. Music colleges like my alma mater, Berklee College of Music, offer courses in jingle writing. Brand Musiq, on the other hand, specializes in a completely new genre called sonic branding. Sonic branding is the audio version of a company’s logo. This is an extremely challenging task. Unlike an ad jingle, which is usually attuned to the visual cues and storytelling of an ad, sonic branding requires a company to have a clear brand identity, and then represent that identity through music. Also, unlike a jingle, a sonic brand is more permanent and so has a lot riding on it. Personally, transitioning from jingle writing to sonic branding was a challenge. I’ve been extremely fortunate in having a very supportive team, all of whom are experts in the various disciplines of marketing, client interface, and music production, the three most fundamental ingredients for a good music logo. Brand Musiq has some of the most renowned music composers in India on its panel, and I’ve had the good fortune to learn a lot from them.

Do you still find time to create more personal music outside of work?

More than physical time, the real challenge is to switch from the mindset for commercial music to making artistic choices for original content. I enjoy both kinds of composition. I believe that both have a symbiotic relationship with each other. The discipline required for commercial music enhances the grammar in songwriting. At the same time, without creative and independent work, as a composer, I cannot bring innovation into my compositions. I take time out from my regular employment to compose original music. At present, I’m working on two new singles that should be out shortly.

What do you think is your greatest strength as a songwriter?

Having an ear for the right melody is a big strength for me. In addition, I’ve had the good fortune of being trained in Western classical piano during my school years in India, a genre that relies on memorable melodies to stay relevant through the centuries, and then transitioning to pop culture in college. While software innovations have made music composition accessible to anyone with a laptop, a good song is a far more difficult proposition, at the heart of which will always be a good melody.

How often do you get to collaborate with other artists, either for work or for creative projects?

All music is collaborative. So the true answer is all the time. In the commercial music space that I work in, the entire team works on each brief. While the core idea might be an individual’s effort, the final score is the product of collaboration between the sound engineer, the composer/producer, the marketing team and even the performers. All the songs that I’ve released so far are a collective effort with the other two members of our team, and the songs are branded under the name Allowme. Interestingly, even the name is a contribution by my mother, who was a writer and a novelist.

What has been your most satisfying project so far?

Each piece of work has been a learning experience, and I believe that I’ve refined my music over time. When I look back at my work three years ago to now, there’s been a huge change for the better. I’m glad to have the ability to analyze my own work and make the right changes. However, if I have to pinpoint one project, it would be the song Hurt a Little Less. I was very happy with the final release. To my ears, it sounds like the most well put together song so far. It is also the song that has received the most acclaim from our fans.

Do you have plans for any major projects in the near future?

Our immediate plan is to release two new singles that’ll be part of an EP. So 2020 is going to be an exciting year when we’ll also hit the road to perform at various venues.

Has your experience of being a professional musician aligned with the expectations you had when you were young?

When I joined Berklee, I was quite sure that I wanted to be a pianist. A year into the program, I discovered my true calling in music composition and production. Since then I’ve managed to gain an array of experiences in this line. I’ve interned at some of the best-known jingle houses in the US, and my current work at Brand Musiq is both challenging and interesting in its range. I can honestly say that I’m learning new tools and techniques all the time. What could be more satisfying? In the creative space also I’m experimenting with new sounds while learning from all the new music that’s constantly being released. I must add that my family’s support and encouragement has spurred me to work even harder at my music, and I’m enjoying every minute of the experience.

by Giorgio Chang

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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