Aaron Gant has quite an ear for music. The 25-year industry veteran was recently promoted to senior vice president of production at Warner/Chappell Production Music in Nashville.
In his role, Gant oversees news music, custom projects, catalog production and studio operations. He previously served as the vice president of production.
Gant began as an intern and rose to recording engineer at Non-Stop Productions. In 2000, he transitioned to Nashville to work for 615 Music. His role expanded to producer then vice president of production before 615 Music was acquired by Warner/Chappell in 2010 creating Warner/Chappell Production Music.
Gant helps manage a Nashville-based team, creating music daily for broadcasters from their production music library. Warner/Chappell Production Music produces nine different catalogs in Nashville and also has production branches in Salt Lake City, Los Angeles, New York and London.
Gant spoke with PromaxBDA’s Daily Brief about his new role, the changes he sees in an industry that went from compact discs to streaming, and his future.
DAILY BRIEF: How has the way you produce music for clients changed in the digital era? And how has the way you distribute it?
GANT: Distribution has changed a ton because it all used to be compact discs. We’d literally print and mail out thousands of CDs every release and a CD was limited with how much music you could hold. Now digitally, I’ll create a virtual CD and can put 15-20 songs on there, with all different kinds of mix outs and load it up with hundreds of cuts, whereas before we couldn’t do anything like that. It would just be stuck to the 74-minutes of music that a CD could hold. This way is much better for clients.
As far as the way we produce the music, it just lets me work with more and more people around the world and they can deliver to me finished tracks that are recorded wherever they are and we’ll take them into our studios here [in Nashville]. We have six rooms total—three in Nashville and three in Salt Lake [City], where we can mix tracks, do the edits, and really raise the quality of what we do.
What sorts of cutting-edge technologies and techniques have you brought into your studio in the last few years?
The entire music industry now has changed as well, people are creating tracks and they’re not even in the same room. You can have people in different parts of the world with the same sections, at the same time working remotely. There’s one person that sings a line or plays a guitar and a person around the country can suddenly, instantly, see that in their session—contribute to it, add to it, make comments on it, make it work back and forth—around the world. I get emailed demos every single day from composers that are working on projects for me, so I’m just constantly checking demos from my desk.
We use ProTools in all of our studios, which is a pretty industry standard software and we’ve stuck with that for years.
How has your business changed in light of TV station group consolidation?
With consolidation, companies want to make a group deal for all the stations under their umbrella; and want music that fits for everybody. So sometimes, without sounding like it’s bad, you end up with something nobody hates. You end up with something everybody kind of likes, but an individual market doesn’t have a lot of say in what they get to broadcast—that can be sad.
Before, we used to deal with a lot of individual broadcasters, specifically TV stations, and we would create news music specific to their markets and sometimes there was a little more creative freedom in those markets depending on the station, creative director, news director and the GM of that station. Sometimes stations wanted to do stuff that was really outside of the box. Now you’ll hear the same package on all the stations under the umbrella of that parent company, and sometimes, what works in market 30 doesn’t work in market 130.
TV stations are producing more and more local news. What has that meant for Warner/Chappell Production Music?
For our company, we’ve become the go-to source of music, so we have a large production library. We have a lot of different news music packages, we acquired [Frank] Gari music company, which had a large portion of the market and we had a large portion already. So now we can go to stations and be the one solution for all their needs. We can provide news music, production music catalogs, custom music from our studios. We want to be the source for all their music needs, and that can be helpful to those groups that want to cut one deal, have one license that covers everything and have it all very simple, instead of dealing with dozens of smaller companies to get the same amount of music.
Is your main focus TV stations, and do you have other clients? What sorts of businesses are those clients and what are their needs?
We do a lot of work for NBC Today Show, ESPN, all of the big broadcasters over the years.
We also have a large number of film trailer clients. We have a whole film trailer business. We have an account exec in L.A. who just works on placing music in film trailers. Then we have news music, production music, people that just focus on ad agencies or sports productions, individual teams or broadcasters that broadcast sports—whether college or pro— educational, we try to branch out and have something for everybody.
Are there certain trends happening right now in music production? Are you finding that your customers want more custom music?
There’s a certain group of clients that really want to follow what’s on the charts, so with Billboard Top 40, if you took out all of the hip-hop, you have a lot of clients that will use rock and pop, and want stuff that sounds like that. There’s a large group of clients that just want positive, uplifting tracks that allow for a lot of voice-over, that’s always continuing.
Rock is coming back, ‘80s music is coming back now. The Netflix show Stranger Things became really popular, and now you’re seeing more and more ‘80s type stuff being used in commercials or in productions. I think some more ‘80s music will be popular in the next year or two.
People who were kids in the ‘80s are now in their 40s, so they’re becoming the decision makers wherever they’re working, then that music becomes more popular again for broadcasters.
We try to cover all the bases and have music in all styles, that’s our big challenge now as a big company with hundreds and thousands of tracks is just to try and cover everything.
You guys are in Nashville, which is such a big center of music production. How do you use that location to your advantage?
We are surrounded by some of the best musicians, best composers, best writers, best studios in the world and people flock here from other places to work in the music business, so when I go to do a recording session and need a guitar player, drummer, bass player, trumpet player or a kazoo player—I’m just surrounded by some of the best people in the world.
I have every choice I need: super nice people that want to work and are ready to work on whatever project you’re doing and super talented.
I have staff engineers, but I also have access to all these other places. If I’m too busy in my own room, I’ve got dozens of great studios ready to go that I can book, if I need to do an 80-piece orchestra, I can literally go across the street to Ocean Way Nashville and record a huge orchestra or I can do that in our studios in Salt Lake.
Nashville is exploding right now, the growth rate is incredible. I look out my window I can see 14 different cranes putting up high-rises all over downtown. I think something like 80 or 90 people move here a day, it’s good and it’s bad, living here, and a little crazy with traffic, but many talented people are moving here. I got dozens of composers that have moved here from L.A. in the last six years.
Nashville has always been Music City. The center of the country music industry, the gospel music industry, and then there was always an underground rock scene, but I think when Jack White moved here and had Third Man Records and a few other rock bands started doing a lot of production out of Nashville, and the economy got better, a lot of people came here to work because of the great studios. It’s not just country music, there’s a huge amount of music going on.
What do you hope to get into more in the future? What projects or platforms are you excited about?
As I go along, I’ll probably just keep managing more and more people that create the music for us. I hold them to a really high standard. Knowing that I’ve done their job in the past, I can talk to them and they know that I know what they’re doing and how they create it, and set a standard and get more and more people to create great content for us.
As the company grows and we bring on more people, I’m still overseeing and helping the team of people create all the content that really hasn’t changed. I don’t see that changing much, and that’s the role I enjoy.