Soundtracking The Sopranos and Sharing Good Music with Andrew Kahn

Goodyear music supervision is a team of music curators dedicated to shedding light on the best songs the world has to offer. Since its launch in 2011, GEMS has provided musical direction to hundreds of advertising campaigns, creating perfect matches for many of the world’s most beloved brands. Apple, Nike, Google, Target, Southern Comfort, Spotify, Sonos, adidas, Cosmopolitan Hotel, Honda, Samsung, ESPN and more.

Its founder, still a musical director himself, Andrew Kahn grew up on the memorable jingles, albums and movie soundtracks that the 80’s and 90’s had to offer. Find, catalog and share his favorite tracks.

Speaking to LBB’s Ben Conway, he talks about how his first big break came when a mixtape brought him to “Bada Bing!” Learn about The Sopranos, how GEMS came to be, and some of his favorite projects throughout his career.

LBB> Was music always a passion for you? When did it first become a career option?

Andrew> Growing up as an only child, music, movies and TV were my best friends. “Pump Up The Volume” was like my bible, with a great soundtrack from my girlfriend’s 80’s to his 90’s childhood. When I saw “Bottle Rocket” in college, I realized that music director was a real profession, and it’s been my dream job ever since.

LBB> How was your journey into this industry? What did you study in college and when did you realize you had the potential to work in advertising?

Andrew> When I was a student, there was no traditional way to become a music director. So I followed my spare passions with a degree in cognitive neuroscience…but I kept an eye out for awards, hosted college radio shows, and made films for students. Then I started collecting and obsessively cataloging MP3s. Napster, I still love you.

Way back in 2006, I had two internships and could not find a paid gig in this field. A mixtape I made around that time ended up in the right hands and I got a gig with ‘The Sopranos’. My first big placement was “Bada Bing!” Since then, I’ve been rushing down this crazy career path. I still cherish the mixtape that changed my life! After the show ended, I learned that Apple’s advertising agency (Media Arts Lab) was hiring.

When did you start LBB> GEMS? Please tell us about the goals you set when you joined the company and the goals you achieved.

Andrew> After working at MAL for four years, I left one of the smartest, greatest, and most successful companies in history to wander into the world of freelance music directing for the best job I could dream of. I quit my job. I was his 29 at the time, and my only goal was to share better music with the world. It’s been nearly 12 years and not much has changed. And I have no regrets.

LBB> What’s your favorite artist partnership, cover or remix you’ve helped with? How do you match your brand to the perfect artist or vice versa?

Andrew> GEMS focuses on traditional sync, but a few times a year the right projects come in that require original songs or covers. Early in his career, Moses Sumney was known for looping sounds, snippets, effects and vocals in his performances live. After introducing him to his RPA folks, they featured him performing live in his 360° music video showcasing his Honda Civic. At the time, it felt like a big creative triumph, a bold choice to give a then-unknown artist a chance.

I also always love this silly Future x Cher x Sly collaboration with GAP’s Family Stone.

LBB> What was your first professional project? What are your memories of it? And what was the project or job that you felt really changed your career?

Andrew > When I was working at The Sopranos, AJ was horribly dumped by his girlfriend, so I had to find a song to play in the background. I got a cover of ‘Livin’ La Vida Loca’ by The Ophir Prison Marching Kazoo Band. And about a year after starting GEMS, Southern made his Wieden & Kennedy NY first production of his comfort, syncing Odetta’s “Hit or Miss.” Awards were won, tributes were written, culture was touched and her daughter was thrilled. It will always be hard to beat.

LBB> What made you want to enter this industry, and what creative works (advertisements/movies/books, etc.) you watch repeatedly?

Andrew > When I was a kid, I sang the Frosted Flake jingle almost every day. I credit/blame that for my career trajectory. The book I re-read the most is Tom Robin’s Jitterbug Perfume. Maybe because I want to live and love forever.

LBB> What is the most recent project that has given you the most excitement or interesting creative challenge?

Andrew> I love it when I’m given the challenge (or opportunity) to find a song that works with heavy narration. To pull it off, the right vibe and lyrics need to slide smoothly and subtly into place.

LBB> What do you think drives and motivates you in your work and life?

Andrew> When it comes to work, it all comes from a desire to find and share good music. Whether it’s a mixtape, a DJ set or a music oversight project, giving an underrated song a little love brings me great joy.

LBB> What do you do to decompress or stay fresh? What are your hobbies, special interests and habits?

Andrew > Burger, Bourbon, Backgammon. preferably at once.

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