A Cup of Coffee with Pierre Carnet
by Ilaria Mangiardi
A globetrotter since childhood, Pierre developed an appetite for a life without borders – music included. After working as a Music Producer and Supervisor, mostly for luxury and fashion brands in Paris, he landed at MassiveMusic in 2020 as a Creative Development Manager for the EMEA region, focusing his attention on direct-to-brand music solutions.
Let’s find out how he answered our million dollar questions. But first, coffee.
No coffee today, Pierre?
Believe it or not, I don’t have coffee at home. A cold brew iced tea will do.
Smart decision considering the heatwave we’re going through. If you could have a drink with someone you admire, who would you pick?
Paul McCartney. Apart from being a major fan of his music, I’ve always been fascinated by people who manage to consistently put out excellent music and remain relevant over the course of decades. I would ask about where he continues to find the energy and inspiration to create, and how he has managed to avoid weariness over the years.
As for you, what is your relationship with music?
Music has been a central part of my life for as long as I can remember. Today, it is a keystone of my job and is also responsible for taking up most of my time when I’m not at the office: as a producer and DJ, but also as a fan.
Amongst my friends I’m known for my compulsive need to create a soundtrack to day-to-day life – you’ll always find me close to a pair of headphones, speakers or instrument of some kind when out and about.
Do you still remember your first experience with music?
The family archives contain some footage which predates my memory: attempting some dance moves to Stevie Wonder at the age of 3, or experimenting with the piano in the following years. Although I don’t think I started experiencing and understanding music until my early teens.
My first real memory of performing music and sharing it with others dates back to around the age of 10, when I performed one of Satie’s Gymnopédies for a family wedding – one of my finer moments! By the way, have I shown you this picture? I’m the only one with an upside-down crown. I’m quite proud of that.
An outlaw already. Does music affect your other senses?
Music has been shown to affect the way we taste food or our levels of arousal. The brain creates emotional connections with certain sounds whether we like it or not. On a personal level, I’m very sensitive to the music and surrounding sounds I perceive on a daily basis.
I tie specific songs or audio environments closely together with feelings, places, experiences. So, inherently, these sounds don’t only affect my senses, but also play a key role in building memories.
When I was a teenager, I loved listening to French hip-hop and R&B artists. You too?
Yes, I grew up listening to a lot of hip-hop music, and I’m still very much involved in this genre today. I’m currently on a journey exploring international hip-hop, especially from places you don’t hear much about. You’d be surprised at the quality of music coming out of Korea, Poland, Portugal or Kenya – places which are not globally known for their hip-hop culture.
In the French music scene I’ve really enjoyed the return of a unique ‘chanson française’ sound over the last couple of years, for the most part female-led – artists such as Pomme, Alice on the Roof or Claire Laffut.
Any French artists you would recommend?
If you’re looking for a fresh hip-hop/R&B recommendation for 2020, I can suggest having a listen to rapper Lestin for some hyper-melodic trap songs.
What have you learned in the last year that you didn’t know before?
The importance of silence. We’ve become accustomed to the noise of the hustle and bustle of everyday life, so much so that once the noise dies out, it’s actually a little disorienting. I’ve really come to appreciate the quiet of being at home for a workday, or exploring a mostly silent and empty city – if anything it gives my ears a well-deserved break.
With regards to our work, this understanding has also come in handy, as we’ve produced some unusually quiet pieces over the last couple of months. Sometimes the best way to stand out and connect with your audience in a noisy world is to be the quiet one.
A recent campaign that made you smile and brought you to tears at the same time?
My pick goes to the lockdown-end campaign by Intermarché, a French supermarket chain, led by the film ‘Je désire être avec vous’ which features the Nina Simone song of the same name.
The film uses music and simple yet impactful imagery to create a sense of anticipation with regards to post-lockdown family reunions, and achieves this without being too drab or gloomy, a pitfall which could have been easy to fall into.
In the same period, we released the film ‘Lou’ for French retailer La Redoute, which I believe deserves a special mention. This 3-minute ad is a lovely, uplifting story about reconciling with family members, carried by a beautiful song by young singer-songwriter Pomme.
What do you like the most about your role at MassiveMusic?
It allows me to be at the forefront of innovation for the way that brands work with music and sound. I’m very passionate about the evolution of our culture, technology and listening habits, and my role allows me to play my part in making sure that the ads, buildings, devices and events that surround us sound the best that they possibly can at every turn. Not only is this exciting, but it also carries a certain responsibility: no one wants a future that sounds awful.
What’s your favourite MassiveMusic campaign of all time and why?
My favourite project would likely be the sonic identity of Philips, in which the truly unique creative approach was perfectly tuned to the brand and their legacy.
We created a proprietary playable instrument for Philips made only with sounds from their core product, the lightbulb. Quite unique for a brand to have its own instrument. This also opened up a new world of possibilities, allowing the brand’s sound to be carried across media and its various state of the art devices.
How is creativity seen by brands? And how do you combine it with a strategic approach?
Most brands value creativity, but are also pragmatic and risk-averse. Being creative in branding and communication often means being open to experimentation, and therefore to a certain level of perceived risk. This dichotomy means that a creative approach must be backed by clear strategic reasoning and justifications, which can be challenging when talking about music.
As a fundamentally emotional medium, the brands which use music creatively benefit tremendously in terms of attention and relationship building, but must be prepared to take a risk and move away from the safe practices of old: using the same hit songs (or cheap stock music) as everyone else.
The way to do this is by having a strategic approach to sound, from which creativity will flow naturally. It’s only once you gain an understanding of what your brand’s relationship to sound is, and could be, that the valuable ideas start to emerge.
Why do brands need to include music in their strategy nowadays?
Our media landscape is over-saturated with visual communication, which is why music is now proven to be 3 times more impactful on branded attention metrics than visual assets (IPSOS – The Power of You, 2020). To put it simply, in a competitive landscape brands can simply not afford to bypass music in their strategy anymore, as doing so can weaken their brand value and end up incurring additional costs when they need to purchase music.
And why, in your opinion, are some of them still reluctant?
Sound remains intangible and fleeting – it’s only experienced in the exact moment you perceive it. This can make it difficult for decision makers to make the leap when it comes to investing in sound, as subjectivity will always come into account.
Brands have also been accustomed to high music costs from purchasing hit songs over the years, and therefore have an assumption that music is expensive. The irony here is that being smart with your music usage is actually financially beneficial over time, as treating music as an asset and not an accessory helps control expenses and avoid unpredictable costs.
What does the future of sound hold?
I believe that the importance of sound in our day-to-day lives will continue to grow in the future, mainly due to continued technological advancement and increased media consumption. We will also be seeing new ways of consuming sound and music, whether as a result of voice assistants and AI, or through the increased adoption of new interfaces such as virtual and augmented reality.
For brands, this will mean an even bigger challenge when it comes to future-proofing how they are heard. As their ecosystems continue to expand, the types and formats of sounds that they rely on will multiply, meaning that strategy and governance will be key. So, the question is: how do you ensure that your brand sounds the same on smart home speakers, your apps, your retail locations, but also virtual outposts across different kinds of immersive media?
Is there anybody that you’re hoping to collaborate with?
Looking ahead, I would love to get involved with Creator Studios who are developing immersive sound experiences through virtual or augmented reality. I’ve been excited about these technologies for a long time, but they have rarely come up in my work as their use by brands has mostly been contained to one-time activations or stunts until now. I believe that, once they are more mature and widely accepted, these new platforms will open up creative possibilities with sound which we can only begin to imagine at this time.
What does the sonic identity of Pierre Carnet sound like?
A sonic identity reflects values, culture, personality, history and vision. As someone with a very international background and a proactive personality, I’m thinking of a piece with instruments from different regions of the world, which play an upbeat and encouraging melody. It might sound a little out there – but I’m sure we could make it work!