HiFi Music + Sound Design Pumps Up the Volume

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SANTA MONICA, Calif.—Having gotten off to a blistering start, HiFi Music + Sound Design is kicking it up a notch. The music company, launched last fall by composer/creative director Paul Robb and executive producer Birgit Roberts, has expanded its services, brought in new talent and formed a new national sales team to keep pace with its booming business. Drawing on its deep ties to the recording industry, HiFi has formed a music licensing division and tapped music supervisor and former Warner Bros. A&R director Kevin Laffey to head it. It has also added four composers, Jan Pomerans, Kevin McCormick, Michael Gatt and Brian Sargent, as well as sound designer and composer Owen O’Toole. To handle sales, the company has signed with veteran rep Mary Matusz on the West Coast and Paul Saylor in Chicago and the Midwest. HiFi is making the moves to better handle the volume of projects that have been coming its way. The company launched informally last fall as Robb was completing an international tour with Information Society, the seminal techno band he co-founded. Since then, Robb and Roberts, who had previously worked together at Face the Music, have completed projects for Honda, Bosch Home Appliances, Mattel and Mazda, as well as a new branding campaign for Tylenol.

“As things began to snowball, we realized that we could no longer do it all ourselves,� said Roberts. “And we have been fortunate to be able to assemble a very talented group of artists who share our background, interests and approach.� While it pursues growth, HiFi wants to maintain the differences that distinguish it from conventional commercial music companies and have fueled its initial success. Key among those differences, according to Robb, is its strong connections to the recording industry. “When we started HiFi, we made it a point of our business plan to include our relationships in the recording industry,� explained Robb. “We want to bring that credibility and expertise into advertising. Our goal is to do things better and smarter by combining the best of both worlds.� Robb and Roberts were particularly keen to add licensing to their offering and found in Laffey the perfect candidate to lead that venture. During his stint at Warner Bros., Laffey was responsible for signing such high powered artists as Brian Eno, Daniel Lanois, Julee Cruise and Suddenly Tammy!, (in addition to Robb’s band Information Society). Additionally, he has experience in music supervision for film and television with credits including Break Up, The Last Stand and the Academy Award-winning short Big Mama. Laffey also has a background in music publishing, catalog representation and artist representation. Through his various activities, he has developed relationships with record labels and artists worldwide. Laffey said that he looks forward to applying his experience to advertising projects and said the barriers that once separated the advertising, entertainment and recording industries have vanished. “There are no more boundaries,� he said. “The work I do as a music supervisor for film and television is no different from what I do for commercials.� He added that the mix of talent at HiFi suggests some intriguing possibilities. “I can see us doing hybrid remixes, taking existing tracks and tailoring them to the needs of the client,� he said. “You may take an older song that appeals to one group of consumers and remix it so that it appeals to a different demographic as well.� Similarly, the composers that HiFi has added to its roster have music industry backgrounds and experience as songwriters and composers. Pomerans is a British-born and classically-trained composer and one of the founders of the electronica band Zen Cowboys. He has also written music for the television shows Grey’s Anatomy, Desperate Housewives and The Simpsons and for commercials promoting GMC, Ford, BMW and Coke. McCormick is a Grammy-winning producer, songwriter and instrumentalist who has a long association with Jackson Browne and has also performed with such artists as Melissa Etheridge and Keb Mo. He, too, has written for television with credits including Sex and the City and Ally McBeal. Gatt is a veteran of several Los Angeles-based indie bands and has also performed with such artists as Black Eyed Peas, Blur and Spinal Tap. He has scored spots for Honda, Tylenol and Mattel. Sargent is a composer, multi-instrumentalist, producer and recording engineer of considerable accomplishment. A graduate of Berklee College of Music, he has scored spots for such brands as Tylenol, Honda, Aetna, Planet Waves and the NHL. He has produced and engineered several albums, including work by roots musicians Liam Bailey and Greg Liszt. O’Toole’s experience includes a stint as program curator at public radio station KZYX where he developed an interest in avant garde and antique recordings. He is also a member of the experimentalist Wet Gate ensemble that gives musical performances using 16mm movie projectors. His experience as a sound designer and composer for commercials goes back more than 15 years and includes a longstanding collaboration with director Jeffrey Plansker. “What we have done is to purposefully seek out composers who are involved in the music industry to keep things fresh,� said Roberts. “There is a pool of composers who work regularly for music houses and as a result the work tends to sound the same—like ad music. We are trying to do it a little differently, a little fresher and more authentic.� For more information about HiFi Music + Sound Design, call (310) 319-1100 or visit