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Thinking In Sound: Christophe Caurret

The music creative director at BETC on syncing Justice, LCD Soundsystem and Flume before they were famous, how music is like playing sports, and how his legal background affects his approach

Thinking In Sound: Christophe Caurret

At the beginning of the ‘90s, Christophe Caurret studied Law and simultaneously promoted raves in France. 
 
By 1999 he was working for BETC, working on music rights and since 2012 he’s been the French ad agency’s music creative director.
 
He’s paired artists from The Beatles to the Chemical Brothers with brands including Orange and Peugeot. He was even behind selecting the music the Evian babies have danced to (Here Comes the Hotstepper and Rapper’s Delight being particular highlights).
 
  

When you’re working on a new brief or project, what’s your typical starting point? How do you break it down and how do you like to generate your ideas or response?

 
The typical starting point is to discuss with the creative team and the director on the project. I prefer to meet or Zoom them, if possible. Then, I take some time to analyse the situation of the project soundtrack. It's only after that, that I begin the research phase and that I look for music that could fit the project. It depends, but I sometimes search into my own music library or I talk with some specific contacts of mine in the world.
 
But I also love at the beginning of a project to take the time to listen to new music and new artists and find some opportunities.
 
I am a music addict, but because I come from a legal background, I tend to be very organised. I always feel that each step of the project deserves a strong attention for me to be able to correctly defend my music recommendations.
 
 
 
Music and sound are in some ways the most collaborative and interactive forms of creativity - what are your thoughts on this? Do you prefer to work solo or with a gang?
 
I am totally in love with my job, because I love all these moments where we put different people around the table, each with specific skills, and we work well together. That’s a real special emotion. Close to the emotion you could have in a sports team during a match!
 
I like to spend time with musicians, creative teams, directors, and people that are open minded and want to push creativity beyond.
 
 
 
And what are some of your most memorable professional collaborations?
 
As I have been working at BETC for a long time, I have so many memorable experiences to choose from, but here are a few examples:
- Launching Air France Music, the music platform we created for the brand
- Spending some time in the studio with the band Death in Vegas and listening to their fantastic ‘Scorpio Rising’ album in London, a few months before it was released and feeling that it would be a great record. And it sure was!
- Syncing some artists that were yet “to be discovered” and became famous after that, like Justice, LCD Soundsystem, Flume…
- Developing all the artists that we work with on the record label we launched for BETC, called “POP RECORDS”….
 
 
 

What’s the most satisfying part of your job and why?

 
I like how we can use advertising like a media placement and give some exposure to artists and helping them get discovered. Especially the ones that don't get enough traction with the traditional music networks, like the radio. 
 
And I like sharing music that I love!
 
 
 

As the advertising industry changes, how do you think the role of music and sound is changing with it?

 
Advertising is becoming obsessed with data. Nowadays, advertisers want to use data to select artists. I believe that data can help but is definitely not enough. In advertising, we still need humans to make strong music recommendations that data could never surface, because at the end we all want to create the strongest emotion.
 
 
 

Who are your musical heroes and why?

 
The Cure because they created the soundtrack of the ‘80s.
My Bloody Valentine because they knew how to do real melodies with noise.
Nils Frahm because he made me fall in love with a new type of classical music, that is closer to electronic music.
Underground Resistance because they were techno music pioneers.
 
 
 

And when it comes to your particular field, whether sound design or composing, are there any particular ideas or pioneers that you go back to frequently or who really influence your thinking about the work you do?

 
I would say The Beatles, because they created perfect pop songs that were listened to by everyone all over the world and that’s the way music should go!
 
 
 

When you’re working on something that isn’t directly sound design or music - are you the sort of person who needs music and noise in the background or is that completely distracting to you? 

 
Not really. Because I like to be focused when I am working. But when I get too stressed, music is the key to help me stay calm. As is keeping some sense of humour.
 
 
 

I guess the quality of the listening experience and the context that audiences listen to music/sound in has changed over the years. How does that factor into how you approach your work?

 
On the one hand, I love to listen to vinyl records because of their specific sound. But on the other hand, I am totally living in our times and I embrace the new music tools, like streaming platforms.
 
 
 

On a typical day, what does your ‘listening diet’ look like?

 
The morning is the best time for me to listen to music, when my brain is not too “polluted”.
I think I must listen to at least three hours of music a day.
 
And, back at home after work, I also love to play some records in my living room and listen  or dance with my children.
 
 
 

Do you have a collection of music/sounds and what shape does it take?

 
First of all, I got a special custom piece made in my living room that hosts all my vinyl, my old CD collection, my DJ mixer and my turntables.
 
Additionally, I have several hard drives and computers filled with music. And I also have a strong collection of famous movie dialogue.
 
 
 

Outside of the music and sound world, what sort of art or topics really excite you and do you ever relate that back to music?

 
Before being a music fan, I was a cinema fan. I used to go watch movies three or four times a week when I was young. So I am still a movie fan and that has a natural connection with my current job.
 
I also love to discover unique links between music scenes and periods or changes in society.
 
Lastly, I am all about food! I cook a lot at home!
 
 
 

Let’s talk travel! It’s often cited as one of the most creatively inspiring things you can do - I’d love to know what are the most exciting or inspiring experiences you’ve had when it comes to sound and music on your travels?

 
For eight years, we organized a famous monthly party in Paris. At one point, we wanted to do something crazy: to organize a special edition of our party that would be set in Reykjavik in Iceland and stay there less than 24 hours with an impressive electronic line-up. We did it and that was a short, but interesting music trip.
 
The second experience was for Air France, when we asked several artists to record some music while flying in a plane between Paris and Tokyo.
 
And, last but not the least, the ‘SLEEP’ Max Richter experience, with an eight-hour classical music concert with people listening to the music while lying down in real beds. That was a beautiful “inner travel”…
 
 
 

As we age, our ears change physically and our tastes evolve too, and life changes mean we don’t get to engage in our passions in the same intensity as in our youth - how has your relationship with sound and music changed over the years?

 
I am trying to keep the same naïve feeling with music that I had when I was younger. Being older, I was afraid to lose this feeling. But today, I still get the same emotion when I am listening for the first time to some incredible new bands, so I guess I am still fine.
 
But, definitely, going to concerts and to parties helps keep me feel “alive”. So I really hope that we will go back to those events soon!
 

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