Format recently caught up with the head designer/marketing manager of Zune Arts, Rob Schaltenbrand. We spoke about the up coming events and where is Zune Arts is going in the future to come. For those who donâ€™t know, the Zune is the latest Microsoft media player which has taken an extremely innovative path in terms of marketing campaigns. Much of their focus is put in to pairing killer graphic design talent (e.g. Friends With You, Ilovedust, Tokyoplastic) with indie recording stars (e.g. Santogold, Chromeo, Ratatat), viewable at www.zune-arts.net.
â€œMicrosoft Entertainment is one of the most amazing organizations Iâ€™ve worked for, and I would have never thought that from the outside, but coming here, it’s pretty incredible. â€œ
Format: When did you first started working at Zune Arts?
Rob Schaltenbrand: I came on board with Zune Arts during the Fall of â€™06. For me it was pretty thrilling. I was previously at Converse where I was the president/marketing manager. I was involved with a lot of calibrations as well. It was a fortunate transition, much more a surprise with built in expectations, and perhaps skepticism when it comes to a large company or organization like Microsoft.
Microsoft lets you pursue your interests, and find out how they can be applied to the things we do on a daily basis. It’s one of the most amazing organizations Iâ€™ve worked for. I would have never thought that from the outside, but coming here, it’s pretty incredible.
Format: How do you find new designers/artists to work with?
Rob Schaltenbrand: We look for people who inspire us. We follow up with their work, we look at blogs, sites like Format, and just feed off of people. At the same time, we also want people that inspire others. Thatâ€™s what art is, an individual brought to society at large. We want to take individuals that inspire us, and just push them out further. We help them further their craft, and help them develop things they want to. We help them with things they dreamed about, and push them to a larger group of people. It’s really about looking, observing, listening, talking to people, walking around weekends, going into galleries, going to shows, and attending ASR. Just really emerging yourself around the world around you, the process isn’t so much difficult. There are a lot of amazing artists, if you keep your eyes open.
When I walk around I always have a camera on hand, I take my Sony digital camera and take photos of what I see. I’m always taking pictures. I like to capture my environment. When I like something, I capture it, research it a little further, then I e-mail the artist, and have a conversation, and next thing you know were working on a project together. It’s pretty serendipitous.
Format: How long did it take to find a song such as, :Mother Like No Other?”
Rob Schaltenbrand: It’s interesting that you mention that, for us, we do the conversation in tandem. If there is a particular artist, that we are interesting in the case, “Mother Like No Other” with Yves. There’s the musician balance also. We select the band independent of the artist, and bring the two together. It’s the whole thing about discovery, two groups sort of discovering one another, for us making the connections between the two groups, so thatâ€™s how the selections. We also work with our music-marketing group internally. We might sit down them and say, “Hey, we have another film we’re looking to do, at this time of year. Who are you guys digging?â€ They have a really going sense of what’s happening out there, and they’ll come back with a couple of recommendations with people their liking, and Iâ€™ll listen to them, and say, â€œIâ€™m really liking this.” We’ll just have a conversation with either the artist or the management, and go on from there.
â€œWe want to take individuals that inspire us, and just push them out further, helping them further their craft helping them develop things they want to, help them with things they dreamed about.â€
Format: Does it take a long process to find the artist and their music? While going though the film or tying it with the film?
Rob Schaltenbrand: No not really, not particularly, once our music marketing coach has a good sense their job is what’s going on out there, who’s on the cusp, or breaking, who’s getting a lot of buzz, their job is to be in the know in a lot of ways. When I ask them, they come back to me in two or three days later with a list, and from there I would more or less sit down and listen to some music to get a feel of things. Then, I go back to them, and say I’m interested in this group or this group. They make a few phone calls, and the process is underway. It’s really simple.
We select the artist early on. The artist listens to the lyrics and gets that source or feel for it. And that way, they can create and edit in tandem with the track. So that itâ€™s not forcing something on top of it, or trying to make the track fit.
Format: How many artists have you worked with at Zune?
Rob Schaltenbrand: I think in total were almost up to 25 – 30 releases from Zune arts, we’ve done a combination of everything from film, to posters, to the graphic novel.
Format: What are you into; do you like to collect anything such as toys, vinyl, and music?
Rob Schaltenbrand: My thing is when I used to live in New York, I used to collect vinyl for a long time, was really into music. I had a lot of vinyl. I mean as far as toys, I used to work for Frank 151 magazine, back in the day, so I really got into vinyl toys when I lived in New York. This was around 2000 or so, I used to go to 360-toy group. I used to go over there and buy stuff, and then from there it was really, I got into biking.
Thatâ€™s probably where I spend all my money and time, listening to music and biking, I still collect and buy a lot of books and large art folio books.
I’m trying to sell my vinyl, trying to sell my toys, trying to get rid of the stuff I collected along the way. I collected a lot of sneakers as well, I got rid of that, I like to move in different phases in life, I’m like a big bike junky now and was probably for the last five years.
Format: What do you see for Zune arts for the next year?
Rob Schaltenbrand: Zune will continue to connect with different calibrations with a program. It will evolve from where we were last year to a multitude of mediums like the new graphic novel project. Zune will also continue with art shows Zune Arts packing production and other aspects and mediums .
The graphic novel will essentially run from July through August, and from there, the production and publication of the book/ novel will be made for distribution. The campaign was officially launched though our public relations, also though online media and blogs. The novel itself was launched on July 2 and will run though till the end of August. Itâ€™s a collective project working with 12 onsite artists and each of the artists were assigned their own chapter. The next Zune Arts project will happen no later than the Fall, as production of an animated movie is underway as well.