Tara Bartlett joins Lowkey Films as Head of Music - "It's an exciting time for music videos to marry up with the content world."
Promonews - 23rd Nov 2022
Tara Bartlett is the new Head of Music at Lowkey Films. We talk to her about her plans, and find out how her experience making different types of creative work for artists will impact on her role.
She began in music video production, involved in some groundbreaking work at Partizan. Then she went into a different, all-encompassing type of production of creative at WMA - working on '360' content for a number of leading music artists.
Now she has joined Lowkey Films, one of London's most forward-thinking music video production companies, as Head of Music. And its fair to say that her previous job - Global Director of Film and Photography at WMA - means that Tara Bartlett is bringing a distinctive perspective to her new one.
In that job, Bartlett was involved in both video and stills shoots for artists including Louis Tomlinson, Olivia Rodrigo, Easy Life and more. She was also helping to redefine what we used to think of as content.
So we talked to Tara about her plans at Lowkey - and how the humble music video can prosper in the complicated landscape of creative content.
There's a question of what music videos are going to end up being in the next five years.
PROMONEWS: How would you describe your new role at Lowkey Films?
TARA BARTLETT: I feel like it's a perfect blend of everything that I've been doing up to this point. Music has always really been what's driven me throughout my career!
My first in-house production job was at Partizan, where I worked about seven years ago, and I was primarily working on the music videos in my just under two years there. Then in my recent job, at WMA (Weller Media Agency), which is a 360 digital creative service agency for music artists [including Olivia Rodrigo, below], I was heading up the film and photography department, and working on multi-platform creative content.
Lowkey, with both its progressive approach to the work we create and how we create it, felt like the perfect place for me to bring these two worlds together, and expand even further with the expertise Lowkey has in the long form space. Head of Music felt more appropriate than Head of Music Videos as there is so much creative to be made in the music space and across so many formats - music videos, photography, short form content, music documentary - the list goes on.
Above: Olivia Rodrigo, client of WMA where Tara Bartlett was Global Director of Film & Photography
There's an amazing space for music videos, to use social platforms to our benefit - and create assets that can extend the creative or narrative of the main promo video, in an exciting and purposeful way.
How are you bringing your experience to your new job at Lowkey?
TB: Lowkey is already established in the music video space, with our great roster of directors, and making powerful narrative work in the feature world.
What I'm so excited about with Lowkey, as well as a continued focus on music videos - is to expand our music offering across multiple platforms. With my experience across digital creative, and Lowkey’s expertise in narrative and feature, I’ll be expanding the department across content, photography, and in longer form music documentaries and narrative pieces. There’s a huge appetite from streaming platforms and independent distributors, for music documentaries, where pre-existing audiences already exist.
There’s lots of conversation industry wide on how we can best navigate the landscape right now, but I think there's an amazing space for music videos, to use social platforms to our benefit - and create assets that can extend the creative or narrative of the main promo video, in an exciting and purposeful way.
I'm personally so excited about what we can all achieve. [Lowkey co founders] Connor [O'Hara] and Jamie [Gamache] are so supportive, and of the direction for the department. Our directors we already have on the roster, are also all multidisciplinary creatives in their own right - in that a lot of them are already also photographers, designers or DOPs, so also really understand the landscape we’re working in - I think we’re all really excited about where we can push it, with considered creativity at the forefront always.
How do you feel things have changed in the music video world?
TB: I think people in the industry are definitely questioning what the music video will end up being in the next five years. It's quite exciting for me to come at it with fresh eyes - having gone from solely music video production, to focusing on creative in the digital space, and to now be in a position where we’re all thinking about how we can blend the two.
It’s definitely more social consumer and engagement focused now as audiences are wanting bespoke content across all different platforms. Therefore, we as creatives have to think further than just the 'cut down' and consider a wider content approach upfront - ensuring that the main music video can be promoted in the right way to achieve success.
What were your highlights of working at Partizan?
TB: There were loads of exciting stuff in the music space happening, which luckily I got to be a part of. Dexter Navy had just signed to Partizan, and we did the A$AP Mob music video for Money Man/Put That On My Set - featuring A$AP Rocky, A$AP Nast, Yung Lord and Skepta - which ended up being a twelve minute short film. That's a favourite.
We also did Nines and J Hus, Sean Paul and Clean Bandit's Rockerbye, Jax Jones ft MNEK, Alma - and more! It was definitely my crash course into production - and lots of hilarious moments and often very stressful! But I learned so much and got to work with so many amazing people in production, and also with directors doing incredible things.
[The job] changed very quickly, as content became so much more important in the music space.
What were your big projects while working at WMA?
TB: There were lots of projects at different scales that I worked on in my five years there - development projects to global artist campaigns, every one was so different. When I started in 2017, the creative team was servicing a lot of the more ‘content creation’ projects as we understood it at the time - anything from behind the scenes, to stills and shorter form video shoots for various platforms. But that changed very quickly, as content became so much more important and considered in the music space.
A big part of my role was also working really closely with the talent that we had, both in-house and on our global network. A lot of them went from content creators and photographers initially, to now incredibly established directors and photographers, all doing amazing things in the music and brand space today.
We produced and shot a lot of big artwork shoots, for the likes of Aitch and Louis Tomlinson [above], worked a lot with Ellie Goulding on her wider marketing content - capturing and creating stills and video assets, often captured on the set of her music videos, that carried out the creative campaign across platforms. We also did a big campaign with Mumford & Sons. One of our photographers at the time, Louis Browne, captured an amazing photo series with them, which was plastered all over the tubes in London, which I know was such a fun project and a nice moment for him to see that work stretched in so many places.
We worked with global music talent, but also with developing artists to actually build their creative direction from scratch. We’d come into early conversations with management and label, working collaboratively to shape a creative lane for them, which would eventually become their creative identity as an artist, and influence all creative output across their campaign - stills, music videos, social content.
I think we're going to crack TikTok very soon - so artists can avoid the trends, and we can create wicked content for them.
More recently we did full creative direction for artist Jack Newsome, including all stills - social, press, single and album artwork - and three music videos across the album campaign - including Arms, directed by Louis Browne - logo and artwork designs, live sessions, social content, etc.
We also did full creative direction for Olivia Lunny - again including all stills and three music videos across the campaign - including the one for Sad To See You Happy (below).
So do you think that in general music videos need to fit in with a bigger '360' picture better than they have done in the past?
TB: Well, in general, yes. I think a nice example of this are the recent videos for The 1975, by Samuel Brady, which as a consumer you really feel like you’re being told a story over the course of the videos, which is what so many albums sonically or lyrically want to do - so it makes sense for the creative to do this also. The videos are also incredibly cohesive with the entire creative direction of that campaign, so any assets you see - instantly take you to that intended visual world.
I think especially where the albums themselves tell a story, there's an interesting opportunity for the promos, and wider content, to be able to do the same through the visuals. Almost treating music videos like mini-movies! You can have vignettes of the characters you see in the video’s, living on Instagram, or other platforms that give your audience a deeper dive into the world and narrative. We as creatives can have so much fun with that.
There is absolutely still a space for those one-off, out-there, crazy promo videos that almost purposefully feel out of character from an artists recognised creative identity - I love those - and that’s what gets people talking. But largely, I think it’s important to look at an artist's creative more holistically, and for the music videos to feel like a considered part of that - as that’s what gets an audience really understanding them.
Is TikTok-based content part of this larger content landscape?
TB: TikTok is an interesting one! Not surprisingly, it was something that I had a lot of conversations around at my previous job, being in the content space, and am continuing to have with labels now.
I think there's much more exploration to do from a creative side, because it is still very much a user-generated space, and very personality-led - so it often feels harder to blend into a creative direction that is more visually led on other platforms.
Saying that, I think there's still a massive space for it, and it may almost just need some reframing from a music perspective. Video lengths on the app are getting longer, and I’m seeing more and more creativity in the content on there than ever. I think we’re going to crack it very soon - so artists can avoid the trends and we can create wicked, organic content for them!
Above: Bartlett worked with Equinox and The Dalai Lama to celebrate his album release of Innerworld and the track Humanity, released for The Dalai Lama's 85th birthday
Are you looking to expand the roster? Any new signings?
Absolutely - whilst we’ll always want to keep the roster small and considered, to allow the directors to really thrive, but that’s a real focus for me over the next six months. I have already been having some great conversations with some incredibly talented directors and creatives, so that’s definitely something that’s in the works.
We've also just signed the brilliant Lusha Alic, who is another multidisciplinary artist, who has shot artists like Billie Eilish, A$AP Rocky and Tyler the Creator. I’m so excited to be working with Lusha and transitioning her further into the world of music videos. She's already been pitching, and there’s a lot of excitement around her in conversations that I’ve been having - so hopefully we’ll be able to share something very cool from her soon.
• See the music video roster at Lowkey Films here
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Promonews - 23rd Nov 2022
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