Lucky are they who look forward to Mondays – or their next gig -- with joy in their hearts! Meet the folks whose talents and passions are happily matched to the jobs they have.
When an advertising agency’s creative director working on a holiday TV ad for McDonald’s decides to use Mariah Carey singing “All I Want for Christmas is You,” or a movie’s music director thinks that REM’s “Crush With Eyeliner” would synch perfectly with a scene from “Captain Marvel,” they go to the source to secure the rights and find the best recorded version to use.
The source in those cases would be Universal Music Group (UMG). And they won’t get very far in their request without the help of a music archive specialist like Dileepan Ganesan.
A Music Business graduate from NYU and an accomplished musician and composer in his own right, Ganesan has been working with the recorded digital assets collections for large music companies for 15 years – the last five of which as a specialist on the archives team at UMG, the largest music company in the world. It’s one of the "Big Three" record labels, along with Sony Music and Warner Music Group.
UMG produces and promotes 1,250 artists on 127 different labels worldwide (Abbey Road Studios, Bravado, Capitol Music Group, Decca Records, Def Jam Recordings, Motown, EMI, etc.). Just a few of the artists in the company’s deep roster include J Balvin, Taylor Swift, Billie Eilish, Post Malone, Morgan Wallen, DaBaby, Ella Fitzgerald, Metallica, Bob Dylan, Maroon 5, ABBA, Nas, Mumford & Sons, The White Stripes, Irving Berlin, Lewis Capaldi, Daddy Yankee, Frank Sinatra, Adele, and Andrea Bocelli. In other words, you name it, they probably own it.
The UMG archive represents around 3,000,000 individual songs preserved as master recordings, protection copies, multi-tracks, demos, safeties, and videos, as well as non-recorded items such as artwork and session notes. The archives are stored in 10 vaults around the world.
Ganesan is one of four music archivists in the U.S. who keep tabs on everything in the company’s massive collection, researching, tracking, verifying, and managing its vast holdings.
It seems like you have to have a broad knowledge of and appreciation for many different types of music styles to do this job. What best prepared you for this kind of work?
Well, I am a musician first and foremost. I grew up playing piano and guitar and played in several bands of varied styles. I have also spent plenty of time recording music, so I know a bit about the technical side. But I went to college for Music Business, so I have some training business wise as well.
Do you work onsite at one of the vaults?
I have actually never gone into the vault yet! There are a few at UMG, across the country, hopefully I can visit soon. But so far, my research work has all been virtual.
On any typical day, what kinds of requests would you receive? What does your usual workflow consist of?
The label will ask for the original masters and outtakes for deluxe editions, the multitracks or stems for remixing, and video, live concert tapes, and everything in between! It’s varied, and there is always a something to learn.
Are all of the assets in the UMG archive digitized?
No, but there is a definitely an initiative to get them all digitized. But with so many assets, it will take time.
So, do you get to listen to music all day?
I usually listen to music in the mornings, then podcasts in the afternoon. Unless I need to listen to something for work for research purposes of course!
What’s your favorite genre?
Right now, I like easy listening and jazz, things to keep in the background. I’m not so focused on vocal music lately.
What is the most surprising thing you discovered in the archives?
There are plenty of surprises! But lately, it’s this group Bryndle, that featured songwriter Andrew Gold (who wrote the Golden Girls theme!) that put out an album that was never released from 1970. It is so good! I can’t believe they never released it back then, but hopefully that will change.
What are your interests outside of work? Are you in a band?
I produce music for fun and make films! It’s healthy to stay creative!