“Using the MTV brand filter, we know that music like this is the way to go—as opposed to something over-the-top and cheesy.”
——Rochelle Holguin, MTV Sr. Director Creative Music Integration
MTV's Joe Cuello and Rochelle Holguin on Snooki, Teen Wolf, Breaking Records and More

by Simon Glickman

“We went through an enormous internal creative process to find the perfect theme song for Snooki and JWoww,” recalls MTV SVP of Creative Music Integration Joe Cuello before adding dryly, “which is one of life’s great pursuits.”

Hey, it may not be Anna Karenina, but the new reality series is an extension of the ridiculously popular Jersey Shore brand and Snooki is, in Cuello’s words, “the queen of MTV right now.” So the theme song offered a massive opportunity for the right track. And the story of how that track was picked—and what’s happened since for its creators—is a nice illustration of what the network’s CMI department is all about.

Senior Director of CMI Rochelle Holguin had heard the distaff Swedish duo Icona Pop about a year before the theme search began (thanks to a pitch from their publisher, Kobalt), and fell in love with their thumping, ebullient girl-power anthems. She soon converted the rest of the network’s decision-makers.

“Icona Pop songs are about young girls’ feelings about love or disappointment or ruling the world,” Holguin explains. “So when the Snooki and JWoww show came about, I asked myself, What’s something anthemic, with girl power? That’s Icona Pop, and we picked the song ‘I Love It.’ The band is singing, ‘I don’t care! We’re gonna have fun and be cool!’ The song is really poppy, there’s an EDM element girls will be singing along in their car.  Even our development executives told us they were singing along when they first heard the track.”

“Using the MTV brand filter, we know that music like this is the way to go—as opposed to something over-the-top and cheesy,” she adds. “It’s something authentic that kids will want on their iPods.”

Team CMI won over network shot-callers,the 495 Productions team (the reality-show factory behind Jersey Shore) and other interested parties. This was particularly gratifying because they’d found a track that fit the storytelling priorities of the series and advanced an act they believed in. (Shortly after the ink dried on the MTV pact, Icona Pop signed with Big Beat/Atlantic.)

“Those are the big moments of complete satisfaction for us—where a band came into us, we fell in love with them and looked for opportunities and actually found one, and seeing the world respond with a pretty substantial numerical impact,” Cuello says.

“I Love It” first charted the week of the show’s 6/21 premiere and has sold 16k+ in single sales (with a 930% increase since the series bow) and enjoyed more than 652k YouTube views (up by 229% post-Snooki).

Frequently, when MTV champions an artist or song, CMI will negotiate a short-term bargain rate for placements and then work the song internally, emphasizing companywide that the project is a priority. The exposure resulting from being heard across the network’s multiple shows and online outlets can create an impressive head of steam.

But the “Integration” part of their department embraces much more—and is particularly focused on lining up different media formats for maximum impact.

The net’s zeitgeisty horror soap Teen Wolf, for example, has played a particularly strong role in promoting music. With what Cuello calls the “connective tissue” between TV and online elements (including gaming features that expand the story) firing up fans, the genre series(recently greenlit for its third season) has been responsible for about 10,000 music downloads on MTV’s soundtrack blog. The highly active audience has been good news for featured artists like Martin Solveig—who experienced 106% and 135% single-sales spikes, respectively, for his tracks “The Night Out (Madeon Remix)” and “Ready to Go” after they were heard on the showas well as Hype artist Of Verona (+102, up 329%), Dada Life (+1,124, up 128%) and The Cinematic Orchestra (+1,137, up 1,579%), among others.

Holguin has also spearheaded the continuation of Cuello’s guest music supervisor program, a unique initiative that had spent several years in dormancy. MTV brought in Bethany Consentino from Best Coast to supe the 9/13 episode of Awkward; in addition to bringing her highly compatible sensibility to the series, she became the subject of a video profile by MTV Hive—for a bit more of what Cuello calls “intra-company synergy.” Awkward has also given a boost to artist Katie Herzig, who got a nice spike in single sales for her “Midnight Serenade” and nearly a nearly 4k jump in YouTube views after placements on the show.

“More than any network, we have built a structure where music supervision is prime, tied to MTV’s history, its present and its future,” proclaims Cuello, noting the launch of ambitious new web venture artists.mtv.com—which aims to be a hub for all music-related content—and an overall commitment to telling stories through music. “It’s such a priority to us that it’s a crucial investment for our fans and our future, and a nod to our past, our history as a channel.”

Cuello argues that artists.mtv.com, now in beta, will offer “a focal point for people to do business and support the middle class of artists,” thanks to its consolidation of network content, artist-supplied feeds and links and community features. “Instead of 50 disparate locations to find cool stuff, it all lives in one place,” he points out.

“We’re very excited because in the past we could create a lot of heat and energy, but it all dissipated into the universe,” Cuello adds. “We can’t wait to see the impact when everything creatively aligns.”

The competition is fierce. (7/7a)
A "Moon" shot. (7/6a)
Fingers crossed for indie venues to return. (7/6a)
Latifah, Lauryn, Missy, Lil Kim, more. (7/7a)
Juiced with a big D2C initiative. (7/7a)
Would you like some Swiss cheese with your nachos?
Oh, sorry--we were just singing to ourselves.
Family is everything.
Are they coming for Kanye? Yes.

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