Member Spotlight #10: Janesta Boudreau President & Founder of Rocking Horse Road Productions & Conversion Music
Interview by: Tara Gardner
shesaid.so: What lead you to a career in music and more specifically, in sync?
Janesta Boudreau: I suppose that I wanted to be in the industry since I was a kid. Although, originally, I wanted to be a backup singer and dancer for Janet Jackson. I then decided at 14 that the only job in the world for me was ‘bass player in a band’, like Melissa Auf Der Maur or Sean from White Zombie. But learning was tedious and I fell off that boat as well. In high school. I knew that the best way for me to be near music was to work on the business end.
I took my BComm at university, and just after graduating I landed at a music company in Halifax, NS called Sonic. I dabbled in the label side, PR, concert promotion and then moved into management. As a manager, you get to see and approve all sync requests. Working with music supervisors and sync companies was one of my favourite parts of the job. When I decided to leave management, it was the only thing I wanted to do. I’d FINALLY found my industry calling and now I’m living the dream ☺.
ssso: You established the multi-service music licensing house Rocking Horse Road Productions 5 years ago and in the beginning of September you launched the sync-focused covers catalogue, Coversion! Talk about the synergy there and how you knew it was time to create your second company.
JB: Since Rocking Horse Road has an active sync roster and a pre-cleared music library, we are already well established in the sync industry and we would see a lot of briefs come in looking for cover songs/ re-records. When we got a sync for a global Philips Ad with a bespoke cover of ‘It’s Your Thing’, it tuned my ear to how often covers are used and how. Listening to a new cover track that another artist had sent forward one day (which I thought was perfect for a big TV show), the idea to open a sync-focused covers catalogue was born. Shortly thereafter, plans for Coversion were underway.
Luckily, because we have those industry contacts already, we had an easy time finding the producers we wanted to work with, and we knew what kind of tracks we wanted to make, and which publishers to go to for their input in our choices.
Now, less than a year later — we’re ready to launch! Whether it’s a trailer version of “Sinnerman”, an ad version of “True Colours”, or an in-scene clip of a hip hop version of “We’re Not Gonna Take It” — a lot of thought and consideration has gone into populating this catalogue. All based on experience and trends in the industry.
ssso: What is the music industry community like in Nova Scotia? How does it shape the way you do business? What makes you stay?
JB: They say you should ‘never say never’, but while I am physically based in the UK right now — Rocking Horse Road Productions / Coversion will NEVER stop being a Nova Scotia based entity.
To say that I feel extremely lucky to have grown up in the Atlantic Canadian music scene is a major understatement. As a teenager in the 90s, I watched as Halifax (RHR’s base) was touted as ‘The Next Seattle’ all the time. We have a huge variety of music — from traditional folk and celtic fiddle music to Hip Hop, Indie Rock and R&B and Soul. The scene out east has its struggles — geographically (it’s far from the large music markets), when it comes to infrastructure, and some issues with public liquor laws and venue availability. On the flip side, everyone knows each other. It’s supportive, it’s inclusive, and whenever someone comes to an event like Nova Scotia Music Week, May Run in PEI or East Coast Music Week, they always (ALWAYS) comment on the insane pool of talent from such a small area. That is why RHR was born, essentially. I wanted a vehicle to get these artists out to the mass music buying market for sync. 49 of our sync placements are Atlantic Canadian artists and I’m extremely proud of that.
ssso: RHR/Coversion is lately a remote operation — working in Canada, Los Angeles and London. Of course modern technology has made this type of set-up simpler, but what are some rules/routines/philosophies/tools you all use to keep in touch or keep the communication tight in the day-to-day?
JB: It sure is! Email is our friend! I stay in touch with Emma [Cassidy] (Associate Sync Agent/Database Manager) in Halifax the most and we use g-chat and / or Skype. Leslie [Amos](Lead Music Supervisor/Publisher Relations) and I email mostly, then we’ll jump on a lunchtime call every so often.
It’s all about how they structure their days. Leslie and I will usually be in touch throughout the morning (he and I are both in Europe now), and Emma and I message back and forth throughout my afternoon and early evening, which is her morning and afternoon. Any LA partners — we usually just hop on Skype / WhatsApp or Facetime as they are just getting going when I’m winding down. Because it’s the way we’ve always worked together, it’s not so difficult.
As long as everyone knows what they are supposed to be doing and are doing work, I’m not too concerned with how and when they get it done. I respect that everyone has their more productive hours and routines. I certainly do, and I structure my day accordingly — while taking their days and routines into account.
ssso: It was a pleasure having dinner with you and your team a couple of months back! It was wonderful for me to meet a strong group of women and fell the power of you all supporting one-another and generally getting shit done. Is it significant to you to seek out women to makeup the base of your businesses?
JB: Our pleasure as well — and great wine!
I’m not sure if it’s an underlying need or just that I came up in a generally male dominated business and I needed some different energy around me. I think a balanced work force gives you a good perspective on things, but working with passionate women simply inspires me to continue to be passionate and get shit done. I also find that women tend to be more detail oriented and able to really tackle a task/plan/whatever with intent. That being said, we have one man on the team now (my Coversion guy, Leslie), and he’s a great addition — bringing experience and knowledge that really compliments the team!
ssso: How do you see the sync business changing? Do you think there are more or less opportunities for artists now and how has that changed your responsibilities as a sync professional?
JB: I think there are more opportunities.
The internet and streaming platforms are opening up new sync channels all the time. Hulu, the sheer amount of new Netflix originals series, Amazon, and other online streaming and content providers are growing their content deliveries really quickly. I hope this doesn’t drive the cost of music down across all platforms, as it’s been on a downward trend for a while, sadly — but as far as finding a place to sync music, there are simply more places opening up. As a sync professional, you just have to keep on top of all of them!
Video game trailers are now big as well with AAA game trailers are on par now with Hollywood blockbuster trailers — with great stories, production value and song choices. Games hold the largest share of the entertainment market right now, and I think landing a game trailer will soon be as desirable for artists than landing a big film’s.
ssso: What’s been your favorite project to work on this past year?
JB: Most definitely getting the covers made for Coversion (briefing the tracks out to producers and being amazed at what came back in), and getting to work with Frontier’s Jim Croft and Matthew Florianz and Musician / Composers Jim Guthrie and JJ Ipsen on the music and soundtrack for Planet Coaster. Honestly, I think You, Me & Gravity: The Music of Planet Coaster is one of the best video game soundtracks ever made. It fits the game SO PERFECTLY. Jim and JJ are pure genius.
ssso: What’s your favourite way to consume and discover music?
JB: Is it cheating to say that I don’t have a ‘favourite way?’ I do tend to rely on others a lot more than I used to. I like to be fed — through friends, media, playlists, etc. rather than to go hunting anymore. I think I’m getting old. It helps having Emma — she is young and much more ‘with it’ than I am these days. That is good advice to all companies I think — always have someone younger and cooler than you in your corner!
ssso: What personal lesson have you learned in the past year?
JB: You have to follow your own path and march to the beat of your own drum. Only you know what is right for you, and you have to do your best to make your dreams a reality…
ssso: Can you share a favorite/recent playlist with us? (We’d hire you to soundtrack our life if we could!)
JB: You are so lovely ☺ Playlist… I’m glad you asked! Coversion actually has a project going on via Spotify where we want to make the ultimate cover songs playlist! I’m not sure what a playlist length world record is, but I want to break it. You can add to it as well — just ‘follow’ the list, then choose your favourite covers, and add to that playlist. We would LOVE for shesaid.so members to participate! Get involved here!
ssso: Besides launching Coversion, what other projects/announcements are coming up that we should know about?
JB: I have a few really exciting things happening in my world! RHR earned a nomination for Music Supervisor (Video Games) via Music Week Sync Awards in London. We’re also looking forward to music supervising the just announced Jurassic World Evolution video game!
RHR and Coversion believe strongly in mental health and wellness initiatives and access for musicians and industry professionals. Through RHR’s pre-cleared music library we donate a portion of yearly proceeds to Unison Benevolent Fund.
RHR currently gifts one of their guitar string bracelets per month to anyone who listens to our newsletter track. [Readers could sign up for the newsletter via rockinghorseroad.ca for a chance to enter the draw]
Coversion will be announcing an auction in the coming months where proceeds will be sent to Unison and Help Musicians UK!