LBB: Thinking in Sound - Sean Hogan

November 30, 2023

Sean Hogan started The Hogan in 2020. During its first year, Sean worked with the likes of Nike, Amazon Prime, Klarna, Simba, Google, Dulux.

Sean began his career at Split Music Publishing, becoming creative director and head of A&R. Now founder / music supervisor at The Hogan. Also a budding screenwriter and director that recently had short film APHORISMS selected at the London Short Film Festival. The Hogan works in the UK, Europe, US and Asia.

When you’re working on a new brief or project, what’s your typical starting point? How do you break it down and how do you like to generate your ideas or response?

Sean> First thing is making sure I understand the concept and story. To try and get inside the mind of the director and creatives. When I feel like I have a good grasp on what they’re doing, I usually like to bounce ideas around – styles and genres that have caught my ear recently and could be interesting angles. Then we can narrow that down. I prefer the process to be collaborative, but of course this isn’t always possible.

Music and sound are in some ways the most collaborative and interactive forms of creativity - what are your thoughts on this? Do you prefer to work solo or with a gang - and what are some of your most memorable professional collaborations?

Sean> With the client, I prefer collaboration. Relationships where you can have fast-fire back and forth over Whatsapp, or where you can jump on the phone easily to share ideas. Makes the process a lot smoother, and allows for a level of detail and understanding that is harder to get from staggered emails and catch up calls.

Internally, with our team, there are merits to both. Love hearing all of the different takes and suggestions and having a sense of camaraderie, but I also like having the space to identify my gut feeling, develop it and execute.

What’s the most satisfying part of your job and why?

Sean> Probably the moment where I see the first composition to picture that I think has totally nailed it, or when I try that track and know ‘that’s the one’.

I also love when we first hear back from the client after delivering a great search/composition.

Seeing the spot on TV is pretty good too.

As the advertising industry changes, how do you think the role of music and sound is changing with it?

Sean> The first thing that springs to mind is a greater awareness towards the people behind the music. With key issues being amplified and finally brought to the forefront in recent times, brands are more consciously trying to align with artists that represent their values.

We’ve always had a roster with LGBTQ+, black, female and other minority voices, so it’s great to see them getting more opportunities in an increasingly aware industry.

When you’re working on something that isn’t directly sound design or music - are you the sort of person who needs music and noise in the background or is that completely distracting to you? What are your thoughts on ‘background’ sound and music as you work?

Sean> Much prefer background music. There’s a real intensity to working in silence that gets tiring within a couple of hours and makes me want a nap.

On a typical day, what does your ‘listening diet’ look like?

Sean> I’m sure everyone does it but it’s all about picking the right tone for how you’re feeling and the type of work you need to do. Sometimes ambient, sometimes jazz or soul, sometimes some ignant trap/rap for particularly boring work.

Do you have a collection of music/sounds and what shape does it take (are you a vinyl nerd, do you have hard drives full of random bird sounds, are you a hyper-organised spotify-er…)?

Sean> I have a hard drive with over 50,000 cherished tracks from my old iPods. It doesn’t work however, so it sits in the cupboard with me holding out hope it can one day be fixed.

Other than that, I’m mostly using the streamers now.

Outside of the music and sound world, what sort of art or topics really excite you and do you ever relate that back to music?

Sean> Huge film and TV person. With two partners, I’m also developing a series and a film that’ll hopefully be picked up soon. You can push the music boat out a lot more in independent films, so I love hearing all the new ideas in that world and figuring out which could apply to the advertising world.

Also a big reader of philosophy which sometimes relates back to music. Schopenhauer had a close relationship with Wagner, so it’s interesting to understand some of the wild, and often profound, thoughts behind the music.

As we age, our ears change physically and our tastes evolve too, and life changes mean we don’t get to engage in our passions in the same intensity as in our youth - how has your relationship with sound and music changed over the years?

Sean> I think I’m probably even more into music now than I was even 10 years ago. The great thing about this job is that it gives lots of opportunities to meet people that can open your eyes and ears to new things. I’m addicted to new sounds and vibes that feel actually unique, and then usually excessively explore that world until I find another.

I do miss the days of opening 50 tabs on YouTube at the same time and discovering mad shit, before YouTube changed the algorithm and all we get on the right hand side is DJ Khaled now.