Andrew Kahn is his own boss. The 33 year old music supervisor and owner of Good Ear Music Supervision — GEMS for short — has placed songs in everything from ads, to films, to HBO’s The Sopranos. His placements have earned him advertising’s highest honors, securing him a bronze Clio and a silver Cannes Lion for his work on Southern Comfort’s “Whatever’s Comfortable” campaign. He was told music supervision was a dead-end job, but through a decade of hard work and one very well-timed mixtape he made for a girl, he’s built a successful and fulfilling career.
Everyone has a unique morning routine, from walking your dog or listening to your favorite song. In this series, we spoke with three successful New Yorkers about the morning rituals that help prepare them for their busy days ahead.
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I caught up with Andrew in the sunny Williamsburg loft he shares with his adopted hound dog Bama, to learn the secrets of self-made success, proper flossing technique, and rollerblading with his dog through Brooklyn. A little hint: take life as it comes, because you never know when a pivotal moment will present itself. Also, brush twice daily, preferably with a Philips Sonicare DiamondClean power toothbrush.
What does a music supervisor do exactly?
I put music into different forms of media. Recently, music supervision has expanded into TV, ads, trailers, and video games and any film that might need it. I specialize in ads. I started my own company four years ago, and before that I worked for Apple’s ad agency for four years, and before that I worked on the last season of The Sopranos.
How did you break into it?
In 2004 I wrote to a few music supervisors whose work I really admired. One of them was really nice and agreed to meet [with] me, but then she just said, “don’t become a music supervisor. It’s not all that it’s cracked up to be.” I didn’t heed her advice because I figured that there’s got to be some people that are successful at this weird little niche industry? And then...it’s a funny story, but I made a mixtape for a girl, who gave it to her friend, whose father worked in TV. And that eventually got me the job on The Sopranos.
What do you consider a successful day of work?
One aspect of success is just being able to use a song that I really love. It’s rare that there’s great ads out in the world (or great movies or great TV shows) that allow somebody like me — somebody that they’re collaborating with — to use something that they really like. But what else is successful? Honestly, when I first learned about music supervision there were very few people doing it professionally, and it was really tough to break into. I feel successful in the fact that I get to do this for a living.
You work from home, but when you wake up, do you actually get dressed and ready as if you were going to the office?
No. I usually wake up and I start working right away. After I catch up and find out what my day is going to look like, kind of kick into gear, I’ll take my dog out, have some breakfast, and then get back to work with the least amount of preparation or planning as possible.
So, when do you brush your teeth?
That’s all there is, right — teeth and gums? I floss once a night. My girlfriend introduced me to the “brush, floss, brush” method. First I brush with no toothpaste just to move it all around, get all that stuff out of your gums, floss, and then brush with toothpaste. It’s come to be a pretty successful adopted method. Right hand, left hand, mix that up too.
Tell me about your dog.
I don’t know what I was thinking. I mean, I love dogs, but I wasn’t prepared for one in New York. I think I actually got…I got a dog as a hobby, pretty much, because I knew that she would take me away from my work. If I didn’t have a dog, I would never leave. She forces me to have a work/life balance. And my girlfriend does as well, sometimes.
How exactly does Bama help you with work/life balance?
I exercise with my dog. I run and I bike ride with her. I bought rollerblades for her, to go and exercise with her, I think last summer. The first time I took them out, I literally got two blocks away—I was on Kent [avenue, in Williamsburg], where the bike lane is—rollerblading with her, and I’m feeling good and the sunshine’s out and she seems to be happy, and some kind of biker bikes by and just goes, “[expletive describing a body part]”
Did that hurt your confidence?
No. I realized that to buy rollerblades and wear a tank top and shorts and go rollerblading with your dog, you really just have to have no shame at all.
Andrew Kahn has the confidence he needs to succeed in his busy life. With his talent, skill, and the bright, big smile he gets from his Philips Sonicare DiamondClean, he’s ready for anything his busy day might throw at him. Update: The comments are now closed.