Fitness music and sonic branding with Teff Martinez
Behind every favorite artist, song, or lyric, is a story you've never heard. Music is highly personal, and our experiences with it shape our memories, thoughts, and desires. So much goes into every note and lyric behind the scenes, which is why we’re bringing you Voices Behind the Music to share untold music business tales. Our guests range from artists, producers, and managers to tech creators and more, each sharing their unique past experiences, current projects, and visions for the future. Voices Behind The Music is presented by Feed Media Group, the leading B2B music licensing platform.
Hosted by Jeff Yasuda, CEO, Feed Media Group.
Stephania Martinez, professionally known as Teff, is the Content Director for the Aaptiv division at Pear Sports. Her role includes managing an audio and trainer team, developing content strategies, and keeping in-app content releases moving forward on a daily basis. Her expertise in music & audio has led her to work for big companies like ESPN (The Walt Disney Company), as a lead audio engineer, and Chewy, where she got to lead in all audio initiatives and build out the audio department workflow. When she's not working, Teff is an avid songwriter, music maker, and content creator.
[00:00:00] Jeff: The intersection of music and tech is more than a crossroads, it's a launchpad. I'm Jeff Yasuda, CEO at Feed Media Group, and this is Voices Behind the Music. Today, we are thrilled to have Teff Martinez on the show. By day, she is the content director for the acclaimed audio workout app Aaptiv, but by night and for most of her career, she is a content virtuoso specializing in design, video, audio production, social media, and photography.
What have I forgotten? Oh yeah. She's also a Grammy-nominated and an award-winning audio engineer, songwriter, and artist. She has Grammy nominations for work as a vocalist on Claudio Corsi's album Aire y Mar, and for work as a recording engineer on Jeremy Fox's All My Tomorrows.
Her list of accolades that was too long for me to review on this podcast, but she has won the prestigious John Lennon Songwriting Contest, been recognized by ESPN for contributions to diversity and inclusion, as well as numerous other songwriting awards. She's got a beautiful voice and as an endless resource of ideas, backed by a work ethic that is all about execution at the highest level
Teff, welcome to Voices Behind the Music.
[00:01:26] Teff: Thank you. Thank you. Wow. That was quite quite the introduction.
[00:01:29] Jeff: Awesome. Well, you are quite the content Maven, but to kick it off, what are you doing at Aaptiv nowadays?
[00:01:36] Teff: Yeah, so I am currently the content director at Aaptiv. I oversee everything content, from content strategy, to music licensing, to essentially managing the trainers and the recording engineers that work on the content that gets put out.
[00:01:51] Jeff: And what would you say, I mean, there are a lot of fitness apps out there. And what would you say sets Aaptiv apart from all the other fitness products out there?
[00:02:02] Teff: So our main thing essentially is we're doing audio-based fitness content which means that for the users, you're not having to be glued to a screen looking at a trainer. You're able to focus on what the trainer is saying as well as your form, which is super important when it comes to fitness cause you don't want to get hurt doing any of these workouts.
And I think another kind of special part about Aaptiv is its community. It's very active. We get constant feedback on all the features that we put out. It's great to see the trainers also interacting a lot with our users, which is something that we don't see very often and some of the other apps. We take pride in our community and kind of garnering those relationships and building from there so that we can get more user engagement.
[00:02:46] Jeff: Yeah, totally. And I think community is so important. I remember though, the first time I used Aaptiv was actually to do a guided run and what's interesting and to be honest the first time I wasn't sure I got it, but you know, when you're running though, you don't want to be looking at your phone.
Right. I mean, you're going to crash into something and as I kind of eased into it, you know, I think within the cup first couple of minutes, it was like, oh my God. Now I get it. Now I get how this works. But congrats on all the success.
[00:03:18] Teff: Thank you. Thank you. Yeah, I know. I think, you know, to add to that is also the fact that running with our trainers, for example, it feels like you're with a friend. It doesn't feel so much like a trainer telling you, like here, this is what we're going to do now.
[00:03:31] Jeff: Right.
[00:03:32] Teff: It feels like you're running with a friend they're telling you life experiences and kind of like motivating you in your journey essentially. So I think that's also, special about Aaptiv as well.
[00:03:43] Jeff: Very cool. Very cool. So now I want to spend a little bit of time talking about your transition per se, I mean for starters, how did you get into fitness?
[00:03:54] Teff: So you know, I've always been a pretty active person. You know, I played soccer from my childhood all the way into college. I enjoy things like cycling and hiking and weightlifting. So that was kind of already something that I love doing. And engineering of course, on the other side, was something that I was really passionate about.
So when this opportunity at Aaptiv came about I thought it would be kind of fit for me just because not only would I get to use my engineering and content creation experience, but also, I'm able to make a difference in other people's lives, you know, when it comes to their health and fitness.
[00:04:32] Jeff: Awesome. Awesome. I really love to spend a lot of time with your background as an artist, as a music recording engineer, as a songwriter. But before we go there, I want to kind of talk about this really interesting intersection around music, tech, fitness. For starters, how important is a curated music solution for a fitness workout?
[00:05:01] Teff: I believe that it's super important. Our trainers will take a listen to this music and they'll write their programming around the music that's provided to them. And so, you know, our workouts end up working in a nice way together because you have that symbiosis kind of a relationship between the audio that the trainer is doing and then the music.
[00:05:24] Jeff: Got it. So do you think just being able to play your own Spotify or Apple music in the background is good enough?
[00:05:31] Teff: For some categories, I would say that could work. Like something like meditation, if a playlist that you like to listen to you can do that. But I feel like for things that are beat-based, sort of like spin or running, I think for those types of workouts like definitely, the music is super important.
[00:05:51] Jeff: Awesome. Awesome. So let's go back in time a little bit. Talk to me a little bit about how you got into music.
I'd love to kind of hear your background and sort of how you became a songwriter and a singer, et cetera.
[00:06:04] Teff: Yeah, So my story with music began when I was six years old. I was learning, you know, how to sing and how to play an instrument called the Quatro. It's a Venezuelan instrument. I pretty much dedicated all my spare time to music growing up. And until I got to college, I went to the University of Miami and graduated from there with a bachelor of science in music engineering.
And I was also part of the songwriting program. So from there, I was able to take classes, all types of different music, all types of genres, study what their history was. And then from there just kind of, you know, continue to work on the engineering side by being in the studio and recording, like fellow students and just kind of growing from there.
Eventually my senior year, I became the chief audio engineer at the concert hall that we had on campus. And so from there, I got some really cool opportunities like recording Jeremy Fox, which then got us the Grammy nomination. As well as recording the Despicable Me Two theme song with the Frost School of Music marching band.
[00:07:09] Jeff: Yeah, very cool.
[00:07:10] Teff: So that was a really, yeah, that was a really fun experience. And then from there I just worked at studios. I worked a studio specifically in Pompano Beach, Florida called Power Station Studios. Everything I had learned in college kind of clicked there and I learned the analog side of things.
And then I went off to ESPN after that. I got my first like real gig for saying the corporate world. And I got to mix all the big-time shows like sports center and first stake. And that's basically what got me to this point. After that, I worked at Chewy. I basically built their whole audio department there.
And did all the post-production and production audio there. And then that landed me my gig at Aaptiv.
[00:07:51] Jeff: Very cool. And is it unusual to be an artist and a songwriter as well as a studio engineer?
[00:08:01] Teff: It has ups and downs. I think it's great in the sense that you can get an idea and just completely make it from conception to full product. But it also is kind of a double-edged sword in it can take you longer to put out music because you're very critical about your own stuff.
I tend to, as an artist, I tend to like to work with other producers more than producing myself essentially.
[00:08:26] Jeff: Got it. Got it. Now, what about singing and performance. Are you still performing at all? Was this something that you always did as a young kid growing up?
[00:08:37] Teff: I'm currently not performing anymore just time is no longer a thing that I have much of these days. But yeah, I mean, growing up and at my college, we would do performances all the time. But I am looking to eventually get back into that world and be able to, whether it's live-streaming a concert or playing live at some cafe.
[00:08:59] Jeff: Very cool. I know you have an incredible voice as a vocalist. Do you also play an instrument?
[00:09:06] Teff: Yeah. I play guitar, keys, bass. You got to learn a little bit of everything when you're kind of working at a studio, so.
[00:09:14] Jeff: Yeah, no, that's great. That's great. And then I have to nerd out a little bit. Do you have a DAW of choice? Are you a pro tools gal, or what are you?
[00:09:24] Teff: Pro tools gal, for sure.
[00:09:26] Jeff: Yeah, I've been, I was always a pro tools guy, myself. I started dabbling with a couple of other DAWs well. Right now I'm using that PreSonus studio one, which is pretty awesome. I mean, all of these DAWs, I think are super solid. A lot of it quite honestly, for me comes down to what preamps are kind of built in to get that Wharf.
There's just something about a preamp that's just so special.
[00:09:52] Teff: Yeah. I actually have a U87.
[00:09:55] Jeff: Well, of course you do.
[00:09:57] Teff: And So I'm, constantly trying to find the best signal chain, you know, the best preamp that I could use. So right now I just go through my Apollo, UA Apollo.
[00:10:06] Jeff: Which sounds amazing. So, Teff, for our mainstream listeners can you explain what a DAW is and what it is?
[00:10:15] Teff: Yeah, so a DAW stands for digital audio workstation. DAW is essentially a platform, it's a piece of software or a program that allows you to bring in signal from your microphone or, you know, any other instrument that you might have and recorded and build out your whole, you know, a whole song from it. You can record books, you can record any kind of audio content essentially on it.
And edit it and mix it and prep it for release essentially.
[00:10:46] Jeff: Now for a young recording artist, do you have a view on using effects? Or do you tend to like a singer to just record completely dry and then add the effects?
[00:11:01] Teff: I think as far as effects go, whether it's like reverb or anything like that, like maybe not recorded into the track, but you could have it when the artist is recording their track, just because it helps, you know, kind of create that ambiance and give the singer that confidence that they need.
I mean, I'm not opposed to going through my signal chain and compressing a little bit, you know, on the way in or e queuing a little bit on way in. When I worked at a Power Station, the one thing they kind of just like had us remember all the time is that, get it right when it's going in.
Like, don't try to fix it after the fact. Like always try to get the best sound in. You know, if you can get it to sound like a record going in, it's going to sound amazing when it's fully printed.
[00:11:44] Jeff: Absolutely. Well, and it's tricky. You mentioned the psychological aspect of performance, which is giving that singer that confidence to actually do their best. And sometimes, and I'll admit it when you're recording dry and you hear all the flaws, it kind of gets into your head. Ah, I could have done that better.
Oh, I heard this flaw. As opposed to singing it, it has a little bit of that wetness to it where it comes out and you're like, wow, this is great. And it gives you the confidence to sing the next line better.
[00:12:16] Teff: Yeah. Cause if not, you get into that mental kind of headspace where you're thinking of yourself technically. And then you're missing out on that performance aspect and that's kind of more important. For me, it's better for me to sound like, you know, you're putting out a good performance rather than technically doing it right.
[00:12:33] Jeff: Absolutely. Absolutely well and vocalists too, they get tired, right. You can't have a vocal is doing his or her thing 20 times, like you could with a guitarist, for example, to get the solo just right, per se.
Interesting. So let's step back a little bit and I could nerd out on the music stuff all day long, but as it relates to now licensing music and I know you've got a background in that, have you had to be an educator to a large extent educating folks about what you can and cannot do around licensing music, particularly in your work as a content creator?
[00:13:11] Teff: I have not. The licensing kind of issue is just a, it's an ever-changing topic and I feel like there's no way to know everything that's going on. Cause it's always going to be changing. There are new types of licensing coming out all the time and new ways to do things.
It's just about staying on top of it and really seeing what's out there and what other companies are doing. Staying on top of all the information out there.
[00:13:38] Jeff: Well, and the industry is changing fitness. They're constantly new types of workouts coming out, new types of apps. I mean, it's almost like, you know, mushrooms after a rain. It's sort of like you turn around and a new fitness company pops out of nowhere. And I'm just wondering do you see any trends taking place in the fitness world that we should be aware of?
[00:14:02] Teff: I think the biggest one right now is just the wearable devices. There's a ton of wearable devices coming out. The tech is just getting crazier and more granular, and we're able to get so much more out of a workout and more insight on what's going on with our bodies when we're doing these workouts.
So that's kind of cool to see that happening.
[00:14:21] Jeff: Very cool. Very cool. The wearable world too, I guess, has a lot of challenges because there are a lot of different languages per se, right. And the compatibility between a wearable device and the actual app where you enjoy your workout is kind of disparate.
Now as a musician, as somebody that's been in the music industry and sort of how you've transitioned from a recording artist to a recording or sound engineer, and then all of a sudden now moving to ESPN and then Aaptiv in the fitness world.
Do you have any advice to a young person interested in getting into the music industry? You know, maybe even looking back at yourself when you were in college, would you have any advice to give?
[00:15:13] Teff: mean, I'm not sure if I have anything specifically for getting into the fitness business. one piece of advice that has always stuck with me, you know, never be the smartest person in the room. Because that's the way that you grow, being able to hear other people who know more than you and you're able to soak up all that knowledge. As well as saying yes and then figuring it out later.
But those two are like my main pieces of advice just because they help you grow professionally.
[00:15:41] Jeff: I love it. I love it. So let me ask you a couple crazy questions that I always like to ask and rapid fire succession. What was the first album that you purchased?
[00:15:51] Teff: Oh man. I must have been like 10 and because I'm a millennial girl, probably One More Time by Britney Spears was my first album.
[00:16:01] Jeff: Very cool. What about your first concert?
[00:16:03] Teff: First concert, Ricky Martin. It was free and my mom was a fan so I had to go with her.
[00:16:09] Jeff: Oh, wow. You've been obviously around a lot of stars with your recording background, but can you share a star-struck moment that you had?
[00:16:19] Teff: Oh man. Maybe not so much with music-related, but when I was working at ESPN, I had to mic up talent from time to time. And one of the people that I got the privilege to meet was Daniel Radcliffe from Harry Potter. So that was probably the one that I was like the most star-struck with just because Harry Potter was such a huge thing, so yeah.
[00:16:40] Jeff: Was he a nice guy?
[00:16:41] Teff: He was great. Really nice dude.
[00:16:45] Jeff: Very cool. You know, and also there are a few questions I wanted to ask you on the music side, not necessarily on fitness about trends. Do you think there's something that the music industry should be focused on, you know, moving forward that could benefit everybody?
[00:16:59] Teff: Yeah. I mean, I think there are a few things that are going on right now in the music industry. Like one of them is the songwriter boom that's currently happening with TikTok being such a pervasive like platform, you know, for music.
There are a ton of songwriters and a ton of musicians as I like to call them, that are being noticed. So that's one really cool kind of trend that's happening. And then it's interesting to see what's happening with spatial audio with Apple. All this stuff around the NFTs and being used in music.
And, you know, I'd love to see what happens with that. I'm not 100% knowledgeable on the topic, but it's definitely something I would love to see what, you know, see it evolve where to.
[00:17:43] Jeff: So do you view technology as playing an important role in music? And if so, why?
[00:17:49] Teff: Absolutely. I mean, it plays the biggest role. You know, without it, we wouldn't be able to have so much accessible music at our fingertips. Without it, we would be missing out on so many artists putting together awesome music and awesome content. The fact that now anyone with a laptop could make a hit song is mind-blowing, you know, and that's thanks to technology.
The more crazy that the technology gets, the more the music industry is going to be changing. And the more that these musicians and artists are going to have to stay on our toes, know, to keep up with the times.
[00:18:24] Jeff: Awesome. So Teff, also tell me what surprised you the most as you started helping businesses with their music programs?
[00:18:32] Teff: I think what surprised me the most was learning that audio was often an afterthought when it came to content. We often see like businesses putting out video content but not quite focusing on, you know, what the brand sounds like. It's mostly what the brand looks like, what our logos are, what colors, you know.
So being able to educate businesses and like, hey your business also has a sound, like it's not just visual stuff. That's kind of what surprised me the most is that not many businesses kind of thought about that side of audio. They always think like, oh, music, oh, like mixing audio for a person talking in an ad, but not quite, you know, what's what does it sound like?
And that's kind of what my work at Chewy was all about. It was finding that sound for Chewy and like what type of music would we use for our content? Are we going to use rock and roll music or are we going to use like cute for pets? That was kind of how it all evolved from there.
[00:19:30] Jeff: So in a pithy soundbite, sonic branding is just as important as visual branding.
[00:19:38] Teff: Absolutely. I mean, think about McDonald's. The "ba da ba ba ba I'm loving it" you know like you hear that and you it's McDonald's, it doesn't even have the word McDonald's in it. That's sonic branding.
[00:19:50] Jeff: And of course, we want to hear all about your Grammy nominations, and going forward, I know while you've got a very stacked schedule, what sort of stuff are you doing musically? Are there some new projects you're on?
[00:20:04] Teff: Yeah, so my Grammy nominations I was working with a songwriter whose name is Claudio Corsi. He was also the one that was teaching me the guitar, so he was my guitar teacher at the time. He was doing his album, working on his album, and asked me to be part of it by singing backup vocals for him on some of the tracks.
And he submitted it for the Latin Grammy's and we got a nomination, which was pretty awesome as someone who was only like 12 years old.
[00:20:32] Jeff: No way.
[00:20:35] Teff: And then the second nomination was with Jeremy Fox with the jazz album that I got to record while I was at the University of Miami.
[00:20:43] Jeff: Cool.
[00:20:43] Teff: And then as far as current projects go, I'm currently working as That Audio Chick, I started a YouTube channel where I talk about all things audio and I review gear and plugins and things like that. I'm also working on my album currently as well.
It's a Latin pop album, but I'm including all kinds of fusions between, you know, Latin and anything really that comes to mind. I don’t like being put in a box when it comes to what genre I play. I like to explore fusions of different, you know, styles and genres and put that Latin kind of style into it as well.
[00:21:22] Jeff: Are you working with other musicians? Are you playing all the instruments yourself?
[00:21:25] Teff: Oh, I'm definitely working with other musicians. I, yeah, that's too much pressure on myself.
[00:21:31] Jeff: Very cool.
So Teff, also tell us where can people find out about what you do in the fitness world?
[00:21:39] Teff: Yeah. So you can find my work on the Aaptiv app. You can download it on IOS store or the Google play store. Or you could go to the website www.aaptiv.com.
And that's where you can check out all of our awesome trainers and awesome content that we've been putting out.
[00:21:59] Jeff: And then what about some of your music projects as an artist?
[00:22:04] Teff: Yeah. So if you want to check out my music, I'm on Spotify under Teff. You can also find me on Instagram @teffmusic and pretty everywhere else @teffmusic.
[00:22:15] Jeff: Awesome. Well, that is a great place to wrap it up. Once again Teff, thank you so much for being on the show. It was fantastic having you.
[00:22:25] Teff: Thank you so much for having me. It was great.
[00:22:27] Jeff: Thanks for listening to Voices Behind the Music, a Growth Network Podcast production presented by Feed Media Group. We're on a mission to make it easy, fast, and legal for businesses to use music to power the most engaging customer experiences. Make sure to subscribe to the podcast wherever you get yours and learn more about us at feedmediagroup.com.
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