Interview: Brand USA’s Tom Garzilli on highlighting America’s Musical Journey with new IMAX film and campaign

In 2018, Brand USA will be embarking on an ambitious promotional strategy that will see them highlight the vast musical history of the United States. It makes sense – the US not only produces the vast majority of the world’s most recognisable artists, but also some of the world’s most iconic events. Coachella. Lollapalooza. New Orlean’s Jazz Festival. And at the heart of those events are the regions that they call home. Southern California. Chicago. New Orleans. These are hubs of immense musical talent that see people from all over the world travel to those regions to experience it.

As part of this campaign, as they did with the film National Parks Adventure coinciding with the 100th anniversary of the National Parks Service, a film called America’s Musical Journey will be released in IMAX cinemas on 15th February 2018 (local Australian release date pending). Here’s a taste of what we can expect from the film:

Editor’s Note: Since originally publishing this piece, it’s been revealed that Morgan Freeman will be narrating the film! We’ve updated the trailer above which features his iconic voice.

We caught up with Tom Garzilli, Chief Marketing Officer of Brand USA, to talk about the film, and the upcoming campaign.

It’s been a few months since IPW, where the trailer debuted in front of thousands of attendees. What has the response been like so far to American Treasures?

The industry has been extremely supportive of the new film. We have received significant interest from our partners to share their contributions to the American music scene. In fact, based on initial feedback that we received, the film title has been updated from the working title of American Treasures, to a title we believe is more reflective of the theme: America’s Musical JourneyExcitement has been built both internally and externally as we continue to work on this project.

Music has always been at the heart of American culture and in more recent decades, its tourism. What is it about the trend of the music scene today that has made now the right time to place an emphasis on it?

Music is a universal language that allows us to transcend language and cultural boundaries. Because music has always been one of the most important assets that the United States has to offer, we decided to make it one of the key components of our marketing campaigns this year. In addition to music being the theme of our newest documentary film, America’s Musical Journey, it also is core to our most recent consumer campaign. Our goal is to allow visitors to see the diversity of experiences and destinations that are available in the United States even outside of the gateway cities.

The music scene in the United States is constantly evolving and each region has a unique story to tell. We are using music reflective of sounds distinct to the diverse places across the USA, both from a historical and a contemporary perspective, to allow international visitors to experience the depth of cultural available in the United States.

America’s Musical Journey, the IMAX film that’s at the heart of the campaign looks like it’s drawn some pretty big names on the screen. Aloe Blacc has a big part to play in the film – what brought him into the project?

Aloe Blacc is one of many extremely talented, diverse performers who we vetted for the film. It was his affinity for travel and his recognition of the benefit of the travel experience that set him apart from the others. Much like music, travel brings people together to experience feelings and that is what made this pairing so organic. Aloe’s passion coupled with McGillivray Freeman’s commitment to the project created a mutual enthusiasm that we feel will resonate throughout the film.

And who else might we expect to see on the IMAX screen? Who can you give away at this point in time?

Jazz legend Louis Armstrong is a key character in the film, where filmmakers trace his footsteps through the colorful locales where America’s music was born. The film goes on to explore the unique diversity of American culture and the risk-taking spirit that characterize the USA, as experienced through the lens of music in iconic cultural cities like New Orleans, Louisiana; Chicago, Illinois; Detroit, Michigan; New York City, New York; Nashville, Tennessee; Miami Beach, Florida and more.

While we are not yet releasing the names of the other artists who will be featured in the film, we are excited that audiences will have a chance to meet American musical legends who have helped create music that has resonated with audiences worldwide, as well as contemporary music makers, visionaries and innovators who are making music that continues to shape America’s culture today.

The new film reunites Brand USA with the team who made the highly successful National Parks Adventure film. What has it been like working with them and what do you feel they have brought to the project?

The National Parks Adventure film was a tremendous success and results have exceeded our expectations. The film’s release was the industry’s fastest giant-screen roll-out in five years, with 48 exhibitions in six countries in February 2016 and 119 exhibitions in 16 countries within the first 12 months.

What’s more, according to surveys conducted by the film’s producer, MacGillivray Freeman, National Parks Adventure”has truly had a measurable impact on increasing international travelers’ intent to visit the United States. In fact, 81 percent of international viewers of the film said they are much more likely or somewhat more likely to visit the USA as a result of watching the film and 62 percent said they are more likely to visit the USA instead of another destination as a result of watching the film.

It’s based on that success that Brand USA has joined forces once again with MacGillivray Freeman Films and the global presenting sponsor, Expedia, Inc. to launch America’s Musical Journey, which is currently in production and scheduled to debut in theatres in February 2018. It’s been an absolute pleasure working with MacGillivray Freeman Films and we are looking forward to continued success with our second giant screen film.

Whether we’re talking hip hop scenes or the chitlin circuit, the more you dig into the history of American music, the more amazing some of its origins become. How the music we now take for granted, music that has shaped “sound” as we know it for the entire world, literally started on porches and balconies of your average American neighbourhoods (not so average as it turns out).  What’s one piece of American music history that you didn’t know before making this film that has surprised you?

I was most surprised by how many different genres of music originated here in the United States. For example, jazz, bluegrass and country all originated right here in the United States. And equally as surprising, in many ways we’ve created our own versions of international genres to create our own, personalized sounds

And what’s one piece of American music history trivia that everyone should know?

American music is a cross-cultural hybrid of hundreds of indigenous and immigrant groups who developed their own local or regional styles, so there is much to learn about the different genres of music and their origins. However, I’ll highlight one of the film’s main characters, Louis Armstrong. The trumpet pioneer became the first African-American to achieve a number of milestones, including becoming the first African-American to earn featured billing in a major Hollywood movie, “Pennies from Heaven,” starring Bing Crosby in 1936.

Of course this campaign and IMAX film isn’t the start of Brand USA’s commitment to music tourism around America – tourists and locals alike can head to the States right now for some pretty incredible experiences. I won’t be so cruel as to make you choose one, but let’s have you choose your personal top three music destinations in America, what would they be and why?

The music in the United States is so vast and unique that it would be too difficult for me to narrow down my choices to individual destinations. Instead, I would encourage international travelers to venture beyond the standard gateway cities to experience the U.S. through music in places that are often undiscovered by international visitors. Through proximity, visitors can experience often unknown possibilities within a few hours of their gateway into the United States.

Finally, as this IMAX campaign sits at the heart of the Brand USA strategy for 2018, what else can we expect off the back of this film when it comes to your music tourism strategy?

The music scene in the United States is constantly evolving and each region has a unique story to tell. “America’s Musical Journey” will be using music reflective of sounds distinct to the diverse places across the USA both from a historical and a contemporary perspective to allow international visitors to experience the depth of cultural available in the United States. Similar to what we did with our Great Outdoors campaign in 2015, we have a host of international deliverables, including long-form content and video segments, such as the BBC Worldwide series of 2-minute video vignettes that spotlighted specific locations connected with America’s Great Outdoors.

The vignettes featured local personalities (one for each episode) discussing their perspectives of the locations; each airing more than 1,000 times around the world on BBC World News and on We’ll create similar programs highlighting America through music and showcase them at events and include parts of the film in other media programs. Our goal is to showcase America’s rich musical culture through art.

Learn more about the film at