Music for the Advertising Industry
We believe few media industries have changed or evolved more than the advertising industry has - from the amount of advertising budgets to the staying ahead of the curve when it comes consumer trends and habits. In my opinion, none of these changes have been more dramatic than the way the advertising industry now acquires music for their broadcast projects. Whether it is a good or a bad change, depends greatly on who you ask so I will touch on it from a couple of different perspectives.
This major change is simple. The advertising industry has adopted what is primarily a licensing model in how it acquires and pays for music. We have been producing music for advertising since 2001. Around that time, I would say that 80% of the music in spots back then was originally composed music created specifically for that spot. Today, in my opinion, that has all flipped and that at least 80% of the music used in broadcast spots is canned or licensed music.
If you are a fortune 500 client, you are saving money because canned music costs a fraction of having an original piece composed and produced would cost. So the client is spending less in their production budgets and projects can get done substantially quicker if they do not have to wait on a music house to complete an original score or handle any needed revisions or adjustments. This licensing can often cut a production schedule down from weeks to just a few days. It is also a win-win for the ad agencies and their clients because around the last 10 years, production music catalogs or libraries have popped up all over and have grown exponentially and cover every musical genre imaginable. So, it really takes a resourceful producer or creative director with plenty of time on their hands to scour these libraries to find the ideal piece of music. They almost always find what they are looking for, but we believe that comes at a price. Even when a piece of music is discovered in a library that fits a spot very well visually, it still is not able to compete creatively with a piece of music that is custom created for that spot.
If we are dealing with a spot that is for the most part silent and a piece of music is needed just for the end logo or last frame’s branding sequence, then yes, there is always a short nondescript piece of music in a library what will do that job. But that same piece of music may not work throughout the entire spot even with creative music editing. I have always looked at scoring music for a 30 second TV spot no different than scoring for a 15 minutes chase scene in a motion picture. There are often key points or scenes in the footage that must be “hit” or enhanced or unenhanced musically to help that scene or visual make sense or to emphasize the desired message. Too often these days, I hear canned music used on spots that is good, but it is not great. The music in itself is excellent, but its canned usage in a video that had action, emphasis, highs, lows, emotions, facial expressions, humorous cues and a variety of
other visual elements that “should” be highlighted or emphasized using music. This emphasis could be simply a pause in the music. But all too often I am seeing canned music “miss the mark” or miss a golden opportunity to make a video come alive in a way the canned music simply cannot and never will. Again, often canned music “works”, but that, in our opinion, is because the client simply has not had the opportunity to hear how a custom created piece of music would work so much better. It’s the difference between “that will do” and “that is amazing”.
Needless to say, the original music house licensing model does not particularly excite us. Especially for studios that do not maintain a licensing library. Music houses that are primarily a custom shop will find it difficult to stay competitive in this licensing age. But we strongly feel that there are enough producers and creatives in the ad world who fully understand the powerful benefits of custom music and fortunately for us, that is becoming what we are best known for.
A skilled composer studies the spot, even though it is typically only 30 seconds. There will be numerous opportunities for the music to be used or not used in a way that drives home the spot’s message with so much subtle power that it can make a good spot great and great spots award-winning. Just like the actors in the spot that are chosen for their look, their talent, their ability to play the part and convey the message perfectly, so too do we consider the music as an actor as well. Because every element of the sound also plays off the highs, lows and emotions of the actors and the message. Too often ad executives think of the music as an afterthought. Its style and feel are as integral and important as the actors themselves.
At GameBeat Studios, we truly believe in the power of custom music over canned music so much that we have even offered our clients custom treatments to their broadcast spot at no charge to them. If what we create does not work for them, then they have not spent a penny. So, we encourage them to grab what they feel works from their typical canned music sources. But also send us the video along with their creative direction. This allows us to produce a custom treatment and create a piece of music that will shine and highlight the ad more than any piece of canned music ever could. We offer this custom treatment for free because that is how confident we are that once our client hears our treatment, they will choose it over the canned music. We can then discuss compensation. Knowing what we know about the new lower music budgets, we can often offer our clients custom treatment for about the same amount you would be paying to license canned music. We truly feel it is a win-win situation for the agency, their client, and us as well, but most of all it makes the actual spot the biggest winner.