Content is king. Never has this familiar phrase held more truth than now, as the average person spends nearly half their waking hours looking at screens. Today, scores of corporate brands find themselves right alongside entertainment companies using visual storytelling to engage consumers. Authentic, impressionable and attention-grabbing content, after all, can stir emotion, encourage action and inspire brand loyalty. But one of its strongest motivating factors isn’t visual at all…
The music and sound elements behind well-produced visual content is equally important. Whether it be the overt ear worm or subtle cues, music is a powerful connector with the ability to sonically bond us to brands. And while the typical audience may claim they don’t care about the music, they’ll always know (subconscious or not) when the music is wrong, amateur quality, something they’ve heard a million times already, or is distracting or forced. Because poorly chosen or “generic” music selections may end up devaluing a project, or worse… discrediting the brand itself, this makes finding the right tracks crucial. Music tells your audience how to feel!
For corporate brand creatives joining their entertainment counterparts in the search for good production music, the choices may seem overwhelming, as the quality and type of offerings vary from low-quality, overused stock options to exclusive, label-driven arrangements and everything in between. Production music libraries also range widely in their approach and process, and there are certainly some red flags to consider.
Also Read: The Evolution of B2B Consumer Preferences
I’ve heard many times that X client is locked into an expensive 10-year deal with Y library, but needs to bring in new, relevant music resources that they can actually use. I think once the contracts get in place, it’s easy for some libraries to stop providing the service they displayed when being considered for the deal initially.
More and more, creatives are choosing freshly made, smaller-sized catalogs or custom (boutique) houses that work solely with writers/composers/artists/musicians/producers who can not only nail down certain genres but are also constantly reinventing and progressing that sound. Since music providers all have their own unique sonic identity, it comes down to working with the right shop that fits your brand’s desired tone.
Major popular publishing and record label assets seem to cost more as the valuation of songs and artists’ legacies grow, while style-a-like/library/one-stop cues are expected to be low price. Full-coverage blanket arrangements are becoming increasingly popular for everything from internal videos and social media posts to all forms of commercial spots.
A lot to absorb for sure, but as I can attest after 10 years in this business, the music licensing experience doesn’t have to be daunting. Your success in securing high-quality, usable music for your next project boils down to finding an audio licensing partner with these four qualities:
Fresh, Functional Content
Because content is king, it only makes sense that we’d begin there. Look for a production music partner that not only keeps its music fresh and tapped into the needs of today’s content editors, but also gives the tracks an intuitive, functional structure that lends itself to storytelling.
So often, libraries will try to sell the same tracks that have already been licensed, exhausted and over-promoted in email blasts. We can all appreciate the exposure that comes with a high-profile placement, but a corporate brand isn’t likely to benefit from a track people already associate with something else.
Most importantly, however, the music needs to be both likeable and “editor-friendly,” otherwise we’re all just wasting valuable time. By editor-friendly, I’m referring to the music’s ability to sync seamlessly with video, which means the tracks are structured with peaks and valleys that mirror a story’s highs and lows while offering plenty of build options and edit points. You may like the initial sound of a track, but if its syncing requires an exhaustive process, what’s it worth? Find a production music source where you can visually spot the music’s functionality.
Flexibility & Responsiveness
With a content landscape that’s constantly evolving, the best production music companies are flexible and responsive, recognizing the vastly varying needs of their clients and that there’s no “one size fits all” solution. Ideally, you want to find a partner that is dedicated to making the music licensing process as easy and transparent as possible.
While it’s expected that music resources will perform searches, corporate brands should look for a licensing partner that also offers easy, free access to non-watermarked cues that editors can actually work with and audition in an edit bay. Ideally, the library should provide 24/7 availability to pull stems and high-resolution audio files in varying formats, as well as metadata info for license drafting and cue sheet creation. API-ready cues and plugins make this a possibility.
Know what you’re getting into. Because production music has no standardized industry pricing, it’s important to find a partner that’s transparent about costs and terms. What’s exactly covered in the fee and for how long? The best production music companies are upfront and clearly communicative about these things, preventing the unwanted shock of hidden fees. They should be willing to walk you through their process and answer any concerns in advance.
But that transparency is also a two-way street. If your brand’s project ends up requiring more cut-downs, alt versions, etc. than you originally noted, you might expect to pay more, though it’s ultimately on the music provider to establish a clear rate that can cover a client’s ever-changing needs.
A Solid Reputation
Word of mouth is truly the best form of marketing. If your clients can promote your brand and grow your inbound without any external PR efforts, you’re well ahead of the game. No amount of advertising can fix poor service or unhappy customers. Look for companies that are proud to profile the people and projects they work with, as well as those that provide testimonials from all types of customers.
If you can find a production music resource that checks all four of these boxes, you’re sure to have a valuable partner that will help enrich and elevate your brand’s content and creative identity.