An Insight to the Creative Process of Music Licensing in Advertising

Licensing music into commercials is a great way to accelerate artist careers. Because of this, there are a lot of articles out there giving guidance for artists on how to contact music supervisors, pitch their music and land a sync deal. But what is the creative perspective on this process? How does a brand decide what style, artist or track should be chosen for a sync placement from the many available to them?

The process of sourcing, selecting and licensing music for advertising campaigns is a lot more involved than finding a cue for a TV Show. Considering that music is such a fundamental component of marketing and a valuable branding tool, this process is surprisingly vague and convoluted.

This is largely exacerbated by how many people are simply involved in the decision making process. Between producers, creative directors, agencies, copywriters and clients, there can formally be upwards of 20 people involved in the selection process, all with competing ideas, opinions and tastes. Informally there can be even more than this, with the opinions of friends and family all having an affect. Often this leads to the ideas of creatives being stifled by brand managers, who are more conservative when it comes to music selection, and who usually have the final say in the process. All it takes is for one person in this 20+ to say they don't like a track, even if everyone else loves it.

No matter how big a brand is, if they're advertising they will need great music. However the bigger the advertising campaign is, the more complex the licensing process will be. For instance, a lot of big brands will bring in focus research groups after they have short listed a few songs for their advertising campaigns, adding even more voices into the mix.

In the past brands have preferred to play it safe by using established artists for tracks in their campaigns, since this is a proven means of establishing brand credibility. However, not every brand has the budget to license music from Drake. Because of these constraints, brands will often attempt to replicate a particular style using lesser-known artists. Additionally, more and more agencies are now intentionally seeking 'under-the-radar' songs to compliment the vision in their brands commercials. Using the right indie song can trigger brand recall just as well as using a recognizable song from a big artist. More good news for indie artists is that brands are always changing their music, to stay fresh and relevant to their target market.

Clearly, the music selection process is quite challenging for brands within themselves. Because of this, brands will respond well to sources of music that present professionally and appear reliable, to mitigate additional stress about the risk of last minute licensing complications.

So what can you do to demonstrate this?

Ideally, you will have some prior experience in the industry to refer too. However, there are lots of other ways you can demonstrate this. When you are pitching a song directly to a brand, it's especially wise to show that you have done some research by submitting a well-collated set of tracks that is fitting with their brand. A little homework here will go a long way in setting you apart and getting your songs heard. Pick songs that have the right energy and tone that suits the brand, and lyrics that heighten themes which will assist with the story telling. And of course, simply being professional, polite and persistent never hurts either.

About the Author – Daniela D'Onofrio

Daniela has been responsible in representing hundreds of indie artists, and successfully securing placements for Virgin, Qantas, Contiki, Jeans West, Joe Fresh, Sony PlayStation and countless Films and TV Shows with Disney, 20th Century Fox, Sony Pictures, HBO, Showtime, FOX, USA Network, MTV, CTV, Warner Bros, ABC (USA), and NBC Universal.

Passionate about the sync industry, Daniela has had many speaking and teaching engagements including Q Music, Music Industry Inside Out, and SYNC Master Classes at Queensland University of Technology.