A lot of people we speak to (outside the industry) assume that music sync is limited to TV production and movies. Both you and we know that it isn’t.
George Lucas said that “sound and music are 50% of the entertainment in a movie” (we bet you just hummed the Star Wars theme). With our culture becoming increasingly visual and music being such an important part of storytelling, the same can now be said across most mass media. Within this, more and more brands are now paying attention to music. In this blog we have a quick look at what’s working, and also not working, in the emerging brands/sync/music eco-system.
Music consultancy soundlounge and McKinlay Consulting recently commissioned a Music Matters report into how brands use music and indeed found that consumers consider sound to be almost equally important as sight in advertising. But they also found that just 12.5% of marketing expenditure is dedicated to sound, compared to a huge 84.5% for sight.
Now why would brands spend so little on sound when it’s such a powerful tool for evoking feeling, triggering brand recall, and generally providing an emotional short cut? Put simply, the system seems flawed.
Whist there are definite exceptions (we’ll get to that later), a lot of brands and agencies are not taking a strategic approach to music. Instead their efforts seem bland, predictable and mismatched, with large corporations defaulting to big artists that don’t necessarily add any value (Alicia Keys for Blackberry? U2 for Apple?).
Relationships on both side of the process get strained. Budgets and time constraints are both stress factors for agencies, particularly when music is often a last minute consideration. And whilst creatives may start with an imaginative music choice, so many people are involved in the process (from clients to producers to planners to clients’ wives), that these ideas can end up getting shot down. Big brands don’t necessarily want to take risks or innovate. The attitude is they’re paying so they get to decide. Why hire a creative agency at all? Effort and creativity wasted.
“All the best and most memorable ads like Guiness, the creative has chosen the music. That’s what the agency should be allowed to do” – Rights Holder, Music Matters report
On the flip side, music and sound companies have their own gripes about the process. LBB recently reported that the biggest issue for these companies is that agencies usually brief out to many music houses rather than working closely with just one or two. It then becomes more of a race than a creative process, with agencies wasting time sifting through multiple pitches and tracks. Procurement issues are also proving a challenge for the smaller music companies, who find themselves competing with the bigger fish who’ve made exclusive deals with agencies. Often the music and the creatives are not getting the attention and space they need to excel.
It’s not all bad news. There are forward thinking brands and agencies out there making well matched and mutually beneficial partnerships between themselves and artists. Ad agencies having in-house music services is nothing new, but more and more are hiring and consulting music specialists. As budgets decrease these agency music specialists are actively searching for up-and-coming, fresher artists to build campaigns and partnerships with. These guys are the new A&R – they host gigs, scour the internet, manage artists, and have industry insiders on speed dial. We would love to see more of this. If you believe George Lucas then every agency should be taking this approach.
Essentially it’s all about having a more indie, DIY attitude to brand-artist relationships. “In 2014, we’re equally, if not more, important than the program director of a major radio station,” Dave Rocco (music supervisor and producer at Deutsch agency) tells AdAge. Last year he and his team found French group C2C’s track “Down the Road”. Smitten, he reached out directly to the group for a deal and it became the soundtrack to a Dr Pepper spot, and landed a place on the Billboard charts.
So what’s the moral of the story? Firstly, more research needs to be commissioned to prove the positive relationship between the effective use of music in branding. This could be pivotal to persuading brands to allocate a bigger marketing spend to music, and encourage them to put music on the agenda much earlier in the process. And secondly, we need to lead from the examples of those doing it right. Reach out, build relationships, and above all take risks – that’s what creativity is all about. Lastly, be patient, drive change yourself. It may be frustrating and flawed as a system but there are people doing it well and it is our collective responsibility to make our voices, creativity and music heard.