Popular culture

Are you looking for a renowned musician for the soundtrack of your ad? Read this first

As other articles in The Drum’s Audio Deep Dive demonstrate, music can transform an advertisement from a piece of marketing content into a part of popular culture. Here, Amanda Levine and Larry Weintraub of creative agency TMA walk us through the considerations for using music in ads.

The power of music to set the tone, form mental association and create memory is unmatched, so it’s no surprise that many advertisers are harnessing this power.

What may surprise some is that once upon a time there were artists who avoided advertisers for fear of “selling themselves”. Times have changed, and over the past decade many artists have lent their talents to record original songs and covers for brands. Consider the iconic McDonald’s anthem led by Justin Timberlake, I’m Lovin’ It or Zedd and Aloe Blacc’s reimagining of Candy Man for M&Ms.

“Do your homework to find the right artist who has the team, the talent, the audience and the desire to partner with you” / Cadbury

Getting into this type of job can be a bit complex. It takes time, patience and, yes, money. But when done right, when you combine spectacular musicians with a rich creative brief, the magic can happen! Here are some tips based on our experience working on projects like this.

Find the right artist

Many artists who record hit songs don’t just write the songs they perform (and sometimes they don’t write them at all). Just because you like their work doesn’t mean you assume their songs were written by them. Do your homework to find the right artist who has the team, the talent, the audience, and the desire to partner with you. Advice to the wise: make sure you ask the right questions of an artist’s representative before committing to work together.

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Trust and respect are paramount. When a brand hires an artist, they must respect their process while the artist must understand that this is a piece of music commissioned to represent the brand. Many artists aren’t keen on collaborating on their music – if so, this is probably not the artist for you. And if you’re a brand that won’t accept artist input, consider whether you want a celebrity musician or a studio musician who specializes in creating branded music.

Make sure there is enough time to discuss the creative direction and goals before booking a recording session. Give a very clear direction of what you want to accomplish with the track, including lyrics or keywords that should be included and the tone/vibe you want from the song. Also allow time for recording revisions, editing, mixing and mastering.

License and costs

The majority of successful artists and writers have contracts in place that assign sole administration or ownership of everything they write and record to their labels and/or publishers. This will likely prevent you from owning the final product. If this is a problem for you, consider working with musicians who are independent or who control their music.

Fees vary depending on talent level and how you plan to use the new song. This could affect your ability to work with an A-List artist due to the producers and studios they use, as well as their label and publishing partners. It also depends on their desire to work with you versus your desire to work with them. Fees will be much lower for independent artists and self-sufficient artists to create new music.

The above may put you off and many avoid it because it’s complicated. With focus and an experienced navigator, however, you can do something few others do.

With streaming services, countless distribution avenues available, and the power of social media for promotion, there’s never been a better time to create something memorable that can be associated with your brand.

Amanda Levine is senior director of cultural marketing and Larry Weintraub is director of innovation and president of music strategy at TMA.

For more on the power of sound, check out Audio Deep Dive from The Drum.