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Spoonfeedin WOrld

Mktg – Has Music Become Devalued as a Branding Tool?

Josh Rabinowitz

Music, like so much of the content utilized in advertising and branding, is becoming devalued. There are many reasons, perhaps the biggest being that more and more advertising executives have been bred to work in the Internet/digital world as opposed to analog/tape. Also, many musicians, artists, producers and engineers from the troubled recording industry have migrated to advertising, creating more supply than demand. Add to this the recession and the concept of getting music for close to nothing and at the 11th hour — “You know, just find something like this” — has become an epidemic.

Major brands, in fact, are spending on average less than 5 percent of their marketing and advertising budgets on their music, according to a survey from Heartbeats International. But as music lasts longer than any other sensory input — it does this by basically tattooing itself in the frontal cortex of our brains — the lack of careful attention paid to it is bound to hurt the quality and effectiveness of advertising in the years to come.

Here, six things you should know to better navigate and utilize the new music world:

1. Tracks are being archived. Vendors are making music that’s easily accessible, clearable and searchable. These people are trying to connect their music not only to advertising, but all spheres of the media, especially gaming, TV, film, industrial and mobile.

In 2000, a former band guy and decent songwriter named Steve Ellis came in to see me when I was a music producer at Y&R. He showed me his concept called Pump Audio and gave me a LaCie 10 GB portable hard drive full of clearable and easily searchable tracks categorized by genre, tempo, mood, etc. I was intrigued by the portability of his service and although I never utilized his music in any of my ads, I loved the ease of it. I wasn’t the only one who loved it: In 2007 I learned that Getty Images bought Steve’s company.

Other music companies have followed suit in interesting ways with partnerships including The Lodge’s The Diner and Pulse Music’s partnership with Primary Wave called

2. Emerging artists are eager to work with you. Brands have friends in artists eager for exposure. Ever since Feist and Yael Naim became household names, the masses realized advertising wasn’t a sellout as much as a potential sell-in. Young, up-and-coming bands have embraced the selling-in concept and, unless the brand alignment is just despicable, are very willing and able to make deals to get their music out there and to make a few bucks in the process.

Don’t be surprised to hear an original song created specifically for an ad by an emerging artist becomes a global monster hit.

3. Music suppliers are willing to do favors. As we all know, advertisers, for the most part, are hurting, too, and production budgets have decreased. Music suppliers know that playing hardball with a client who is also being squeezed could likely put them in the “do not use” (DNU) file. One music company owner recently told me he’s working on more jobs than ever before and making less money — but that he’s still alive and kicking it.

4. Explore bringing music in-house. As us insiders in the music ad process know, an editor can, at times, be a musician’s best ally (nothing beats having a track on a rough cut that people will listen to 500 times; it melts into the psyche and makes itself the “right” track, even if it’s totally wrong). But many of the administrative and legal issues I’ve had over the last 13 years as an agency music producer have come up when an editor’s friend or cousin or wife’s cousin’s friend does the music and the musicians haven’t dotted all the I’s and crossed all the T’s when making their deals.

I strongly suggest that just as ad agencies are bringing editorial and post in-house, that you should take a look at bringing music in-house as well. Not on all stuff, but it can sometimes be awfully cost-effective (demo love, for instance, doesn’t hurt as bad).

Brands might consider bringing music in-house as well. Some brands have dabbled (e.g., Pepsi-Cola, Mountain Dew, Red Bull and Smirnoff). Don’t be shocked to see this happening in a bigger way over the next five years.

5. You can always go stock. Stock used to have the connotation of being crap music you could get cheap. Sure, lots of the music is cheesy. In some of the libraries, however, some of it ain’t bad and, at times, some of it is very good.

Of course, you must be very careful about legal indemnity. Houses have been known to do things like create tracks called “Violet Haze” that sound way too much like Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze” and they’ll only cover what you paid them for the license when the Hendrix estate’s lawyers come after you.

But remember, there isn’t anything like a great score or song created specifically for your creative work and stock likely won’t beat that.

6. When making deals, get music experts involved. Be sure to utilize someone who understands what a soundalike and copyright infringement are, has the ears to hear these things, and the experience to police and paper these deals. The liability and cost implications of an IP error can be more costly than all the savings combined on the above suggestions, and leave an eternal bad taste in everybody’s mouth.

Josh Rabinowitz is svp and director of music at Grey Worldwide. He can be reached at


October 1, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | | Leave a comment