Music for commercials - six tips for great results

Music is a cornerstone in pretty much every commercial, and here is how you can get the best results:

1. It all starts with your brand
Music can greatly affect the way your brand is perceived, so be sure to pick the music that works with your target audience and emphasizes your brand message. The University of the Basque Country in Spain did an interesting study on how different music styles greatly affected brand perception - have a look to see just how important picking the right music is.

2. Trying it out
One of the major benefits of royalty-free music is that there's so much to choose from (once you weed out the duds - hopefully this site can help you do that).
Most sites allow you to download a preview track with an embedded watermark - and this is a brilliant opportunity to try out many different styles and tracks before settling on the one you want to use. Of course, once you've picked the winning track, be sure to get the appropriate license :)

3. How do others make it work?
If you're not quite sure how to go about finding the right music for your project, have a look at what other people are doing. Here's a selection of commercials with great music - and while some of the examples feature existing tracks (which is not always a good idea, as explained below), it can be really inspiring. Also, if you saw a commercial where you really liked the music, here's a site that'll help you figure out who did the track.

4. Don't spend a fortune on rights
A typical approach when deciding on music for a commercial or advertising music is picking a commercially released tune as a temp track. This can be a usable approach, but there are some definite drawbacks, one of them being the - from your legal and possibly budget department's perspective - dreaded temp love.

It's a phenomenon where you get so used to hearing, say, a track by The Rolling Stones in your production that nothing else seems to work. But beware, as clearing and paying for that track is a jungle and could end up costing you a small (or in some cases, a large) fortune. And the copyright holder might not even allow you to use that piece of music.

The truth is that there's very rarely - if ever - just one single piece of music that works with your production, so keep an open mind. And in any case, by using royalty-free music for your temp track, you always know that your selected track is readily available - without any clearance headaches and without breaking the bank.

5. Bring in music early
Try to find the music you want to use as early as possible. It can be a huge help in getting the timing and flow of the editing down, so you won't have to spend resources needlessly changing things around at the end of the project.

One major benefit of royalty-free music is that the music is already done, so there's no waiting around for a composer to complete his or her work. You can simply select a bunch of fitting tracks, send them off to the client or project manager for approval and get down to business with the chosen track.

6. A novel approach - hold a competition
If you want something fresh for your commercial or advertising project, there's a new kid in town:

Audiodraft is a site which specializes in holding competitions, where sometimes hundreds of composer create custom music based on your project brief.

During the competition, you can steer the musical direction so it fits your vision by rating the entries - and when the competition completes, you pick a winner who is then paid whatever price money you set. It's going to cost you more than using royalty-free music, but having a custom track for your production can definitely be worth it. Have a look for yourself.

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