Monday, May 23rd, 2022

Music In Advertising: Creative Talk vs. Licensing Language

Any music supervisor who has worked with ad agencies or in-house marketing departments will have stories to tell about this topic: How do you translate the agency’s creative talk into music licensing language – that is, legal language? Predictably, marketing people mostly think about their vision for a spot or campaign and of course, that is their job. They are always asking: Who is their targeted demographic? What is the objective of the campaign? What will the spot(s) actually look like?  What kind of videography style will be employed? What type of editing rhythm will it have, and of course, what it will sound like?  Is it heavy on voice-over or is it music-driven or sound-affect driven? 

Obviously, the creative side has a lot to consider. The music supervisor may or may not have a hand in choosing music. These days the brand’s Creative Director usually will make the final music choice.

It is the music supervisor’s job to communicate the “creative” as well as the nuts-and-bolts details for a proposed music use to licensors. For years, I found it challenging to be both a “team player” for the creative people, and not be the guy in the room that only tells them that they can’t do this and they can’t do that with a licensed piece of intellectual property. Initially in the creative process, the brand speaks in very broad terms.

They may have a visual image they want to pursue and a recording artist in mind for a partnership, or an on-camera appearance, or maybe in-store concerts, possibly product ties-in with other digital music branding, or social media partnerships with influencers.

In some cases, they may want to build an entire campaign around a particular song. At the beginning, this kind of broad thinking is exciting and inspiring and is encouraged. But at some point – and not too late in the process – it will be time to focus on each element of the campaign and define exactly how the song, image and/or artist will be used; and begin to set limits on the use of these assets. This is the time then, to start thinking like a licensor. Licensors ask very specific questions: Is there only one creative for the campaign and will there be multiple “lifts” of the spot? Or are there multiple creatives? How will a creative be defined? What is considered a “lift” and what is considered a distinctly separate “creative?”

Michael Welsh is founder/CEO of Michael Welsh Productions, Inc. – a company specializing in music licensing and supervision for advertising only, for over 30 years. You can send your questions on related issues to [email protected]  

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