• James V. Allen

Popular Music vs. "Other Music" In Advertising

When it comes to music to accompany your creative content, the case for popular music vs. music from lesser-known artists with high fan engagement is a difficult one to solve.


Popular songs are definitely a good option - if you can afford them. Auditory familiarity has the power to lift a consumer from the second screen to engage in a brand's on-screen message. This can come in the form of a familiar voice, a familiar song, or a captivating sound.


The obvious barrier to using popular music is the cost associated with licensing fees. But popular music improves engagement and recall. The potential opportunity cost is popular artists' level of fan engagement with the spot and with the brand's messaging. If it's a legacy artist, they may not have valuable social influence. If it's a hot artist, they may not be willing to give your brand a shout out.


In our digital world, a final consideration would be the term of the licensing agreement. Many licensors are reluctant to perpetuity, so will your content be able to live in the web/mobile sphere forever? The case for popular music is quite clear - it works. There are just ancillary considerations.


I can think of a ton of artists with extremely engaged social followings, with metrics to back them, who are still under the radar. Their music can be cleared for less, and the opportunity is to create a partnership between the brand, the band, and ultimately their fans.


I am not talking about the one-sided partnership in favor of "exposure" for the artist. This helps, but how can you provide more than just exposure your partnership with budding artists? You could commission a new recording that is commercially viable for them, where recording royalties are split between brand and artist. So what song would you record? There are a lot of variables to consider, including messaging, targeting, psychology, budget and brand personality. But I assure you that there are many solutions for all considerations. Cover songs are a popular trend in film, tv, and advertising. Brands may be able to get the best of both worlds - a familiar song recorded by an artist with high levels of fan engagement. With the Music Modernization Act and royalty rate increases for songwriters, I see this trend gaining more momentum.


The point is that there are many ways to work music into your creative strategy. While most know that music can create a powerful connection between brand and consumer, I believe current music strategy efforts are only the tip of the iceberg. MusiPUB hopes to have some case studies for you soon. If you're a brand or agency that wants to discuss more strategically, let us know.


Note: This is a stream of consciousness blog. Theories, suggestions, and grammatical errors should all be taken with a grain of salt. A discussion with MusiPUB on the matter should not be taken with salt.

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