Marketers: Always start with the music

We’ve all heard the saying, “Music provides the soundtrack to our lives.” As a house music DJ turned marketing professional, music has always been vital to me and my work.

When you DJ, every track you play evokes an emotion in the audience. The right song, played at the right time, is rewarded with smiles, hands up and an overall boost of energy. The wrong song will empty the dance floor and send everyone to the bar.

Think about the last time an advertisement touched you. What grabbed you? The script and the visuals? Whether you consciously know it or not, it was most likely the music. Just like in life, music drives and directs the emotion of visual content, whether it’s a Super Bowl commercial or something on TikTok.

Unlike other platforms, TikTok knows the importance of music and that’s why it starts with sound. So while the visual content is relatively basic, the music selection is premium, allowing marketers and creators to deliver work that visually and audibly delights audiences.

But if music is so important, why is it often the last consideration when we dream up our concepts? Too often, music is treated as the final thought on projects big and small. Time and time again, I’ve seen brands and agency teams spend months of work and millions of dollars designing and producing work without thinking about the soundtrack. Instead, they send a few thousand dollars to a stock music house and that’s it.

Here’s a different approach: Always lead with music.

Like a DJ planning his set before a big gig, spend a lot of time and money making sure your soundtrack will move the audience the way you want it to.

Here are three steps to achieve this:

Align yourself with the role of music from the outset.

When campaigns kick off, brands and agency stakeholders need to make a conscious decision to start with music. Somehow, when you say it out loud or put it in writing, it reinforces that approach. An experienced creative and production team that kicks off with a thoughtful and strategic brief will know the emotion they want to evoke from the get-go. The creative team should pair a few songs that match the emotion/energy they are looking for as soon as they have initial ideas. These can change with ideas, and that’s okay. This process is fluid and almost organic, but the ideas are still rooted in the music. As the teams present the work, they should also play the musical examples.

Budget appropriately.

Producers, creatives, and clients need to agree from the start on what percentage of the production budget goes to the musical score. Every production and production budget is unique, so using a percentage model can be helpful in deciding how much of the total budget will be spent on soundtrack. For example, 15% on the low end and up to 25% for a higher score is a great starting point. Remember that the music will drive the emotion of your work. There are great music resources out there — from solid music houses to music production companies — that can score music specific to your work. You can also work with larger labels and music supply companies who can help you get a popular piece of music, although it will increase your costs.

Not enough money in the budget for that popular track exploding all over TikTok? Consider some of the beaten paths where you have the opportunity to license music before it becomes popular. It even comes with the potential to boost a track’s popularity, like finding independent artists and labels on SoundCloud, Bandcamp, and other online resources. These sites allow you to listen to an extract of a track. If you go this route, be sure to work closely with your business affairs manager and/or legal team to ensure the work is properly authorized and authorized before using it.

Get on the music.

Another reason to select music before you start posting is that the most powerful work incorporates music into the video. Editors can take inspiration from the music to help drive editing. If you don’t, you risk the music just being used as filler or background.

As with anything, it takes practice and experimentation. And before getting back to old habits, remember that the best productions understand that people tune into a video because the soundtrack evokes the desired emotional response. Your work will be better if you lead with the music.

About Chris Stevenson

Check Also

Country music’s nostalgia factor still dominates Nashville

Comment this story Comment NASHVILLE — On any Thursday night in Nashville, you can stand …