Spot sounds: music for your commercials

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commercial music

They say the music maketh the commercial. Actually no, they don’t. But they should. Music in commercials and promos sets the mood. It supports the copy. It complements the voice over. It grabs attention.

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When I was charged with scripting and producing (and voicing) radio promos for a television network, it became very clear very quickly that music shouldn’t be an afterthought. Left to chance and coupled with stupidly short on-air deadlines, the promo would be paired with stock standard production pieces that you hear on every second radio commercial.

The promos with the most cut-through were generally the ones where I slaved over stacks of production CDs and searched countless online repositories. Here is one I was particularly chuffed with. My intent was to let grabs from the show tell the story and time them with the music. At the time it was a bit different to the standard ‘tonight on xyz station … ‘ (disclaimer: the audio engineering side of things was not done by me).

So what are the options for production music? Particularly here in Australia?

Can I start with a nod to the production CDs from my television and radio days? Cause holy smokes you don’t see track titles such as Skank Tank, Smoker’s Delight and Got Da Itch these days.

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I see your ‘poignant backdrop that grows throughout’ and I raise you a ‘sleazy electro lust with a seedy make vocal’. Heck yes.

It is kind of unfortunate these magical musical morsels are a thing of the past (and kind of not at the same time). These days here in Oz there are a few options for production music:

1. sign up to APRA AMCOS
2. purchase a royalty free track online
3. make your own
4. work with a production house that sorts it all out for you

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1. APRA is the oldest copyright society in Australia and represents around 90 000 composers, lyricists and music publishers across Australia and New Zealand while AMCOS represents the music licensing side of things. These days they operate as one organisation—licensing organisations to play, perform, copy, record or make available their members’ music, and then distributing the royalties.

They have a clear rate card and operate as a kind of one-stop-shop for accessing and licensing a huge range music (over 800k tracks) without you having to know all the ins and outs of copyright law. There are ongoing costs and reporting involved. Here’s a bit more on how it works:

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2.  If you are after more of a one-off for your music and are happy to fossick around online, you can purchase privately published royalty-free music. Generally it is a one-off fee and pricing varies. It can be quite cheap. There is even free stuff out there. But the range can be limited, you may need to purchase tracks from multiple sites and you need to do the legwork and get your head around copyright.

Always read the fine print. Be aware that the duration of copyright varies from country to country and that while something may be royalty-free somewhere else, it is not necessarily royalty-free here in Australia.

Voice over legend Dave Courvoisier has an extensive list of royalty-free music sites but note most are US so you need to check the fine print for use here in Australia.

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3. If you are musically inclined and have all the necessary gear, you can always create your own track. Probably out of the question for most of us so I don’t need to say much more really.

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4. For those of us with limited production ability or those who just want someone else to deal with it all, working with a production house is a good option.

They can create the whole thing—script, voice over, music, sound effects. They have their own licensing arrangements so you don’t even have to think about it. That said, you may have little say in the music used and there is that risk of having the same music as everyone else.

 

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