Five things to consider when choosing music for video

Music is everywhere – it grabs attention, tells stories and conveys emotion. But why is music so often the last thing we think about when producing a corporate video or advertisement?

Many of us see it as merely the icing on the cake, the sprinkles on top, but the music you use in a video can have a major impact on how your audience perceives your message and reacts to your story.

In a discussion at   BIGSOUND  last month (Australia’s leading music industry conference) prominent film industry music supervisor Mary Ramos said “there’s always a place for swagger in stories”. Ramos’ “swagger” is music, her “stories” the 100 plus films she’s selected music for – making her one of Hollywood’s top music supervisors, particularly renowned for her work with Quentin Tarantino.

While Ramos deals primarily with movies, the concept of bringing a story to life and giving it attitude through music is something that can, and should, be translated into your marketing videos.

But what should you consider when choosing music for video? How can you tell if a track will inspire your target audience and bring swagger to your story? And what are the rules around music use in marketing?

1. What are you singing about?

Music’s place in your story should be a consideration from the beginning. Ramos approaches her role as music supervisor like a casting agent, rather than being the film’s ‘DJ’.

Her advice is to choose your music like you’d choose an actor, prop or setting to help convey the message and emotion in your content.

Will it be instrumental or lyrical? Major or minor? Contemporary or classic? Electronic or acoustic? The type of music you use to support your story can dramatically change the audience’s perception of the visuals.

2. Is anyone listening?

Music is fashion – it comes and goes. And just like your marketing strategy, music has target audiences that connect in different ways at different times.

Try to align these audiences for the ultimate impact, but keep in mind, they might not always actually be listening. The majority of users on Facebook and Instagram turn sound off, while on TV it’s easier to tune out the visuals and rely on the audio.

Having said that,   Facebook recently improved their audio experience   with sound now fading in and out as people scroll through videos in their News Feed without having to click on the video, so choosing the right music to capture your audience is now even more important.

3. Are you doing a cover?

Ramos and Tarantino give songs new life through their inclusion in movies, yet also reference classics with a recognised history. But keep in mind, just like any celebrity endorsement, music can help or hinder your brand through association.

Study the artist you’re using, what they stand for and where the song has been used previously. To discover new music, use tracks you like to search for similar artists on music sharing sites and playlists.

As well as sifting through Spotify and iTunes, fresh new music in Australia can be found easily by searching   Triple J Unearthed, reading music press or visiting a local venue. Most up and coming musicians would be ecstatic to have their music featured in an advertising campaign or video for an agreed fee.

4. Is it in-sync?

Lining up audio with your visuals is a major part of the video editing process. It’s essential to consider volume and tone when fitting music with dialogue.

Is there competition in certain frequency ranges? E.g. melodic instruments or lyrics competing with a voiceover? Is a wall-to-wall song with no dynamics over-powering the message? Or will your quiet track compete alongside other videos?

The pace of video editing relies on beat, so it helps video editors if you provide a track early on in the editing process. It’s also important to use intro and outro audio cues that give the content a sense of beginning, completion or that even triggers memory cues.

5. Can you pay to play?

Factor budget, legal and time constraints when clearing music for use. The budget you set aside will determine what you can use, so ensure your expectations are realistic from the outset.

If you’re looking for a specific track, allow time for contacting artists, managers, labels and publishers, as the music industry can often become a web of interested parties with many people involved in the decision making process.

For advice regarding music use regulations and agreements, contact   APRA/AMCOS   to ensure you’re playing music by the rules.

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