The value of music in marketing

“It will be great exposure,” they say.
“I can get a cool track for $50 online,” they say.
“Bands are expensive, just hire a DJ,” they say.

As a musician, who also works in marketing, I have a unique perspective on the value of music.

I understand that the majority of musicians make next to nothing from music streams, hardly break even on tour, and make more money selling t-shirts than they do selling CDs.

I also understand that corporate businesses these days have tighter marketing budgets, that the digitisation of advertising has led to more transparency, and as such, an increased expectation for return on investment.

Budgets are now being stretched to cover a gamut of expensive digital necessities: website development, SEO, Google Ads, social media management and social ads, content creation, chatbots, and more…which means the big “above the line” advertising campaigns that once lined advertising executives pockets need to achieve a lot more for a lot less.

Because of this, when an agency is briefed on an advertising campaign, a television commercial (TVC), or a digital content campaign, music is often the last thing that’s considered.

But what would happen if music came first?

One of the golden rules of digital marketing is to make your content “useful and entertaining” – after all, when you’re playing in the online space, you’re not only competing with baby photos, Ellen dance offs, and Donald Trump memes, you’re also up against the latest binge-able series on Netflix, as people habitually scroll through their newsfeeds wishing their half-friends a happy birthday, while half-watching Mindhunter.

As a producer of digital content at Fuller, I’m often charged with making sure our advertising content cuts through this “noise”, and it’s no surprise (given my background as a musician), that my creative ideas often start with a song.

Usually it’s a cracking 80s anthem like Farnsie’s “You’re the Voice” that will spark an idea, but one has to pull back from such fancies when the license would cost more than the entire production and distribution budget alone (and then some).

So, you start to do your research, (where possible) bypassing those sad little online music libraries that break your heart to use, and upping the ante (if budgets allow) to a local unsigned artist who is most often happy to provide a non-exclusive license to their song, for a less-than-Farnsie fee, in favour of a decent credit and some sweet royalties.

But even a less-than-Farnsie fee can be hard to get across the line.

How can a marketing exec justify paying a few thousand dollars for a relatively unknown artist’s song (or a custom-written jingle), when they know they could easily download a stock track for $50 online?

I get it, I’ve been on both sides of the table. But no matter which way you look at it, the answer is simple.

Value.

If you want your creative to cut through, your content needs to be both useful to the consumer, and entertaining enough to get them to stop in their tracks – good original music can do both, making it incredibly valuable to marketers and brands.

Entertaining people is all about connecting with them on an emotional level, and the right music can do just that. A recent study from Nielsen showed that ads with music performed far better than ads without music across all four key metrics measured, including: creativity, empathy, emotion and information.

“In advertising, memorability matters, but effective ads do more than just create memories. While it’s important for consumers to remember the message in your ad, connecting on an emotional level can directly lead to a purchase,” Nielsen summarised.

“The best ads are the ones that have both information and emotive power.”

So how can you create emotion and stay memorable without using a Farnsie song?

According to the Goss Agency – a US brand marketing firm that works with the likes of UPS, Disney, and Crown Plaza – you don’t have to rely on a hit song to get cut through. In fact, using a relatively unknown artist or song over something more popular can actually work in your favour.

“Choosing a compelling song that is not particularly popular will help your advertisement stand out more compared to a top 40 song,” Goss writes.

“Although it may seem like it would be the opposite, top 40 songs are overplayed on the radio, in retail stores, etc., which can make it annoying and forgettable – while choosing an unpopular, gripping song keeps the advertisement interesting, fresh, new, and memorable.”

Think of Apple’s use of the Feist track “1234” on the iPod Nano ad. No one knew who Feist were before that ad came out, but the emotion it conveyed, the sense of fun, and Apple’s exclusive connection to it completely sold the iPod Nano experience (and the product itself), and made superstars of Feist at the same time. Win, win!

The same rule applies to stock library tracks, which might not be “popular” but are often over-used by advertisers – this can lead to all kinds of trouble in the digital space.

We recently chose a stock library track for an ad for a health food product, only to realise the day before going live that the same song was the soundtrack to an in-market ad for KFC. Not exactly the brand alignment we were going for!

So, what about being useful? How can music stop your audiences in their tracks by educating them and providing value?

The answer is a jingle.

While jingles have been seen as “old hat” in advertising for many years, the strength of radio, as well as increasing consumption of podcasts and online videos, have led to a comeback!

Inside Radio reports that the multichannel approach to marketing, through digital media, provides more opportunities for jingles to “stick”, making them an incredibly useful marketing tool.

“With audio available on more platforms than ever before, including connected cars and mobile devices, jingles can reach more consumers in more locations than ever before, including at work, at the gym, at home and while commuting or running errands.”

So, when it comes to getting a message across clearly, easily, and memorably nothing beats a good old-fashioned jingle! Lest we forget “Dumb Ways to Die”.

In a paper published in the International Journal of Advertising, author Charles R. Taylor, outlined the value of the jingle.

“In terms of general strengths, jingles are known to have the ability to produce very deep memorability with the consumer,” he writes.

“Used properly jingles can not only increase awareness but also effectively reinforce a point of difference and/or build associations with the brand.”

At Fuller, we have experienced this effectiveness first-hand, with a fun little jingle we produced for SA Water, as a PR stunt to spread their “healthy sewers” message.

Much to our delight, the Three Ps jingle turned a relatively unexciting media release about “fatbergs” into an overnight media sensation.

Syndicated across national radio, the jingle became the intro to a serious interview on ABC Radio National, was christened a “banger” on Triple J, featured in a segment on Behind the News, and was the butt of a comedy sketch by Carrie Bickmore and her team at Hit! – the advertising space rate (ASR) value alone came to well over $180K after just one week on the airwaves, all for a very minimal investment, and zero media spend.

Now that’s value!

Which brings me to the other side of the story – what’s in it for musicians? If you’re not getting Farnsie money, are you getting ripped off?

I’ve had to ask myself this question a few times, when sync licensing opportunities have arisen, and I’ve learned the hard way. In fact, I’m still learning.

If you go in too high, you never get a call back. If you go in too low you regret not asking for more.

Unfortunately, one of the biggest things I learned at the Australian Independent Record Label Association’s IndieCon Australia Conference this year, is that there’s no industry standard price for a license agreement.

As a musician, I see these agreements as a co-branding exercise. Think about the amplification value you offer – in terms of brand equity and influence (listeners and followers) – and go into your negotiations with a clear idea of what your brand and music can offer, and what you want to get out of the relationship.

If you don’t have the money to advertise your own music on TV or Facebook (who does?), a non-exclusive sync license agreement is a great way of getting a big brand (and their bucks) to do it for you.

Having said that, you need to be smart about leveraging the opportunity. Know your worth, know your contract, know the value your original music will bring to the table, and make sure you’re given the credit you deserve, to ensure you get the most out of the exposure.

Also, milk it for all it’s worth.

Share, tag, do your own media, make sure your song is searchable on Shazam, set up a Google ad campaign to link search queries to your Spotify, and amplify it in every way you possibly can. And don’t forget to register your original works and covers through APRA AMCOS so you can collect those aforementioned sweet royalties!

If you’d like to discuss using local artists in your next advertising campaign, or you’re a local artist looking to partner with a brand, contact me at [email protected].