The Rise of Consultancy Isn’t Just for Agencies!
Over the past 15 years, music companies who work with brands and agencies have been calling to be brought into the advertising process earlier. Despite the fact that music is often considered integral to the success of a commercial, it is frequently pushed to the very end of the post production process. This presents several challenges; a tight turnaround for licensing (potentially even an impossible turnaround for licensing), increased costs and limited time for creative development alongside the idea.
However, over the last five, years we have experienced a growing demand for music consultancy and creative direction alongside composition and sync. Certain ads have a creative idea which demands both high-level musical expertise and high-level production experience (with a sprinkling of creative direction and strategy thrown in for good measure) – work which begins at the very concept stage of an ad, sometimes even at pitch.
The reason we’re starting to see a more considered music process now isn’t because the average budgets have gone up (that would be nice!) but because on average they’ve gone down and there’s more competition than ever. Commercials must stand out in a sea of ads, and music is one strong way to catch people’s attention – to remind them of a moment in culture or make them feel an emotion. Ultimately, to make them feel something bigger than what they are looking at and trigger brains to think, ‘I want to find out what happens next.’
Take United Airlines’ new spot, ‘World Orchestra’, as an example. The music is carefully planned out and synced to the on-screen talent, locations, and styles thoroughly thought out, from casting to music production and execution, and it simply wouldn’t have been possible if the music element was left until the last minute or a very light touch from the music company. If a film requires music licensing, bespoke composition and on-screen music performance, then these elements must be air tight from planning to execution. If they aren’t considered at every stage of the process, you can end up with an expensive mess and a weak output.
We had seven world instrument specialists, an orchestra, different instruments from different cultures, and seven scenes to coordinate. To make this sound like one fluid piece of music, we had to be on set to ensure that the sync between the actors’ movements playing the music work seamlessly with exact fluid camera moves at precisely the right time. This is also a very famous bit of music, which the whole production would hinge on. The license for Rhapsody in Blue has been secured for many years. To convey the iconic nature of this piece, we needed the right instruments, the right people to play them and an extensive pre-production process. We even stepped in on casting. We needed actors who looked the most comfortable playing the instruments that had been previously recorded. Most of the actors were excellent musicians, on their corresponding instruments.
When it comes to making an ad that takes advantage of the full power of music you need a partner who can be a music consultant – a creative director, a strategist and a producer - or at least someone who understands and can work closely with people in these roles. We’ve worked with a number of brands in this way including Microsoft and Brother in the past year.
This really isn’t the traditional role of the music company CD, and whilst some ads in the past have seen agencies and brands work closely with a music professional on the finer details of their film, it is encouraging to see that the role is evolving and growing. Obviously, not every project needs to be this hands-on music-wise, but it’s interesting to see how it can potentially add impact to a campaign which is battling with heavy competition.
Dave Hodge is a musician, composer, music consultant, creative director and co-founder of Finger Music.