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The Influencers

To Brief or Not to Brief?

Ninja Tune, 2 months ago

INFLUENCER: After 17 years working in music for brands and advertising, Sergio Pimentel has some advice for anyone trying to write a decent brief

To Brief or Not to Brief?

Having spent the last 17 years working in sync on the brand side, as a music supervisor and now also on the music industry side, I have seen the very best and very worst music briefs…

Writing a music brief is an art form in itself. Although it is seemingly obvious that the better written it is, the better the end result, the quality of briefs still differs widely.

Whether the brief is to find an existing commercial song or to commission a bespoke piece of music to be created, there are a number of factors that should be included in the brief:

If there are any visuals available, send them along with the brief.  It’s amazing the number of briefs where there is an explanation of the what the music will be cut to, but no visual cues. This is extremely helpful even if only storyboards or animatics are available – we all know that a picture paints a story.  

It’s surprising when briefs fail to include the target audience the piece is intended for – surely this is an integral part of the communication? It can really help ensure that sonically you’re hitting the right demographic. 

Reference tracks that encapsulate elements that work to picture.  On a commercial search these can often be tracks that cannot be used for whatever reason (budgetary, won’t clear, etc) and the job is to find an alternative.  One needs to be a little more cautious on the bespoke side to make sure that the reference is not simply for the composer to “create a sound-alike but make sure it’s not too close to the original”.  These are words that fill many Music Supervisors and Composers with dread…

A call or meeting with all involved should be encouraged. If possible, get the creatives, music supervisors, the composer or artist, label or publishers to sit down and really talk out the project.  The creators of the visuals will then get to speak directly with the music suppliers so that nothing is lost in translation or diluted.  This occasionally does not happen because those involved are trying to protect the projects, knowing that many others may be working on it too.  This becomes more apparent working on the label and publishing side when you receive the same brief from multiple sources sometimes with differing music briefs and budgets.

The best music supervisors and sync managers I’ve had the pleasure of working with share this one special talent: They’re able to understand the ideas and direction from a client who does not speak the language of music, and communicate these to those sourcing or creating the music.

I’ll always remember a story from a friend about a client whose feedback may have been another language. They said that the music my friend had delivered was too ‘fried chicken’, and they wanted something more ‘roast chicken’.  Now, this friend was not working on a KFC commercial so the feedback was a little perplexing. After a further discussion and translation, the client had meant that the music was too electronic and they wanted something with more organic instrumentation… Like I said, understanding that and translating it to music really is a special talent.

Putting together a high quality brief doesn’t have to be complicated or painful – with a bit of  open communication we can make beautiful music together.

Sergio is Senior Creative at Ninja Tune / Just Isn’t Music