Brands and bands embrace music licensing in age of declining record sales
The music industry has undergone dramatic changes in recent years, with declining record sales affecting even the world’s most famous artists. Rihanna’s latest album Talk That Talk recently returned to the number one spot with weekly sales of less than 10,000 copies, including both CDs and downloads. With technology come natural progression and now artists have far more opportunities available to them through music licensing.
It used to be uncool for bands to license their music out, with it often being considered as ‘selling out’ by both fans and artists alike. But with licensing now becoming a key tool for music discovery, even the staunchest fans are giving it a congratulatory nod.
Whether choosing a track to accompany a brand’s next multi-million dollar campaign or selecting an artist to feature on your next corporate film, choosing the right track is vital to communicating the desired message or emotion to the audience. A 30-second snippet of music needs to encapsulate a brand, product or idea and become as memorable as the creative itself.
Music has the power to enhance a lifeless product into an exciting ‘must-have,’ working directly alongside the creative and general image concepts; a result of painstaking work from creative departments and marketers. This package often becomes a defining factor to the success or failure of a product.
John Lewis’s yearly Christmas ad is a great example of how important the music selection process can be. The brand’s 2012 campaign, featuring the young Gabrielle Aplin’s cover version of ‘The Power of Love,’ swiftly became a viral hit with over 3 million views to date.
The increased digitalisation of music is leading to licensing becoming a vital revenue channel for artists, and consequently the process of acquiring tracks is getting easier for brands. There are still some age old difficulties in securing a track. In particular, leaving it to the last minute to obtain an artist’s approval for the use of their music can leave a brand in limbo. It is important for brands to seek approval early on in the planning process and to set realistic deadlines as to avoid a creative crisis.
Going for the biggest artists isn’t always the best option to create a positive impact for a brand or marketing campaign. Up and coming musicians are using the licensing process to appeal to new audiences, whilst creating an extra revenue stream and new marketing opportunities for the band themselves.
Apple’s marketing and advertising campaigns have changed the career paths of indie bands and artists, and a 30-second appearance in an ad often guarantees worldwide success. One of the chosen few was a relatively unknown Australian indie band called Jet, who went on to achieve huge success and feature in movies, ads and video games. It used to be the case that brands made music popular, but it is now a two-way street with music making brands likeable or ‘cool,’ whether it is from a hit musician or up and coming artists.
Whether it is a multi-platinum selling artist with a blockbuster hit or an indie band with an expanding cult following, the same rules apply when seeking approval for the use of their track. It comes down to understanding their motivations and values, their views of the brand, the market positioning, or if the artists feel your offer undervalues their music. Expecting the phrase ‘online-only’ to halve the licensing fee doesn’t cut it in a world where a brand campaign can generate 3 million YouTube views.
Just like brands, musicians understand the power that their track can deliver to a campaign or creative project. They therefore demand assurance that they will feature alongside inspiring content. Artists often want to fall in love with a creative idea, so the onus is on brands to passionately sell their creative to them.
Music is a powerful tool and, if implemented correctly, it has the ability to make a marketing campaign timeless. Whether it’s using an iconic track or featuring a new, exciting artist, brands must heed professional advice and remember to choose wisely, whilst keeping in mind realistic budget and time restraints and artist demands.
Alison Corbett, Director, Ricall