VIEWPOINT: Music in radio commercials

Opinion piece by Alan Killian, director of Muziko. Music in Radio Commercials Today – Original Artists to Production Music Library. What are the options?…

For the less experienced advertisers music licensing can often be one of the least straight forward parts to the process. It presents a number of options to a client who will probably, ultimately make the final call on the tune chosen. There are a number of choices too, custom music, a custom jingle, an original artist, something that sounds like an original artist, or, the good old production music library. There is also the questions of the concept of a commercial to consider – is creating familiarity a priority? Perhaps something new and very fresh might be required for this brand and the music must help this along. Will the client want to play it safe? Licensing a track from an original artist used to involve a lot of negotiation with the publisher of the track. However, there are different methods today. Licensing library music today has a number of options and different prices too. Below is a list of music license choices to help advertisers through the quagmire.


1. Production Music Library via MCPS or related mechanical societies

As television and radio advertising grew and developed through the 2oth century music libraries decided to band together as such and form mechanical and performance rights societies to help license their music. MCPS in Ireland and PRS in the UK have agreed prices for different advertising uses of music, from in store to corporate productions to a single worldwide advertising campaign fee on all media.

Advantages: Good consistent quality of music and the same licensing system on a large number of production music libraries

Disadvantages: Pricing can be high, especially with a fragile economy


2. Independent Production Music Library

With creating an online market place for all media becoming easier and easier there has been a big increase in the number of production music libraries that license their music independently. This means that they can choose their own prices and also terms of use as the licensor. They can be more flexible with how they let the music in their collection be used. Production music libraries in general are also starting to attract talented artists who can make a good revenue stream from music placements in commercials.

Advantages: Terms can be flexible and pricing lower than libraries affiliated with a mechanical licensing society

Disadvantages: Possibly smaller collections of music, variation of quality in the tracks


3. Licensing a Commercial Popular Track

This will probably be the first thing that an advertiser’s client will think of. They have a favourite track that they want placed with their commercial, but when they realise the price, they have to seek an alternative option. However, the music industry with its ever decreasing revenue stream is beginning to learn that this is a method of making royalties that cannot be turned down. Greenlight Music was set up to cover this area. An advertiser can request a license for almost any commercial track and receive a price within just a couple of days. It is a simple process and makes licensing of commercial tracks easier.

Advantages: Clients get a track they want which can give a track a very particular identity and familiarity

Disadvantages: This is usually the most expensive music option


4. Custom Music and Jingles

There are many advantages to the custom music option. A producer commissions an experienced composer to write and record a track that is perfect for the needs of a product or campaign. This approach will often be taken for TV commercials where their are obviously visual references. But custom tracks can be good for radio too. And then there is the good old jingle which does not seem to be going away any time soon.

Advantages: Getting a feel and tone that can be adjusted perfectly to the product, creating brand identity

Disadvantages: Slightly more costly compared to library music, but mostly cheaper than licensing a commercial track

So that about sums up the main options for choosing music for radio advertising. Whatever choice advertisers and their clients make, they must add some music that fits the product and is memorable. Once this is achieved brand establishment should occur with a little help from a good tune!

Alan Killian is the director of  Muziko an online production music library and custom music composition services based in Dublin. Muziko has provided tracks for brands such as Kia Motors, Marriott Hotels, Spar Supermarkets among many others.

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