Mastering Music

June 2, 2016 / Features

By Alex Reeves

How to get the best out of music in advertising.

Think about your favourite commercial. Can you remember the music it used? Of course you can, because all the best ads are backed up by the perfect track. But that doesn’t happen by fluke and your favourite jam of the moment probably won’t be right for the specific spot you’re working on right now.

“The greatest campaigns out there use fantastic music,” says Paul Reynolds, Managing Director of MassiveMusic and Acting Chair of Producers and Composers of Applied Music (PCAM). “That music was probably chosen before anything was shot; probably before a storyboard was written. So the emotion was set from the start.”

Along with PCAM, the Advertising Producers Association (APA) and the Institute for Practitioners in Advertising (IPA), Paul has been part of organising the Music in Commercials Masterclass, which will take place on Tuesday 14th June at the Curzon cinema.

Free for IPA members, the one-day course will give agency production assistants and junior producers the opportunity to learn from the specialists about how to get the best out of music.

With a host of top music supervisors and leaders from London’s best music companies, as well as agency figures from adam&eveDDB and BBH, the day will run through every aspect of effective use of music, including when and how to brief, budgeting for music, legal challenges and solutions and predictions for the future of music in advertising.

“We want to elevate the use of music in advertising,” says Paul, but the challenges music companies face are well-rehearsed. “You read it in almost every article about music in advertising: it’s always’ left to last, it’s not budgeted properly. It’s the same things again and again.”

We’ve all heard the woes of the music companies, but there’s definitely some truth in them. Many campaigns have fallen flat due to a lack of thought for music. The roots of the problem are deep and varied.  “There are so many traps and common mistakes you can make along the say that can make productions difficult, sometimes unfulfilling and often less effective than they could be just because of the musical side of things, which is disappointing,” says Paul.

“Music isn’t tangible. You can’t touch it or even see it. You have to judge it by your emotional response and that’s a very difficult thing. It’s easy to be subjective about music. It makes you feel a certain way or it doesn’t. It will link to your personal experiences and memories.”

In Britain this is particularly difficult because we don’t like to talk about our emotions, says Paul, only half joking. “But we’re trying to create an emotional response, so you need to be able to talk about your emotions.”

In the digital age, the idea of paying for music is becoming worryingly outdated, which is a problem for the people making music for commercial use. “I recently spoke to a young creative who had never paid for music, never bought an MP3 and used a free streaming service,” says Paul. That’s a hard climate in which to encourage agencies to budget properly for music.

Another challenge music suffers from is people’s fear of the language of music. “People think you need to have a degree in music to talk to a composer,” reflects Paul. Of course, that’s not the case.

These misconceptions will all be challenged during the sessions of the Masterclass. “This isn’t a moan,” says Paul. “This is inspiring, fun and all about promoting creative excellence in the end.” And there will also be very practical advice, such as the best ways to brief for music.

Kim Knowlton, the IPA’s Broadcast Production Consultant is enthusiastic about the event. “Music is of vital importance to good advertising,” she says. “So hearing from experts on how to best utilise it and work with them will be invaluable. Particularly hearing about how to best brief them will be great. It’s always good to know how to work with people to get the best results.”

Another crucial subject the Masterclass will cover in detail is the legal landscape that music sits in. Paul knows well that legal pitfalls can be terrifying, but part of the day will be dedicated to laying out the best legal practice and clarifying the maze of copyright and licencing so that disasters are easy to avoid. “It’s important to address the legal aspect,” agrees Kim. “Licencing music for advertising can be a difficult process. Having that explained clearly will be helpful.”

The day aims to eradicate any mystery surrounding the processes of finding the best music for your commercials. “I would urge as many people as possible to use this free educational day,” says Kim. “Greater understanding of how to use music can only help agencies and their clients.”

Paul’s also looking forward to starting a dialogue from the event. “It’ll be really interesting to hear what the agencies think, and what their experiences are. Hopefully something like this will become more of a regular occurrence, where we can help the industry to use music to its full potential.”

The Music in Commercials Masterclass takes place on Tuesday 14th June at the Curzon, Soho. For more information please email

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