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Music Libraries See Spots as a Growing Client Base

By Christine Bunish and Michael Fickes

music libraries
[L-to-R] FirstCom’s Roadside Couch Records collection
615 Music’s Epic Rock disc from the Scoring Stage Music collection.
Recent ad-focused titles from Killer Tracks’ Edge library include Indie.Pendence, Wicked Commercials,
and Changes.

In the history of commercial advertising on TV stories are legion of the power of music to enhance a spot’s message and make a ho-hum spot memorable. Just think of the commercials that stick with you over time and undoubtedly your auditory memories are as strong as your visual recollections.

“Music goes right past your conscious to your subconscious to affect the audience in ways they can’t resist,” says Doug Wood, president and CEO of Port Washington, New York-based Omnimusic (www.omnimusic.com). “Film producers understand this. Even at a local level, commercial producers can use the power of music to frame their advertising in the right way and orient audiences to their messages.”

Today, when budgets are especially tight and turnaround times continue to shrink, production music libraries are an increasing option for ad agencies and spot producers. Music libraries no longer bear the stigma of repositories of ‘elevator music.’ They’re recognized for the quality and variety of their collections, as sources of fresh sounds and top talent.

music libraries
Angular Momentum from Omnimusic’s CDM Music Library

Omnimusic Gives Local Spots That National Sound
Although Wood concedes that many national TV spots still use original music, he says Omnimusic enjoys a healthy business from “local TV and cable companies who use our music in literally thousands of spots every year.”

That’s not to say that Omnimusic hasn’t licensed tracks to major advertisers, too. “In a lot of cases our music is picked as a temp track to cut a spot to,” Wood explains. “It sometimes happens that a producer falls in love with the temp track — nothing else works. A big national Ford spot picked one of our blockbuster Hollywood tracks and couldn’t find anything with the same feel so they licensed it from us, and we were delighted.”

He shares another anecdote that illustrates why Omnimusic tracks are indeed spot-ready. “A composer who writes for us and who also does original music for commercials called me and said, ‘I knew this would happen someday. A client played me a spot with a temp track and told me they wanted music just like this. It was a piece I wrote for Omni!'” In fact, some 150 composers write for Omni and its affiliated libraries, Wood reports, “and more than half of them write for commercials.”

The producers of local spots who most often work with Wood tend to have two different musical needs. Sometimes they’re looking for music “to fill the background when they have wall-to-wall copy.” Other times they’ve got minimal copy and want to use music “to make the spot come alive.” He notes that “even at a local level, people want their spots to sound like national commercials. That’s why we produce so much music that sounds like that, such as very contemporary, laid back acid jazz.”

music libraries
Omnimusic founder and president Doug Wood
conducts a recent recording session from the piano.

The Omni Blue Dot broadcast library offers a wide range of genres in 60-, 30- and 15-second versions and tags, “so they’re designed for people doing spots,” Wood reports.

The CDM Library, a French import, also attracts commercial-makers. “Their composers hear the world in a different way,” he says. “They’re super-contemporary and great for fashion and other high-end subjects.”

Working with quick turnarounds ad agencies and spot producers demand speed and efficiency in online searches, downloads and licensing. “They typically need to download tracks and put them into spots to get client approval,” notes Wood. “So once they get a password and user name from us they have access to everything we have.”

Refining Omnimusic’s keyword search process — which includes situational keywords that evoke time or place — is ongoing, he says. “We have to figure out the kinds of words producers use in looking for music. And any time a new word comes into the lexicon of production we have to go back, find out what meets its criteria, and recode. You can have the perfect piece of music but if you can’t find it, you don’t get the work.”

The library offers downloads as MP3s and bwav files at 44.1, “the highest audio quality you can get,” Wood reports.

In terms of licensing, Omnimusic is “extremely flexible in accommodating the evolving needs of advertising,” he adds. “Nobody does a spot today without putting it on a website and maybe YouTube and embedding it someplace. A library has to be pretty nimble and remain open to whatever usage is coming down the road.”

music libraries
615 Music’s Positively Quirky Acoustic from the
popular Platinum Series.

615 Music Offers Something for Every Producer
The ability to offer high-quality tracks at affordable rates has drawn many commercials to music libraries during the economic downturn. “Music libraries used to be regarded as cheesy ‘elevator’ music,” recalls Randy Wachtler, president and CEO of the 615 Music Companies in Nashville (www.615music.com) and chairman of the Production Music Association (www.pmamusic.com). “Now some libraries go to London, hire a 65-piece orchestra and record film-style scores.”

Competition in the library business has “driven quality up,” he reports. “To survive in this business you have to be really good, and clients have benefited from that.”

A number of leading advertisers have tapped 615 Music’s collections, among them SunLife Financial, Rooms To Go, Chevy Volt, Dodge, Kohl’s, Wal-Mart, Simon & Schuster, and Unilever’s Axe products. “Agencies often reference music that’s really popular, what’s on the radio and the charts,” says Wachtler. “We have 22 catalogs now with 800 virtual CDs, so we have quite a bit to choose from. There’s something for everybody.”

He’s excited about bringing The Inspired Catalog to the US. “It’s quite popular with agencies and TV producers in the UK, and I think agencies here will love it,” he says. “It’s very different — we call it pop and quirky. And it’s very high quality.”

music libraries
615 Music’s Positively Quirky Acoustic from the
popular Platinum Series.

Already popular with agencies and spot producers is 615 Music’s Platinum Series, which features many live instruments, and the Scoring Stage Series, which offers trailer and film-style compositions by LA-based film composers played by live orchestras. Motorola’s “First Date” spot licensed a contemporary rock track from the Platinum Series’ Rage Rock disc.

GMC’s “Acadia” commercial recently selected a holiday-sounding track from 615 Music’s Metro catalog. Other top spot picks are the very contemporary Live Source catalog, the Minimal Music catalog written largely by LA-based composers, and Ultimate Crime & Drama which is popular with shows and promos in that genre.

To meet commercial producers’ needs 615 Music always provides 60- and 30-second version of tracks along with an underscore mix. “When there’s quite a bit of copy, we suggest using the underscore mix; it doesn’t fight the copy and delivers the mood,” Wachtler explains.

music libraries
615 Music president and CEO Randy Wachtler

Unlike many music libraries 615 Music also has a custom music division. “We cut our teeth as an original music house; it’s where our roots are,” he notes. “So we’re always glad to write custom music when needed.”

To help spot producers better target its library tracks 615 Music put a new Soundminer-designed search system in place called 615 Music Search. Available free of charge, 24/7 for clients working late hours, the system features all the meta data contained within each track.

“It was quite an undertaking: over 37,000 individual tracks online, across 22 catalogs, with every bit of meta data for each track,” Wachtler points out. “The way the world is turning toward Google and Bing searches, we’ve tried to model our searches as closely as possible to them. We’ve made the search terms very easy; you don’t have to be a music expert using musical terms.”

As part of its extensive customer service offerings, 615 Music will also take on searches for clients. “The big agencies like us to do searches for them,” says Wachtler. “We create a playlist with a few options and zap it to them for their review.”

music libraries
Chevy Volt is among the leading advertisers that have
used tracks from 615 Music’s collections.

Spot producers can count on a quickly-expanding roster of choices at 615 Music. “Our new releases now go online monthly instead of quarterly as we move away from physical CDs,” he reports.

As chairman of the Production Music Association, Wachtler is leading his colleagues in the drive to “make the business better and more user friendly. Our goal is to establish some consistency in the way people use libraries with good searches and easy downloads and licensing.”

Killer Tracks’ Depth Anticipates Producers’ Needs
The depth and breadth of the offerings at LA-based Killer Tracks (www.killertracks.com) is an advantage to agencies and commercial producers, says account executive Steve Bravin, a former sound editor and Killer Tracks customer himself. “There’s no way to anticipate what a producer may need for a spot — it depends on their client’s needs and the creative direction for the campaign. But having so much music in so many styles, all readily available to audition on our website, is a big plus.”

Killer Tracks currently boasts 21 libraries representing over 2,000 digital albums ranging from hip hop produced by Chuck D to classical, rock and orchestral scores. The company continually produces new music for each library and releases over 100 new albums per year.

music libraries
Killer Tracks’ Hot Vocal Hooks offers positive vocal
hooks to reinforce messages

The Edge library, in particular, focuses on the needs of the advertising community, reports marketing director David Gurule. “It includes releases that fit some of the more specific advertising requests we get. For example, the recent ‘Changes’ release has modular tracks you can mix and match, and each track is designed with distinct mood shifts like ‘hesitant to optimistic’ and ‘tense to relieved’ so they’re great for ads that present a problem which their product resolves.”

Another recent release, Killer Track’s “Hot Vocal Hooks” collection, offers positive vocal hooks that reinforce messages. “Whenever we have a track with a prominent lead line or vocal we always produce an alternate underscore that works nicely as a background bed to support copy,” Gurule notes. “Many tracks have 30- and 60-second cuts, stings and alternate versions — without the lead line, without the vocal, different instrumental mixes. We try to offer as many options as possible.”

Recently, a major automotive campaign tapped a cut from Killer Tracks for a national holiday TV campaign and a leading soft drink chose a track from one of the Classical catalogs for its series of national TV spots. A long list of agencies and production houses regularly rely on the library for just the right musical mood to enhance their projects.

“When I started in the business there was a stigma attached to what was commonly called ‘stock’ or ‘canned’ music,” Bravin recalls. “It had a distinctive sound that was different from real-world pop music. With Killer and other libraries at the forefront, things have really changed and now production music libraries sound as good as any commercial release. The same folks who write and produce pop music, film scores and original music for TV are actively working in the production music field, so of course our music sounds better.”

Gurule notes that agencies and commercial producers are now looking to production music libraries in any economic climate, not just in today’s downturn. “They need great music, quickly, at a fair price. It’s what we’ve always done and continue to do: provide great value.”

As spots’ turnaround time shrinks, the instant availability of production music becomes an even more coveted asset, says Bravin. “If you’re thinking of working with an original score, you will need to have your client describe what they want, and then the composer will go away and come back with something that he’ll probably need to tweak or take in a different direction based on further input from the client — so it’s a bit like reverse engineering. Production music tracks can be presented to the client up front, and can be a much more direct route to finding the right piece of music that the client can sign off on quickly.”

If spot producers need to speed searches they can take advantage of Killer Tracks’ free music supervision service. “It’s great for last-minute requests or if a spot has changed direction and needs music no one anticipated,” says Bravin. “Our experienced music supervisors can find tracks and send out playlists very quickly.” Or the music supervisors can point producers to specific discs they can audition for themselves. In either case, the service can relieve producers of a task that “can be overwhelming when you’re faced with a deadline and such a large number of choices in the KT catalogue,” Gurule notes.

Killer Tracks has introduced a licensing agreement designed expressly for advertising clients. Called a Theme Blanket License, it enables the client “to use a single piece of music in a single campaign for a certain period of time so they can brand their spots with the music,” Bravin explains. “The Theme Blanket gives you a lot of creative freedom plus better pricing and unlimited use for a given term — that’s especially handy when you don’t know how many spots you will ultimately produce.”

Music for commercials “is a growing segment of our business,” he adds. “We’re always looking at ways to create new products and provide better service for the advertising community.”

music libraries
Acoustic Cinema from FirstCom

FirstCom Gives Producers Access to More Tools
Dallas-based FirstCom has seen an increase in its commercial client base as well. “In the past, we have not targeted agencies but they are becoming a more frequent and growing segment of our business due to demand from agencies for an extensive source of music and one-stop licensing,” says senior vice president and executive producer Ken Nelson. “We have always had a very strong presence in audio and post facilities that specialize in commercial production.”

Nelson finds that agencies and spot producers “are looking for something fresh and unique most of the time — or a specific sound or genre that is hard to obtain.” In addition, “songs, singer-songwriters and indie bands are also in demand,” he reports. “We placed a song from our Roadside Couch Records collection of independent artists in a commercial for Fiat Europe through our Italian rep. We worked directly with Ethan Allen and their inhouse agency for a national commercial last year featuring a drum/percussion ensemble that had lots of visual impact onscreen.”

music libraries
Indie Boutique from FirstCom

To pinpoint specific requests from agencies and commercial producers FirstCom often works on a music supervisor basis creating custom collections from its libraries that are reviewable via email, Flash drive or ftp download, Nelson explains.

Not long ago a spot for a client from Velocity Post needed music to accompany visuals of a bikini photo shoot. As is common, the spot had a tight deadline, and the music was the last step. “We asked a few questions, and they eventually narrowed what they wanted to selections that were ‘cool, playful, and medium- to up-tempo,'” Nelson recalls. “We suggested some fashion-dance music, a couple of hip hop club discs and our ‘Mink Bikini’ album to provide a tropical option.”

music libraries
FirstCom senior vice president and executive
producer Ken Nelson

For the same spot, another FirstCom music supervisor recommended “Kitsch Pop Remix” from the UK’s Chappell Library which FirstCom represents. Still another staffer pulled several cuts from FirstCom’s own Velocity library. “In the end we were able to suggest more than a half-dozen options for them to consider,” says Nelson.

When another FirstCom client asked what kind of music might suit a spot about a mummy for a major insurance agency, Nelson came up with two archival horror tracks. “They were sort of a classic horror sound but not over the top,” he notes. “They ended up with a fun spot.”

To facilitate online search and delivery, FirstCom recently made a major investment in the redesign of its website, which will debut this spring. The biggest change, implemented on January 1, was the elimination of CDs. “We’re no longer having CDs pressed for mass distribution,” says Nelson. “Going forward all new releases are going to be distributed through our website.”

music libraries
Six String Crates from FirstCom

FirstCom’s new website will feature cloud-based search and networking capabilities like those offered on social networking sites. With data stored on many different servers, instead of a central server system, if one server is busy the download moves to another server. It’s all done seamlessly and speeds up the process of downloading large files like music collections.

“When we launch the site in spring 2010, clients will have access to more tools than just those for downloading,” Nelson reports. “They will also be able to manage their library music, including custom playlists, cue sheet generation and reporting, right on the website.”

December 21, 2012