Artist Advice: How An Ad Agency Picks A Song For A Commercial

We look at the players at an ad agency who will have an impact on how a song is chosen for a commercial.
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Getting your music into commercials can just seem like blind luck. It is an issue of timing, luck and being in the right place at the right time. For an artist it is important to understand what type of a situation you are trying to fit into and then place yourself in those shoes so you have the best chance to succeed. We will look at the players at an ad agency who help shape what the music will be for a commercial.

First the brand will approach the agency with the scope of work for their product. Once the business is hammered out, the strategy and planning team start to come up with some key points on pitching, their target audience and create a vague outline for the actual campaign. How long will it go for, where will it be pitched, what mediums (radio, social, TV) do they need, etc?

Then the creative team will start to work with the outline they are given and come up with a draft of their commercial with designs, casting, scripts and production. 

This is where the music supervisor gets involved, trying to find the mood of the commercial, taking the assessments of the strategy and planning team and seeing what type of music should be used in the commercial. They will likely work with a mood, a feel and a genre and then work from there. Does it need to be upbeat from the start? Should it have vocals or will the commercial have someone talking the whole time? Or will it be soft at the start and then build into a more dramatic climax? They will decide if they want to have something commissioned for the commercial or if they want to take an existing song and use it. A lot will depend on the budget, which will always cause internal strife as every team will want as much money as possible for designing, shooting, music etc. 

Getting a song to the music supervisor is tough. They will be pitched hundreds of songs a day and can only go through so much. The individual (and they could have a team working with them depending on the size of the agency) will likely source pitches from publishers, sync agencies and major labels to find the right music. The people at those third parties will know their ever-evolving catalogs better than the supervisor can.

Once a song is selected, it has to be approved by the creative team and then fun part with legal and accounting is taken care of so nobody gets sued for using a song that sounds too much like another or to determine the possibility of clearing samples.

Executives will then have the final say on the project as they then bring it to the account teams and then the brands.

It is a long process with a lot of different cooks in the kitchen. There will be a lot of input from many different people who will all have to agree on the same song in the commercial. It is good to have allies in ad agencies, so work on trying to build those connections. In the end there is only so much you can do to get that huge sync. 

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