Music + Ads: Breaking Acts Into Spots

NEW YORK The subject of how little-known U.S. acts or international artists are put into commercials was tackled at Thursday’s concluding panel at Adweek and Billboard’s inaugural Music & Advertising conference in New York. Tips on breaking in? Panelists’ responses varied:

1. Make Sure Your Song Fits the Brand

“Whether you’re a person pitching music or a person making ads, the song has to make sense” says Beth Urdang of Agoraphone. Jedd Katrancha of Downtown Music Publishing shared a story of artist Santogold’s partnership with Bud Light Lime. Although Bud Light Lime started out with a different composer writing a song specifically for the ad campaign, they settled on Santogold because “her song was perfect.”

2. Be Flexible

This particularly applies if you are writing specifically for an ad campaign. Beth Urdang cautions: “You have to be prepared for the back and forth of writing original music for an ad spot versus just licensing music where it either works or it doesn’t.”

3. Don’t Give Away the Farm

“You have to move a lot of MP3s in order to make up the difference [of not cutting a licensing deal],” says Keith D’Arcy of EMI Music Publishing. And, according to Stephanie Diaz-Matos of Search Party Music, “As much as a band would like the exposure, you have to weigh the opportunity.” All panelists agreed that it is better for all parties if the music is treated as a paid service. And, as Diaz-Matos cited, when she presents the songs as one under and one over budget, “[the advertiser] will pick the one that’s over budget.”

4. Harness the Momentum

“There is no x factor” that will do all the work, says Sony/ATV svp of global marketing Rob Kaplan. You have to be ready to take control of every aspect of an artist’s marketing strategy when it is time to move. “Labels are getting better at being able to act… on the spot,” D’Arcy notes. Use tools available to you on the Internet like iLike and Facebook to harvest information. Monitor your online presence and figure out what is moving and why, then use these statistics to drive direct radio promotion.

5. Just Do It

Ad placement can make a career. D’Arcy calls this the “Licensing Domino Effect — a really good license begets more licensing.” Although agencies tend to shy away from using music that has been recently placed, there is a general understanding that once an artist has broken in, they are likely to be picked up again.

He used the example of Landon Pigg’s “Falling in Love at a Coffee Shop.” The song was originally featured in “A Diamond Is Forever” holiday TV commercials, which did so well that the company ran the spot through April of the following year. Thinking that it could not possibly go any further, Landon’s team was surprised to hear that the tune was picked up by Cingular Wireless shortly afterwards. But beware, as Katrancha warns: “The spot never really breaks the band. The spot can be great and the band perfect, but the band still has to sell to their audience.”

Related: “Advertising Is the New Radio”