How to get ad music that doesn’t sound like “ad music.”

Wouldn’t it be nice if money was no object and you could afford to support the latest buzz band with six-figure license fees on every job you produce? It would be nice, but it’s not the reality for most producers. There’s no need to fret though. By avoiding the common pitfalls and following the tips below, you’ll be well on your way to ensuring your ad’s music won’t sound like “ad music."

Pitfalls to avoid

  1. Stock music. It’s affordable because it’s cheaply produced. Needle drop tracks generally result in a common or generic feel that can muddy your message and cue your audience to tune out.  
  2. Hyper scored music. Music with too many hit points within 30-60 seconds generally end up feeling like a train wreck. Too many attention grabbing points of emphasis makes for a busy story arc, leaving an audience feeling badgered and confused.  
  3. Heavy handed music. Music that overstates the emotional cue of your story creates a disconnect. If the music is overtly too dark, bright, epic, sad, or intense for your visuals and message—it won’t sit well to picture. And it can leave an audience full of uncertainty.
  4. Lyrics that sing copy. Lyrics that sing exactly what the supers or VO say are too literal. They make the music feel jingly, not to mention uncreative.

Tips for success

As you listen to the music tracks from your music company, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Is the music genuine? On an emotional level, it should have conviction and soul.
  2. Does it feel like a real track? From a production value perspective, it should feel like it came off an actual artist’s record.
  3. Do the lyrics work? The lyrics should loosely connect to the visual content or the message.
  4. Does the structure of the music place emphasis where you need it? The music should sync with your scoring points and develop in a natural and musically acceptable way.

If you avoid the common pitfalls, and answer yes to the tips, then you will find yourself with ad music that is music! Just like this custom composed music track, which the general public swore was off of an actual artist’s record.

brandon o'connell