Production Music Affects Your Brand Perception

One of the most important aspects of music supervision (for commercial projects in particular) is making sure that the production music selected appropriately reflects, and in some cases, defines your brand as intended. Failure to properly consider the affects of your production’s soundtrack can have unexpected, and sometimes adverse, results, in turn affecting ROI and public perception.

Let’s take a look at some famous brands on the market, and their selection of production music — and the effect the companies’ music selections had on their brand perception.

1) United Airlines. United Airlines ran a lengthy, multiyear (-decade?) campaign on television and radio with their ads featuring Gershwin’s Rhapsody In Blue. This classical piano work is known for its complexity and technique, and its refined and sophisticated sound (especially when compared to the rest of George and Ira’s huge catalog of show tunes). The resulting commercial production gave the United brand a sense of sophistication and class, refinement, and luxury.

2) Apple. Apple continues to pair their sleek, simple, everyday-meets-crazy-sci-fi-like-technology video imagery with catchy, simple pop tunes by previously unknown bands. Their commercials are known for catchy melodies that make you think, I KNOW that song! Or… wait… The genre of Apple’s production music selections is definitely pop — and makes Apple’s brand seem fresh, new, and relevant — while the style is simplistic, catchy, and familiar — making Apple seem approachable and friendly. Makes me want to buy a new MacBook.

3) McDonald’s. Lately, McDonald’s has worked to appeal the working class, and a younger generation of Big Mac eaters. To do this, they’ve turned to hip-hop based tracks, their ever popular “badabopbopbah I’m Lovin’ It” slogan, and other street-savvy tunes to appear hip and fresh. They’ve turned chicken nuggets into fast food with a beat — young and popular.

What can you do with production music to help define and develop your brand? When considering how you want your brand to be perceived by the public, consider these commercial characteristics of different musical genres to aid you in your music selection process:

Classical Music — sophistication, elegance, refinement, class
Pop — familiar and fresh, 2.0
Electronica — cutting edge, technological, business savvy
Swing, Blues — dated, senior-friendly, familiar, sophisticated yet comfortable
Other Jazz — sophisticated, but cool, sexy
Rock and Metal — teenager-friendly, mid-life crisis
Opera — refined, but somewhat cliche
Country — down-home, family, relaxation
World — travel
Childrens Music — children and family
Hip-hop, Rap — street cred, city, middle-class, tough
R&B, Soul, Funk — sexy
Gospel and Religious — religious

What is a Production Music Cue Sheet?

A cue sheet is simply a document that lists out all of the production music that gets used in a film or television program.

So why is this sheet important? Every piece of production music is written by a composer. Under copyright law, these composers are entitled to compensation for the public broadcast of their work, called public performance royalties. These royalties are collected and distributed by the public performance organizations — You may have heard of these: ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, to name a few, and a lot of composers and songwriters are members of these organizations.

A lot of confusion arises out of the royalty payment part, and not enough is being done by the performance rights societies, film schools, and the professional community to make film producers aware of how these work.

First, filing a cue sheet is free. There are no fees to send ASCAP or BMI, and it’s as easy as sending an email.

Second, filing a cue sheet does not make you, a creator of a film, liable for any royalty payments or song usage tracking. All that is handled by ASCAP and BMI. THEY track usage, and THEY make the royalty payments to the composers whenever their music gets played on air.

Where does all the money come from to pay the composers royalties? The money comes, not from film makers and TV program producers, but from license agreements between the performance rights societies and the network or venue. Every TV network, movie theater, concert hall, church, restaurant (if they’re running their business on the up and up) has a license agreement with performance rights societies that allows them to, well, publicly perform any of the music in the ASCAP or BMI catalog. They pay a yearly or quarterly fee, and from those fees, the organizations pay the composers a few cents each time their music is played.

But in order to know who to pay, organizations like ASCAP and BMI need to know when and where the music was actually used. Cue sheets are one such tool that helps them track the usage across different networks, locations, and venues. So if you use production music, do your neighborhood composer a solid, and file a cue sheet. You help put some food on the table and compensate artists for their hard work and expertise, and you’ll be doing the right thing.