Music Essays: Roundtable Discussion - The brief, the ad, the music and the money

The big movers in the advertising world and the music industry discuss the high points and the bum notes of their collaboration and how their future together can be more harmonious.

From Marvin Gaye and Levi's, to Phil Collins and Cadbury, by way of Leftfield and Guinness, the relationship between music and advertising has resulted in some brand-defining partnerships over the years.

It is a symbiotic relationship that has provided brands with creative short-cuts to connect with their target audiences, while helping artists maximise their own exposure and providing a few quid into the bargain. However, like many relationships, it can be fraught with misunderstandings that can result in acrimony and tears.

Campaign brought together the authors of the essays in this book with agencies that buy their music. When they sat down to a roundtable lunch discussion, no-one doubted the power of music as part of the creative mix, but it quickly became clear that dealings between the two worlds were often anything but harmonious.

Paul Goodwin, a producer at Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO, who has helped soundtrack Guinness, says music can be the most fraught element of a campaign. "Music can be a massively damaging part of the production. Everybody seems to hold on, thinking there's more money," he says. "So things can get pulled at the last minute and everything collapses. It is all so time-consuming."

Damon Collins, the executive creative director of Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R, says that, although the results can be memorable, signing the tune you want is often like pulling teeth. While at Mother, he worked on Boots' Ernie K-Doe-themed "here come the girls" spot. "There were people on holiday or not talking to each other," he says. "It was quite impossible and really slowed things right down, which is the biggest problem with music. If all of the stars are aligned then it might just happen, but it's hard."

Given the current state of the music industry, with declining sales and the growing threat from free downloads and other media, the Campaign editor, Claire Beale, suggested that advertising represented something of a white knight to the music industry. Groove Armada's deal with Bacardi, where the band effectively "signed" to the drinks brand, shows how far artists are prepared to go in commercial deals.

The panel wasn't so sure. Paul Briginshaw, the executive creative director of Miles Calcraft Briginshaw Duffy, says TV is now more important to bands and getting a track on shows such as Skins or Grey's Anatomy had replaced Top Of The Pops as the pinnacle of band ambition. Richard Skinner, a creative associate at Fallon, agrees: "Labels would strategise around the end credits of The OC."

There is also the infuriating scenario where artists say "no" to advertising opportunities, but then pop up on the BBC as incidental music, Briginshaw says. Paul Clements, the MCPS licensing director at PRS for Music, says that the BBC's costly blanket deal allows it greater latitude to use music more freely - namely, it does not need prior permission for incidental music or trailers, although it does for signature theme tunes.

Generally, it is felt that artists are more welcoming of the idea of working with advertisers these days. While rap artists have long celebrated brands in their songs, now even rock royalty, such as The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan, whose Blowin' In The Wind was used by the Co-operative recently, have shown themselves to be open to offers. "With a few exceptions, they don't see it as 'selling out' anymore," Hywel Evans, the EMI Music synchronisation director, says.

But just because something can happen, doesn't mean that it will. Natasha Baldwin, the head of consultancy at the publisher Boosey & Hawkes, admits that notions of intellectual property in music frustrate advertisers: "We try to be as flexible as possible, but the music industry has suffered because of constraints around IP law, artists' rights and contracts. It is frustrating, but we are trying to be as creative as producers need us to be. As a body, the industry has moved too slowly to be as flexible as brand and band companies."

The whole area of what rights apply is confusing, Briginshaw says: "Campaigns evolve and clients don't always realise that using music in different media will impact on costs."

When producers take the wrong licence and need to extend it, they feel that they are over a barrel, Nick Woollard, the advertising account manager at the music library Audio Network, admits. "Licensing should not be that complex, and you should not have to bring lawyers in every time. Our licences are explicit," he adds.

All agree that simpler contracts would make life a lot easier and, according to Clements, this could be the future as the industry looks to bundle rights and make licensing as hassle-free as possible. "There has been a real sea change in people wanting to work collaboratively and to make things better so nobody feels they are being screwed," he says.

If contracts are one problem area, then differing perceptions of value are the other (drumming) gorilla in the room. There has long been suspicion from either side of the music/advertiser divide that the other party gets disproportionate benefit for not enough effort or money. While production budgets are being squeezed, music providers are not reflecting that with realistic valuations.

Goodwin says the reality of his job is that 99 per cent of tracks need to be found quickly and cheaply. Whereas 20 years ago, labels might have had a case in holding out for a better deal, today's tighter cost control usually means that the budget will not change from what is on the table and producers are under a lot of pressure to deliver. "It's not driven by creativity but by hoping it's 'good enough' and getting it out," he says. "And that's sad because it damages the relationship with the music company."

Susie Innes, the head of TV at Delaney Lund Knox Warren, agrees: "We waste a lot of precious time doing the car salesman dance" - in which music providers want to know the budget and agencies want to know what they might come up with first. Sometimes, however, she admits that agencies will have to go back to the label with more cash than at first admitted, "because the client really likes a track - and then you really need it".

While agencies feel that they are sometimes being taken for a ride, labels and publishers say the promotional benefits promised by advertisers don't always add up. Evans points out that it's not just about the money - labels have a longer-term duty of care to their artists: "We are always being told that this will be great promotion and will greatly benefit the artist. But it's difficult to assess, and it also may not be the right kind of promotion. If you have an artist who is on their second or third single, they can be undermined by the link."

Skinner says agencies must recognise that advertising is not important at all to some labels, which don't see it as core to what they do: "They don't want to waste time on a one-in-a-million chance of a track becoming a hit on the back of an ad. It might not fit with them anyway, and for £50K or whatever, they are not interested."

However, there are many publishers and labels that do not think like that, Baldwin says: "The industry as a whole is suffering because a number of big companies are doing what Richard is talking about and that becomes the prevailing attitude which is difficult to fight against."

The great thing about music, as well as one of the headaches, is that there are so many sources. Clements points to the host of feeder and indie labels that can provide undiscovered gold, but which have little experience of working with advertisers. Boosey & Hawkes has started working with a number of such small labels which do not have the background or staff to handle advertising enquiries. By providing a more flexible approach for brands, the aim is to put less well-known artists on agencies' radar.

Goodwin is already spending more of his time accessing lower-profile labels and artists who also provide a better budgetary fit. Skinner says that mining the back catalogues of undiscovered artists can also pay dividends.

After using one of Phil Collins' best-known songs for Cadbury's "gorilla" ad, Fallon went to the opposite end of the spectrum for its follow-up, "eyebrows", using an obscure 80s electro track, Don't Stop The Rock by Freestyle. Fallon negotiated rights, which were extended to ringtones for a year, and the artist even signed to a record label on the back of it. "It was also heartening for us, because a bloke who was working in K-Mart for 15 years got a nice cheque," Skinner says.

Another untapped resource that can help keep a lid on costs are demos that bands have discarded, Briginshaw says. MCBD is working with a music company that has been shown a script and found the music to fit from such a source, he adds: "They are being paid for something that's sitting in a dusty drawer."

As well as forgotten tunes, advertising can boost the profile of less well-known artists. Lloyds TSB's use of the Australian composer Elena Kats-Chernin's music on its TV spots has brought her to a wider audience and spawned a plethora of dance mash-ups and a remix on the back of the ad's success. However, this success can lead to a sense of resentment from some clients, Skinner says: "Clients do start to wonder why they are not seeing any of the money when a single starts climbing the charts. You have to point out that they got what they wanted and shouldn't cry afterwards."

One possible model to alleviate this sense of missing out might be one that shares risk and revenue. The film industry's approach to music, where box office receipts form part of the commercial discussions, demonstrates how such a shared risk approach might work, Baldwin suggests.

However, EMI's Evans says it is an idea that is hampered by several issues, particularly the differing timescales of the two industries: "For music to benefit in sales and profit, it needs the agency and the label to work so far in advance. And as much as the band would like to benefit, they do not have the time or interest to work six to nine months ahead."

Lee McCutcheon, a composer and the founder of the music consultancy Red Custard Music, agrees. He worked for months on American Idol, getting to understand each artist's personality and creating music to fit. "But you just don't get that time with brands," he notes.

It can happen, though, as McCann Erickson's spot for the Co-op demonstrates, Woollard says: "The relationship started a year beforehand and they were working creatively all the time to link with singles, albums and live sales. The Co-op had ownership that meant they could exploit it themselves in-store and point out that the track was available in shops."

Such mutual benefit might work especially well during the golden period at the start of an artist's career when they were more amenable to working collaboratively, he says.

But Andrzej Moyseowicz, the media innovation director, EMEA at Saatchi & Saatchi, says this opens up its own legal minefield and that there are some fledgling bands that are too naive for their own good. "Their check boxes are creative rather than financial," he says. "We've had acts asking if we wanted a share of their signing-on fee."

Another option for advertisers that want closer control of the music is to commission their own. Briginshaw says MCBD used the Manchester act Working For A Nuclear Free City to produce music for the latest Hovis ad. It is a creatively exciting process, with an added benefit, he says: "You know you have the rights because you only have one relationship with the people you are commissioning."

It is an unfamiliar area for advertising creatives and clients, though. Music is less easy to control than image, and you may lack the language to describe what you want. Baldwin says advertisers need to have a dialogue and use people who can articulate their vision, which is a specialist skill.

Despite all the headaches that using music presents, there are no signs of advertisers falling out of love with it. If anything, Briginshaw says, it should retain a certain detachment from adland: "If it relies too much on advertising, then it loses its freedom and excitement. There is no doubt that music changes the shape of an ad dramatically."

And, as advertisers turn increasingly towards online media, there are new challenges, Chris Blakeston, the head of music sales at Audio Network, notes: "We're looking at longer executions which could use whole song tracks and the very nature of online means we'd know little about its distribution, territory or life-span. How do you put a price on that? Things are going to get a lot more complex."

Suzanne Bidlake, associate editor, Campaign
Susie Innes, head of TV, Delaney Lund Knox Warren
Stuart Derrick, writer, Campaign
Chris Blakeston, head of music sales, Audio Network
Nick Woollard, advertising account manager, Audio Network
Hywel Evans, synchronisation director, EMI Music
Hadassah Nymark, editorial assistant, Campaign
Sarah Paez, account manager, Campaign
Paul Briginshaw, executive creative director, Miles Calcraft Briginshaw
Lee McCutcheon, composer and founder, Red Custard Music
Andrzej Moyseowicz, media innovation director, EMEA, Saatchi & Saatchi
Natasha Baldwin, head of consultancy, Boosey & Hawkes
Paul Goodwin, producer, Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO
Paul Shanley, licensing manager, PRS for Music
Paul Clements, MCPS licensing director, PRS for Music
Richard Skinner, creative associate, Fallon
Claire Beale, editor, Campaign
Damon Collins, executive creative director, Rainey Kelly Campbell


- Richard Skinner, Creative associate, Fallon

"The biggest pain in sourcing music ... comes before the sourcing even begins. The actual challenge is NOT leaving the music till the last thing and therefore being on the back foot, creatively and commercially."

- Paul Briginshaw, Executive creative director, Miles Calcraft Briginshaw Duffy

"The music coup that I'm most proud of ... was getting Nino Rota's people to let us have a piece of his music for our Aristoc 'subtitles' ad for next to nothing (they liked the ad so much!)."

- Susie Innes, Head of TV, Delaney Lund Knox Warren

"I want a music provider to ... have some cohesion when quoting the cost of a track, not seemingly plucking a figure from the air. I want assurance that all parties have agreed to a track being used, and the cost, in principle, before the track is too embedded. I want not to feel like we are held to ransom. And no 10 per cent 'industry standard' upshift of the yearly licence fee."

- Damon Collins, Executive creative director, Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R

"I want a music provider to ... offer up a spectrum of options, both dead on and wildly off brief. There will always be directions that one would never dream of going in. Handing over the cut is usually the best brief. Add too much on top of that and you risk stifling the creativity of whoever's searching for the track."

- Paul Goodwin, Producer, Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO

"The music coup I'm most proud of ... is the track we found for Breast Cancer ('pole dancer'). The copywriter Selda Enver (my girlfriend), the director Tom Carty and (producer/composer) Pete Raeburn made sure we had a perfect fit. It won a D&AD Pencil for viral cinematography but I honestly think it wouldn't have if the music had been wrong."

- Andrzej Moyseowicz, Media innovation director, EMEA, Saatchi & Saatchi

"My favourite music in an ad is ... atmospheric and haunting when the visual copy is key and dialogue is not (Volkswagen's 'wedding day') or obscure folk, since all folk music sounds great as long as it's played for less than two minutes (HSBC's 'lumberjack')."