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How to write the perfect music brief?

Writing a good music brief can be difficult. You may have the perfect idea for your project’s music in your head, but to communicate your vision to a music supervisor isn’t as easy as it sounds. Each project is unique and has its own set of qualities and restrictions that decide what type of music is the best fit. Some of the most obvious ones being narrative, target audience and your music budget.

To make the process of music briefing as smooth as possible, it is important to start thinking about music early on. And when the time comes to send out a brief to a music provider or music supervisor, make sure to include all relevant information that they would need to give you the best collection of tracks for the project.

In this 5-point guide, we outline the essential elements that (we believe) make up the perfect music brief. Let’s dive in!

1. Creative Leads The Way

The ideal starting point of a good brief is usually some description of the content of the visual. This can range from a finished product to a rough edit, storyboard, or even just a concept in the brain of the director. As music is meant to amplify an advertisement’s message and generate positive audience engagement and awareness, it is essential that the music perfectly complements the mood, narrative and flow of the video. Whether you want to license an existing track, or a bespoke production.

2. Don’t Hold Back On Music Criteria

Maybe you and the production team (including director, brand and marketing managers, editors) already have specific wishes for the music. Maybe you’re even coming to a music agency with a specific song that you’d like to use, or a specific bespoke music piece that you’d like to create. But it is more common to bring a set of wishes to the table for genre, mood, tempo, vocals, lyrics, famous/unknown, and era of release. Including instructions for each of these factors increases the chance that the music agency comes back to you with well matching options.

3. From Brand Values To Sonic Values

This is a given, but make sure to include relevant information about the brand, and the overall campaign that the advertisement is part of. A well developed brand has its own recognizable identity. So it’s useful for a music agency to have a proper background of the brand values and its short and long term marketing goals. Even more so when the project is in the realm of sonic branding. Like when creating a sound logo or an entire sonic identity for a brand to be implemented across all brand touchpoints.

Sometimes there are certain musical conventions for entire product groups that stretch beyond individual brands. It’s the job of the music agency to be hyper-aware of these conventions and to make a decision to either stick to the conventions, or break free from them. But in a perfect world, a customer should be able to tell whether they are watching an ad for a car, webshop or travel agency, just by hearing the music.

4. Get Your Terms Straight

A factor that has a surprisingly large influence on the choice of music (and price of clearance) is the set of usage terms. Examples are:

✓ Period
(When is the campaign running and for how long?)

✓ Territory
(Is the campaign worldwide? Or restricted to certain continents, countries or regions?)

✓ Types of media
(Will this campaign be online only? Or will it be shown on tv, in cinemas, or at B2B events?)

✓ Pushed promotion
(Is the campaign going to be backed by sponsored posts on social media and in (YouTube) pre rolls?)

Make sure to include as much of these terms as possible. The more information the music supervisor has, the better their strategic approach can be when clearing or creating music.

5. Effectively Applying The Budget

This leads us into the most dreaded but perhaps most deciding factor; budget. All of the terms listed above influence the price to license a song for an ad. Going from an obscure song by a local band to a song by the Beatles or Beyonce is obviously going to increase the price point dramatically. But so will going from a nationwide online campaign to a worldwide theatrical (cinema) campaign. As it is such an important factor, make sure to (roughly) indicate the budget that is available for the music from the start. This doesn’t have to be an exact number, a rough estimate or budget range will do fine for the beginning fase. You could always say: ‘Let’s try to stay below (X amount) with a preliminary search, but if need be, there is room to stretch to (Y amount)’.