The music business has a new beat: Madison Avenue.
Music labels, publishers and songmakers have found an increasingly lucrative niche in licensing or making songs for marketers and advertisers looking for just the right 30-second soundtracks for their commercials. Helping to make music a hit with marketers is technology that's made it easier to store, share and make music for ads.
Ad use is welcome revenue for the music industry, which is seeing consumer sales continue to slide — down 29% since 2005, according to the Recording Industry Association of America.
"It's more and more an important stream of revenue for the music industry," says Geoff Mayfield, director of charts at trade magazine Billboard. "Album sales have been down for the last six years and are likely to be down again."
Music industry representatives will be looking to drum up more business this week in and around the award ceremonies, seminars and parties here at the annual Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival. The creative competition — 28,284 entries in 11 ad categories this year — attracts thousands of top-level ad types from around the world. Entries for Best Use of Music are up 23% from last year, to 139, and up 50% in the past five years.
Advertisers' appetite for hit music in ads, or songs composed to sound like hits, has largely sent the old hard-sell jingles, with campy music and product lyrics, the way of vinyl LPs.
"Before I was in the business they were using jingles all the time," says Josh Rabinowitz, senior director of music for ad agency Grey Worldwide. He'll host a seminar about commercial music at Cannes with Grammy-winning singer Tony Bennett. "They were a little cheesy; they weren't hip, not cutting edge — and not in tune with modern pop culture."
Today's advertisers want their music to be cool.
"No one ever calls up and says, 'I want to sound like an ad,' " says Marc Altshuler, a partner in New York City-based music production house Human Worldwide. "They say, 'I want to sound like a hit on the radio.' "
Aggressive efforts by music labels and publishers to sell their existing songs have increased the competition faced by companies such as Human that create original tracks for ads.
"Within the past year there's been some sort of palatial shift in the record and publishing industries to monetize their back and current catalog and for emerging artists to find an outlet for their music," says Andy Bloch, also a partner at Human.
The agency has a staff of 11 full-time composers, most of whom play multiple instruments, and has written songs for such advertisers as Coca-Cola ko, Procter & Gamble pg, Nike nke and Sprint s.
This year Human has two songs entered for Cannes Lions, including one written for Coke and another for Al Gore's The Climate Project.
The agency is a music factory stocked, for example, with more than 100 guitars, including a Fender Stratocaster and a Gibson Les Paul. Each of the composers' offices is a mini-studio that's wired into a recording studio so that as they cut a song, everyone can listen and give feedback.
Advertisers pay Human $10,000 to $200,000 for music, depending on the length of the music used and when and where the ad will run. The fee gets an advertiser a choice of 12 to 20 tracks and all rights to the song or music without additional fees.
Getting the right chemistry