In part 3 of our series of articles on choosing the right music for your production, we look at different types of music and interesting ways to use it.
Often used for Comedic effect it can be very useful to create that ‘tongue-in-cheek’, satirical and sarcastic feel to any scene, especially the more slapstick the action is. It can work best of all when the character so desperately wants to be taken seriously, and yet they appear so inept.
One of my favourites – life is complicated enough, so let’s not forget…sometimes ‘all you need is love’…and a simple, catchy track, with a melody that will drive people insane (hopefully, in a good way!). Music doesn’t have to be over analysed. Each time they hum or whistle that damn track, they think of the scene, commercial or even self-help video, who knows how powerful that could be in someone’s life!
So, we know music is used for a wide array of reasons – artistic, conveying a message, thought or idea, or sometimes simply as wallpaper / background, adding that 3rd dimension, to bring a scene to life. TV and radio commercials are a different beast – using a famous song or well-known orchestral piece for example brings immediate awareness to a campaign, product or service. Association through music is a powerful thing. First hand experience of this was a few years ago…standing in the queue about to pay for my groceries.
A young women was standing in front of me quietly singing a very familiar song. Several seconds later, when she started to sing the chorus, I realized it was a song I had written for a sofa commercial. It’s hoped that she went on to think about how she knew it and where it was from……job done!
Sometimes images and dialogue alone are not enough to get the message across - enter MUSIC. It can often convey your message better than anything, as the right track can tap into all sorts of senses. It can remind you of good or bad times in your life, an era or decade that had a special feel to it - people, places or memorable events.
Sounds like the least important role of them all, certainly true compared to a featured track or the opening titles of a movie, but its role is often underestimated. Just like the colour scheme in a newly decorated room, it may not be the main feature of the room, but it is probably the main factor in creating the tone and ambience of the entire room. Musically speaking, it can be as sparse as a drone - single held note or a piece of sound design - through to a fully formed track, with beat, light and unobtrusive melody. As with themes or motifs associated with particular characters within a film, or products in TV and radio commercials, Background or the somewhat derogatory term ‘Wallpaper’, can be the ‘entire’ production’s audio identity.
Yes, I know, we’re not really supposed to mention that this happens, but it does…all too often i.e. “we would really like to use Led Zeppelin’s ‘Whole Lotta Love’, but don’t have $3 million…could you create something that gives me that feel, for…say $500?” From a composer’s point of view, using a reference track can be very useful, as it immediately gives you all the information you need, except for a few inevitable specifics. It will certainly give clarity to style, feel and the general tone, as well an idea of pace and instrumentation. This method can be very useful, especially when the person who is commissioning you has a limited musical vocabulary, but is decisive in what they want.
Happy Birthday To You generates aproximately $2 million annually, on a copyright that probably doesn’t even exist…but that’s another story!
“Lovely Rita” by The Beatles, used to introduce Tom Hanks as the final guest on Conan O’Briens’ final ‘Tonight Show’, reportedly cost NBC $500,000.
(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction, again used by Conan O’Brien to introduce Adam Sandler. He wanted the last laugh when NBC replaced him - setting NBC back $500,000 (again!)
Tomorrow Never Knows - $250,000 1 episode. Mad Men spent 5 times the usual music licence fee, a staggering $250,000 to use the master recording “Tomorrow Never Knows” by the Beatles in one episode (for purely artistic purposes, as the creator of “Mad Men” Matt Weiner felt he had no other options for the psychedelic scene – the only song to capture the mood of the time and meaning of the show… He also had very deep pockets! Very rare thing, normally it is a cover by another band – However, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Yoko Ono and Olivia Harrison agreed for it to be used, as they’re all fans of the show.
“Revolution” again by The Beatles. Nike reportedly paid $250,000 to use the song in one of its commercials back in 1987.
Average commercial license fee is somewhere between $75,000 – 200,000.