Unlocking Music Licensing's ROI

Unlocking Music Licensing's ROI

The possibilities to ‘get your brand heard’ are more plentiful than ever before, with the rise in podcast advertising, YouTube’s global reach and platforms such as TikTok centering on ‘sound on’ content.

What do you need to think about when it comes to crafting a music strategy for brand differentiation? Strategic selection of music in ad campaigns can unlock impressive returns on investment (ROI), through brand perception, recall and emotional engagement. We’re here to show you how…

Music Psychology in Advertising

‘When people hear a piece of music they like, they share the content that’s associated with it. The true impact that it should have on any ad is not, “Does it tell the story?” but, “Does it get you more ‘likes’ and shares and views?”’ - Daniel Jackson, CEO, Cord Worldwide

When it comes to music and advertising, the two go hand in hand, and each can enhance the other. Plus, science shows that the right soundtrack can enhance brand recall and memorability. Industry bible The Drum quotes a report by Spotify that shows that audio ads caused a 24% higher brand recall than visual ads (which is also great news for radio ads).

Watch our Music Makes It video to see exactly what we mean:

A study by Man Made Music suggests that music can improve brand recognition by 46%, with another by PHMG finding that 74% of young adults develop a better understanding of a company’s personality through music – showing the massive impact of music on brand identity. 

Music Branding Strategies

Look at Netflix if you want an example of successfully aligning a brand logo with a sound – that ‘Tu Dummm’ is now so recognisable that ‘Tudum’ is the official Netflix site that takes you behind the scenes of all your favourite shows. Plus, because of all those ‘must watch’ binge shows on Netflix, such as Stranger Things, Black Mirror and Bridgerton – not to mention the streamer’s true crime hits - the audio logo creates a jolt of subliminal emotion too: from excitement to dread and anticipation. It’s the sound that says, ‘you’re not going anywhere for the next few hours: make sure you’ve got enough snacks.’

Netflix built a whole campaign – ‘Sounds like a good story is about to start’ – around the brand recognition for ‘Tudum’:

The Apple TV+ audio logo is even simpler – which is impressive when the visual logo is black and white and in lower case; the audio is arguably having to work even harder to make an impact: 

So, in terms of brand perception, audio can really help to get you across the line.  

Beyond brand recall, music can obviously be used to generate emotions – UC Berkeley scientists have identified at least 13 fundamental emotions, including joy, amusement, relaxation, anxiety, sadness, triumph, scariness, defiance and feeling pumped up, in a survey of over 2,500 people. They recorded their emotional response to songs from genres as varied as jazzrockclassicalfolkheavy metal and even marching bands.  

Whether you’re using Ed Sheeran’s ‘Shape of You’ to spark joy, or a national anthem to stir pride, bear in mind if you’re a global brand that people from different cultures might have a different emotional reaction to a track.

The study showed that Vivaldi’s Four Seasons made people feel energised; ‘Rock the Casbah’ by The Clash pumped them up. Heavy metal is largely viewed as being defiant; everyone agreed that Psycho ’s screeching violins triggered an almost primal fear. 

When it comes to music selection, bear in mind what you want your audience to do, as well as how you want them to feel. If the music is prominent and it’s driving the creative and the message, this aids audience involvement, whilst more discreet music can be better at conveying news – think of new product or service announcements.  

Whether you want your music in the foreground or the background, we have an unparalleled selection, covering every mood and genre. Check out our collections and playlists for masses of inspiration.  

Maximising ROI through Music Licensing

Music might be a universal language, but we don’t always pay enough attention to what it’s saying and how it’s being understood. 

The UC Berkeley researchers translated their data into an interactive audio map – you can move your cursor to listen to thousands of music snippets to find out if your emotional reactions match how others respond to the music.  

Music can fast-track or slow down your story, not to mention inspiring the desired action from consumers. It’s a vital connecting link between the audience and the screen, making your commercials dynamic and compelling. 

Target Audience Analysis for Music Selection

How do you pick music that resonates with consumers to maximise your ROI? First things first: identify your target audience. It’s vital to conduct thorough audience analysis to establish who they are and their preferences and values, in order to then select the music that will appeal to them and amplify your brand identity. 

Make sure they know the music you’re using, that it’s emotionally congruent and culturally relevant – especially if you’re targeting Gen Z.  

Sir John Hegarty, founder of ad agency Bartle Bogle Hegarty (who forged a 28-year partnership with Levi’s and created some truly iconic ads in the process, such as Nick Kamen’s 80s ‘Launderette’ and the phenomenon that was Flat Eric), maintains that, ‘The selection of music for advertising campaigns is and should remain driven by the creative idea.’ 

BBH chose a number of classic 50s and 60s tracks for their Levi’s ads in the mid-80s. Whilst familiar to older customers who had always bought Levi’s (thus capitalising on nostalgia), these tracks sounded completely new to the teen and 20s audience that Levi’s were targeting at the time. BBH then moved to breaking new artists in their 90s ads for the brand – licensing music that hasn’t been widely used before avoids the risk of ‘brand misattribution’. 

So, there are a few tactics at play here: 

  • Use a pre-existing track that you can present as a ‘new’ find to a younger generation (think Kate Bush’s ‘Running up that Hill’ in Stranger Things) 
  • License a track that’s currently hugely popular with your target audience 
  • Commission a new track, or license music from Audio Network, to get something unique 

Measuring ROI

In terms of working out the Return on Investment (ROI) of the money you’re spending on music licensing – or on creating unique tracks – there are a few ways to go about it.  

When it comes to measuring the effectiveness of music in ads, you can: 

  • Track brand recognition through surveys or focus groups 
  • Monitor sales data – for example a study in the Journal of Marketing found that shoppers who heard music in a shop spend up to 38% more money. Track your sales data before and after using a track to get a picture of how music is impacting your bottom line 
  • Measure customer loyalty and retention rates before and after implementing any kind of sonic branding 
  • Analyse social media engagement – tracking likes, comments and shares on social media posts can all be useful in terms of sensing how well your music is resonating with your audience 

Whilst you might think it’s worth a large proportion of your budget to license a hugely popular track to resonate with your target audience, this isn’t necessarily the case.  

Immersion is a measurement of a person’s neurologic connection to an experience or piece of content, which is captured via a heart reading measurement device (such as an Apple Watch) and transferred into a score based on an algorithm. 

To measure whether familiar or unfamiliar music had the best result, Immersion took three ads with no dialogue, from Kuhl outdoor clothing, Stance socks and Nivea spray sunblock. They then tested the ads with brand-appropriate, familiar Top 20 songs (from pre-2000) and songs which had fewer than 13,000 Spotify streams for ‘less popular’ music.  

Choosing songs from pre-2000 – i.e. before the rise of digital streaming – meant that the songs chosen had a greater chance of being familiar to the audience. Pre-streaming, music was more of a ‘monoculture’, with most of us finding our music through listening to the radio and, crucially, listening to the whole track. No ‘skip’ option back then.  

The Immersion scores were analysed both individually for each ad and grouped as ‘popular’ and ‘less popular’ music. The researchers were surprised to find that in both instances, the less popular music outperformed the popular music.   

The takeaway from this is that a) you probably don’t need to spend thousands trying to license a global hit and b) testing your ad with different music selections to see which resonates most is definitely a good use of time and money. The data proves that the popularity of a song doesn’t significantly drive immersion or future action in your audience. 

For example, Nike created a custom track for their Emmy award-winning ‘You Can’t Stop Us’ spot, which was created to foster a spirit of hope after the pandemic.  

Nike worked with Cowboys in Japan to re-record a portion of their track ‘Daylight’ in order to complement the edit perfectly. 

However, let’s look at another global brand: Coca-Cola, who are one of the renowned experts at choosing music for advertising (think of their classic 70s, ‘I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing’ campaigns). 

With the average American listening to more than four hours of music each day, multi-million dollar deals with artists can still be worthwhile when forging a connection to hundreds of millions worldwide. 

An artist’s bond with their fan base can both keep the company current, and lead to cross-marketing opportunities. As a heritage brand, Coke needs to target children and teens in order to refresh its image with a younger audience.  

Check out this ad featuring Taylor Swift for Coca-Cola, which also plugs her album: 

This spot puts Taylor’s music and fans centre-stage: 

Coca-Cola has taken this a step further with its Coke Studio music platform, complete with a Europe-wide ‘Summer of music’ promotion; a digital-first, always-on platform acting as a global stage for breakthrough artists and hosting its own festival in Madrid.  

A Coke spokesperson flagged the importance of music for one of their key demographics as a driver for their music partnerships: 

‘We know the power of music to unite and uplift people and particularly to evoke emotions, aid self-expression and create memorable experiences. For many, it is the beating heart of magical shared experiences, and of course, we know it is a key passion point for our Gen Z audience. Our renewed music partnerships across Europe will allow us to deliver “once-in-a-lifetime” experiences that we believe will ignite a truly memorable summer of events.’

Coke also partnered with Lollapalooza Stockholm, Untold in Romania and Tomorrowland in Belgium to create immersive, access all areas programmes to drive engagement.  

Betty Alekou, Brand Director at The Coca-Cola Company, added, ‘Gen Z are redefining creativity… they’re first on trends and connect with music both physically and virtually.’ 

Coke Studio launched in 2022, working with artists from a range of backgrounds to create original songs. Josh Burke, Global Head of Music and Culture Marketing at Coca-Cola, said that, ‘we’re looking at music more holistically than just the song in the ad… We really strive to create a music culture through our brand that enables this connection to happen authentically, leveraging artists, of course, but also by creating music experiences that make the programme richer.’ 

This Coke Studio collab brings together Imagine Dragons with the Inner City Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles for a performance of ‘Symphony’ that fuses rock with classical to create a ‘Real Magic’ moment courtesy of the brand: 

By strategically bringing together two diverse music audiences, Coke have expanded their brand message even further. It’s a highly successful way of enhancing brand messaging with music.  

Dialling up the Emotion

As well as creating experiences, you can also forge an emotional connection through music selection. Just think of all those John Lewis Christmas campaigns, where the tracks are carefully chosen to reinforce the feelings of the ad – generally covers of well-known songs that go alongside a heartwarming storyline.  

Lily Allen’s cover of ‘Somewhere Only We Know’, soundtracked the gorgeous animation for ‘The Bear and the Hare’: 

The combination of the ad and the track not only took the song to No. 1 in the charts, but also helped to generate over 53 million YouTube views for this video – which cannily shows a behind the scenes of the artistry used to create the ad, for an added brand boost:  

It’s the perfect example of brand storytelling through music – the tracks they pick are very familiar, but the versions that John Lewis use are different. It makes you listen to the track in a new way, and suggests that it’s unique to the ad. By often using younger artists, they appeal to a wider demographic who’ll be drawn to engage with the ad because they’re a fan.  

Reportedly costing £1 million to make, ‘The Bear and the Hare’ resulted in online sales increasing by nearly 23% for John Lewis and overall seasonal sales that totalled £734 million. Like for like sales compared with Christmas two years previously were up 20.5% - it’s pretty stellar in terms of ROI. 

What other tips can we give you? Well, apart from choosing the right track and artist, making sure the music works with the structure and tone of your ad is also crucial; are you bringing the drama, music-wise, at the right moments to create your desired emotional effect? 

Adapting Music to Different Media Platforms

Industry experts Kantar say that 84% of the ads that they test globally have music. However, if you’re licensing music to increase your ROI, then think carefully about where you’re placing your ad: sound is much less likely to be on in some platforms. While subtitles are commonplace, if your ad doesn’t work without the music, then avoid these environments or platforms.  

Kantar’s Link ad testing database shows that 50% of Facebook ads contain music – but behavioural metrics suggest that around 85% of viewing on Facebook is done with the sound off. That’s potentially a lot of unjustified expense. YouTube and TikTok? Very much ‘sound on’ platforms, with TikTok in particular having music at its heart.  

Best Practices for Effective Music Licensing

On average, music is around 4% of an ad’s production budget. However, there are ways in which you can use music licensing to save you money. By re-using the same creative, but setting it to new music, you can save on production costs and give an already successful ad a longer lifespan. 

Mercedes’ adorable ‘Snow Date’ ad, for example, used two different tracks – ‘Feel My Love’ and ‘Don’t Ever Lose Your Innocence’: 

When you’re looking for ad music, you need to be across copyright. It’s easy to fall foul of licensing on platforms such as YouTube (which can take down your channel if you’re found to be flouting the rules.) 

Here are the basics of copyright music: 

  • The copyright holder of a music piece – often called the ‘author’ – is the person who created the song. Usually, this is a composer or a lyricist. 
  • The author possesses the right to ensure others are not reproducing, distributing, utilising, performing or playing the song in public without their permission.  
  • Regardless of the genre, the author automatically gains copyright protection when they create a musical composition. 
  • A musical piece is protected under copyright law for the author’s entire lifetime, plus 70 years. After this, the music becomes part of the public domain.  

Licensing popular tracks can be expensive, so if your brand doesn’t have a big budget for music, then look to a reputable music licensing platform like Audio Network. Thousands of original, high-quality tracks are at your fingertips, with all the licensing pre-cleared for global use.  

Using pre-cleared music ensures that you’re adhering to all compliance rules and avoiding any potential legal issues. Find out more about licensing by reading Audio Network’s FAQs. 

Find out more about licensing with our explainer: 

What about if you’re an artist, or own the rights to a specific recording of a piece of music? Usually, the author or composer of a track (whether it’s the music or lyrics) assigns the copyright to a publisher to license for them. The piece stays under copyright for the duration of the author’s life, plus an additional 70 years. For sound recordings, in most countries it’s 70 years from the end of the calendar year of release (if it was first released after 1963), and sound recordings are usually licensed by the record label 

The Musicians’ Union has an in-depth explainer if you need more information as a copyright owner. 

Helping Brands to Tell Their Stories

Here at Audio Network, we’ve been fortunate enough to contribute music to enthralling brand stories from LEGO to Durex, BP to Lipton Tea.   

If you’re interested in using one of our syncs, submit a music brief and our expert in-house teams can curate a selection of tracks, carefully tailored to your project, for more help in licensing music that’s going to maximise your ROI and develop effective music curation for brand consistency. 


Need Music for Your Project?

At Audio Network we create original music, of the highest quality, for broadcastersbrandcreatorsagencies and music fans everywhere. Through clear and simple licensing, we can offer you a huge variety of the best quality music across every conceivable mood and genre. Find out how we can connect you with the perfect collaborator today by clicking the button below!

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