A senior creative confided in me the other day – he didn’t like briefing music, didn’t feel he could talk about music and wished he could ‘brief music better’.
I was somewhat taken aback. Over the three or four projects we had previously worked on together I had never detected any lack of confidence with music briefing.
He expanded: “Oh I really hate dealing with music. I don’t have the language or the experience or the skills to talk about music. I’m intimidated and at sea with the whole prospect of thinking about music, I don’t have the vocabulary and quite happy to pass it on to someone else to deal with!”
It doesn’t have to be like this – briefing music can be good fun and an exciting part of the process. A little bit of forethought with the music can be a fantastic opportunity to be really creative and brave, creating an amazing piece of music that people will remember and become part of the DNA of your ad/film/TV show/experience.
We often help agencies write music briefs, which can be shared with the team or client for sign off – this process can be a very helpful tool in focusing everybody on the same page at the beginning.
So, if you’re at sea with music and need to think about formulating a music brief, this is for you:
How DO you brief music well and, in doing so get the best from your music company?
If you can get your head around the first two points, the rest will fall into place. Let’s not get bogged down with genre or style yet.
What Makes You Think You Need Music?
Seems an obvious question to kick off. If you already know you need music, your brief is beginning to crystallise.
Does the music need to tell a story? To convey a mood or a feeling? To highlight tension and relief? To make a proposition more sexy and exciting?
Research shows: “Brands with music that fit their brand identity are 96% more likely to be recalled than those with non-fit music, or no music at all. Respondents are 24% more likely to buy a product with music that they recall, like and understand.”
Creative considerations aside, it’s obviously worth getting right.
How Should The Music Make Us Feel?
The primary reason people listen to music is to feel something.
If you can identify first what emotion(s) you want the audience to feel, your music brief will begin to form. Do we want to feel uplifted, surprised, empathetic, cool, sexy, excited? We’re still not going to think about style or genre yet.
I once worked with a director whilst scoring a series about two plastic surgeons in Miami. The director had said he found briefing music difficult. On asking him “how should the music make us feel?” He said simply, “I want to feel nothing but sexual tension!” It was a great brief – an entirely open and free brief, but you knew exactly how he wanted the audience to feel.
Things can get really interesting when you start to mix things up and get to ‘sexy and uplifting – and cool’. That’s where the fun starts.
The Method of Delivery
The next thing to think about is how your music could deliver these emotions. Or course, music can do unexpected things. It can work against a film, create a friction or juxtaposition against a film, and transform your experience totally. Music can work very subtly – under the radar, or high octane, describing the action – telling us how to feel at specific moments. Or a song, that might totally ignore the action but provide an overarching mood. So many options.
The build-up section in the finale of Mahler’s 8th can invoke the same uplifting euphoria as the build up in David Guetta’s ‘Titanium’. We’re still not going to think about genre or style quite yet.
‘We don’t know what we want but we’ll know it when we hear it’
An ‘open brief’. We often get this brief, and they can be great fun to work on. Sometimes it can be helpful not to throw the brief out too wide. Listening to 30 demos won’t make your life any easier. However, if you’ve identified the first two points, you’re already there.
I’ve got a music reference – is that any help?
Well, if you’ve got this far you’re obviously thinking about genre and style. Yes, sometimes it can be helpful to have references, especially as examples of tone, style or period, or an emotion. All are good especially if it sparks a useful conversation.
The best calls we get are when someone phones and says “Ok, we know we need music, we know what it should do, but we’re not quite sure what”. Any music production company would be happy to chat about what might work or what would be worth experimenting with.
Getting to a point with a concise brief will mean you won’t be needing loads of options – which will make your life easier.
In the end, a great music agency/production company’s job is to do just that. To make something – to create from nothing – a work that everyone loves.
That’s the advantage of bespoke music. Recall of your client’s brand can be better as this is the only place that the audience hears the track.
And it’s a great part of the process, worth taking advantage of, and getting maximum creative value for it!
Toby Jarvis is founder of A-MNEMONIC Music