Musical monetisation: how adland secures rights to wallet-opening tunes

Music plays an important role in advertising. Songs can be inspiring, mood lifting, and according to the ‘Mozart effect’, may also improve memory. Everyone remembers ‘that song from that ad’, and in some cases more than they remember the actual ad.

When a client seeks the use of a song there are two licenses that need to be negotiated, one for the copyright that exists in the composition of the song and one for the rights to the master, aka the recording.

This is where Franklin Rd come in. With its knowledge of copyright networks and the music business, clients can approach the team with a particular song in mind and it will begin investigations into the cost or use of the license. Franklin Rd director Jonathan Hughes says while doing this, the team will work out the provenance of the song, who controls it and who wrote it.

“For example there’s going to be multiple publishers to deal with and on the record side and there could be more than one record label to talk to, so we will go and talk to all those people and try get them on the same page. Then we will go back to the client with an ‘indicative ballpark costing’ as it is called and then a negotiation starts from there.”

Throughout the process there is a lot of backwards and forwards between clients and Franklin Rd until a point is reached where everyone is happy about the rights and the fees.

Only then can Franklin Rd approach the songwriter and artist for formal approval of the song’s use.

“It’s a very complicated thing, it’s not like ordering a pizza, every song presents a unique situation because it’s all about a different group of people who might have been involved in the writing or recording of the song.”

For some clients, the process is longer as there isn’t a particular song that is wanted and Franklin Rd will have the task of finding one. Being an independent music license company means it is not aligned with any copyright owners so Hughes says the team can farm out and discuss the brief with record labels and publishers across the world.

“We’ll put our headphones on and just kind of lose ourselves in the script and the brief and we’ll put together as many songs as we can in the time that we’ve got to do that.”

However, there are cases where an existing song will not fit the brief. Hughes says music is used to “create the tone, help paint a picture, sell an emotion and tell a story” and whatever those may be, they will dictate whether or not the right music should be a piece of production music or a composed piece.

When a composed score or song is found to be the best fit, Franklin Rd will call on one of its three composers to create original pieces for the client. Hughes says this is the easiest way to ensure an ad will not breach any copyright laws as well as providing the best value to the client.

“It’s cheaper and more cost effective for a client to compose something but then if that’s not the right solution the investment is made in a licensed track and I mean with those budgets it really does depend on who the artist is, who controls the song, there really are a lot of variables and that dictates the level of money that you are talking about.”

As well as the people who control the song, the price a client will pay is determined by the platform the ad will play on. Hughes says the less media that is used, the lower the cost will be because there will be a smaller number of executions.

He also says “huge big hit” songs demand a bigger price.

Whatever the negotiation, Hughes says clients will spend tens of thousands of dollars but it’s how many tens of thousands of dollars that Franklin Rd can help negotiate.

“We get as much of a thrill from the negotiation process as we do from creating value for the client, I mean no one wants to go spend tens of thousands of dollars on it if they don’t need to but if we can help get a better return on investment then we get a thrill from that.”

Here are some of the ads Franklin Rd has worked on behind the scenes.

Even once all parties agree with the license, not all of the work is over. Within the license is a set term that the song can be used in, after which the license should be renewed or the ad taken down.

While it sounds black and white, Hughes says there is a grey area in the pragmatic sense.

On the Franklin Rd website are examples of its work, including the ads that have used licensed music that are no longer on air.

“For us it’s a different story in a sense, that’s where the greyness comes because we are helping to make the work and that’s what we do and how we make a living so we should be able to show those pieces of work as part of what we do.”

One reason copyright owners want to ensure that ads are pulled as soon as the license expires is because through the internet, they have the ability to affect how the song is used in other parts of the world.

Hughes says the internet is making the world an increasingly smaller place and campaigns from one country are now able to be viewed around the world.

“The copyright owners will want the person who is using work in Australia or New Zealand, or wherever it might be, to geo-block those territories so that if you’ve got an IP address outside of Australia or New Zealand, then you can’t see that work and that’s purely to protect the value of the copyright in other parts of the world.”

This is why YouTube users are sometimes unable to view particular videos in their territory.

“It is frustrating but it’s copyright owners protecting the value of their copyright.”

While the process to gaining rights is complex, music is an effective and memorable medium which has cemented many catchy tunes in the consciousness of New Zealanders, like this pearler for example:

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