Embracing technology is only hope for bespoke music composers

MusicBrief’s Matt Hayward says technology might be the only way to resurrect the (nearly) lost art of bespoke music composition in advertising.

As modern-day advertising production budgets continue to shrink and content producers find themselves under increasing time pressures – producing larger volumes of work on tighter deadlines – we are seeing an amplified use of production library music.

Yet this trend sits at odds with the, often undisputed, opinion that bespoke composition yields more powerful results. So, what does that mean for the future of music in advertising? Most music houses may say, ‘bleak’, but advances in technology mean we might very well be on the crux of something far more exciting.

In the not too distant past, when budgets were healthier and content producers had more time, agency creatives had a preference for using bespoke music to help tell their stories.

What they knew back then, as many still do today, was that by scoring to picture, the screen composer was able to punctuate the narrative giving the audience vital emotional cues which help create a human connection with the viewer or audience.

Bespoke music nowadays, however, is increasingly viewed as too expensive and time consuming to procure by many content producers, especially the young ones coming onto the scene and have only ever known the quick, cheap and easily accessible library music option.

The fact that brands are missing an opportunity to connect with their customers seems to have just gone out of the window. Brands are quite often missing a huge opportunity to connect with their audience and customers alike, and accordingly their message is being watered down.

Don’t get me wrong, library music definitely has it’s place. It can work brilliantly, especially if you’re lucky enough to find a track that hits some of the key points in the story and helps add a bit of light or shade.

Equally if you have a talented editor who can edit the music in a way to have the same effect. But rarely does it cause a deep human reaction, connection or an emotion – like making the hairs on the back of your neck stick up or causing you to cry. It wasn’t scored to picture, that’s why.

There are two key reasons brands and agencies often turn to production library music:


Production music is quite often the choice, because the music procurement process is most often left to the last minute – usually a day or two before the spot is due to go out.

Content producers have come to rely on library music, as they know there will always be a track that will “fit”. Often the final decision of which track is used, is referred to the client, so they know there will always be a resolution.

Library is also often used when licencing for another piece of music has fallen through at the last minute, or for the likes of smaller budget reactive online content films that are being churned out quickly. The current process for commissioning a composition isn’t often built for a speedy turnaround.


Due to the time element required from a composer, as well as the costs of running a music house with full-time producers and premises, composition can’t quite compete on the price point of pre-approved library music.

There are exceptions to this rule of course – for example if your budget stretches to licensing a Coldplay track, or the message in the film is that of the retail variety and there is no story or narrative per say – for these types of films a piece of background music will quite often suffice.

But for everything else in between – original music, scored to picture is considered the Rolls Royce of music in marketing and advertising. The challenge for original music composers and music houses is how to provide their services at a price point that is still relative.

We can’t, of course, bring back the past. We’re too deep into a world conditioned by social media, music streaming and content fatigue that has ground budgets down and shortened lead times. But technology can provide us with something quite exciting – a shake-up of the music procurement process.

By utilising technology, we can remove the majority of the overheads and manual processes associated with running a music house that make it slow and costly:


Take out unnecessary manual steps. Submit briefs online via your phone or laptop and instantly put it in front of composers. Those who work at lightning fast speeds, using rich sample libraries and have instant access to vocalists and session players working across the internet.


Take away the expensive real estate in Surry Hills / Soho / West Hollywood / Chelsea, the staffing costs, the electric bills and so on and you can make the process a hell of a lot more affordable.

Not only allowing a flexible working lifestyle for composers but the ability to build a rate card around a completely new model.

Composition isn’t dead. We can still provide what creatives want – a platform that can deliver original music in a similar way that sync music is delivered and procured.

Matt Hayward is founder and executive producer at MusicBrief.


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