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Custom Music? Ad Agencies?
Old 27th May 2019
  #1
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Custom Music? Ad Agencies?

Does anybody have experience in doing custom music for ad agencies?

How was it compared to creating music for production music libraries?
Old 29th May 2019
  #2
Quote:
Originally Posted by youngrichyrich View Post
Does anybody have experience in doing custom music for ad agencies?

How was it compared to creating music for production music libraries?
Yup... it sucks for the most part but the money is good. The problem with doing custom music for ad agencies is there are 50 cooks in the kitchen, each with their own unique idea as to how they want the spot to play.

so be ready for 30 to 50 rounds of revisions and then having to make 3 or 4 completely separate versions with 3 or 4 different lead vocalists on each version.

As you start to do it more you realize that you need to specify that revisions are an additional fee after a certain amount and additional versions are additional fees. And try to never do an all-inclusive deal where you are paying for production out of your own pocket... cuz they'll have you record with 3 different orchestras in three different parts of the world, 4 different rhythm section, two different choirs, 6 different lead vocalists, etc. trying to find the "right" sound for their spot. And while they are extremely creative people, they don't usually know how to communicate musically... so you get a lot of imagery, analogy and metaphor when they start talking about what they want. It's never cut and dry "I really think we need something that feels down home and quirky". It's like.. "we need something that says "hello I'm a fluffy cloud on a sunny spring day combined with the smell of a nearby stream and dandelions, yes dandelions! Must have lots of dandelions in the music!!!" LOL Sounds funny but this is what you get. And because of that it is always open to a lot of interpretation on your part... which means you usually are never going to get it right in at least the first couple of tries.

The problem with most Ad Execs is they don't know what they want, but they do know what they DON'T want. every person involved on their end wants something different... and then when they present all the various versions/ideas... the client will hate all of them and send them off on another wild goose chase in a completely different direction... which means even more rewrites and revisions and re-recording for you to do.

With all that said, there have been some really great ones that I've worked on for Coke, Harley Davidson, Fox, NBC, Clear Channel, Saatchi & Saatchi, etc. So you have to take the bad with the good.
Old 29th May 2019
  #3
Quote:
Originally Posted by youngrichyrich View Post
Does anybody have experience in doing custom music for ad agencies?

How was it compared to creating music for production music libraries?
Oh and the other thing I forgot to mention too was when they ask you to do a demo on spec... and then they start asking for revisions for the demo because "everyone really likes it and you are the front runner"... and so you do all this work... they might even ask you to record real vocals and maybe some other instruments... again... all on spec with the assumption/assurance that the gig is pretty much yours... and then they tell you the client decided to spent $500,000 or $1mil to license a famous song... and because everything you did was on spec you will never get paid for any of it. That's always fun!

That happened to me on a national ad for a food chain.. they wanted classic 80's hair metal sounding stuff... kept doing revisions... then the note was the client really likes it but feels it sounds a little cheesy and they are leaning towards another track... do you think you could record live drums instead of fake drums and put a vocalist on it... ok... they come back... it sounds great but the client decided to license a motley crue song and master for the spot... thanks! In reality, they were always going to license the motley crue song, but they just wanted to see how good you could get it (without having to pay for it) to see if they could get something that sounded close enough for 1/10th the cost... when it doesn't... they decide they are willing to spend the $$$ on the famous song. Great... thanks for making me jump through all these hoops and spend my own money to NOT get the gig. I appreciate it.... you live and you learn. Note to self added - Always demand a kill fee for spec work up front. LOL!
Old 1st June 2019
  #4
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elambo's Avatar
As with any genre of business, there are tough clients and there are easy clients, and it's no different in the ad world. Above, you've described some activities which aren't exactly rare, but more common with the "tough" clients, and typically they're the younger creatives (who don't trust their hired guns to do what they do) or those in a corporate environment where they're afraid to be screw up and get critiqued poorly. Of course we don't often want to say no to these clients, but, in my experience, they're not the norm. 30 to 50 "rounds" of revisions is something I've never come across in my ~25 years. 30 to 50 total tracks under consideration, yes, but not "rounds" of revisions on top of any tracks.

It's not all gravy either. I've certainly pulled all-nighters and worked holidays to appease a few tough gigs, and a recent client even pushed us through 80 different music tracks, and 7 completely different musical directions, before finalizing, but that's a record-setting job. Most often, several pieces are submitted (e.g. a couple originals from each of our composers as well as a few relevant picks from our library of unsold tracks, if applicable), and then we hone in on a final piece from amongst those and score or revise as necessary. Sometimes this process occurs a couple of times before gaining traction. But I even have a couple clients who tend to go with a single track -- the first track -- because they're seasoned, they know what they're doing and have their clients expectations in clear view, and so the initial creative calls with us are focused and without extra verbiage. So, in my experience, it's not nearly as bad as what's described above.

On a side note, it's become more than just an observation that the shortest music briefs, and quickest music conference calls, tend to lead to the easiest jobs to finish *and* the best final product to boot. These are not only the most rewarding but the best commercials, as a piece of art. It's the highly verbose clients, who prescribe every element and every step that you should follow in order to do your job, who tend to steer difficult and lengthy productions, rendering so-so spots when it's all said and done.

I've written a couple thousand tracks through the years, for just about every brand which advertises on TV, but those larger and more lucrative gigs are getting fewer and further between as budgets tighten and the long-form and online ads get more popular (they don't pay nearly as well as the shorter, national ads). So it's good to seek out several avenues of income, NOT excluding production music libraries. Ad agencies, but also production companies, or direct clients, indy films, and you never know which student film might one day lead you to a long relationship with a future A-list director. So don't automatically say no to those.
Old 1st June 2019
  #5
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elambo's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Etch-A-Sketch View Post
Oh and the other thing I forgot to mention too was when they ask you to do a demo on spec... and then they start asking for revisions for the demo because "everyone really likes it and you are the front runner"... and so you do all this work... they might even ask you to record real vocals and maybe some other instruments... again... all on spec with the assumption/assurance that the gig is pretty much yours... and then they tell you the client decided to spent $500,000 or $1mil to license a famous song... and because everything you did was on spec you will never get paid for any of it. That's always fun!

That happened to me on a national ad for a food chain.. they wanted classic 80's hair metal sounding stuff... kept doing revisions... then the note was the client really likes it but feels it sounds a little cheesy and they are leaning towards another track... do you think you could record live drums instead of fake drums and put a vocalist on it... ok... they come back... it sounds great but the client decided to license a motley crue song and master for the spot... thanks! In reality, they were always going to license the motley crue song, but they just wanted to see how good you could get it (without having to pay for it) to see if they could get something that sounded close enough for 1/10th the cost... when it doesn't... they decide they are willing to spend the $$$ on the famous song. Great... thanks for making me jump through all these hoops and spend my own money to NOT get the gig. I appreciate it.... you live and you learn. Note to self added - Always demand a kill fee for spec work up front. LOL!
Just a quick comment about that specific scenario: yes, that absolutely sucks, and can even make you question your chosen profession (you certainly have some choice words to say to your clients, though you keep them to yourself, of course), but I tend to tell my guys that we shouldn't forget that we're being asked to make music (which we'd be doing as a hobby if it weren't our day gig), and *most* of the time paid rather well for it. It partially makes up for those sh!t gigs like what you mentioned (and btw that exact scenario has occurred to us more than I'd admit). That big picture can get lost sometimes, unless those tough clients who end up using other resources for music aren't even covering your production costs. THAT is something you must avoid. Too many of those gigs and you'll soon be grabbing a job application for Staples.
Old 2nd June 2019
  #6
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Ovee's Avatar
 

I'm wondering about one detail, which is amount of money that we should ask for additional revisions. If for example I'm making custom music for company for 5.000,00$, and we've agreed to 3 revisions after which every next revision will be paid, what will be the fair amount of money for every extra revision?
Old 2nd June 2019
  #7
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drBill's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ovee View Post
I'm wondering about one detail, which is amount of money that we should ask for additional revisions. If for example I'm making custom music for company for 5.000,00$, and we've agreed to 3 revisions after which every next revision will be paid, what will be the fair amount of money for every extra revision?
Musician costs + $2000.
Old 2nd June 2019
  #8
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mbvoxx's Avatar
I was exec producer for a DFW ad agency with a client roster averaging 25 accounts for 14 years, during which time we produced a few dozen custom music tracks for our clients. This included licensing big hits and re-recording them for the ad campaign as well as commissioning various music companies to create custom music for ad campaigns, many with vocals, some without, along with maintaining an annual blanket license with First Com Music.

First: The money for any custom music production is dependent on the usage: What is the product, which market(s), how long, R & TV, Internet, and what the intended lyrics are (especially with re recorded hits) ... all the variables. And, in our case, with all music productions, the lyrics had to be ironed out, approved by all depts & client, and locked in before we started production. Lyrics was always where the idea for custom music began and, in our case, we kept the lyrics to a minimum, concentrating on tag lyrics and not full sings. The announcer has the bulk of the ad time so the last 5 sec of the spot was usually targeted for the musical lyric/tag.

2nd: Our demos for the CEO & sales team were always done in house by me with creative input from the the account crew [writer(s) & graphics team] using a Korg Triton, acoustic & electric guitars, & bass, & drum software. The idea almost always came from someone on the account team, who would share an idea and suggest we build a quick demo to see if it would fly once it was run up the company flagpole.

3rd: Once we nailed it down, had the arrangement worked out, lyrics, etc, and had the company green light, we either;
A) brought in the musicians & singers and I produced it in house, or, if the workload required outside help to hit the deadline,
B) we farmed it out to a music producer in LA or Nashville that we had long working relationships with. That choice depended on the music being produced and what instrumentation was needed, as well as who had the window of time available to hit the deadline.

Vocals were usually recorded in either LA or Dallas, because there is a healthy choice of veteran session and jingle singers available in those markets who can nail it in one take and sing any style you ask of them.

And prior to production, (knowing what media and ad lengths that client normally aired), we determined all variations of mixes we would need then left it to the production team to get it done and deliver the mixes and stems on time. All revisions for customizing down the road were left to me to take care of in editing using the various mixes, iso takes, & stems produced. But I can't recall ever having a revision after the production was a "go".

There was one case where we re recorded a huge hit and sold the recording in various markets. We had one client who didn't want the "hollywood" sounding version of the music and instead wanted a "heartland" sounding mix. So I pulled the drum tracks from the original production and used the exact same "hollywood" drum tracks to create a Mellencamp sounding version. I built the track with an acoustic guitar, Telecaster, P Bass, and an accordion. Then re recorded the lyrics with a solo male country sounding vocal and the client loved it. Same lyrics, same melody, just a different feel...but with the exact same drums. I wouldn't call that a revision though and it was a blast to take on that challenge to please the client and sell the product.

As for the Money: Per our productions

Most single market campaigns had a music budget of $5k for 12 mo use and often came in under that. Multi market use added a per market fee to the original market production, usually about half the original production cost, sometimes less. Re recordings of big hits for national use came in at about 20X that, normally starting around $100K for 12 mo. Secondary, forgotten about hits averaged around $35K for 12 mo. Many HUGE hits, even some from the 60's, are reserved for national product campaigns and are not available for local advertising. Example: Born to be Wild.
Production costs were marked up by the agency for client use and those markups were not shared with the production team but 25% -50% or more is common.
Big ticket productions were sold to as many clients as possible to recoup the large production costs.

IF the agency crew has done all the necessary work prior to production then the production isn't a challenge. And in our cases, we did exactly that because we had a hard deadline/on air date that had to be met. So there was no time for messing around.

As for production libraries, as mentioned prior, we also had a blanket license with First Com, whom I've been using since the mid 90's. So anything that wasn't custom produced was produced with music from that library, which did not include lyric/singing.
Old 3rd June 2019
  #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by drBill View Post
Musician costs + $2000.
For each revision??? Wow dude - remind me never to hire you if I ever need any music!
Old 3rd June 2019
  #10
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drBill's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeff Hayat View Post
For each revision??? Wow dude - remind me never to hire you if I ever need any music!
OK. Sorry. How about $29.00 and I'll pay for the orchestra / band / choir / soloists?


BTW, Ovee - who I as answering - asked about how much to charge after 3 revisions. That's 4 versions. If I can't get it right by then, one of two things are happening. 1. I should be fired. 2. The client is being a pita, and should be charged for the pita factor. 2k seems fair for that based on a 5k original fee.

Now....how about being helpful Jeff and tell us how much you would charge for version 5. And following. I eagerly await your perspective,,,,,,,
Old 3rd June 2019
  #11
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Jeff Hayat's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by drBill View Post
OK. Sorry. How about $29.00 and I'll pay for the orchestra / band / choir / soloists?
$39.00 and you're on!

If I am already getting paid 5k, I would charge $500 for each rev. Unless it's someone with whom I have worked before, and I know a revision is really more of a re-write. It also depends on the length and complexity of the cue; if it's a 5min fully orchestrated JW style cue, then I would be more inclined to go $2k, or at least $1500.

Hey - if you can get $2k for each rev. regardless, then more power to you!

Cheers.
Old 3rd June 2019
  #12
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drBill's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeff Hayat View Post
$39.00 and you're on!

If I am already getting paid 5k, I would charge $500 for each rev. Unless it's someone with whom I have worked before, and I know a revision is really more of a re-write. It also depends on the length and complexity of the cue; if it's a 5min fully orchestrated JW style cue, then I would be more inclined to go $2k, or at least $1500.

Hey - if you can get $2k for each rev. regardless, then more power to you!

Cheers.
I was assuming the "re-write" / revision was not a "can you turn down the snare 1.3 dB, but in fact an actual re-write.
Old 3rd June 2019
  #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by drBill View Post
I was assuming the "re-write" / revision was not a "can you turn down the snare 1.3 dB, but in fact an actual re-write.
Oh. I was assuming it wasn't.
Old 3rd June 2019
  #14
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drBill's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeff Hayat View Post
Oh. I was assuming it wasn't.
Well there ya go....
Old 3rd June 2019
  #15
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Ovee's Avatar
 

@ mbvoxx - very interesting post. It's great to hear those details from someone who was "inside". Thank you very much for that.
@ drBill and @ Jeff Hayat - also thank you for your word. As you both wrote, of course it depends on kind of revision. It's definitly something different when you need to make drum part louder, than when it's: "You know what, I know that we wanted heavy retro-synthwave track, but please make it soft orchestral piece of music".
Old 3rd June 2019
  #16
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Brent Hahn's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by drBill View Post
I was assuming the "re-write" / revision was not a "can you turn down the snare 1.3 dB, but in fact an actual re-write.
Those folks don't hear dB's. Or know what a snare is. Except for the ones (usually copywriters) who have a PT rig in their house that puts yours to shame. They don't know how to work it, but they've got it. And they know just enough of the jargon to use most of it wrong.

Last edited by Brent Hahn; 3rd June 2019 at 07:43 PM..
Old 3rd June 2019
  #17
Gear Guru
Agencies pay a lot but they want a lot. You can also do a demo price and then another if they buy it. This and music production are very different and you can get eaten alive if you don't know what you're doing. Small and large agencies are quite different and markets.
Old 3rd June 2019
  #18
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Yall can miss me with this noise.
Old 3rd June 2019
  #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnFulford View Post
Yall can miss me with this noise.
What?
Old 3rd June 2019
  #20
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elambo's Avatar
Well, yes, there are major difference between small and large agencies, but this heavy reliance upon cost consultants, which they all use, has made it more difficult to make big money in advertising at any level, and that wasn't always the case. Smaller agencies will demand more work for less money, but there are more of those agencies, so if you decide to go down that route you concentrate on quantity of work and less on prestige (I don't want to say quality because small agencies can do excellent work, too), and you can do quite well.

Helping them out of tough situations is key. Face it, most clients hate discussing music. It's a foreign language and some avoid it at all costs. If you can make their lives easier by speaking the languages of music AND media/advertising, *and* you provide a great product, they'll come to you consistently and money won't be an issue. This is not so much a business of music, it's a business of communication and problem solving, and learning how to navigate their waters. You need people who can run a business, people who can make music, and a couple of Rosetta Stones who operate in-between.
Old 4th June 2019
  #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by youngrichyrich View Post
What?
All these hoops to jump through just to get music on an ad. Too much hassle!
Old 4th June 2019
  #22
Gear Guru
The real money is in sonic branding, which is a huge market.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #23
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Smoke M2D6's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnFulford View Post
All these hoops to jump through just to get music on an ad. Too much hassle!
It's not a hassle when you are working for $600/Hr! (Or way more)

It's annoying, but also I enjoy it, alot. It's always a different challenge that I find a complete break for turning out beat after beat. I always learn a whole bunch during these productions, and aside from the all the middle men who make you do a bunch of unnecessary changes to justify their job it's a pretty awesome gig.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Smoke M2D6 View Post
It's not a hassle when you are working for $600/Hr! (Or way more)

It's annoying, but also I enjoy it, alot. It's always a different challenge that I find a complete break for turning out beat after beat. I always learn a whole bunch during these productions, and aside from the all the middle men who make you do a bunch of unnecessary changes to justify their job it's a pretty awesome gig.
How are you making $600/hour creating music for ad agencies?

Would love to chat.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Smoke M2D6 View Post
It's not a hassle when you are working for $600/Hr! (Or way more)

It's annoying, but also I enjoy it, alot. It's always a different challenge that I find a complete break for turning out beat after beat. I always learn a whole bunch during these productions, and aside from the all the middle men who make you do a bunch of unnecessary changes to justify their job it's a pretty awesome gig.
"annoying"
"challenge"
"unnecessary changes"

Hassle!
Old 2 weeks ago
  #26
Gear Guru
If anyone is looking at making music for agencies as an hourly gig they should consider doing something else. Sure the money can be great but there is tremendous liability. Agencies are the most difficult clients of all to work with, and there are reasons the money is good IF you are successful.....

No disrespect intended, but dangling $600/hr doesn't take into account the guys that get destroyed by the client VP that wasn't part of the process, and comes in at the last minute to change everything, the night before the airdate. Hey if you can handle that and pay everyone fairly, yes you're worth the money (it'll help pay for the huge overhead you're supporting to service the clients properly, and your legal team to write the contracts!)......
Old 2 weeks ago
  #27
Quote:
Originally Posted by youngrichyrich View Post
How are you making $600/hour creating music for ad agencies?

Would love to chat.
take the flat fee you are charging for the entire project, divide that by how many man hours you actually spent working on the project.

If you get a custom gig for a big international ad that is paying $60,000... and you spend two and a half weeks working on it (100 hours) and you are the only one who you needed to do it, then you just made $600/hr.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #28
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Smoke M2D6's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by ardis View Post
If anyone is looking at making music for agencies as an hourly gig they should consider doing something else. Sure the money can be great but there is tremendous liability. Agencies are the most difficult clients of all to work with, and there are reasons the money is good IF you are successful.....

No disrespect intended, but dangling $600/hr doesn't take into account the guys that get destroyed by the client VP that wasn't part of the process, and comes in at the last minute to change everything, the night before the airdate. Hey if you can handle that and pay everyone fairly, yes you're worth the money (it'll help pay for the huge overhead you're supporting to service the clients properly, and your legal team to write the contracts!)......

So far I've had a great experiences freelancing for multiple agencies. Nitpicky? Yes! Changing everything up at the last minute? Yup! Totally clueless executive coming in the last minute and changing everything up? YOU BET!

I also go into these projects knowing that ain't nothing final till the check is deposited, so I don't go spending a bunch of money completing a project. I'm pretty self reliable, and only go after projects that I can complete. Other than gear and a place to house my workstation (which luckily is in my house) my overhead is LOW

I won't take projects that require me to have a real orchestra, or trying to get me derive an ACDC song.
I will however go after we and compete on anything that I can do in my studio over the course of a day or so. Alot of times I have something that will fit the bill. (Lots of hip-hop,trap,EDM,dance music,etc....)

So yes, it is frustrating alot. It's a Hassel, alot but it also pays enough for me to [I]GLADLY make any changes the ad agency wants me to make.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #29
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Smoke M2D6's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Etch-A-Sketch View Post
take the flat fee you are charging for the entire project, divide that by how many man hours you actually spent working on the project.

If you get a custom gig for a big international ad that is paying $60,000... and you spend two and a half weeks working on it (100 hours) and you are the only one who you needed to do it, then you just made $600/hr.

It's not even hard math. Sometimes when I'm on my 87th edit (my last project,in fact) I break it down to what I'm making hourly and it really changes my attitude...EVEN WHEN I'm making less an hour than I want to be making...helps me maintain perspective and keep a good attitude.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #30
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elambo's Avatar
Agencies ask for revisions, and we might be tempted to feel a tinge of resentment to some degree, as though they're questioning our artistry on a deeper level, but the fact is that there are many reasons for changes which have nothing to do with your initial composition or musicianship. It's always good to reconcile your ego and emotions for these occupational roadblocks, and, as someone said above, keep the job in perspective. In many regards, if you love music then you're lucky to be doing what you're doing. If you want a revision-free gig in music, you'll need to write exclusively for yourself, but the pay is sh!t.
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