A guide to buying music for marketing procurement executives

We are very excited to introduce to our readers a brand new contributor to our Spend Matters UK site. Richard Kirstein is Founding Partner of Resilient Music, which helps brands manage their music budgets and secure optimal deals with music suppliers in the procurement of music talent and rights. In this series of  articles Richard covers a host of themes that affect the buying of music to enhance  sales and ultimately profit. In this first article he sets the scene with an introduction to music as a spend category.  

 "They're playing our song" -- Charge them!

It’s often said that Marketing Procurement is unlike any other category. An area where the normal rules of logic and process don’t always apply and procurement executives frequently feel at sea. Within Marketing Procurement, advertising production is one of the most complex areas, and drilling down further, the purchasing of talent, photographers and music being the most opaque and difficult.

"The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side."  -   Hunter S. Thompson

In this series of posts, we’ll examine the buying of music talent and rights – attempting to demystify the tangled web of fragmented rights across songs, recordings, performers, music publishers, record labels, collection societies, unions, mangers and agents. We’ll aim to translate the jargon and explain best practice to empower marketing procurement executives to challenge their companies’ agencies and support their colleagues in Marketing.

So, why has music been difficult historically?

Most brands first rub shoulders with the music industry when they wish to use an existing (often well known) music track on a TV commercial. The experience is often marred by the advertising agency’s recommendation of one specific track, late in post-production, with a fait-accompli deal attached.

“We’ve listened to hundreds of tracks and this is the only one that works. We’re lucky to get it as the artist is famous and very fussy about the brands they’ll work with. Frankly, it’s a steal at £150K and we need a PO today to close the deal before the spot plays out tomorrow.”

If this sounds a familiar speech from a smooth-talking agency Account Director, then all the warning signs are there to read:

  1. The Marketing team has been presented with only one music solution – no back-ups. Clearly a terrible position from which to negotiate.
  1. The proposed track is by a famous and supposedly fussy artist. Famous translates as expensive. Fussy means the balance of power further shifts to the seller. The implication is that the artist’s representatives are “doing the brand a favour” to deign to license their track into the campaign.
  1. The fee is high – but how has this been benchmarked against alternatives? Where there are no back-ups, there are no comparisons.
  1. Urgency. Music has (as so frequently happens) been left to the 11th hour. A gun is being held to Marketing’s head and they have no choice but to approve the PO - the alternative is a commercial without music. A classic agency manoeuvre.


So here we have the typical backdrop to how music is bought for marketing communications. In the posts to follow, we’ll look at how music rights work and with that knowledge, how marketing procurement executives can employ tactics to shift the balance of power in their favour.

Look out for the next post …


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