A Single-Source Approach to Buying Music at BT

Music buying is a complex business, as we’ve mentioned many times in our posts on buying music rights by Richard Kirstein of Resilient Music, see a few here, here and here. So we were interested to hear from Richard Lloyd, Head of Identity at BT and media partner David Marcus, Managing Partner at audio branding agency Cord at ProcureCon Marketing recently. They talked about the critical success factors for a single source music approach at BT.

As we know, in a single-source approach to buying anything, getting the right partner or vendor is critical. As Richard explained: you have to ask the right questions very early on, but if you get it right, it can lead to efficiencies and be beneficial in many ways.

BT wanted a purposeful, consistent approach to create the personality and flavour of BT, to connect emotionally with people. To do this, while you need colour, logos and visuals, you also need music and sound that people will associate with the brand into the future.

We saw a short video on how Cord had created this for BT – which you can view here.

For many, music and sound are the most complex and stressful elements of creating a campaign. Companies don’t always track how much they spend on music, it’s all tied up in the campaign, but it’s an area the brand should have consistency and control over, and all costs should be transparent with opportunities, and failures, identifiable. It’s a massive multi-million-pound spend category, and there’s a lot of money being wasted on lots of inefficiencies in lots of companies. Many use random bits of library music, whether for corporate films, conferences, social media or million-pound advertising campaigns.

For the 1 million people a week who contact BT, whether by phone or online, they were getting a variety of sounds, from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons to the Four Tops, depending on what Customer Service had decided to play. When you consider BT spend about £10 million a year just on radio advertising, without brand visual media, said Richard, it could really benefit from consistency – something that identified with the brand. So BT wanted a partner with a proven process who could understand the business case.

David explained that a successful single source approach will treat sound and music identity with the same rigour as visual identity. Music is a big part of the brand experience, and it takes a lot of work to be done properly. Music selection is not based on whether you like a particular piece of music, he said, it’s far more complex and scientific – it’s about getting the right sonic identity, and how, when and where you use music, even when it’s not your own. In good music branding, the music has to be authentic and accessible to all in the business, flexible enough to work across time and territory and all touch points. But you also can’t constrain an advertising agency, for example, if they’ve got a great idea that requires a certain track, but what you can do is put some parameters in place around selections, so they’re not so distant from the rest of the brand music.

He talked a bit about the sensitive subject of ‘decoupling’ music from the production process. This often causes friction between teams, he said, by not achieving the right cost savings or maybe by not speaking to the right people. But one thing is for sure, you have to consider both the creative and commercial needs of the brand. The agent has to be able to work between owners, whether the legal department, or the music department, and make sure everything happens on BT’s terms, especially when it comes to who gets ownership of the composition.

So a single source approach can bring efficiencies for a brand in a multi-vendor environment, like music. You can’t have all parties selecting music, there needs to be a core, owned music strategy.  Cord has created a library of brand music for people around the business, which is free at point of use. It brings huge time savings in terms of time and costs associated with selecting the right music, and takes away the worries over licencing and copyrights. And you won’t have to licence another piece of music again – where music is 100% brand-owned, ther is no need to go to the big labels again and licence their copyrights.

The important part, he says, is that rights holders and BT legal team have a series of templates and contracts, so when they go out to talent, whether local composers or international ones, they can make sure it all happens on BT’s terms. There’s a process and framework in place for contracts and rights, with immense value for the industry.

But the key takeaway is - gaining trust and consensus around the business is important, a single vendor will make sure of that, the last thing they want is to create something that sits on the shelf!

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