Big Sync – Music, Marketing and Procurement of “Sonic Logos”

We've featured Richard Kirstein here a number of times, his excellent book and his work in the field of buying music rights.  It's a fascinating area and as the Spend Matters team are big music fans we confess to enjoying writing about it more than we might about industrial component  buying (for instance).  Having got to understand the issues somewhat from Richard's articles, it was interesting to get a perspective in a related area from another real expert -  Dominic Caisley, CEO of Big Sync Music. Today, we'll feature his comments and in part two, we will draw some wider lessons for procurement practitioners.

Big Sync works with large advertisers at a strategic level to help optimise the use of music in advertising. Unilever is their banner client and the firm has a close relationship with the global branded goods powerhouse. So music licensing is part of their work, but it also includes working to develop how brands and firms find and select the best music to promote their products. So in a procurement sense, we might describe much of what Big Sync do as helping to define requirements, then identify or even create the right "providers" in the market, and then put in place the appropriate commercial arrangements.

"Historically, brand managers tended to leave selection of music to the end of the process and then just choose a song or artist they liked. But now we help the agencies and brand people to think about the character of the brand and the music that can best express that" says Caisley. So a brand might be "sophisticated" or "positive" - the question then is which music best expresses that.  "For instance, Dove is a natural, organic brand so we wouldn't use heavily synth driven music".

"Music content has to be relevant locally," even if branding is global. Caisley gives the example of a Cornetto ad that features a band playing at a festival in the background. That's Taylor Swift in SEA, Rixton in the UK and Yalin in Turkey.

And there are different national characteristics - Turkey for instance goes for complex time signatures and strong percussion.  Then there are the nuances which require understanding of marketing, culture and music - what is the right tempo for a dance track to promote a toothpaste to the youth market in South-east Asia? Is it 95 beats per minute? 120? 140?

Big Sync are going beyond just sourcing from the market of available music to helping clients create partnerships with artists and composers. That enables the brand to own its own "sonic logo" - the musical equivalent of the logo on the packaging. Some are even commissioning and creating their own music, which helps to ensure full control over the IP and stops others copying that "sonic logo".

We asked how much involvement Big Sync has with procurement functions. "With Unilever, a lot". Procurement is involved in monitoring the marketing spend and the relationship is good. With other clients the relationship is very much with the agency rather than the end client.

"But what we want to see is transparency. Music is a cost - it should not just be a single line on the agency's invoice, the client should understand what is behind that and have transparency", Caisley explains. In the past, he says, that "music" cost line has often been a "slush fund" for other costs or overspends. But with that transparency comes the opportunity to make the most of music - after all it is often the most memorable element of the advertising. "so ring-fence a budget for music, and don't make it an afterthought".

We had to ask Caisley about Brexit. He doesn't see it as a big deal for his industry, although currency will have some effect.

"There are bigger factors - the US for instance is becoming an uneconomic place to make music because of union rules about musicians. That is putting their composers out of business". Now that's an interesting point about the dangers of over-regulation in a global market; if a brand wants a new piece of music, it may well not be created or recorded in the States these days.

If you want to explore any of these issues further, you can contact Big Sync here. Not surprisingly perhaps, Dominic himself comes from a very musical family. So we couldn't resist finishing with this - his brother has played in various bands, and this is probably his best known song - we like it a lot!

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