How to Write for Advertisements: 5 Tips from CrucialCustom CEO Tanvi Patel

May 9, 2016

Posted in: Music, Advertising

As CEO of CrucialCustom, Tanvi Patel finds, creates, hones, and licenses custom music for Internet advertisements. Revenue from music for video is surging, and savvy composers diversify— pursuing placement in ads, films, TV, video games, and countless other opportunities. Now Ms. Patel shares her tips to help songwriters excel at meeting video creators’ distinct specifications:
1. Build, Build and More Build
Even though ads are mostly :30 and sometimes :60, almost always the music has to develop with the story in three parts. Which means there’s an intro that is soft or focuses on one key instrument carrying the melody, followed by a midsection that introduces other elements or instruments with a solid beat, and then as the story ends the music ends with a soaring payoff, where all the instruments make an inspirational statement.   This might seem like a lot of stuff to fit into a small amount of time, but it never fails, it’s almost always what they are looking for.
2. Movement
Moving images can be dragged down or lifted up by music and you never know what it will do until you watch the music against picture.  Depending on the video edits, images flash by quickly or slowly.   Music with movement can help “quicken” the visual if the edits are slow or support the quicker edits forcefully creating a sense of urgency.  Music for advertising should have movement either blatantly with a beat or subtly with arpeggios and ostinatos.   
3. Vocal Hook with Universal Theme
The same themes are exploited time and time again.  For example, car spots are about driving, going somewhere, or travelling to parts unknown looking for adventure, which all lend themselves to vocal hooks that sing “Get Up and Go”, “Driving to Paradise”, “On The Road Again” or “Going Home” etc.  Hooks need to be quick and universal as they usually end up being heard at the last 10 seconds of the spot.  Any length of song can be used as long as the hook tells a story in 10 seconds or less; with the instrumental being used for the rest of the spot.   For example, Janie’s Got A Gun, although a very memorable hook, wouldn’t be used for 99% of the advertising needs.  Avoid mentioning specific names, places or circumstances.  And although sad heartbroken love songs can be huge hit songs, they almost never make it into ads; happiness always trumps sadness. 
4. Fresh is Best
The most memorable ads have the coolest music.  Think of how many Apple spots you remember. There’s the introduction of the new Macbook Air by Yael Naim’s  super-melodic “New Soul” with more than a hook used because the lyrics tell the metaphorical story of the birth of the product.  And you can’t forget Willy Moon’s  big beat/garage rocky swagger of “Yeah Yeah” pimping the new iPod.  Or the gospel revival meets rock beat of “Apple Pie” by Rafferty selling you on the latest iPhone 6s.  What do they have in common… a very unique and fresh sound…which can be accomplished in many ways… a new take on an old genre, a mix of genres or even simple melodies that are supported by unusual instrumentation…all of these tend to grab attention, and are not easily duplicated. 
5. Mindful of Instrumentation
We mention unique instrumentation above however, certain instruments fight against dialogue.  Avoid sax or trumpet solos or super jarring electronic elements that live in the upper/middle frequencies where the human voice resides.  The point of the music is to back the VO, unless the whole spot is without VO (such as the two of Apple spots listed above), which certainly does occur, and in that case the music drives the whole message and anything is game. 

If you're looking for custom music for your next ad project, be sure to check out CrucialCustom.

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