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The Day the Music Died

As a child, I wrote poems, stories, and songs; I even won a songwriting contest in high-school. I like to think that those creative inclinations lead me to advertising. When I started in the creative department at the Leo Burnett Company I was excited about the prospect of writing original music for clients. And back then, that is what you did. The strategy informed the creative and the music was linked to the brand, authentically and meaningfully linked to the brand because it was written about the brand. The music was meant to capture the inherent drama of the brand and make it memorable. Think “You deserve A break today”, "When you say Budweiser, you’ve said it all”, “Like a good neighbor State Farm Is there”, “ I’d like to teach the world to sing” “Snap, what a happy sound, snap is the happiest sound I’ve found………snap, crackle pop, Rice Krispies”. I bet you could hear each of those songs in your head, or maybe you’re too young to remember them, which brings me to what’s going on in the advertising music world today. I still believe that no song on earth, that was written for something else, could capture the essence of a brand like original music can. Original songs are inherently own-able by the brand, no one can ever take that away. Let’s be clear here, this is only my opinion and I’m sure others will take issue with it. Great, healthy debate is good. Talk to the commercial music houses, they are literally dying to do original music other than licensing. The singers, musicians, producers, sound engineers and editors are also hoping for a resurgence of original music.

Here is where I believe a lot of creative folks and clients alike go off track (pun intended). I think too many people assume that if you associate yourself with the Beatles, or the Rolling Stones, or Bill Withers or any other well-known band or songwriters that your brand will rise on their fame. Unfortunately, it tends to work in the opposite way. Often, we remember the song but not whom the commercial was for. Not good, not profitable. The sad part is that these songs cost exorbitant amounts of money that can’t possibly come back to the brand with the kind of ROI that makes it worthwhile. Again, there may be an example where it did, but I would guess not many. I’m quite sure the people who work on these brands ego’s get a nice boost, but does the business enjoy the kind of uptick that makes the money spent licensing that music worth it?

I also think that many creatives these days rely on listening to other people’s music to find an appropriate track to use rather than sitting down and writing a wonderful piece of music that the brand can really own. In my humble opinion, if you are a writer, then write. Don’t rely on other people’s words, meant for something completely other than a commercial, to do your work. Here’s where you say, “we just don’t do it that way anymore, that’s how they did it in the old days”. Well, hopefully, that bell curve will come around again and writers will start to write again because it’s the right thing to do for the business they are working on. And by the way, writers worth their salt should write, not Google “songs about……” I think the creative that walks in with an original piece of music might just find an audience that thinks “I like it, it’s original.” Yep, that’s why they call it original music. Might you be that writer? Just know this, the best commercials, and songs haven’t been written yet.