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March 13, 2015

How to Choose the Right Music for Your Video

The importance of music in video is indisputable. It’s what commands an audience to sit up and pay attention, and when used correctly, it can make your video memorable and moving. On the flipside, an unwise choice of soundtrack can give the impression that your content is unprofessional, cheesy or, worst of all, in poor taste.

Here are some tips to help you choose the perfect music for your video marketing projects:

1. Think about how you want your audience to feel

You may be familiar with this scenario: you receive an email from a friend with the subject line “Stop what you’re doing and watch this video NOW”. A distraction from work sounds nice right about now, so you take the bait.

Emotion from MusicThree minutes later, you’re choking back tears because you’ve just watched a video about an overwhelmingly moving person or event, and when a colleague stops by your desk to ask what’s wrong, you lie and say “No, I’m fine, my allergies are just awful today.” Try watching that video on mute; you probably won’t need those tissues this time.

The power of music to elicit emotional reactions is one of the reasons why it’s often referred to as the language of emotion – and it’s vital you get it right.

2. Pick the right mood

The mood of a piece of music is one of the most important elements to consider when choosing a track for your video. Pay attention to the tonic key (the main key the music), as it will likely play the biggest role in the emotional response of your audience.

Major keys often portray a positive, uplifting, peaceful or empowering mood, whereas minor keys usually feel melancholy, pensive or unsettling.

A key change from major to minor or vice versa can be used to highlight the emotional journey of your track. For example, many of my advertising clients will request tracks that start out in a minor key and finish major when they want to pull on the heartstrings of a viewer with an inspiring video.

Proctor and Gamble nailed the importance of mood in this feel-good ad.

3. Consider the impact of genre

If you want your content to be perceived as cutting edge, you’d be wise to align with a forward-thinking, emerging genre. When I heard the song Original Don by Major Lazer & The Partysquad in an ad for The Cosmopolitan Hotel, I was immediately intrigued – and definitely tempted to hop on the next plane to Vegas.

The producers snagged that track when it was still rocking small clubs, basements and house parties. Once it blew up and was being played by headlining DJs at festivals around the world, you can bet that The Cosmopolitan was thinking “Jackpot!”

On the other hand, you can make your brand more accessible and create an immediate connection on a different level by choosing genres that evoke feelings of warmth and comfort.

Many of the clients I source music for will request “organic” tracks in the folk, indie and pop genres to achieve this emotional response from viewers. Check out these campaign spots from Arrow Clothing where Audio Network music creates a laidback, familiar vibe.

4. Don’t compromise on quality

Music QualityThe quality of music subconsciously affects a viewer’s perception of the quality of content. If you use music that has been poorly produced, this will subtly convey the message that your video (or worse, product or brand) is sub-standard.

There are many elements that affect quality. Good composition is crucial because a terrible song will sound terrible, no matter how well it’s produced. So, a well-written piece of music is top priority.

At the same time, quality production is also vital. Even a masterpiece by Beethoven or Mozart will sound subpar if you’re listening to a midi recording of it.

5. Consider the effective use of sampled instruments versus real instruments

When it comes to analysing music quality, it makes sense to look at the difference between sampled instruments and real instruments. While samples sound right at home in a hip hop or electronic track, even top-of-the-line audio production plug-ins cannot recreate the warmth of interpretation that a jazz or folk musician will deliver.

Same goes for classical, rock, blues and country. A good rule of thumb is that if you’d expect to see real instruments at a live performance of your chosen genre then you should consider selecting music that uses real instruments to soundtrack your video.

6. Use budget wisely

Music BudgetBudget will obviously factor in when it comes to the quality of what you can afford, but a small budget doesn’t mean your video has to appear cheap! Production music catalogues offer a cost-effective alternative to expensive specially-composed or commercial tracks. For example, here’s how our music underlined the spectacular trailer for Still Alice.

Ultimately, paying attention to mood, genre and quality will help you to select music that really showcases your content. When chosen well, music sets the stage and allows your video to shine.

Amanda Mayo

Amanda Mayo works at Audio Network as a Creative Manager for the US and Canada. For over four years, she has provided music consultation for clients working in advertising, television, film and multimedia. She also works independently as a music producer, composer, vocalist, and DJ.

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