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Why in the HELL did they choose THAT song? The non sequitor of Music Licensing and Jingles…

I get that question alot.

Hell, I ask that question alot when I hear music in spots and TV show!!

Music is SUBJECTIVE. I have always said, “what is blue to me, is green to you.” No two ears hear something the same way. This simply means that fining the right. music for a TV spot many times, simply comes down to a battle of wills, and taste.

Sometimes they are just a huge head scratcher. I found my new favorite site today that pokes fun at TV ads and the use of music. On a personal level, I always thought LUST FOR LIFE was an odd choice, cause clearly the people who said yes to that song didn’t have a clue what it meant, but then I remembered that one of the first songs I ever helped place was a song called “Ladyshave” by an Icelandic band called GUS GUS for a mitsubishi ad. My business partner and I held out breathe between giggles hoping the client didn’t listen to the words too closely.
And you know what? They didn’t. If the spots in this post prove anything it is that they still don’t really listen. If they like a song, they use it. So at the end of the day, it comes down to a beat, catchiness, and a memory that we have with a song that makes it work.

Enjoy this post – it’s FUNNY.

For another perspective I want to show the same spot with different music so you can see the HUGE difference. Never a right or wrong answer, it’s simply what message the music is giving and how it connects to the picture.

I actually worked on this job – and I fell in love with The Pretenders – MESSAGE OF LOVE. I really liked how the lyrics played to the story happening in the picture. And the way I had it cued it (I wish I could show you, but I cannot) when Chrissie sings “like Brigitte Bardot” was right over Eva. Everyone on my team was sure they would go for it. We thought it was PERFECT….but alas not. They chose the Gnarls Barkley track.

So you really just never know.

What is a SOUND-A-LIKE?

I have been partaking in some online forums to hear what people are asking about the Music Licensing industry. One topic rose to the surface for me this week. SOUND-A-LIKES.

To define it for you – I pulled this directly from Wikipedia:

A sound-alike is a recording intended to imitate the sound of a popular record, the style of a popular recording artist, or a current musical trend; the term also refers to the artists who perform on such recordings. In the voice-over world, it may also refer to those who recreate the voice and vocal mannerisms of a given celebrity’s vocal performance. [1]

Sound-alikes are usually made as budget copies or “knockoffs” of popular recordings, since the cost of covering a popular song is usually cheaper than that of licensing the original recording, or to make listeners believe a particular artist is performing a given song, to spare the expense of engaging that artist. Royalties must nonetheless still be paid to the songwriters.

Sound-alike recordings have been used in movie soundtracks and radio and television commercials since their origin, while sound-alike artists have long recorded jingles and other musical material for commercial use. In the 1980s, singerBette Midler sued over a sound-alike version of her recording of “Do You Wanna Dance” being used in a commercial which sounded too close to the original. In the 1990s, guitarist Carlos Santana sued over a commercial music bed that closely imitated his playing and arranging style.

Many of you have shared your intense frustration with the repetition of using the same songs, ripping off songs, or using songs to describe a potential new song. It can seem highly uncreative, unfair and unhelpful from the outside, so I wanted to take a minute to explain why it is so prevalant in the industry.

There are a hundred “reasons” why you hear sound-a-likes so often, but the greatest reason falls into the lap of the EDITOR.

An editor is the first person to CHOOSE music for a project. They take the raw footage, and create what is called a ROUGH CUT – it’s the first pass of the edit for everyone to look at. The editor does this alone – without the client. 99% of the time they do it to music. 90% of the time the EDITOR CHOOSES THE MUSIC.

Now imagine that you are a great editor, and you have (limited) knowledge of music, no knowledge of music licensing and publishing, and you have your preferred tracks in iTunes, so that is what you go back to. You like certain songs because of the rhythm and energy they give the picture. So you choose a song from your list of preferred tracks for the rough cut. It is for internal use only (this is technically a FAIR USE). No harm no foul right?


What happens  next is powerful. Through the revision and approval process the Ad Agency Creatives see the spot 100 times a day for a week, maybe eben two weeks – WITH THAT MUSIC ON IT. The song on the rough cut then becomes imprinted on the person(s) watching it simply by the fact of repetition and they begin to like it, almost as if they cannot hear it any other way. In the business we call this DEMO LOVE. And so the push/pull begins, and a sound-a-like project is in motion.

On another side of the business, I am often given other music as reference to help find or create new music for a project. It is, at it’s most simple, a way to communicate about music, because, let’s face it – MUSIC IS SUBJECTIVE. I always say, “What’s blue to me is green to you.” None of us actually hear the same thing, or feel the same way when we hear something. It is intangible. So we use other tracks to help us describe what it is that we are going for.

At it’s most egregious, you are handed a project and asked to rip off a song as closely as legally possible. This sucks – no way around it, and not only is it morally wrong, but it has created all kinds of terrible legal issues for Music Houses that translate into having to carry million dollar insurance policies to take the blame on behalf of the Agency that ordered the work in case a suit is filed or copyright infringement. It’s a nasty mess…..but it IS part o the business.

Now let me also say that a strong and highly creative composer can usually find a way around tis through great work and a strong relationship with the team you are working with – but not always. If you are a composer working in the ad world, I would suggest that you get yourself the right skills to tiptoe around these types of jobs by being able to identify what it is the creatives like about the track and replicate that into another idea and song.

OR you make relationships with Editors and get to the ROOT of the problem. The best composers have strong relationships with the best Editors in the biz.

Now let’s turn to the POSITIVE side of Sound-A-Llikes or now what we would call COVERS.

I do use alot of covers in Advertising, and not just for budget – but because some cover are REALLY GOOD and do bring a new feel to the song. I have even commissioned covers. The lyrics of a song work, but the instrumentation and performance do not, so we re-record it.

Now this is where it can get tricky for those of you who are thinking about recording some covers for your record or for your catalog to license. You can play the song NOTE FOR NOTE, but you CANNOT re-sing the song in the same way as the original signer did. This law is to protect the original master and insure that it holds it value. So be careful of that fact if you are on an assignment.

I want to show you one of my favorite recent projects where I ended up using a cover. The song is TO KNOW HIM IS TO LOVE HIM that was written by Phil Spector and originally recorded by his only vocal group The Teddy Bears.

You can see where a great cover can really bring a whole new integrity to a song and to the job at hand.

So although it can be frustrating to have to use other music to describe your own, or as a composer to have to do covers of other songs, embrace it as a part of the business and do it with your own style and panache, and you WILL get repeat business.





Music Licensing & YouTube…….and how they are beginning to work together

It’s official folks, we have moved into the era of Sync Licensing 2.0.

Fees are down…competition is up. Right?

Depends on how you look at it. When I look at the business today I see:

- more opportunities for licensing songs on in TV shows and ads with growing cable and online content channels

- more opportunity to connect with your fan (and buyer) by licensing music

It’s a cup half full situation, not half empty.

The big question is not IF music licensing is good for creating fans and reaching potential buyers, but HOW. How many times have you heard a song on a TV Commercial or your favorite TV show and scrambled online to find out who it is? If you are like me; many. And, like me you have probably spent at least a half hour Googling only to land on an obscure forum page that might possibly host the name of the band whose music is in the commercial or show.

So why does it have to be so hard to find that information? It shouldn’t. It is the new frontier of music discovery by fans as a direct outcome of licensing your songs to Tv Shows and ads as the lead by YouTube.

In 2008 YouTube surpassed Yahoo as the #2 search engine in the world. Advertisers and TV networks have finally come on board and begun to use the “channel” as another distribution channel for their content. That makes YouTube the icing on the cake of getting a music license.

How you ask? TAGGING and LINKS.

Most every brand and TV show has a dedicated channel and every time they have a video (like an advertisement or an instructional video) they load it onto their YouTube channel.They also have the opportunity to add notes and TAGS. Tags are the keywords that you assign to the video that allow google to list it when you search for that same word. So if you get your music placed in  A Holiday Inn Express add, you need to make sure that when they add that spot to the YouTube channel that the name of your band is listed in the tags AND in the notes.

YouTube has added some additional features that can make the connection even easier for consumers. It’s called CONTENT ID, check it out – YouTube has provided a video to help explain what this is all about.

Content ID – YouTube

Now, I look at this BANNER, or TAG, or LINK (whatever you want to call it) and I see the opportunity for a BAND or and ARTIST to SELL RECORDS if a they license their music to a piece of film, whatever the form (tv commercial, tv show, trailer, or feature film) and get a DIRECT identifier that the music is yours and a link t iTunes to buy it. Now nothing would please me more than to be able to provide a solid example of Content ID in action, but I CAN”T FIND ONE. That’s right. After looking at ALOT of videos, this is the only one I found. Random Ad with a random song in it – but it demonstrates what I am talking about.

WOW – a revelation……..connectivity. Haven’t major labels been whining about how they can’t sell any more records, well here is  chance for anyone whose music is on YouTube to turn viewers into buyers.

I did a little recon on the issue this week and got pinged around from manager to label to digital distributor. I am still not 100% sure who is responsible for filing the music in behalf of the artist if they are signed to a major. I was actually waiting to publish this post until i had all that info until I got a link about a Jeep project today. Click on the image below to read the article.

First off, FINALLY the labels and Agencies understand that if you are going to pay alot of money for some music, then by god, make a lot of noise about it. Honk that publicity horn! Right???? It’s commerce…..right?

So then I decided that we are going to use these forthcoming spots by Chrysler Jeep featuring the music of Lenny Kravitz as an example of the YouTube Content ID program and see when they post these spots on the Jeep YouTube channel if they use the BUY THIS TRACK here tagging. Let’s see if the label is taking advantage of this opportunity.

I LOOOOOOVEEE a good stakeout.


Don't feel defeated…Music Licensing is possible!

I got this email today and I wanted to share the email and my respons with you anonymously because I think that so many musicians out there feel the same way.

Hi Sarah,

I have been writing songs since 1975! I have found out all avenues
to success in my songwriting career have been a “DEAD END”.
I felt very depressed after reading your article You say all emails and song files
sent go in the “SPAM”! So what chance do you have Sarah! I have done what you say
and still feel it  A DEAD END FOR ME!


Hi John,

I know how hard it is to be a songwriter and musician – but I think you understood my video incorrectly. My point in the Video (see link below) is that with a STRATEGY this will not happen to you – you will NOT end up in the spam folder. If you simply launch  emails out to people you know nothing about hoping that something will catch then you are most likey going to be disappointed. You have to get in and get your hands dirty in promoting your own music. One of the main resons I believe that Artists should know more about this world is that NO ONE can sell your music better then YOU. It’s you life and your passion.

Keep your head up and keep on moving. One foot in front of the other.

Unfortunately I cannot give an opinion to every artist who sends me their music – but if you listen carefully to all three of the videos you will understand what I CAN do for you with my workshop, and most importantly, what you can do for YOURSELF.


To see the videos  – head here——> LINK TO VIDEOS

My online workshop "GET YOUR MUSIC LICENSED IN A COMMERICAL" is live!

Woooooow…..I really had no idea how much time and energy it would take to bring the class at taught at UCLA last year online and into an interactive online workshop.

It is pretty amazing if I do say so myself (bold I know, but I am quite proud).

I have wanted to extend the teaching I did to a more interactive environment (ie -online) and after an entire year of my own education I am thrilled to announce that the Workshop registration is open and live.

This is a 30 day intensive online workshop that will deliver weekly content through on-demand training videos, expert interviews and accompanying assignment worksheet.

If you have no already, take a look at the three videos I created for the launch – there is a ton of great information, and the foundation of my teaching method, that will give you some actionable “to do’s and to don’t” that you can put to use today in your music licensing marketing efforts.

>>Check out the FREE VIDEOS HERE<<

Please don’t hesitate to email me if you have any questions!!! I am here to help.

LASTLY  – because this is an online workshop, the number of seats are very limited and I will most likely be filling up and closing the shopping cart early, so if you are interested then I urge you to act soon.

Oh….one more thing – I hosted a live webinar last week that also has some excellent information in it. More great free content for you guys that you will get a link to when you join the launch events.


Your Friend,

A not so classic "Don't Give Up" story

I had a moment today as I was talking to someone on the phone. One of those moments when a whole encyclopedia of emotions on one feeling wash over you in a instant. Beliefs and emotions that collect over time, conscious or not……about success. About what success really MEANS and if it is actually achievable. A black hole of questions.

I won’t deny it, there have been more days then I like to re-count where I question my career, my own path in life. Have I chosen the right path? Have I made the right decision?

Then a question came to me that really cuts the wheat from the chaff on the issue so to speak.

When you hear of someone who after years and years of pursuing their respective career, breaks through and finds great success, do you think:
1> WOW – that took FOREVER for them to find that success, maybe it’s not worth it
2> I bet that was one heck of a ride
3> Hard work is success in itself

Then the idea made me think of a wonderful man I know who is an incredible musician and producer, Philippe Cohen Solal. About 4 years ago (I was living in LA at the time), he came through town on his way home to Paris, and stopped by my office to catch up. Turns out that he had been not more then 20 miles from where I was born and raised in Columbia Tennessee recording and producing a Bluegrass record. Now, mind you, this man comes from the Parisian electronic side of music sensibility and this was 4 years ago, so this was LEFT FIELD.

This record moved me so deeply. It tapped into moments of my childhood, sweltering southern summers where you are lulled to sleep by the sound of the crickets. It was also drenched in the feeling of something modern and sultry. Moonshine Sessions. It is an extraordinary record.

No one knows about this record. It seems impossible, but it’s true.

Then I moved to Nashville and I met and became friends with one of the Producers of the record. Chatting at a Holiday party,  we got to talking about Moonshine Sessions. He shrugged his shoulders and said, “Well, it didn’t happen, so no matter how great a record it is, it’s never going to happen, so…whatever.”

My smile must have seemed incredibly snide. “Do you know the story of his last record?” I asked him. “Well I know it was really successful, but that’s all I know,” he replied.

Phillippe had his humble beginnings as everyone does. He worked at Virgin France for a decade and then decided to Producer records and start a label: Ya Basta. He had an idea. He made a record. He released 3 singles on vinyl. His friends loved it. Nothing happened. Then his label released the album, and it got major radio play on BBC Radio One.  Small blip on record sales. Then another version on the release. Same thing.

THEN he did it AGAIN, and this time………2.8 million records worldwide…which lead to sold out shows all over the world. The group he created is called GOTAN PROJECT and the record is called La Revancha del Tango.

He never gave up. I think in many ways, some people are just ahead of the trends, “ahead of their time” we say……but you can’t give up because if you believe in your project, eventually the flow of the collective conscious will catch up to you.

So I have no doubt that my Parisian friend will release his Bluegrass record again…… until it catches fire. Not your standard marketing plan, but hey it worked.

My reflections today led me to a really important place both for myself and for anyone who reads this blog and is a seeker like myself. Just don’t give up. Change your game, sit back, take a breather, but DON’T GIVE UP. Don’t worry about the people around you who seem to fly through life’s hard knocks, that is their journey. Just concentrate on your own journey and the day will come that you will be asking yourself, “Am I successful? Have I chosen the right path? Have I made the right decision?”

But this time it will be from a completely different perspective.

…….and so it begins again, the wheels of creativity.

I wax poetic.

Enjoy the music…..

Find more artists like Gotan Project at Myspace Music

Find more artists like Moonshine Sessions at Myspace Music

Find more artists like Moonshine Sessions at Myspace Music

Datarock – Catcher in the Rye – a track for the weekend

For no other reason then this is just a seriously fun track (insert beer commercial here).


Enjoy the weekend.



Catcher In The Rye – DATAROCK by sarahgavigan

Vocals as the narrative in Music Licensing

I just got this email – Creativity highlighting the “Top 20 ads of the Week”

First off, let me just lay out my undying love for the artistry and wackiness of the Norweigans. Traktor (Directing collective), Kings of Convenience (band), Sondra Lerche (musician), Royksopp, Datarock…….the list goes on and on.

But, I have to admit, I don’t get the chance to see a lot of Norweigan ads.

The music on this one is fantastic. Can’t peg who it is though – please comment if you know. The lyrics cast this slightly offbeat narrative to the spot.

For those of you that cannot get the video to work (I have been told it’s touchy) here is the direct link:

Music Licensing in Commercials is the benchmark for winning a GRAMMY, according to The Colbert Report

Admittedly, I openly defend Musicians who put their music in commercials. I am biased. I think it’s a great source of income as well as an invaluable distribution channel.

The argument has gone mainstream.

Last night on THE COLBERT REPORT, Stephen Colbert went public with his vote for Best Alternative Album.

Funny stuff…take a look. So those of you that think it’s a sell out for Indie Artists to license their music to ads, take a look, cause 3 of arguably the biggest names in Indie music were willing not only to license their music to Zales, Victoria’s Secret, HP, Honda, Tommy Hilfiger, and Sony Ericsson but they were willing to go onto the Colbert Report and make fun of themselves for it.

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
MeTunes – Grammy Vote – Dan Auerbach, Patrick Carney & Ezra Koenig<a>
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog</a> Video Archive

Music In Commercials: Ad guys want "Cool" music, licensed music….as told by The Wojahn Brothers….really well

The Wojahn Brothers Music is a Music House that makes (really good) music for commercials. I just stumbled across this video they made to help demonstrate the type of conversation that occurs between a “Ad Creative” and a “Music House.”

Let me say this first: GO WOJAHN. I think the two words that come to mind are, HILARIOUS and CAHOONAS. It’s spot on and it made me laugh so hard I had to go back and watch it several times. Ok I enjoyed watching it several times. I’ve been there…I have had that conversation MANY MANY times, but here’s the real joke, I used to own a Music House that pretended to NOT be a music house. HA.

Second let me say to the Ad Community… know it’s like this, and this parody brings alot of the real issues of making music for commercials or licensing music for commercials into perspective.

Thirdly, I make my living off finding and placing existing music (mostly Indie) in commercials, so you know…stones…glass houses.

Just watch this video. This is about 90% accurate. Seriously. The other 10% are Creatives and Teams that think strategically about music. They think not only about what works for the spot, but they think about if a piece of music is actually going to appeal to the demographic that the product is selling too. Shockingly….this is VERY rarely the case. 10% of the time….maybe.


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