Making music pay through technology 

By Richard Cottrell, CEO of Melos Publishing  


Advertising legend Sir John Hegarty reportedly once said that “Music is 50 per cent of an ad’s success”.  

The significance of music and sound within advertising is well understood. Across the industry a pattern has emerged in recent years of growing investment among brands and agencies in audio, with a mix of new commissions, mixes, rerecords, synchronisation rights and partnerships with composers. 

The first thing to note is that quality matters. Saving money through the use of low budget music is unlikely to increase the effectiveness of any individual commercial as the increasing activity in the sector demonstrates. You only have to look at this year’s roster of Christmas ads to see just how pivotal the soundtrack is to any successful campaign.  

Secondly, by using data-driven technology, the sourcing of bespoke music can not only become affordable but can actually become a revenue stream in itself. 

However, analysis of the industry suggests that of the $hundreds of million that is allocated for payment to music used in advertising, only about 20 per cent – between $100 – $120 million – is accurately reported and paid out to the rights owners in the current market. Staggeringly, millions of dollars remain unclaimed every year. 

The truth is, as it currently exists the system isn’t as effective as it should be and leaves much of the potential Performance Rights payments to rights holders on the table. The problems are wide-ranging with the system not meeting the brands’ needs, while being ill-suited to the globalisation of campaigns.  

The impact of all this is being felt across the industry. Rights holders are disenfranchised, composers are missing out on much-needed royalty fees while often having no knowledge of where and how their music is being used, while brands are more often than not equally unaware of the way their assets are being used. 

At a time when marketing budgets are being squeezed and devastatingly two thirds of musicians are thinking of quitting the industry due to COVID restrictions and the lack of work available, never has it been more important for the accurate tracking of music to ensure correct payment of ad royalties. 

The solution 

Despite the seemingly impossible task of music tracking, the solution lies in the application of data-driven technology. New innovations within technology and the availability of multiple data sources can dramatically simplify the process of music tracking. 

Using our proprietary platform, MusicTracker™ and the application of Big Data, we are able to track and monitor where and how often brand TV adverts are being played, which enables Collection Societies to ensure the accurate distribution of royalties to brands, agencies and musicians alike. 

To put this in perspective, we worked with a global online travel brand which had been receiving £25,000 per year in performance royalties, but only from the UK. No international payments had been received despite the commercials broadcasting in over 30 markets. However, with the application of data-driven technology, their brand and composer royalties grew to over 20x per year, which included payments from over 25 different markets. Furthermore, our technology can also enable brands to claim back royalties for previous years, resulting in a significant catch-up payment for them and the musicians they employ. 

In truth, technology and data solutions can deliver unparalleled results for brands by ensuring the accurate music tracking of adverts across the world, not just benefitting the brands themselves but the musicians they work with, which could be a vital life-line for many as they search for work in a post-lockdown world.