Music really becomes the soundtrack to the major events to your life. —Sheryl Crow
Advertising creatives know all too well that music, or any sound at all, can make or break a commercial, especially when one only has 30 seconds or less. The first sound one hears does more to set the mood and viewer expectation than does the first image. Pictures can be interpreted any number of ways when left sitting out on their own, especially when the photo is rather innocuous and void of copy. The soundtrack guides the viewer toward a specific interpretation, whether that be serious, emotional, or humorous. When the match-up between music and imagery is done especially well, no voice over or copy is even necessary. A good commercial can be like a mini music video in its effectiveness.
When one only has a limited bit of time, though, finding music that fits a concept can be challenging. Advertising creatives like pop songs because they provide an instant level of recognition and even an implied endorsement on the part of the artist. The problem with that approach is that, A) it’s incredibly expensive to gain the rights to use a genuinely popular song from a popular artist; the whole budget can be blown right here. B) They don’t write 30-second pop songs, so someone’s going to have to do some creative cutting and mixing; a task that sounds so much easier than it actually is. A bad mix of a good song can have the exact opposite effect from what one was wanting. This is not easy territory.
- Is it free? We have no budget for this experiment (as usual). Our only choice was to use clips that are either public domain or have an attribution only Creative Commons license.
- Is it too long? It’s more likely that we can work with a clip that is under 90 seconds than one that is over two minutes. Limiting the length of the clip immediately cut our choice by two-thirds.
- Is it cheesy? A significant number of the clips available are pieces some budding composer authored sitting at their midi keyboard, and the sound betrays the cheapness of their base instrument. Eliminating anything that had a cheesy synthesizer sound again cut the options dramatically.
- How does it make me feel? Music affects emotion and certain emotions match with different kinds of photographs. I needed clips that matched what certain photographs make me feel.
- How does it make Kat feel? Because we never trust our own opinion to be valid outside ourselves. She has different tastes and immediately vetoed some I would have considered.
Today’s soundtrack immediately caught our attention because it seems to have been specifically created for the type of effect used on today’s image. There is a major chord precisely every two seconds throughout the track, with well-measured changes at points where we would want to alter the effect. Listening to the track, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with the image, I just had to figure out how to do it.
Again, I’m more pleased with today’s video than I am the previous two. I hope that trend continues. By Saturday, we might have something truly special. The music and visual effect take a very plain subject and give it an all new level of interest. Can we ask more from a 30-second video? Well, maybe. The original photo is below.