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Digital Music Branding & Licensing

Posted by michaelwelshprods on August 26th, 2020

Using music in advertising is one of the most effective ways to connect with potential costumers. This is especilly true when using recognizable hits and artists. The brand can essentially “cash in” on the fame, legacy, and familiarity of the both the song and the artist.  This is the true value of licensing a famous song, or engaging a known artist; either as the soundtrack to a commercial spot, or actually appearing in the spot itself.  Great care must be given by the brand when they engage a specific song or artist’s performance. Use of a song or an on-camera performance by an artist is a direct endorsement or an implied endoresment of a particular brand.  Because of the implied endorsement, it is important that the music supervisor handling the clearance, be aware that all applicalbe publishers and artists have given their full written permission for the proposed song/performance use. Many artists and song writers may not want their names or copyrights attached to a given product for a multitude of reasons – (economic, political, social, environmental, etc.).

The Right Song for the Right Commercial Spot

What is the right song for a particualar video, or commercial spot? Many times the right song is simply a certain catchy instrumental groove that helps drive the energy of the spot. Many brands are attracted to using songs with lyrics that refer directly to the service or product being advertised. For example, recently Michael Welsh Productions, Inc., licensed the song, “Boom” (by X Ambassadors) for the newly-launched  airline, Boom Supersonic. The chorus lyric uncompromisingly states, “My heart goes boom, boom, boom…” This use was an example of licening a known song with appropriate lyrics to advertise a product that the artist may never have initially intended, but ended up making a compelling promotional video. Most commercial spots using a famous song with distinctive lyrics will be music-driven, that is, the visual/musical elements take priority over any voice-over or printed ad copy.

Cross-Branding with a Specific Song/Artist

When a brand chooses to partner with a specific artist and/or song, all parties must understand the plusses and minuses of such a partnership. Is the partnership benifical to both the artist and the brand in the long run? What are the liabilities of “getting into bed” with a certain brand or artist? Look, for example, of United Airlines use of Gershwin’s “Rapsody in Blue.” The use of this specific piece of music is decades old, strarting in 1980. No can hear that music now without thinking of United Airlines. This is good for United, but maybe not for the “Rapsody in Blue” copyright since no other product will ever be able to use the piece after its over-exposure by United. Even the number of concert performances are affected by the commercial use by United. The publisher of “Rapsody in Blue” made a very critical choice in granting an exclusive long-term deal to United – a choice that will forever change the perception of the piece, as well as furture licensing opportunities.

Beyond licensing opportunities, brands can find other ways to effectively partner with artists:  on-camera commercial spot appearances, in-store concerts, public relations “B-Roll” footage in connection with various branded appearances, and even promotion of products named after the artist.  This is what Michael Welsh Productions, Inc. facilitated when they engaged the Audry Hepburn Estate to promote Gap’s “Skinny Black Pant” (2007) using AC/DC’s “Back In Black” to footage of Hepburn dancing in the film classic, “Funny Face.”


The opportunities to partner with known songs and artists are undless and effective promotional tools for both the artist, the song, and the brand.  The critical component is engaging a music supervisor with experience in these kinds of exclusive partnerships and understands the complexities and role of each interest holders: publishers, record labels, management, artists, and estates. International brands and advertising agencies have engaged Michael Welsh Productions, Inc. in exactly these complex partnerships for over 30 years.

For more information about Digital Music Branding visit our website

Also See: Welsh Productions, Michael Welsh, Commercial Spot, Right Song, Song, Artist, Music

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