• Transform magazine
  • May 26, 2024

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Why we can't ignore the emergence of ‘music strategy’

Massivemusic Headshot

Global creative strategy and innovation director at MassiveMusic and Songtradr, Roscoe Williamson, discusses sonic branding’s “rather underappreciated cousin,” music strategy, and how utilising it can increase brand recall.

Over the past decade, sonic branding has undergone a renaissance. It’s grown in tandem with technological advancements like smart speakers and the ubiquity of ‘sound on’ social media platforms like TikTok, acting as a beacon for cut-through in an ever-fragmenting media landscape. This growth has also been buoyed by research highlighting the potency of distinctive brand sound assets, moving the concept of a brand owning a sound from a novel idea to a necessity.

However, my experience working in this field with some of the world’s largest brands has revealed a powerful yet somewhat underappreciated aspect that complements and supports sonic branding: the importance of a comprehensive music strategy.

What is a music strategy, I hear you ask?

While sonic branding can be likened to a brand’s visual identity—ownable sound and music that makes it instantly recognisable—its rather underappreciated cousin, the music strategy, serves as the brand's musical director. This involves a curatorial tone of voice for all the music a brand uses but does not own. This includes stock, production and commercial music tracks used for advertising, content, events, social engagement, in-product, in-store, showrooms and other forms of internal music.

Brands and agency partners face numerous challenges in aligning this type of music with their brand. Time and again, we hear about issues of mass confusion over where the music should be sourced from, how it should sound in different contexts and even what budgets are available. And yet, brands are emitting this non-owned music everywhere they go. Where else within a brand’s ecosystem is so little consideration given to differentiation and consistency?

A good music strategy creates tangible, evidential benefits

Consider the example of Apple, a brand synonymous with meticulous music selection that enhances its identity. Apple’s consistent aesthetic in music choices, often spotlighting emerging artists or genres, significantly contributes to its brand narrative.

Furthermore, a 2023 study carried out by Songtradr revealed a 33% increase in market performance from top US beer brands using a consistent and differentiated approach to the tone of their music.

But the benefits of curation are often only one side of the music strategy coin, where increased cultural relevance can often be the other. By taking a deeper dive into the various curation needs your brand has, environments it shows up in and audience it’s targeting, as well as testing the impacts of these music choices, brands can create a considered music strategy that uncovers opportunities for innovation, through partnerships, activations, and other forms of content creation such as editorial or podcasting.

A great music strategy not only curates but gives a brand the permission to own a cultural space within music, should it want to be heard there.

This isn't just about staying relevant, it's about giving brands the tools to connect with audiences in an increasingly noisy world. The future belongs to brands who recognise the strategic value of music, not as an afterthought but as a core aspect of their identity. As we move forward, the distinction between merely being heard and creating lasting resonance will define the success of many brands. Embracing music strategy now will ensure your brand is not only heard, but also remembered.