Videos are now, officially, the most popular form of content in our already content-saturated world. Studies (yes: studies) predict that by 2019, 80 percent of the world’s Internet traffic will be video. A lot of those videos will be made by brands. If any of them is going to cut through, they’re going to have to be good.

Time and again, I see promising films ruined by bad music choices. It doesn’t have to be that way. Many of the same music-selection principles used by filmmakers can also be used by brands. Here are five tips for picking the best music for your films.

1. Decide lyrical vs. instrumental.

Does your video include a lot of narration or dialogue? If so, opt for instrumental tracks, but that doesn’t mean the music has to stay in the background. Finding a song with a strong melody or hook will help your film (and your message) stick in your audience’s mind long after it’s over.

2. Watch your tone.

Finding the right song is as much about finding the right tone as anything else. Consider how the instrumentation and vibe of a song complement the story you’re telling. Complement, however, doesn’t mean match. If you’re making a film about technology, don’t immediately reach for arpeggiated synths and drum machines. Sometimes a tonal mismatch can have a memorable effect. Think about the most recent Great Gatsby. Think about Django Unchained. Think about Guardians of the Galaxy.

3. Let music inspire the edit.

Music doesn’t have to be the last step in the process. Many filmmakers we talk to use music as the inspiration for their whole project, or at least as a guide. The advantage is the music is guaranteed to be a good fit in the end. Allowing a song to guide an edit inspires an even stronger bond between the music and the film.

4. Get the right license.

Always make sure you’re purchasing the right license for the track you’re using. It can be complicated, but most music licensing companies are happy to help you sort it out. It’s not just an ethical issue. Having your video flagged or removed from Vimeo looks pretty bad for your brand. Receiving a cease-and-desist letter, even worse.

5. Know what story you’re telling.

The most important consideration when picking a song is whether or not it helps you tell your story. No matter how good the song is, if it doesn’t elevate your story, it’s the wrong song. Think about the arc of the song. Does it match the arc of your film? Does it follow the same emotional path? Does it end where you need it to end — on a high or low note, resolved or unresolved?

It’s easy to fall in love with a song and lose sight of your goal to create the a compelling film. Music will get you there when you know where you’re going.

Choosing the right music for your brand film help it cut through the clutter so film resonates with your audience and your message sticks in their minds. There are good tracks out there that you can afford. You don’t have to settle for terrible stock. Trust me: relevant music makes all the difference.

Author: Daniel McCarthy
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