August 3, 2023 Sam Parvin

4 Small Shifts to Reduce Risk and Raise ROI in Music for Advertising

It’s easy to say “I like this song” and slap a track in a #tvc. And sometimes, if the intuition of the collective decision-making team is on point, this can turn out to be a hell of a rewarding fluke. But if you want to get a little closer to ensuring that the music you’re licensing for your advertising is working for you – i.e. greatly reducing risk – there are a few small yet mighty things you can implement within your organization to support this.

1. Start with WHY.

Y’all, Simon Sinek was onto something and you know it; but I’m talking about something a little different. As marketers, we don’t typically start creating until we’ve gotten clear on the business reason and/or the insight that inspires. We’re good at that. And while sometimes that intentionality trickles into certain elements of executing advertising, that’s often not the case with music selection. My assertion is that this is because the music vendor is just that – a vendor making a tactical decision based on the little information that they’re given. More on that some other day, but for now, what I’m getting at is – it’s important to ask ourselves WHY is this music at all interesting or relevant to: 1) our brand and 2) the people who we serve? 

I use two tools for this. #Data and #Intuition. You can lean on one more than the other, but I wouldn’t negate either completely. Know who you are serving and assure that any music choices genuinely tie back to the mission of the brand.

2. Get Real About Resources and Stick to Them.

While we would all like to come up with a genius musical idea and know that we’ll be able to make it happen in the time and for the budget that we have every time, no matter if that’s two hours or two years, $2 or $2MM – the reality is otherwise. And you absolutely CAN license or compose music within that wide range. Time and Money is a conversation that HAS to go along with creative conversations, because the range is so wide. I’m sure I’ll write more on this later because this truly is one of the biggest challenges I see in music licensing.

For the purposes of this conversation, let’s assume you have enough time (because you engaged your music partner early in the process… right??). Let’s talk money.

There are two ways to attack the challenge of “what can we get for the resources we have”:

  1. Have an idea of how much different types of music cost.

Composing original music, licensing an independent track from emerging talent, creating a re-imagination of a famous song, licensing a famous track outright, et al. The main factors that impact how much music will cost are:

  • Song
  • #Brand
  • #Media (TV, Internet, Cinemas, etc.)
  • Term (3 months, 6 months, 12 months)
  • Territory (US only, LATAM, world)
  • Exclusivity

2. Have an idea of the budget you’re willing to spend on music.

Typically, unsigned music (original composition or track from emerging talent) should cost in the world of 10-15% of the total #production budget, depending on the importance of the music in the creative idea and for the brand. More than that if you want a famous song (there are separate factors that go into this pricing), and less than that if you use stock music (from an online library where typically licensing fees don’t actually get paid to the artists who made the work). **There are plenty of stipulations here, and of course you can adjust this accordingly, based on music’s role.

Your music partner(s) should help guide you through this. If you’re working with a music supervisor, they should give you the entire range of options – any possibility you might want to consider. If you’re working directly with a provider, like a “music house”, composer, sync agency or label, you’ll get pricing only on the solutions they have to offer you.

We almost always give three pricing options, each with a varied level of risk and reward, and walk our clients through what they would “get” for each pricing and time option. This way, you can choose based on internal priorities.

But either way – Once you set a general music budget, keep it! Don’t start pulling from music to pay for other production overages, thinking you can “always get something cheaper”. You get what you pay for.


When music is considered early on and holistically, based on the value role it might play in the project, you can weigh your options. How important is music to this project and the brand? Budget-wise, what percent makes sense to invest in music, and what return are we looking for? And, when you consider music way down the line, budgets are set and you’re hoping to find the right song for the rigid budget you have.

This applies to “large budgets” and “small budgets”. I’ve seen brands spend $2MM on 15-seconds of music just because they could, and it was NOT the best option for the project.

On the subject of time –

Rome wasn’t built in a day. And while most music partners have learned to be super speedy because we receive briefs that need to be filled within just hours, the reality is that when we wait until the last minute, it costs us. We miss opportunities to do something really cool and often to negotiate a better deal. Best rule of thumb is, engage your music partner once you 1) have clear the business objectives and 2) a beginning campaign idea (generally, when will you run it and are starting creative idea development).

3. Communicate Numbers 1 and 2 – to EVERYONE.

Make sure that why you’re doing this, how it’s relevant to your consumers, and the resources you have are included in the brief for everyone – entire agency, music partner, director, production company, business affairs, et al. This should be done in a CONVERSATION, and ideally followed up in writing. NOT in writing only. There is so much additional anecdotal information that gets shared in conversations that doesn’t get shared on paper, and that information makes all the difference. The difference between “trying too hard” and “damn, that hit a heartstring” in music is nuance.

Clue your music partner (and other partners) into the PROBLEM BEING SOLVED, not just what you want them to deliver. They maybe (most likely) will come up with some potential solutions that you otherwise wouldn’t have considered.

4. Ensure your expectations are realistic.

Sometimes we have a creative idea, and we have timing and budgets put in a project plan, and sometimes they don’t match. Make sure your music partner, an expert, is involved early on so they can advise that the creative idea you have is grounded in the time, money and other resources that will be necessary to make it happen. And, where necessary, to help you sell in the idea. This is one of the absolute most crucial reasons for working with a music advisor. Over promise and under deliver!

These four steps should really help get more out of music and have the process internally work more seamlessly.

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Sam Parvin

Samantha Parvin - Owner, Parvin Music Over the last 13 years, Samantha Parvin has built three successful music for brands companies, has created and licensed music for the most recognized brands in the world, and has redefined what’s possible by connecting some of the world’s best musical talent with brands, globally. Samantha Parvin, Owner Parvin Music Her work in one of the best audio recording facilities in the US (Doppler Studios) and in Sales and Marketing at an international software company (Blackbaud Inc.) prepared her to accept a position as Global Music Consultant for The Coca-Cola Company at their headquarters in Atlanta, GA, where she helped “The Most Recognized Brand in the World” understand what’s possible with music, across the globe. Since then she has built two successful music licensing and original composition companies, has won over 30 internationally-recognized awards including two Cannes Lions, and has had the pleasure to support brands like GMC, Corona, Dos Equis, Maker’s Mark, Procter & Gamble and more. Now as Owner of Parvin Music, a music licensing and composition agency, Samantha is focused on working very closely with a small roster of clients to elevate creativity, advocate for the rights of independent musicians, and provide opportunities for the best talent to create art with brands.

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