How These 3 Brands Kill The Competition With Music Licensing 1393 words · 7 minute read

How These 3 Brands Kill The Competition With Music Licensing


By Christopher Rucks | Music Dealers

At Music Dealers, we have an unusual, almost unhealthy love affair with music and sync licensing. It’s disgusting. We can’t help but analyze music during commercials, scrutinize the work of supervisors as they place music in shows, and study the effect of music placed in films. Personally, I can’t watch a film without meticulously picking apart a piece of music and wondering what it costs to clear both sides. When you’re a passionate about your work, as we are, this is the creature you become.

And of course, we’re always admiring brands and their creative agencies that employ superior taste when using music. Over the last several years, Heineken has had a very impressive music licensing run. They are one of the few brands that consistently manage to peel my eyes from my laptop during commercial breaks, using music to conquer the contemporary calamity known as “Attention-Divided-By-Devices-Disorder” (ADBDD) during advertisements.

Heineken’s “Open Your World,” and “Man Of The World” spots have not only been exceptionally creative ad campaigns complete with great storytelling and visuals, but the music has been incredible.


This impressive musical run was ignited by the use of The Asteroids Galaxy Tour’s “The Golden Age” in The Entrance campaign. Initially, I remember encountering this commercial with a bit of confusion. Visually, it was stunning and the storyline was very captivating, but the music…how could something be this catchy? Between the bright, innocent keys and the toddler-esque, sing-a-long vocals, you find yourself willingly surrendering to the music and the ad. It’s the kind of song that you’re grateful to have a brand shovel into your brain. While going about my day, “The Golden Age” would pop in, a welcome experience contrary to the many songs that intrude due to overexposure.

Another fantastic use of music was with Mohammed Rafi’s “Jaan Pehechaan Ho” in Heineken’s campaign, The Date. Pulling a song such as this from obscurity, from halfway around the world, and retrofitting it perfectly to the story, represented excellent creative direction and music supervision. Again, the visual was compelling, but the story was truly maximized through Rafi’s Indian Rock & Roll buffet, serving up ample doses of jazzy horns, surf-rockin’ guitars, and hip-shaking percussion, with a garnish of mystery and adventure.

In “The Switch,” Heineken tapped into the soulful sultriness of Clairy Browne & the Bangin’ Rackettes’ “Love Letter” for their inventive unveiling of a posh club within a decrepit bar. “Love Letter” is another exceptional music selection; Heineken’s creatives really leveraged the raw, retro-soul sound, demanding your attention through Browne’s fierce vocals.

The latest entry in the Man Of The World series is “The Voyage,” punctuated by a circus of sound from the band Maison du Malheur. Known for highly energetic performances, Maison du Malheur concocted a bouncy, gypsy-fueled, jazz-rock song to frame the adventure on the screen. After conducting some further digging into the music, I uncovered information that increased my appreciation for the creative musical direction of this ad. Malheur’s “Voyage Voyage” is actually an extremely clever and well-interpreted re-record of an 80’s French hit, “Voyage Voyage,” by Desireless. That’s what I call going deep for what you want creatively. Not every band could pull off such a sonic transformation and customize the music to fit a storyline of adventure, absurdity, and remaining composed amid chaos.

At Music Dealers, we know how powerful music-focused techniques like this can be; we push the clients we work with to approach their music licensing with this kind of vigor. Leveraging amazing talent who have yet to reach the international stage, re-recording works and creating inventive compositions, and creating consistency among emotion-evoking musical selections are all proven techniques that work wonders for music licensors.

Stella Artois is another brand that flexes its marketing muscles through great creative direction, music supervision, and sync licensing.


I took notice of the brand as a result of their stellar use of jazz in their “Apartomatic” campaign, co-directed by Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola. At the center of this swanky, 60’s era, tech-inspired spot is an excellent jazz piece: “No Problem,” by Art Blakey. This placement was solely responsible for reigniting my interest in 60’s hard-bop jazz, and from the message boards and forums online, I was certainly not alone. Then, Stella followed this ad with another fantastic use of jazz in their “World’s Fair” campaign, featuring a captivating custom jazz piece composed by music agency, Soundtree. Many fans of the music in the piece swarmed the net in search of the artist behind this song. Because of the quality of the song, we didn’t realize we were chasing a ghost; we couldn’t fathom that this wasn’t a real song composed by a jazz artist.

Continuing the tradition of leveraging the sexy sophistication of jazz music, the brand followed up with “The Artist.” Another custom jazz composition, this song aimed to convey a more romantic mood with a slower tempo, sentimental keys, and a sexy saxophone. And while it’s a custom piece, the song has the same authenticity and emotional impact as a commercial song licensed from a jazz legend of the 60’s, which is, again, very important to the success of the piece.

All of these spots sent myself and ten’s of thousands flooding the internet in search of the music. Art Blakey’s “No Problem” is now a part of my jazz repertoire and I really wish there was a copy of the World’s Fair custom song so I could buy it. As consumers, we appreciate Stella Artois going the extra mile with their creative and in the process, and as a result, deepen our connection with the brand through the introduction of new music.

What doesn’t Apple do well? You can add music licensing and supervision to the list of things they’re able to execute superbly. While Heineken has been able to capture the emotion of adventure, Stella Artois the sound of sophistication, Apple most often dips their musical bucket into the well of wonder.

Apple and their creative agencies employ a kind of three-prong attack in terms of their musical selections.


On the right, Apple advances with good ol’ pop music, old and new, that not only fits well with the visual from a sonic perspective, but through lyrical themes that snap right into place. For example, there’s “Two of a Kind” by Bobby Darin & Johnny Mercer, that compare the the iPad and iPad mini; or “Rill Rill” by Sleigh Bells featured in the iPhone 5C commercial that concludes the commercial with “ring ring call em up tell em about the new trends;” and Goldfrapp’s “Ooh La La” with a lyric about “weaving it through” while in the commercial, the liquid gold case weaves and forms around the phone.

Then, on the left, Apple flanks you with energetic custom pieces from talented composers, such as the very popular 2013 iPhone 5 ad that features a percussive, guitar-driven ditty by composer Scarlet Newman-Thomas. And up the middle, when not featuring a popular song or helping to break an artist, Apple pokes you with cupid’s emotion arrow through the crafty use of wonder-filled music. Many of Apple’s most powerful pieces convey so well a sense of wonder, of awe, of the beautiful possibilities derived from the question, “What if?” By the end of the ad, you’ve leaned into the screen, your eyes big, twinkling with possibility, and you’ve been hypnotized by soft, acoustic pianos and guitars while overtaken by a sense of peace and calm. Check out this ad.

You were just thinking of the possibilities right? Asking yourself, “What if?” And wondering things? They gotcha! Great brands utilize the power of music to tap into emotion and inspire consumers with a consistent, intended feeling, and Apple is no exception to the rule.

Recently, we released a book entitled, Hit Brands, that reveals how smart brands leverage the power of music to connect with their consumers. These three smart brands and their respective agencies excel at making that connection through the techniques above, using the power of music to cut through the clutter of the modern marketing era, while being a source of new sound for music lovers. We know how powerful these techniques can be and are always excited by the potential of helping content creators do the same.