How To Avoid a Clearance Catastrophe: The Balance Between Budget and Specs 521 words · 3 minute read

They say hindsight is 2020. A cliche, sure, but there’s no better adage to describe music clearance for advertising. Many a creative director has found herself tearing her hair out by the fistfuls because of exorbitant licensing prices or limiting contracts, all because an ad’s music strategy wasn’t decided early on in the project.

The solution is so simple it’s almost painful to suggest, but we feel it’s our duty to do so: decide your ad’s music strategy early on in the project. Easier said than done, right?

Well, over the next couple of months we’ll be sharing four key conversations you should have with your team as early as pre-production to get the song your team wants at a price your budget can afford – and hopefully save you from pulling out any more clumps of hair.

Trying to replace a song you love (but you just can’t): The balance between budget and specs


One of the most disheartening things that can happen to an ad is when you test a song you love, but one that your budget can’t actually afford. Don’t worry, we’ve all been there.

Once you’ve witnessed that magical marriage of The Beach Boys and your island resort commercial, there’s no turning back. You are committed to that song, but you’re crushed when you find out how much it will cost.

So, you’re left with two options: change the song or change the specs.

If you opt for the first route, you don’t necessarily lose that awesome sound you originally fell in love with. There are tons of indie artists whose songs you can license for a fraction of the amount you’d spend on that song by The Beach Boys. In the Music Dealers catalog, for example, you’ll find tons of artists with authentic music to sync with your spot. And if you find an artist whose sound you dig but their songs don’t fit, they can even create a custom piece just for your ad.

Pro tip: another benefit of working with current indie artists is that they’ll actually promote your spot when it airs. I doubt The Beach Boys would do your island resort commercial the same courtesy.

If you’re still head-over-heels for that original song, don’t fret just yet. There are more ways than one to skin a cat, and more ways than one to license a song. By clearing the publishing rights and re-recording the original with an indie artist, you get the song you want at a more reasonable price. Who said you can’t have your cake and eat it too?

Also, trimming down on the specs trims down the cost of the license. The cost of a worldwide license is significantly higher than one for North America only. An internet license is cheaper than a broadcast license. A six-month license is half the cost of a year-long license.

What exactly do you need the song for? That’s one of the first questions you and your team need to answer to begin formulating your ad’s music strategy.

Stay tuned for our next tip!

By: Bridget Perdomo & Alex Holder, Music Dealers