HOW TO CHOOSE COMPELLING BACKGROUND MUSIC FOR YOUR VIDEOS

Background music in video
Larry Lubin Feb 20 ,2019

Unless you want to produce a silent film, music will play an important role in your video. Video production can feature dazzling special effects, breathtaking cinematography, and unforgettable performances, but the wrong background music can undermine its artistry and professionalism.

Some of the greatest scenes on the big and small screen are iconic simply because of the moods created by their musical backdrops.

With that said, we are going to discuss the elements you should pay attention to when adding music to your film or video. We’ll also give you some pointers on how to choose the right songs and where to look.

THE BASICS OF CHOOSING BACKGROUND MUSIC FOR YOUR VIDEO

Music selection is a delicate choice. Think of a DJ working the turntables at a party or nightclub. If they choose the right sequence of songs at the right time and without ruining the transitions, they’ll keep the crowd on their feet (and book more gigs). The opposite is true as well. A DJ who chooses the wrong sequence of songs will move the crowd off the dancefloor, leaving it deserted.

A similar, albeit more subtle, effect happens with music in films and videos. The right song or musical composition for a particular scene heightens the emotion, mood, and atmosphere the director wants you to feel. The wrong choice can make that scene less authentic and forgettable to viewers.

For those of you with musical backgrounds, the concept of song selection and its emotional impact will be familiar to you. For those of you who don’t consider yourself to be musically-inclined, it will be trickier, but it’s not impossible to learn.

PURPOSE & INSERTION OF BACKGROUND MUSIC

When deciding what background music should accompany a scene, it’s important to ask whether that song or composition belongs there.

Do you want your music to reinforce a message? Is it there to stir up a particular emotion among your audience? Or is it there merely for demonstrative purposes?

Figuring out what purpose you want your background music to serve is an important element of a killer video marketing strategy, and it separates you from your competitors.

BUDGET & COSTS FOR GOOD VIDEO BACKGROUND MUSIC

Let’s not forget that money makes the world go ‘round. This reality is especially true when it comes to video production and choosing background music. There are many sources to acquire music, and they will determine how much you pay for a song.

For example, a song purchased from a pre-existing library will cost next to nothing (under $100 in many cases). Hiring musicians to create your music will run at a much higher cost, whether it’s an hourly rate or a flat fee. If you wanted to license a song from a musical artist, then you’re looking at fees in the tens of thousands.

Ultimately, your choice of background music will depend on your budget. Keep in mind, however, that you do get what you pay for, and that certain video types will require more advanced or custom-fit music.

HIRING TALENT TO CREATE GOOD BACKGROUND MUSIC

Depending on where you obtain your music from, you will have to hire a team with musical talent. This will be the case if you’re looking to write and produce original music.

In these instances, it’s essential to know the various musical roles out there, and how they can help you create the right music for your videos. For example, you may have:

  • Vocalists
  • Songwriters
  • Instrumentalists
  • Producers
  • Engineers

And there’s many more. You need to know these roles well if you plan to create original music. Creators in each role require different amounts of time, workspaces, equipment, and resources to create the best possible compositions.

Keep in mind, too, that musicians are artists. Even if you are on a strict deadline or budget, their work can’t feel forced. If it does, the end result of their work will likely disappoint you, themselves and worse, your audience.

Finally, understanding the differences in these roles saves you time, money, and effort. You will know exactly what you’re paying for and what to expect from someone based on their title. You wouldn’t want to hire a vocalist and assume they can write original lyrics to a song. You would want to look for someone who also has songwriting chops.

MUSICAL ARRANGEMENT, INSTRUMENTATION AND STRUCTURE

Here’s a little refresher for those of you who weren’t the most enthusiastic students in music class. Music has some key elements – pitch, melody, harmony, rhythm, tempo, and dynamics. The way they come together within a song will have a particular effect on your audience.

Think about tempo (speed of a song) for example. Uptempo songs (with a high number of beats per minute [BPM]) bring energy. These songs are meant for people to dance, march, or workout to. Downtempo songs, especially when recorded in the minor key or with certain melodies, tend to make listeners more reflective or melancholic.

But things get even more scientific. Neuroscientists have pointed out that certain frequencies emitted by certain instruments affect listeners’ moods.

For example, mid to high frequencies produce emotions such as joy, and evoke a sense of ease and optimism. Mid to low frequencies tend to evoke a sense of power and strength, not to mention authority.

Low-Midrange Frequency Instruments

  • Bass instruments
  • Percussion instruments
  • Low brass horns
  • Low cellos

Midrange-High Frequency Instruments

  • Flutes
  • Violins
  • Trumpets
  • High notes on pianos, keyboards and guitars
  • Most woodwind instruments

You don’t need a PhD in music theory to learn how these elements mesh together.

Selecting songs with the right instrumentation is largely intuitive. Assuming you can tell if a song is “upbeat” or “moody”, for example, you will know whether it’s the right or wrong choice for your video just by listening.

If not? Simply give your most musically-inclined team members a pair of headphones. They’ll know whether to give a song thumbs up or down!

CHOOSING THE RIGHT TYPE OF BACKGROUND MUSIC FOR VIDEO PRODUCTIONS

It’s also important to choose the right type of song in terms of its aesthetic. This goes beyond genre. It’s more about the sound of the music itself and the purpose it serves.

For example, some background music would sound better in a video produced for or by a financial consulting firm. That same recording would sound dull for a branded film about a luxury sports car.

SEVEN TYPES OF BACKGROUND MUSIC TO CHOOSE FROM

  • Acoustic – These are the kind of songs that feature music made with acoustic instruments, and are often associated with warm and positive tones. They can be used for all sorts of videos, ranging from how-to guides and tutorials to personalized videos.
  • Ambient – This type of music is known for its soothing sounds. They often work best with videos where the messaging takes centre stage or highlights problems. Due to their softer textures, they avoid becoming a distraction and allow the message to stand out.
  • Cinematic – As the name implies, these songs evoke a sense of grandeur. Therefore, they work best in branded films, visually-stunning videos, and other formats where storytelling is the central element.
  • Commercial – What we mean by “commercial” music in this context are songs and recordings from professional artists. (e.g. Apple Commercials + numerous hits over the years). They can fit virtually any type of video format, but they are great for videos dependant on storytelling, compelling visuals, and lifestyle portrayals.
  • Comedic – As the name suggests, comedic recordings are ideal for videos that are humorous in tone, no matter the format. Comedic songs are positive by nature and amplify messages that rely on humour.
  • Corporate – Some may think of corporate as “boring” considering these types of recordings don’t draw attention to themselves. They are the epitome of background music. With that said, they convey a sense of professionalism and are suitable for whiteboard and welcome videos.
  • Original – Now if you are a truly innovative brand with access to top-tier musical talent, you can ignore the “genres” mentioned above. You can craft a style of background music that is truly unique to you as long as it fits your brand identity.

MUSIC COPYRIGHT & TRADEMARK

The legalities of music licensing are something that everyone on the team needs to understand. It goes without saying that you absolutely cannot use someone else’s music or recording without their permission. Try to pull a fast one and a lengthy court battle may ensue.

If you’re using “stock” audio or a song from an artist, make sure that you get permission to use the recording. Equally important is to credit the artists, publishers, and all personnel involved with the recording. Crediting the makers of a musical composition makes you look more credible and trustworthy.

CHOOSING THE RIGHT BACKGROUND MUSIC SHOULDN’T BE AN AFTERTHOUGHT

Selecting background music for video production isn’t a choice you want to make haphazardly. True, the score or soundtrack to a video may not be the first thing a viewer notices. Nevertheless, it will have a subtle yet powerful effect on their perception of your message.

It goes without saying that you want your perception to be positive. So be artful in your selection of background music!

Work with BlueRush and our personalized video production platform, IndiVideo, to produce a video that connects with your customers on a deeper level using personalized auditory and visual elements.

About the author: Larry Lubin

Larry Lubin

As original founder, Chairman and CEO of Fitech, now part of CGI, Larry began innovating in sales, software development, and financial services. Many leading applications for Financial Institutions including the Reality Check™ series for Scotia Bank were developed by Larry and his Fitech team.

His vision of an optimized and fully integrated sales and customer experience that leverages the power of technology is at the heart of every solution today.

In September of 2003, BlueRush was created with the mission to create the ultimate customer experience. BlueRush currently works with many of North America’s leading financial services, healthcare and consumer packaged goods companies.

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