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How to Brief a Composer

October 13, 2011



You’ve identified a need for music in your PR campaign content, you’ve found the composer – now: how do you brief them?


Composer Gareth Cousins explains:


Assuming you have now decided that you would like to commission original music for your campaign, and you have chosen a composer, how do you brief the composer so that they write the music you need?

  1. Tell the composer about the project. Who is the client, what is the brand? What is the purpose of the marketing campaign. Is it aimed at a specific demographic? What keywords have been used to describe the product or service?

  2. Pass on any materials that you have such as storyboards, scripts, photos, sketches etc.

  3. If you have any music references that the client has approved, or if you know what direction you’d like to go on in, provide mp3s or YouTube links for the composer to listen to. It is important that the music brief is for what is needed to make the marketing campaign work, rather than to ask the composer to come up with something that reflects your personal current musical taste. It needs to be relevant.

  4. How much music is needed – how long will it be, and will more than one piece be needed?

  5. What territories and media will the music be used in?

  6. If you do not have a pre-conceived idea of how the music should sound, that’s fine! Let the composer make some suggestions and see what approach most excites you.

  7. If you require a demo of the composer’s ideas, expect to pay something for this.

  8. Discuss the budget with the composer. Let them know how much you have available for the music. You may find the guidelines later in this article useful for helping work a music budget out.

  9. Be clear as to when you expect to hear the first version of the music, and when the project will need to be completed by.

  10. Providing commissioned music is usually a collaborative process between production company and composer. There will often be changes needed after the first draft of the music is submitted. Be prepared to be part of that process by letting the composer know what changes are required as soon as possible. Sometimes the best results are achieved by a system of feedback and honing in, and a good composer will have the patience to work with you in this way.

  11. Try to get the contractual side of things finalized as soon as is practical. The terms of the agreement will be based on the amount of music needed, the fees and associated costs involved in creating the music, the licenses needed and the timeframe for payment and completion of the project. Advice on the contracts will follow….

Author Gareth Cousins – www.garethcousins.com – has 25 years experience in working on music for picture. Originally trained as an engineer/producer at EMI’s Abbey Road Studios, he has since become a busy producer and composer of music for film, television and advertising. Recent commercial work includes FIFA (2014 World Cup), Rolls-Royce, MIG, Motorola and Cadbury.

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