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The Importance of Music and Where You Get it From

by Mario Feil

One of the most difficult parts of completing a film or trailer is choosing the right music. Every time I have a meeting with a client, they only want to talk about the story and the images. Well, in most cases, they only tell me that they want something awesome, something better than anything they’ve ever seen etc., but that’s another post.

They never talk about the sound or the music. If I ask them something like, “What music should we use for the final product?” or “Do you want me to search for a band or do we have to compose something completely new?” they don’t know what to say. As soon as clients hear the phrase “composing an original score” they are often impressed and scared at the same time. They are impressed that I work with real composers but scared because they fear the costs.

Good Music to Underline Good Pictures

It doesn’t really matter which one we finally choose. Most clients simply don’t seem to understand the importance of a good score!  I’m not talking about an orchestra either, even if that is the king league of all scores. I’m simply talking about good music to underline good pictures.

If you watch your favorite film or video on mute, you’ll immediately see that all the magic is gone. Even if the video has no music, there will at least be some sound you can hear (wind, birds, breathing, whatever.) Or even better, watch your favorite video again, but this time mute the video and play horrible music to it. It just doesn’t work.

Some good examples that show the importance of good sound are films like “Star Wars”, “Indiana Jones” (both composed by John Williams), “Inception” (Hans Zimmer) and of course pretty much any score by Danny Elfman.

Back to our clients…
They still haven’t reached a decision and they won’t until they see and hear the final video.  So, because my client said, “I have no idea, just do whatever you can and keep the budget low,” I spent hours searching for good sound, asked the labels for prices and so on.  But what if the client doesn’t like it? What if the label suddenly decides that they don’t want their band’s song in this video?  What if the composer you hired has to rewrite the score?  Time is money and now things could get very expensive.

There are many things you have to keep in mind when you are in a client meeting. Don’t just focus on selling the video.  Make sure you also mention the sound part.

Ask the client what they like and what their target audience likes. Is it Jazz or is it Dubstep?  Is it Rock or is it HipHop? When you know these things, it’s much easier for you to get an idea of what the final product looks and sounds like.  Also, make sure to tell your clients how important good sound/music is because many of them will take it for granted that you will take care of that part.

So what are your options?

Free music: There are a lot of websites offering good music for free or for a small fee.  Jamendo and Digital Juice are two of the more popular sites but you will probably end up searching for hours to get a few good ones to fit your video.  Plus chances are if the songs are good, someone else has probably used them too.

1-Man-Composer: I work with friends who design music by themselves with Logic or Cubase. Stock instruments and sounds are already included with these programs. They have everything from simple mood sounds to orchestral music but it’s a lot of work (which means a lot of money) and of course it’s not a real band or orchestra.

Composer (with “real” instruments): I produced a promo video for a band called Luftmentschn. They are professional musicians which means they know exactly what kind of music fits to the images. Each band member plays at least 2 different instruments and if they work together with different takes, it sounds like an orchestra. However, once again 4-5 people working on a score for 3 days = $$$, but then you don’t have to worry about the sound any longer. They will take care of everything!

Bands: If you have friends that are in a band, it’s easy. Ask them if you can use their music and they will probably say “YES!! take all of our songs!”  If the client wants songs from big artists or bands (like the Rolling Stones for example) it’s going to be VERY difficult. You will need to convince the label that you are doing something they really want to be a part of without having a final product to show.  If they do agree, they will want to know where the piece is going to be screened and then they will want to talk about money. The more famous the band is, the more money you will end up having to pay.

If you choose the first option, keep in mind that you will most likely end up spending hours or maybe even days searching for the right sounds. Do you get paid for searching for these sounds? Would it be even better (or cheaper) if you hired a real musician who takes care of this?  What do you think? How long did you search for the right music on your last project?


For Mario, working in film and editing originally came about on a whim, but quickly developed into a passionate hobby and finally into his main profession. He has gained extensive experience in diverse areas, including sports, fashion, events, music and culture. Whether planning, design, screenwriting, directing, camera, editing or post-production, Mario has carried out virtually all jobs within the broad spectrum of film production and is therefore able to draw on extensive specialist knowledge.

As the head of the team, he is the first port of call for concept and direction. From smaller projects through to major films, from logo animation to image films – Mario has the finished product running through his mind before he has even hit the record button.

Learn More about Mario’s Work

 

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5 Responses to “The Importance of Music and Where You Get it From”

  1. Anonymous on November 22nd, 2011 8:13 am

    Sound is usually very important, but “If you watch your favorite vimeo video on mute, you’ll see that all the magic is gone when there’s no sound.  Even if the video has no music, there is at least some sound you can hear (wind, birds, breathing, whatever.) ” isn’t always true.


    Stan Brakhage intended most of his films to be shown without music – and there’s no other sound.


    And The Passion of Joan of Arc is often considered one of the best 30 films of all time and has no sound, and Dreyer asked that it not be screened with a score… So we have pure image.. and silence.

  2. Steve Weiss on November 22nd, 2011 10:13 am

    That’s absolutely not true to me.  First off vimeo videos are typically just that videos, not stories, they don’t have dialogue.  And to 99.9% of the world the soundtrack, sound design & music is exactly what moves you much moreso then the picture.  You sound like a cinematographer, like many on vimeo and that is cool but as a director I’m dead with out sound.

  3. Anonymous on November 22nd, 2011 4:48 pm

    I totally agree Steve sound is so important, I just disagree with the point that films without sound have no magic as that would do a major disservice to the works of the great Stan Brakhage or Dreyer’s Passion of Joan of Arc, often called the best film of the silent era which wasn’t played with any music.

    These films are perfect, and lack sound. They are unusual examples, and certainly having zero soundtrack won’t  work with most films, but there are exceptions… and the lack of sound becomes unnoticeable..

    Here’s Karina watching the Dreyer in Vivre sa Vie

  4. Mario Feil on November 22nd, 2011 5:01 pm

    well, those are propably the 1% I guess. For me, sound is as important as the pictures.
    Not just the music of course, sound FX and dialogue as well. Picture + SoundFX/Dialogue/Music. 
    And of course there are always exceptions, I won’t deny that but I think we are talking about the masses, the 99%. My post is certainly not complete as this topic is WAY too complex to cover everything film/sound related. I often struggled finding the right sound or even convince the clients to invest in proper music. 

  5. Justin on January 29th, 2012 12:43 am

    The Importance of MUSIC and where you get it from.

About the Author


For Mario, working in film and editing originally came about on a whim, but quickly developed into a passionate hobby and finally into his main profession. He has gained extensive experience in diverse areas, including sports, fashion, events, music and culture. Whether planning, design, screenwriting, directing, camera, editing or post-production, Mario has carried out virtually all jobs within the broad spectrum of film production and is therefore able to draw on extensive specialist knowledge. As the head of the team, he is the first port of call for concept and direction. From smaller projects through to major films, from logo animation to image films – Mario has the finished product running through his mind before he has even hit the record button. Learn More about Mario's Work

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