One thing at the 2014 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity was remarkably clear: We are witnessing a revolution within the traditional Agency of Record framework. The rise of specialty agencies is shifting the paradigm to a new model, including the birth of the Music Agency of Record.

With major brands moving away from the Agency of Record model, they’re leaving their identities in the hands of more teams spread around the world. Doing so threatens the consistency of a brand’s voice and message. This is especially the case in areas like the music a brand uses in its campaigns, or its overall sonic identity, which needs the same formatting and guidelines as other communication elements such as logos or fonts.

When a brand switches agencies, the logo and branding are carried over to the new partner through style guides, visual identity systems (VIS) and more. Until now, tools and resources like these have never existed for a brand’s sound.

Today, brands are working with more specialized agencies to create more content than ever before. Music is not only showing up as a pain point, but as one of the largest missed opportunities to drive positive engagement, build a cohesive brand identity and create value. You wouldn’t let an editor change your company’s logo based on personal preference, but that’s exactly what’s happening with the use of music.

In Cannes past, Music Dealers, a creative licensing agency, has simply been considered a vendor to other agencies to supervise a music search and clear songs for commercial use. But this year, top brands including McDonald’s, which was named Creative Marketer of the Year, and Coke, who owned that title last year, introduced us to their more traditional agency partners.

Music Dealers is the first company to be appointed Music Agency of Record for some of the world’s most respected and creative brands. Earlier this year, The Coca-Cola Company introduced Music Dealers to 142 of their above-the-line creative agencies around the world. This move came after Music Dealers worked with Coke’s global brand teams to identify the right music to properly reflect the personalities of the brands. Fanta looks and tastes the same everywhere in the world, but the sound of the brand has come down to the personal taste of the local team. We needed a way to create more consistency and use every opportunity we have to create strong connections with consumers. 

Eric Sheinkop
Eric Sheinkop

Music Dealers curated “on brand” music for Coke, Sprite, Coke Zero and Fanta. Instantly we saw a pickup in use around the world from creative teams who appreciated the music that would help drive value for their productions. We’re cutting down the time it takes to find and source the perfect track using artists from more than 85 countries.

And Coke isn’t the only company catching on. McDonald’s recently introduced Music Dealers to their creative agencies to help with music selection on TV spots after completing a Music Dealers-run Sonic Identity workshop. Microsoft, Bacardi and other global brands have gone through similar workshops and created musical style guides to help inform their music choices. 

These workshops think through what a brand represents and how it wants to be seen and talked about before curating the right music for a campaign. Music doesn’t just help tell the story of what’s on screen; it evokes emotion so strong that it can carry the relationship with the consumer beyond the 30-second spot and help a brand become part of the consumer’s life in an organic way. Once a brand’s musical style guide has been created, the music they use in-store, in-restaurant, in radio, TV, Internet and any other touch point can be a proper reflection of the brand and help drive true value. 

As brands are creating more content through different sources and teams, the role of the music agency of record becomes even more important to help drive consistency.

People need music. They have a strong desire to discover new music and share that music with their friends. Brands have the opportunity to be their trusted filter and help deliver music that makes a difference in their lives.

Eric Sheinkop is co-founder and CEO of Music Dealers.