Setting the Mood
The Art of Crafting Original Music for Meaningful Moments
Our interview with CP Pro Audio's Chris Plante on composing custom music for brand experiences.
Earlier this year we explored how music choice can influence your event audience's emotional experience. The mood of a meeting is heavily influenced by not just what the audience sees and experiences, but also by what the audience hears.
The right music, whether subtly playing in the background of a networking opportunity, or setting the tone of your big screen conference opener for thousands of attendee's watchful eyes and ears, can make or break the moment.
Billboard's top 40 and classic pump up rock jams are easy go-to's to speaker entrances or award ceremonies, but when it comes to the media elements at your show, and ensuring the delivery of an impactful message, you may find your brand experience needing more.
Just like how stock art sometimes won't cut it, neither will stock music. For those instances, there is custom composition. We're talking designing music specific for a moment. Investing in an original composition, or even an entire score, for your events and marketing content. That's true attention to detail. That, friends, is art. And it's something we're passionate about at Cramer.
"Nothing is more powerful than composing to picture," says Executive Creative Director, Mark Wilson.
There are more content creators than ever before, and more demand for quality music to accompany all that content. Services like Music Bed and Soundstripe allow creators to license high quality music for film projects starting at $15.
It's an incredible time to be a filmmaker, event producer, and marketer with how quick, easy, and cheap it can be to put out great looking and sounding work. Fortunately, it's become quicker, easier, and cheaper to create custom compositions as well!
On the higher end of commercial and documentary production, even sound design for brand experiences, you're not going to want to license a track that your audience may hear in 10 other various projects or settings. You want something as unique as the experience and the message that your content is conveying.
In the past, original music has been costly due to expensive composers and studio time, but these costs have been driven down by more accessible technologies. When the impact of the project truly matters, there should be no reason not to go custom.
On one of our favorite composed projects to date, we brought in our friend and owner of CP Pro Audio, Chris Plante.
Chris is the mastermind behind the music that accompanied the IBM Amplify conference opening video. First, check out the video and take a listen below, then dig into our interview with Chris where we chat about the craft of music composition and the unique challenges of writing music for moments like these.
An interview with CP Pro Audio's, Chris Plante -
Let's start with IBM Amplify. Can you tell us a little about your inspiration for the track here?
During the conversation I had with Mark, and Brendan O'Brien, I think Mark said something like, "they know you better than you know yourself," and that really said it all for me. That was going to be the emotional driver behind the piece. And the goal was to make this sound like a song that already existed, and not like a bed or stock track.
The lyrics were going to subtly, but directly, convey what the audience would be seeing on screen. In that way, it's so much more powerful that picking any random tune to pair with the video.
What was so great about working with Cramer on this was that the team had such a strong direction and vision for what they wanted this to feel like, that they sent along 8 or 10 temp tracks which I used to basically decipher, "what is the line tying all of these together?" Whether production or vibe, chord changes or tempo, I could use that, and then create something original that would really suit the project.
So you prefer when a client sends you some starter tracks rather than a blank slate to work with?
I think if the client has already found something they like and know the direction they want to go in with the music, it can be really helpful to not waste time going down the wrong path. So a lot of times I do prefer getting those temp tracks as a starting point. But for something like a movie, I would be less likely to want that, and would rather have full creative liberty to interpret what the scene demands.
Getting something with demo tracks isn't a bad thing though, because it gives me a benchmark to beat. And that's my whole job. To beat the hell out of stock music.
When might you say stock music is a viable option?
I mean stock has its place. Use stock if the music is neither here nor there. If you're just delivering text on screen for instance and the piece doesn't need to be emotionally important and dynamic.
If you want control over the emotional dynamic and want people to really come away from a video feeling something, stock may only get you 70 or 80% there. Music can so deeply affect the way that you react to a visual, that if your project does have that level of importance, you're selling it short by not going with a carefully crafted original piece. You wouldn't use a stock script right?
Ok sold. No stock! Can you paint us a picture of your process when you're starting to compose something original?
Every time I get something new, I kind of quasi black out! It's strange but there is a moment when I watch something for the first time where I just feel such a strong pull towards where I can take the piece sonically.
I feel like I've always had pretty good instincts for where important sync points and lifts or lulls happen within video storylines, but sometimes I may be wrong, and that's okay. It's an exploration exercise.
Does your process change depending on the medium you're composing for? Say, a video for web vs. a video for an event?
Well it's all about understanding what we want the audience to feel, in a moment, no matter where that moment takes place. And then translating that into music.
The main question that I always ask the production team is what do you want the audience to feel when they watch or listen to this? Because the answer to that question is the answer to what I'm going to do musically.
But, for events specifically, there are some cool places we can take sound design that changes the writing process. For a different project with Cramer, we had an event with six screens flashing on and off at different important sync points, and using stereo imaging, we were able to make the audio impact sync with the visuals.
When the video cut hard left, so did the audio, which helps draw audience attention where we wanted it to go and that is a better experience for the attendee. You need to mix a track differently for a big room too. Where the music is going to play makes a difference.
Are you ever given an audience persona to consider as you think about who they are and how to make them feel?
Who a person is, from a traditional marketing persona standpoint, doesn't matter as much as you might think.
Even though we all have different tastes and come from different walks of life, when we're put in a situation where we're watching a film or a video, especially in a theater or at an event, music will affect us similarly across demographics.
If I'm writing for C-level executives, it's not much different than writing for the 4,000 people they employ. At the end of the day they're all affected by music, regardless of their position at a job.
Sometimes the age bracket is an important consideration, as far as style goes. You know, writing music for 8th graders vs. a sales team. But what I really feel moves people is tempo, harmony, and melody. You can take a similar mix of those three things, and produce something stylistically different depending on the audience.
What would you say to a client, who may be on the fence, to help them understand how thoughtfully crafted original music is worth their investment?
You're already investing so much in an experience, and you're hoping for your audience to come away with a certain lasting feeling, and it's important to note that a large percentage of what they do feel is going to come from the music and the sound design.
Although we focus on visuals because we're visually-oriented creatures, a lot of what's happening in our brain is actually based more on what we're hearing. Music is a much bigger experience than we often give it credit for, but I would argue it's as important as any other element of your program!
To connect with Chris, visit cpproaudio.com.com. To chat about an original composition to compliment content design for your next brand experience, contact us.
For some fun final proof in how drastically music and sound design choices can influence how you feel about what you're seeing and the messages you're absorbing, may we now present the Ms. Doubtfire trailer, recut as a horror movie.