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Is Targeted Music the Future of Licensing?

January 8, 2021 — The history of music in television and movies is interesting. Dating back to the origin of film when theaters had organs — and sometimes even full bands — to play in house during silent films. As time passed, music has played various roles in film and television. While also taking center stage in musicals and other content in order to set the mood in any given scene. With so many forms of media today, music and pictures continue to evolve in their relationship together. With that said, a new album may be setting the scene for the future of that relationship.

Just What is Music In Movies Becoming?

As synch licensing becomes commonplace, some artists are beginning to make music with a specific media in mind. For instance, an album released recently through another synch licensing company was directed at true crime television shows. It is one of many albums that are being compiled for explicit use in targeted media; other examples include albums titled Enchanting Adventure, Piano Horror, and 60s TV drama. In a similar vein, horror legend John Carpenter is set to release his album Lost Themes III: Alive After Death, which is basically a compilation of music he would put in one of his films.

An album filled with similar songs is not exactly a new idea; many soundtracks are set around a particular decade. On the other hand, overarching themes will have a soundtrack that sounds like it was all compiled from one source. For instance, a movie set in the 80s club scene will most likely have an album full of synth-heavy songs. The difference here is these albums are something of a reverse soundtrack. Where they are made to be in a movie instead of being chosen for a film after they are produced.

The Way You Make Music Matters

Synch licensing continues to grow in popularity as a way for media outlets to source music. This leads to the question of whether targeted music is the future or not. While it looks good on paper, it could likely lead to an overall dilution for music in film and beyond. There is nothing wrong with writing the occasional piece for a movie, when you feel certain it would make for a good inclusion. After all, a handful of composers do just that for a living. However, they are also commissioned to do it for a specific project. What we are talking about here is composing music at random with the hopes it will get picked up. It is the equivalent of “throw it at the wall and see what sticks,” which is not how music should be made.

There is something to be said for the ingenuity of the whole endeavor. There are musicians out there who are incredibly talented. So much so that they can hear a theme in a particular media genre and think, “I can create an entire album of music like this.” As competitive as this industry is, it makes sense that they would want to have any advantage they could. This may also include targeting albums to a specific genre.

Believe It or Not, Passion Can Be Heard

There is nothing wrong with wanting to make money in this industry; that is why we are all here after all. The problem with targeted content like this is it is so commercial and mechanical; the music’s soul can suffer from such corporate focus. It ceases being a creation by an artist, and becomes a series of approved sounds mashed together. To then be plugged into a relevant movie or TV show. When a song lacks an organic feeling, there is something intangible that is lost in translation. After all, it is the soul and the passion of creation that resonates with the listener under the surface of every note.

This writer’s opinion is that targeted music is not the direction in which this industry should be moving. There is nothing inherently wrong with it, and it indeed has its benefits. There is no doubt it helps artists be discovered, thanks to search engine optimization. Though, it lacks the genuine soul which comes from an artist producing an album from their heart. In a roundabout sense, targeted music could also lead to the perfect song not making it into a product. This could be because the musical director will not be as involved. Instead choosing to find a generic Action Film album for the given project. Targeted albums can coexist with traditional synch licensing, but it is not optimal. Hopefully, this experiment in the industry is just a fad, and musical directors have the last word by choosing original works meant for listening too and not just for sale.


Arthur Thares
Arthur is an avid television and movie fan with horror being his favored genre. If you can name it, he has probably seen it. Twice. During the day you can find him in his office listening to jazz and writing about things that inspire him.


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