Pat Murphy Talks Music and Music Advertising

Soundlounge Team
June 11, 2020

Musical musings, music career, and music advertising…

Everyone remembers the first record they bought. Normally it’s associated with a memory around that time, and generally brings back positive feelings in one way or another. Or it might be a song they heard on the radio at a point in time that something was happening in their life. One of mine is the song ‘You To Me Are Everything’ by The Real Thing, which was playing on Magic in the delivery room at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital when my son was being born.

Ever since I was eight years old music played an important part of my life. My brother had Radio Luxembourg and the early days of Radio 1 playing all the time. I never forget the Chart rundown on Sunday nights presented by Tom Browne. I used to record it on an old Ferrograph Reel to Reel machine. It made me realise the power of audio. The DJs of the time, the music and the jingles we grew up to still burnt powerfully into our memories.

This is why, when I started my career in music advertising, I also had a parallel career that I wasn’t prepared to drop, spinning tunes as a radio presenter and sometimes taking calls from oddball listeners whose only friend was the radio. In my first Ad Agency, Saatchi & Saatchi London, everyone seemed hell-bent on being a TV producer. It was frustrating to see the majority of radio campaigns and music advertising projects being given to the most inexperienced PA in the department. However, I did see it as an opportunity, and I asked if I could take on the role of Head of Radio. They gladly offloaded onto me, and it was definitely like being paid for something you’d do for free. Those recording sessions at Saunders and Gordon, Silk, The Bridge, Tape Gallery and Angell helped me hone my skills and knowledge and plenty of awards were won at the Radio Awards, Creative Circle and of course the Capital Ad of the Month which I loved because it was held at Euston Tower.

What I did learn through all this time was that choosing music for ad campaigns was the most challenging thing to do. Not because I didn’t have an idea of what might be right or wrong. Normally it was because I knew that if it was a TV project, then there would be a cast of thousands wanting to express their opinion, from the Clients wife, to the Creative Directors and the Account Team and plenty of agency people who weren’t even on the account. That’s why I loved doing radio, no one gave a damn, it was just me. However it did raise a significant question. Music is so subjective, what makes anyone think they are right when choosing the right tracks? Its always only about them, and not about the audience.

What are the tastes of the customer you are trying to reach? What are the events, places, people that have influenced their lives? Surely that will give a higher probability of success. Interestingly research has been happening for years in the radio business with regards what records to put on playlists so why wouldn’t that make sense for the ad industry. And if a client is going to spend 100’s of thousands of pounds investing in a well known song, surely this isn’t going to based purely on the recommendation of a creative or a producer? Clients spend tons on animatics to understand whether an ad idea is worthy of taking forward before going to a full up production, so I figured that the same must apply if you hire a celebrity or secure a huge music track.

When I was at P&G, we did a lot of R&D in advertising production. And one of the biggest drivers of effectiveness proved to be music. And way greater than anyone could possibly imagine. I started to build relationships with music companies including Chrysalis and Universal and EMI at that time and we produced a P&G CD every month with the best new releases for creatives to consider. The record companies were keen to promote the acts and it was a win-win for both parties. It was also at that time I met Ruth from soundlounge who invited me to speak on a panel. I think we felt very much the same about the importance of music, how we could elevate its importance in the process, but also put a better more data driven approach to the choices.

Still today, I experience agencies putting music as the last consideration on the production schedule. Often decisions are made at editing, or the night before the ad goes to air. Its totally unprofessional, or maybe just incompetent.

I have recently attended the soundlounge ‘An Evening With Bob’ events, which have been truly fantastic. Firstly you get to meet a legend, but then also he deftly co-ordinates an evening of banter with amazing guests who understand the role that music advertising plays in creating legendary campaigns. I hope that these events start again soon. I know that if I was sitting a CMO’s chair, I wouldn’t be waiting for my agency to devise a music strategy for my brand. I’d be on the phone to Ruth and Kerry to help guide me (and of course Debbie, MCA’s music consultant!) There isn’t to my knowledge another music company out there that approaches music advertising in such a smart and passionate way, using data and research as the backbone of any decision making. I absolutely love what they do.

Pat Murphy – Founder, Murphy/Cobb

Many thanks to Pat for writing this blog! Keep your eyes peeled on our blog for other interesting articles and content on music advertising, sonic branding, and all things music in general! Stay safe and see you next time!

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