What is Metadata for Music in Advertising?

music-largeThere is a new challenge in today’s digital world: we are drowning in the ever-increasing river of content. How do you manage all of the content that is out there? How can you find precisely what you are looking for when there is so much information? Metadata is one approach to this challenge. In the advertising world, it is a key component in the music selection process.

What is metadata?

Metadata is data that gives information about other data. Think of it as a high-level summary of  the information found inside any file type. One example is a card in a library card catalog. For a book, this data would consist of the author, title, date published, Library of Congress Decimal Classification code, etc. Similarly, metadata can also be used to describe other types of content, like documents, images, videos, spreadsheets, music, web pages, and much more.

Sample card for a library card catalog


Why do we need metadata?

We need metadata because having more robust data attached to a file makes it easier to identify, locate, manage, and discover. For instance, you can search a particular artist in a digital library and pull up all files that have that artist’s name in the metadata. This is particularly useful when an artist is not listed as the main artist on a track, but rather, as a “featured artist” or perhaps even as a composer. So if you’re trying to find that hot new Rihanna track, but it’s actually a Calvin Harris song that she’s featured on, you will still find the track when you type in her name.
Being able to filter using metadata also allows for easy isolation and organization of songs that share characteristics. So if you’re searching for a particular type of track, filtering your library using metadata will bring you a shorter list of tracks. For example, you can filter by the genre “Rock” and the year “1975” and your library will only show you tracks that share that same genre and year.
Metadata has become even more important in an increasingly digital world. Now we are not just dealing with libraries in the physical sense, but rather, a world of digital content, which means that there is even more information out there than ever, and all of it needs to be sifted through and managed. Not only has the sheer amount of content increased, but also the way this content is digested is changing. Unlike books and webpages, some of these files resist easy searching. You can’t “flip through” a digital file. It is, therefore, crucial to have metadata as a means of finding this information quickly.

How do you create metadata?

Metadata can be created both manually or using automated information processing. When you input metadata manually, you decide what information you think is relevant or needed for finding or identifying the file. An automated system, on the other hand, may only be able to create more objective information such as file size, file extension, etc.

How is metadata used for music in advertising?

Metadata gives brands, agencies, publishers and music supervisors a method for searching and organizing their libraries. This can help them go from billions of songs to just a few in a short amount of time, and it helps composers get their music licensed.
Using metadata, these tracks can be indexed according to genre, instruments, moods, etc., using “tags” or keywords, which in turn makes them more searchable. In an iTunes library, for example, you can right click a song and select “get info” and it will show you that track’s metadata. Most of the basic information about a song is already there if you download it from iTunes. In this section, you can also add your own metadata in the comments field. If you’ve added emotions in the comments field like “happy”, your library will pull up all the tracks that contain this word in their metadata.

ID3 tag metadata in iTunes
Example of ID3 tag metadata in iTunes

Music for advertising is often stored in the MP3 format, which have a specific area of the file for descriptive metadata called the ID3 tag. The ID3 container includes fields for storing the artist, song title, year, genre, album, composer, bpm and other descriptive data, very much like the card in a library card catalog. The main issue with ID3 tag is its inflexible format. There are a set number of labelled fields users can fill out, and beyond these standard fields there is only room for a custom type of information in the “comments” field. This means that you cannot isolate “happy” the emotion from the “Happy” that’s in a song’s title. The other issue is that someone still has to manually enter in anything that’s beyond the standard fields.
While it is true that metadata is important for music supervisors and creative directors who are searching for music to put in their ads, it is equally important for artists who want their music discovered and licensed properly. As an artist, you must have the correct metadata (copyright information, etc.) in the publisher’s database in order for royalties to be paid to you and to the publishers, and to show that the rights are cleared. Music supervisors and creative directors won’t even consider a piece of music unless the rights are pre-cleared, and the metadata is a quick way of showing that they are.
It is also important as an artist to include your contact information in your metadata. This allows music supervisors and others to identify where a song came from, and to contact the artist. Having easy access to the artist’s contact information is especially important if they decide to only use specific components of the track. For example, they might only want the vocal track for an ad or they might not want any vocals at all.
Via: &

What is the value of metadata for music selection in advertising?

While metadata is a necessary tool for managing and discovering songs in a vast catalog, and for licensing music, it is not sufficient when selecting music for advertising. Easy management of music is crucial to the selection process, but it will not tell you as a marketeer what song is the best fit for your ad. It also does not give a fully objective characterization of songs. Descriptions that go beyond the standard ID3 tags are manually inputted, which makes them fairly subjective. What one person thinks is “happy” another might think is “sad”. As a result, you cannot rely on metadata to give you accurate information about the song.
What’s your experience with metadata?  Useful, or a minefield riddled with mistakes?  Easy to maintain, or the bane of your existence?  Let us know in the comments!

Audience Insights Branding

Why Should I Test My Music?

Soundboard by Veritonic

You test everything, why don’t you test your music?

Advertising today is data driven.
Yes, that’s right: the days of “Mad Men,” drinking martinis and dreaming up amazing campaigns, then releasing them on TV in a blaze of glory, is on it’s way out.  Creativity is still central to advertising— and always will be! — but resources are too scarce and competition is too great to allow the decisions on potentially millions of dollars in ad spend to be made based on gut alone.  That’s why more and more companies are committing to making their decision-making process for marketing and advertising more data-driven.
What does that mean?  Usually it means that data is applied to the core creative concept, in the form of a focus group, which is almost never of the size to reveal statistically significant measurements.  The visuals get tested, the copy is tested, the ad buy is informed by data, and the size and composition of the audience that sees the ad is measured.  Even the choice of colors is informed by data.  For online advertising, the use of data is even more pervasive: the ad units may be A/B tested, the audience is micro-targeted, and the viewability of the ad is measured more and more frequently.
In fact, there’s really only one area of advertising that doesn’t have any data supporting the decisions that get made: selecting the music.

Music Defies Easy Measurement

Why is this?  Music has some characteristics that defy easy categorization and measurement, and addressing these issues is complex and time-consuming.  Music is highly subjective, for one: who doesn’t have a special memory of “that song they played at prom”, or a similar association?  These experiences lead individuals to make decisions that may not reflect the tastes and associations of the audience the marketer is trying to reach.  Similarly, until recently, no one has applied any psychological framework to music, but that’s changing as research reveals how music impacts the brain.
Music also has a temporal component that makes it unique.  It must be consumed over a period of time, unlike an image or copy.  Music is also frequently asked to evoke different emotions at different times throughout an ad: for example, happy for the first ten seconds, then nervous for the next ten seconds, before resolving to an even happier state for the last ten seconds.  As we like to say at Veritonic, music has “lots of nooks and crannies!”
The format of music also defies easy categorization and manipulation.  It usually exists as a collection of .MP3 files, which is a file format designed for compression, not easy categorization.  Even at the most sophisticated agencies, music is frequently stored in a folder in the iTunes account of the music supervisor, or maybe the creative director.  Formats and storage options like these don’t lend themselves to sorting, discovery or collaboration.

Music Metadata Isn’t A Help

To the extent that there is data to facilitate the selection of music for advertising, it’s in the form of “metadata”.  These are simple tags added by the composer — or even more frequently by the ad agency’s interns! — that list the artist, title, date of creation, and maybe the owners of the tracks’ copyrights.  In fact, most of the metadata is concerned with the administration and usage of the music, rather than anything useful to help select it.
The data that most music libraries have isn’t any better or more helpful.  Libraries or online aggregators and resellers try to augment the “typical” metadata by having staff or interns add simple generalizations about the music, like tempo or beats per minute, genre, and instrumentation.  They may also try to categorize the “mood” of the music, boiling down the entire piece to a single “emotion”.  These tags have the same issues as metadata: they’re the output of a single person’s perceptions of the emotion, who almost certainly doesn’t represent the target audience that the advertiser or user of the music is trying to reach.
Testing can address all of these shortcomings, and give data that far exceeds these limitations.  Advanced psychological frameworks can give insight about how people respond to the audio stimulus.  And built-to-purpose audiences – that match the audiences marketers are trying to reach – can give their opinions about the music, revealing the emotional texture of music, while also informing the marketers and composers about how well the music supports the story the marketer is trying to tell.

Supporting Creativity

Will this limit creativity?  Far from it.  If anything the reverse is true.  Data can support making choices that would otherwise be perceived as risky or out of the mainstream.
For example, a prominent music publisher told us about a doo-wop track that he felt would be perfect for a TV spot he was working on.  But without data to support the choice, he couldn’t convince his client to go with a musical style that isn’t in the mainstream right now.
There’s also a ton of research that shows that the rigor of an objective decision-making process can actually improve creativity.
That’s why you should test your music.  You test everything else, and that data makes for better marketing and better results.  The technology is here to address the difficulties in testing music, helping you make better decisions about the music in your marketing
Have you tested your music, or used any data to select music?  Let us know what you’ve used and your experience to date in the comments!

Audience Insights Branding

Enhance Your Music Tastemaking Skills With Data

Enhance music selection with data from Veritonic

Music selection can make or break an ad. Music supervisors and creative teams have tremendous taste and experience that is critical for making these decisions. But with millions of dollars in ad spend on the line, it’s becoming too risky to rely on the opinions of a few individuals. What to do? Use data! Here are seven reasons you should support your musical taste with data.

1) Minimize subjectivity

There will always be some degree of subjectivity in the music selection process. And there should always be real humans helping select music; after all, the whole purpose of music in ads is to have an emotional impact on people. But smart marketers know that “you are not your target audience.” (Usually, anyway.) Having real data from your target audience that quantifies this emotional impact can help make the decision making process better, and easier.

2) Quantify your music

Matching music to advertising demands data. Simple attributes like beats per minute or instrumentation can help creative professionals narrow down the list of possibilities.  More advanced data can quantify the emotions, feelings and other associations that music evokes in people. Simple insights like these can make a good spot into a great spot.

3) Create objective metadata

Metadata can be very subjective: typically, it’s manually entered by a single individual. But if you test your music, augment your traditional metadata with marketing response data. Think about how much more comfortable you’ll be when you know that your audience perceives a particular track as “Exciting” or “Authentic,” before you recommend it for an ad!

4) Benchmark your music

Data also lets you compare the performance of new music to tracks you’ve used in the past. Evaluate how well your music evokes a consistent set of emotions, and ensure your audience receives a consistent message. Even better, collect data on your competitors’ music and compare it to your music!

5) Track emotions over time

Unlike the visual or copy in advertising, music happens over time. The data you use to evaluate music should reflect this temporal component! Record emotions from your audience over time to determine the changes occurring throughout a song and ensure you use the right portion of the song. And analyze this data in chart form to see if the music matches the story arc.  

6) Compare competing tracks

Music is rarely “one and done.” Typically, the people responsible for music must choose between multiple tracks. Compare how each track scores against your goals. Which one best evokes Sincerity? Which one best evokes Optimism? Which one makes the audience Happy for the last :15? Allow the data to educate you about the benefits and drawbacks of all your tracks, not just one.

7) Use Data As the Key, Not the Lock

Data is not a straightjacket. Instead, it’s the key to unlocking even more creativity. Can’t convince the client to use a really funky track that you know would be perfect? Let the data show why it’s right. Sitting around the conference room all day, arguing endlessly about which version to use? Instead of fighting with your co-workers about what song you think is a better, sit back, relax, and let the data do the talking!
How do you use data in your music selection process today?  Please share it with us in the comments below!


Why Veritonic?

Marketers have a wealth of data at their fingertips. In fact, virtually every decision that marketers make has some data guiding it: where and how to place ads, who to target marketing to, what color to make the submit button, and so on. But music selection has been a loud exception to this rule. Every marketer has a story about how frustrating music selection can be: find 10 tracks with wildly different price points, play them for a group of friends and colleagues, then debate endlessly which one to go with, only to swap the track for a different one at the last minute “because the CEO’s daughter thought it sounded cooler.”
At the same time, the sheer volume of music available to marketers is increasing at an ever-faster pace. New tools and technology are making “professional grade” music creation easier and more accessible.  Meanwhile, new mechanisms for consuming music (and other media) are fragmenting audiences, and making tastes and associations harder than ever to understand.  Consequently, marketers are having an ever-more-difficult time understanding the value of a given piece of music.
Veritonic Mix and Cut Music Sync ToolsVeritonic was created to solve these problems. We were pioneers in online testing and optimization, helping marketers make data-driven decisions about websites and user experience when they were struggling for guidance. Now we’re providing the same caliber of tools to help make music selection easy and, above all, better.
Where did this idea come from?  Before Veritonic, Scott  and Andrew were at Optimost, an enterprise software company that pioneered A/B Testing online.  In the evenings, Scott was also working as a composer, writing everything from :30 second jingles to full-length musicals.  By day, they were working with marketers who were eager to escape the slippery slope of decisions made on gut instinct, experience and, too often, “pay grade.”  (That is, the proverbial HIPPO — “Highest Paid Person’s Opinion”!)  
When it came to music, however, the same marketers would throw their hands up and make a selection based on the same gut instinct that they rejected for other types of marketing decisions.  Why?  Because no one had been able to quantify the emotions and other attributes that people feel about music, much less do it in a way that was meaningful to marketers.  Scott started talking to Andrew, and they met up with Kevin, and here we are.
We will try to keep talk about ourselves to a minimum on this blog.  Instead, our goal here is to share what we’re learning from our research and from working with clients, and thereby elevate the discussion around music and advertising.  We’ll also share articles on music and marketing, and music for marketing, that we find interesting.  We’d like you to participate too: join the discussion via comments, or just email us to let us know if there’s a topic you’d like us to cover
We hope you enjoy this content.  But most of all, we hope that together we can bring more structure to the selection of music for advertising.  
Are there topics about music for advertising that you’d like to see us cover?  Please let us know in the comments!


Future Sounds: Music’s Evolving Role In Advertising (MediaPost)


“Of all the art forms, few have the power to stir strong emotions as music. And few have had such an easy and fruitful relationship with advertising.”

Our friend Josh Engroff at KBS and The Media Kitchen wrote a great post about the relationship between music and advertising, and how it may evolve.
Read the rest at MediaPost.
Let us know in the comments your thoughts about the future of music in advertising!