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Soren Petersen

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Music Stylist -- the Commercial Effect You Can Hear and Feel

Posted: 10/27/11 07:25 PM ET

A soundtrack counts for at least half of the experience in the creation of a commercial and the music stylist is the one responsible for setting the director's visual universe to music. Creative people often specialize in a narrow field and may possess only rudimentary musical knowledge. Often, a music stylist is brought in to provide relevant, innovative and unexpected music themes and to translate them into powerful tunes that evoke strong emotions in the listener.

Jesper Gadeberg, from Denmark, is one of the world's leading music stylists, assembling commercial soundtracks for firms ranging from American Airlines, Audi and Volvo to Guinness and Absolut Vodka. He developed his passion and knowledge of music while working in a record shop in Copenhagen. Over time, he realized there was a market for locating just the right sounds for commercials. He now specifies sound effects, discovering tracks and brokering deals between producers and artists from around the world, and much of this magic is performed from his beautiful cottage on the Danish coast!

In advertising, as in many creative fields, having the best contacts is key. It is very important for major clients to work with those they consider the best of the best. This includes everyone from the director, stylist, prop guy and location scout to the actors and music stylist. The advertising industry has a unique business model since it makes its money by charging fifteen percent overhead when buying slots for commercials in TV, radio and movies. Web-episodes are now popular and the trend is for commercials to become longer and to be based on short fiction format stories. The product is introduced in the beginning and then reinforced by one or more product placements.

The creation of a soundtrack begins with the music stylist receiving a reference advertisement and storyboard of the commercial. Ideally, they then present proposals for a soundtrack before beginning to shoot and this is especially essential if the actors need to sing in the commercial. Sometimes the music does not yet exist and has to be created from scratch, while, at other times, musicians can take an existing track and change it to match the envisioned commercial.

Commercial soundtracks can be powerful social trend promoters and music stylists can spot promising future bands and help make them famous. A unique commercial for Spanish beer quickly launched a new band to the top of the charts when all summer long, the whole of Spain began humming the song from the commercial.

So, as with many other endeavors, being a successful music stylist is about staying in the forefront of your field, doing inspired work and building and maintaining your connections.