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So What's the Score in Asia?

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INFLUENCER: Big Sync’s Dominic Caisley on the state of play with music buying in Asia

So What's the Score in Asia?

During a recent stint in Singapore I was invited to talk at the marketing, commerce and retail conference, FUTR Asia, about the use of music in digital marketing content and how it can hold audience attention by, amongst other factors, being culturally relevant. At FUTR I spoke to many brands who had travelled from all over Asia Pacific to learn. While sharing my own knowledge with them, I gained some too.

Since 2013 Big Sync has worked on close to 600 projects in Asia and our Singapore office gets busier year on year. There is an explosion of digital marketing content in the region so brands are using more and more music but with this increased output has come challenges.

What are brands looking for? It’s clear that many companies in the region do not yet have a music strategy in place or guidelines that help them filter their brand’s needs. Marketers we spoke to really wanted to be part of the music discussion and to understand how music can represent their unique brand personality and identity, an often overlooked part of the creative process. They are keen to define a specific sound palate or music principles for their brand that will also resonate with their audience. They want to know how to tailor music across various regions, markets and audience sectors while still maintaining the sound and integrity of the brand. Many we spoke to were also asking us how they can improve the process of buying music to give maximum value and transparency.

So what are the challenges regarding music for brands in the region? Firstly, relevance is vital. What is the audience listening to in a particular region? Southeast Asia is a culturally and linguistically diverse region which can create significant challenges for region-wide campaigns. In Asia we tend to license less commercial music than in Europe or North America and do more work with composers - although it is sometimes appropriate and relevant to work with major artists that have a global appeal such as Taylor Swift and Selena Gomez for Cornetto or Ed Sheeran for TRESemmé. Using an existing track, especially one with lyrics, might not be the most effective option within budget or even be meaningless in some countries. And even when working with a composer we have to take into account differences in music culture across markets and find a sound that targets emotions perfectly and that’s relevant to the brand and audience. That’s why we work so hard on getting the creative brief right.

But sound is not the only thing that matters. What about the physical process of buying the music and the nuts and bolts of legally licensing a track - locking down on where it can be used and for how long? This where we have found that brands in Asia have been having problems, especially now there is so much digital content being published. Throw multiple markets, platforms and a fragmented buying process into the mix and mistakes can happen - and increasingly are happening - across the region. 

What can go wrong? We are finding that brands sometimes upload content without clearing the music first. Then they may not have a process in place for keeping a track of the content that is out there. In many cases the brand simply isn’t clear on what their license covers, purchases the wrong kind of license or ignores the terms - sometimes deliberately. For unpaid media such as YouTube or Instagram, it can be easy to lose track of where and when that content is available. Meanwhile music recognition technology is getting more sophisticated for tracking exactly where and when a track is being broadcast. Music rights owners will take the time to scour branded channels such as YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and the brand’s website, checking to see if content is still running after the license has expired or if it’s viewable from a territory not included in the license. So it is vital to start off with the most appropriate license and of course manage that content once it’s up. Failure to do this leaves the brand at risk of legal action, penalty fines but more importantly having to take the content down and cancelling any paid media.

Although this is a global problem, we are finding that in Asia the general copyright infrastructure is less developed than in Europe or North America. An innocent mistake such as a digital asset being left up on YouTube after the music license has expired may not get called out as quickly as in other regions and the longer it is left there the more severe the infringement becomes. Sometimes it’s a challenge to even identify and verify who the legitimate owner of a copyright is, especially in domestic markets where there can be disputes. It makes Big Sync’s role as watchdog for situations like these all the more critical for our clients.

Are brands chancing their luck or just naive? Probably a bit of both. There is far more digital content going up on ‘owned’ channels and global brands have far more local outlets propagating the content than ever before. These outlets are much more difficult to manage and control than paid-for media which are easier to track. Sometimes genuine mistakes are made but I also think brands have been guilty of letting things slide.  Many content owners appear to stand by the idea that it is easier to ask for forgiveness than obtain permission but in the world of music rights, this is a dangerous strategy.  

There has never been a better time to address these challenges and the need for better quality and more relevant music at the very best prices has never been greater. If their content uses music, brands and creative agencies everywhere should be asking themselves these four things: Is this music right for my brand? Will it resonate with my audience? Does the track bring to life the creative brief? And vitally, does the license meet the business needs of the brand?  

Knowledge, as they say, is power.



Dominic Caisley is CEO at Big Sync Music


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Genres: Music & Sound Design

Big Sync Music, Mon, 19 Nov 2018 12:35:27 GMT