Four questions to answer when using music in video marketing

50% of the emotional impact of your video marketing is powered by the soundtrack, so don’t make music a mere afterthought.

Would the Jaws trailer be as creepy without the theme tune? Can you imagine Star Wars starting without the ‘Imperial March’? And would you feel the same level of anticipation for each Game of Thrones episode without the harrowing cello notes accompanying the title sequence?

Music is as much part of the experience of immersing yourself in screen-based action as the visuals. Yet, because it works on a more unconscious level, we rarely attribute its power correctly. As a result, when marketers come to create promotional videos, the music is often considered an afterthought, something that can be added at the end.

Music makes half the emotional impact

At Clearhead, we believe the music in video marketing contributes as much as 50% of the emotional impact. That’s why we plan it in from the beginning.

When we created this promotional film for Northampton College, we began researching music options during Stage 1, pre-production. In post-production, when we shared the first edit of the film, we had a rough cut of music in place – after all, without an idea of the sound how can a client get a feel for the finished thing? And when the team at the college heard the Legendary soundtrack, they thought it was so appropriate and powerful that they incorporated the song’s title into their campaign by using #legendary as a hashtag.

Whatever your message, it’s almost always better conveyed with the help of music. Music helps grab and hold viewers’ attention, quickly sets the mood and creates a deeper resonance. Adding a track as an afterthought is a missed opportunity to engage and convert your audience. To make the most of it, answer these four questions to help you choose the music for your video marketing.

Four questions to answer before choosing music in video marketing

Music in Video Marketing Question #1: Are you aiming for viewers’ hearts or heads?

What’s the business objective of your video marketing? Whatever your project, we always advise you to begin with the six strategic steps. Broadly speaking, your objective will be about creating an emotional response (heart) or a rational one (head) in your viewers.

Aiming for the heart

If you’re aiming for the heart, foreground music will be key in driving home the message. It will need to make the mood that, along with the visuals, will carry viewers on the emotional journey you want them to take. This will normally be the case in Hero Content, when you want to tell your brand’s story or get viewers to want a luxury product or service.

Aiming for the head

If you’re aiming for the head, then music should simply support your message, without being too noticeable or distracting. For example, in an explainer video, or one where you are sharing technical information, you want to educate viewers. This is best done with a background track that doesn’t demand too much attention. This approach tends to be best used for Hub and Help Content, when you’re selling essential purchases and/or comparing your product or service against competitors’ offerings.

Music in Video Marketing Question #2: What’s your budget for music?

Music is protected by copyright law. So unless you want to use a piece that is already in the public domain (or that’s available under Creative Commons licence), you will need to pay to licence it or commission an original composition.

Licensing can cost as little as tens of pounds up to hundreds or even thousands. The cost will depend on who you are and how you intend to use the video. Licences are usually cheaper if the video is for a personal project, a charity or an educational organisation. If you plan to just use the video online, the licence will be cheaper than if your video will be shown on TV or in the cinema. TV and cinema usage is priced depending on the channel and duration that your video will be broadcast through. Either way, you’ll need to have a rough idea of how your video will be distributed in order to get an accurate quote.

That’s one of the reasons why we ask our clients how they intend to use the video in the very first meeting we have with them. Not only does this ensure we are focused on their strategic objective from the start, it also means that music licensing costs don’t come as an unpleasant surprise towards the end of the project.

Go bespoke

Another option is to have original music composed. This is typically in the region of £750 – £2,000, but has several advantages. Firstly, there are no copyright or licensing issues, as the terms of use are agreed with the composer in advance. Secondly, the track will be custom-created to perfectly match the moods and actions of the on-screen visuals. Thirdly, there’s no risk that your audience will hear the same track somewhere else – on a competitor’s video or used by a brand you don’t want to associate with.

Audio assets

If you are creating a suite of video content, a composer can help you create cohesive audio branding. Just as you have your different logo versions and a fixed colour palette, so too can you have audio assets that are used in a consistent way. Those assets can be applied according to each video’s needs. For example, your composer could create 10 minutes of audio that can be mixed appropriately for each short video. Mood changes can be matched to the visuals of each video and the starting points tweaked so that each video has its own sound, while still sounding consistent.

Music in Video Marketing Question #4: What mood do you want to create?

Music helps to instantly grab attention and set the mood of your promotional video. Do you want to convey happiness or sadness, clarity or confusion, empowerment or disempowerment, certainty or mystery, positivity or negativity, relaxation or tension?

The right sound will help set the viewer’s mental gear straight away, opening the path for the visuals to get straight into the story. A really powerful track will encourage viewers to share your video and remember it.

If you are licensing music from a library, you can often search by mood, so this is a great starting place for narrowing down what you want. Alternatively, if you know of some music that is perfect for your video, but not feasible due to licensing or cost, you can use it as a reference track to search for similar ones in music libraries, or to give your composer as part of your creative brief.

Mood and pace

Do you want the mood to change during the course of the video, or be consistent throughout? Perhaps you want to use music as ‘bookends’ to signal the intro and outro while playing it at a lower volume during the middle.

What about pace? Do you want to keep it steady, or change gears at certain points? You can even stop and start the music at specific points to emphasize important messages, which increases its impact when it’s re-introduced.

If your promotional video will have a lot of voiceover, avoid complex melodies and/or instruments that use the same frequencies as the human voice in the music. String instruments and some keyboard instruments use the same frequency spectrum as vocals, which can make it harder to pick out what’s being said.

Music in Video Marketing Question #3: What are your audience’s needs?

At Clearhead, we do a huge amount of work in the education sector, particularly for colleges and universities. These organizations need to be sensitive to the accessibility needs of a wide audience range, and there are several ways we help them to do this.


The most common way to increase accessibility is through subtitles. Subtitles can make video content accessible for people with hearing impairments, as long as the words are self-explanatory without visuals. If not, consider going a step further and creating an audio-descriptive version. Alternatively, consider creating an additional version of your video with someone providing a sign language translation, overlaid on the visuals.

Subtitles can also aid understanding for viewers who speak English as a second language, so are worth considering if you are targeting an international audience. Again, you could go a step further by providing subtitling in a range of different languages, or by recording your voiceover in several translations.

Catering for silent plays

Of course, great Hero content often skips the words altogether. Strong, stirring music and visual storytelling can suffice to convey your message. This is often a good choice when your video will sometimes be shown without sound, such as social media autoplays. Motion graphics (animated text) can be helpful here. However, bear in mind that viewers with visual impairments will not be able to understand what’s being shown if there are no clues in the voiceover or music.

Music in video marketing matters

The audio choices you make will impact on your video’s effectiveness and ultimate success. Used well, it can amplify the emotive power of your visuals. Used poorly it can be a distraction and turn-off. You’ll also need to consider the tastes and preferences of your target audience, as a poor music choice could alienate them immediately.

Bring in the experts

Clearhead have ten years of matching cinematic videos with emotive music design. If you’re new to video marketing, or if you’re planning your video strategy for the next year, get in contact. We’ll discuss your objectives and challenges and show you how we can help. Call +44 (0)207 494 1589 or email

You may also be interested in these examples of great music design, which we hope will inspire you when thinking about music in video marketing for your organization: