Before Mike Pace was the Director of Audio Collections at Pond5, he fronted the critically acclaimed rock band Oxford Collapse, so he’s intimately familiar with the trials and tribulations of making and marketing music from the artist point of view. Now, from his inside seat at Pond5, he’s also able to offer exciting and fresh insights into industry trends, news, and upcoming features for Pond5 music artists.
Just as Pond5’s video artists should understand the visual trends in TV, commercials, and films, the same understanding needs to be applied to what’s popular in the musical styles and genres that soundtrack them.
“Last week, I was searching for tracks that I’ve been putting together for our sales team”, Mike explains. “I’ve put together a lot more of these research requests lately, based on what customers are requesting. Usually they ask for a track by providing an example and saying something like,’This is what we want it to sound like.'”
Mike is well aware of musical trends in advertising, including contemporary musical styles and the wide variety of evolving musical genres. “In this instance, the track that they gave me to match was a very hip, very now, ‘vaporwave‘ song, kind of harkening back to the mid-80s.”
Being on top of these emerging genres is crucial to having a well-stocked music offering. In addition, it’s important to be ahead of the curve when new and fresh musical styles come into play. Offering variations of a particular genre is generally a guarantee that a client will find the track that they need. “Chances are you’ll be able to find at least a variation on what you need on our site,” says Pace.
If you decide to replicate popular sound effects now, the chances are greater for those new sounds to outperform those that were uploaded five years ago. “There are a few interesting differences between sound effects and music,” says Pace. “Where music and video follow trends, sound effects don’t. Sound effects are timeless. An explosion or an animal sound doesn’t change.”
“It’s really only with sound effects reflecting newer or better technology that they can perform better. Speaking of which, we can always use the sound of a new device or computer or car or anything like that. (Just make sure it’s not a copyrighted sound!)”
Music tracks that express a feeling or a mood that reflects an upbeat or positive sound will undoubtedly be the bestsellers in your collection. Steer away from the temptation of adding a well-known composer or artist to your titles, descriptions, and keywords that describe your themes, though.
Instead, pepper your metadata with words that reflect the tone and mood of your work. Keywords have the power to reveal a more complex meaning to the listener, so take the time to analyze your music beyond the general idea and think about the moods or words that best represents your music.
“The keyword task is interesting,” says Pace. “I spent a lot of time recently talking about metadata cleanup so that we don’t have recognizable band names, like The Beatles or Elvis, because it theoretically invites legal scrutiny. But what’s interesting is that if you look for what people are actually searching for on Pond5, the 70 top search terms for music are all generic words like ‘inspirational,’ ‘cinematic,’ ‘happy,’ ‘energetic,’ and ‘ambient.’ That’s what people are actually searching for. It’s not until you’re almost 100 search terms deep that the first recognizable name appears, such as ‘Star Wars.'”
“With that said, people will search for ‘Coldplay,’ ‘The Black Keys,’ ‘U2,’ and other popular bands. Of course, Coldplay basically reinvented production music. Every once in a while a band will come along that’s so influential in the advertising world and in the commercial world, and Coldplay have these building blocks in their music that are aspirational, motivational, and driving. So they become the blueprint and establish a trend — ascending chord progressions, drums increasing — and it’s positive, and easy to mimic without being a direct ripoff.”
Know Your Market
Instrumentals are still and will continue to be the preferred choice of our clients. “No vocals,” Mike says. “For the most part, unless you can create abstract vocal harmonies or expressions similar to those created by a composer such as Jóhann Jóhannsson, I wouldn’t bother.”
Pond5 appeals to a wide variety of market segments, from agency to corporate and every media buyer in between. “When you’re dealing with multiple media types, you’re dealing with different buyer segments,” says Pace. “I spent a lot of time last year looking into who is buying music from Pond5, and it’s not always the same people who are licensing video from us. It’s a different buyer base.”
Pace’s experience in the music field, blended with the years he has spent at Pond5, has placed him on the frontline in developing many important product strategies related to the success of Pond5’s audio collections. “We’re actually implementing a genre project right now, which will assign a tag to every item in the music catalog that’s one of 15 different genres or categories. Moving forward, if you’re uploading, you’ll choose from the list of genre keywords. This way, we can really keep track of all these musical genres.”