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Tagged ‘marketing‘

How To Make Your YouTube Videos Sound Professional

 

In a prior entry I spoke of how to record audio for video in the best way possible mainly so you can provide the cleanest specimen to an audio post-producer. Post-production is an imperative and inexpensive way of raising the production value of your video to a professional level, and one that often gets overlooked by amateurs.

Your video looks good, and while the sound is understandable and reasonably loud, your speaker doesn’t sound like the pros do on TV or in professionally produced YouTube videos. That’s because there are certain elements of post-production concerning the voice that every form of professionally broadcast media performs as a part of the audio mastering process.

Mastering audio is a necessary process involving various types of compression and equalization. Compression, sometimes utilized while initially recording the audio, is basically smoothing out the loud and soft moments of your recording in an attempt to control noticeable drops and spikes in volume. Forms of compression can also be used to increase the overall volume of the recording, which is especially helpful when a mic is poorly placed or non-existent.

Equalization is a way of modifying certain frequencies in your recording to enhance volume and clarity, and also to remove unwanted noise. Equalization shouldn’t be considered a “cure all” by any means, but it is usually the savior of poor recordings, turning something virtually unlistenable into something functional.

If you don’t know what you’re doing, it is best not to attempt to try and fix audio issues by using preset on-board effects (especially before recording). This usually results in an ultra-compressed recording which makes you sound robotic, and it only gets worse when you upload it to YouTube. Contact an audio professional for assistance, and you’ll save time, and be much happier with the final product. The small amount of money you spend will reap dividends down the road.

The next entry will deal with taking your production a step further with background music!

Ukulele Overload

When I first started seriously composing stock audio on AudioJungle last summer, many of the highest selling songs on the site featured the ukulele. Fast forward a year, and this really hasn’t changed. What once seemed like a trend has become something different…and I’m not sure what. Even this current national advertisement features a song from AudioJungle that’s over 2 years old, and has been sold over 1600 times (!). To say that the ukulele is played out and overused is an understatement, particularly in advertising. The fact it persists as the musical focal point of so many of today’s commercials either speaks to the public’s insatiable love for the runty instrument, or of a severe lack of creativity in advertising.

I found a great New York Times article on the ukulele’s popularity from over a year ago, and even then the article spoke of the instrument’s over-saturation in advertising. It also pointed out the possible origin for this craze: Israel Kamakawiwo‘ole’s cringe-inducing version of “Over the Rainbow”, a song I heard at virtually every wedding I did sound for while living in California (so we’re talking 50+, maybe?). The article goes on to tout the ukulele as the instrument for the non-musician, and while I’m not sure I’d go there, I will say that at this point it’s kitsch. Period.

While people may love the uke because of the warm feelings it helps generate, there is more than one way to skin a cat. A different approach will likely yield the same results, and will alleviate the risk of people tuning out at the first strum. So, please, if you have to use a ukulele, please do so in moderation.

 

Why “MIDI” Isn’t a Bad Thing

Public understanding of the term “MIDI” hasn’t progressed as far as the technology has in the last few years, and that’s a blessing and a curse. I, for one, got heavily into composing when I realized how realistic-sounding some of these new programs were, and the illusion of having used real instruments is a very important element of my work. At the same time, though, I think a little further information on what exactly you’re hearing only makes the total package that much more spectacular. 

What most excited me about advances in MIDI technology was the ability to finally be able to get realistic sounds out of orchestral samples. Most modern libraries contain samples that are performed by some of today’s top musicians at some of the finest studios, stages, and halls in the world. The amount of recorded detail is remarkable, and the fact you can alter things like mic placement is truly astounding. Throw in some high quality reverb, and you have a set of sounds that, when used correctly, will make even the most seasoned aficionado think they’re listening to a real orchestra. While these sample libraries do come at a hefty price, the things they enable a composer to do are well worth the cost.

It doesn’t stop with orchestral samples, of course. You’d be hard pressed not to find a high quality sample library either built around or including a specific set of instruments that’s professionally recorded, and exhaustively performed to include every realism-adding detail. With this in mind, it continually pays as a composer to look outside the box, and find the smaller companies that are on the cutting edge.

So, the next time you hear “MIDI” hopefully your mind won’t go directly to Nintendo theme songs or ringtones. You’d be surprised how much music you hear, specifically on television, is MIDI derived, and the technology is only getting better. However, it is important to remember that these sounds are just tools. The art is found in knowing how to use them.

Here is a Stink Bug, common to Maryland, on my M-Audio Axiom 25

Here is a Stink Bug, common to Maryland, on my M-Audio Axiom 25

 

Of Shazam and Credibility

I read a very interesting interview (which I found thanks to John Presley at musiccomposerblog.com) with Ryan Fitch, an accomplished music supervisor at a seemingly large advertising agency. In addition to giving some great links and advice, he also spoke a lot about the appeal of using licensed music almost to how I’d hear an A&R rep talk about their job. In his experience, because there is just so much music that’s already created and therefore able to be licensed, the situation that requires something original from a composer doesn’t present itself nearly as much as it used to. Sigh.

The Best Cinematic and Motivational Royalty Free Audio

Most interesting to me was a recent campaign he was involved with in which he professes to have spent hours trying to shoehorn a licensed track into a commercial, and could only successfully do so after cleverly disguising an odd time signature with sound design. After watching the commercial, I was really confused about why the track in question absolutely had to be “the one”. The music itself is a pretty nondescript repetition of a single phrase with minimal vocals, slightly modified towards the end. The song apparently didn’t naturally work, and had to be modified considerably, thus taking the time that licensed music was supposed to save. In other words, this was an easily replicable piece a qualified composer would have no problem scoring to the existing footage in a few hours. Why they didn’t go this route didn’t make sense to me. There must be something else at work here. That’s when I saw the Shazam logo.

I figured there was no better way to understand their angle than by “Shazamming” the commercial and seeing the results for myself.  After dow

nloading the app (and skipping Shazam’s many attempts to get up in my bidness), I played the commercial. To my surprise, the only thing I discovered about the song itself  was the artist and title. No link to listen to it, no link to buy it, no link to the artist’s website. Nada. There was, however, a contest I could enter in addition to other links I could follow to product related social marketing.

Get Royalty Free Music from ProgressNotesLet me state that I do not see any issue at all here with the way the music was used in this advertisement. Consent was obviously given, and I’m sure everything was above board. I do, however, understand why some artists seem to be apprehensive about licensing their music to advertising campaigns. In addition to the all-important credibility the song adds to the product, the sound of of the music itself is now tied to the product in a way that almost supersedes that simple association licensed music usually provides. The notes the artist wrote on their guitar, in this particular case, now directly link to a product they didn’t create. That’s pretty heavy.

The interview reinforced, but also shed some new light on, my view regarding why ad agencies so actively license music as opposed to having something original tailored specifically for their campaign. It’s not just credibility they’re after, but an additional way of presenting the consumer with their product. This opens up new avenues while also creating new dilemmas for the artist, some of which I’ve witnessed first hand. Ultimately, it’s good to see the power of music taken seriously, and hopefully that aspect won’t change in a constantly changing industry.

 

Audio Branding: What Does Your Company Sound Like?

Let me guess…you spent a lot of money on a snazzy logo for your brand. You hired a great designer to make your website. You invested a good chunk of cash in gear to produce your commercials, podcasts and/or web videos. Maybe you’ve even made some branded clothing. But what does your brand sound like?

Audio branding is not a new technique by any means. We’ve all been subjected to this type of marketing for years. Theme music for a particular television program or network is a given. But even simpler than that is their brand’s audio logo or indent. To me, the most obvious is the NBC Chimes, which have quite a history. Despite their hip new ad campaigns, the main thing that sticks with me after a State Farm commercial is their tried-and-true 4 second audio logo (apparently derived from a theme song of year’s past). Too musical for you? Try HBO’s audio logo.

Just because your brand isn’t quite ready for primetime television ads doesn’t mean you shouldn’t explore audio branding. The Audio Branding Academy asserts that  ” the emerging of new media…expands the opportunities for audio branding”.  This includes everything from podcasts , YouTube videos, iPhone and Android apps, to independent video games. As this article from the Music Composer BLOG explains, “brands are just beginning to understand the benefits of a marketing strategy that includes strategy-driven audio“, and these include big names that advertise on television.

How often does your logo appear in some form of non-static visual media? If your website or company produces a lot of video content, and/or your logo is featured at the beginning of mobile phone apps or games, an audio logo is a necessity. The successful incorporation of sound in defining your brand is not just for huge companies anymore, and it’s a lot easier than you’d think. Just ask your friendly neighborhood composer.

What are some of your favorite audio logos, indents, or themes? Which ones bring you to a certain time or place whenever you hear them?