Music for Advertising

large digital advertising billboard with multiple commercials screened at one time

What makes you want to buy a new product or choose one brand over another?

If you’re talking about cinema, online or TV advertising, then it’ll be partly down to the visuals and the voiceover, but a big element of why viewers and consumers connect with products or services is due to the music in advertising.

large digital advertising billboard with multiple commercials screened at one time

Advertising Music

In advertising’s heyday, each product or brand would have had its own, specially-composed jingle to define and cement it in the consumer’s mind. Even though they’ve long-since dropped Justin Timberlake singing, ‘I’m Lovin’ It’ at the end of their ads, does anyone hear McDonald’s whistley, five-note hook and not sing that last line to themselves? Originally, ‘I’m Lovin’ It’ was no ordinary jingle – it was also a complete Timberlake song, produced by the Neptunes.

McDonald’s spent a reported $1.37 billion when they debuted the five commercials (translated into eleven different languages) in 2003. The fact they’re still using the same ‘audio logo’ now reflects the fact that music can become as synonymous with a product or a brand as a tagline such as Ronseal’s evergreen ‘Does what it says on the tin’.

Looking for music for commercials? Here's our pick of the best tracks from our catalogue:

Running Time by Kelly Mac and Suat Akin Orbay

It's Go by Alex Arcoleo

Power of Persuastion by Robbie Redway

Know No Fear by Benjamin Thompson

Morning Glow by Martin Felix Kaczmarski

However, the best music in advertising isn’t necessarily new. There are pieces of classical music that many people only know through adverts. Dvorak’s New World Symphony may draw a blank, but say, ‘the Hovis ad’ and you’re humming it whilst, if you’re of a certain age, visualising a small boy pushing a bike up a cobbled hill. The ad, directed by a young Ridley Scott in 1973 was voted the Favourite British Commercial of all time in 2006.

How Does Music Affect Emotion?

Research by audio branding specialist PHMG found that 66% of their survey respondents believe music is more memorable than visuals when used in marketing. And instrumentation, style and the music’s key can all subtly alter the way audiences react:

‘Strings playing short, sharp notes in a major key were found to have a largely positive impact, as 87% of respondents associated them with feelings of happiness and excitement.

A shift from major to minor provoked a sense of sadness or melancholy in 83% of respondents.’

Daniel Lafferty, director of music and voice at PHMG, emphasises that, ‘Our hearing is a more powerful emotional sense than our sight, so there is a clear opportunity for businesses to broaden their marketing horizons and gain a competitive edge by making better use of audio.’

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Looking at Ridley Scott’s Hovis ad, the nostalgic feel of the music fits perfectly with the old-fashioned boy in his flat cap delivering bread from his bike basket, taking viewers back to a golden age when life was simpler. It also dovetails neatly with the end tagline, ‘As good for you today as it’s always been,’ establishing Hovis as a heritage, trusted brand.

Over the last decade, John Lewis have become absolute masters of fitting retro-sounding music to their heartstring-tugging, story-driven ads. Remember the snowman making an unlikely pilgrimage along motorways to snag a scarf as a romantic gesture for his frozen wife, soundtracked by Gabrielle Aplin’s cover of ‘The Power of Love’ (originally a slightly unlikely Christmas hit for Frankie Goes to Hollywood)? Tom Odell’s rendition of John Lennon’s ‘Real Love’, which features the lyrics, ‘just like little girls and boys/playing with their little toys/seems all we really were doing/was waiting for love,’ is used to bring to life the story of Monty the Penguin who’s desperate to find love.

The ads have become a highly-anticipated fixture of the seasonal calendar, generating millions of views and shares on social media – not to mention miles of editorial coverage, and streams and sales of the featured tracks.

Guinness’s ‘Made of Black’ ad was created as an exclusive release in African countries. To demonstrate the edge and attitude of ‘Guinness Black’, and to celebrate individuals who aren’t afraid to express themselves, they chose Kanye West’s track ‘Black Skinhead’, which is loaded with swagger, flair and bags of attack.

How to get background music for advertising

There are some key points to bear in mind when you’re searching for songs or background music to produce the most effective commercials:

  • Firstly, establish and define the brand values that you want to present
  • What’s the style of the ad? Is it an emotional story, like the John Lewis Christmas ads? Or is your product or company appealing to a much younger demographic, with faster cuts and punchy graphics?
  • What’s the emotion that you want to convey? Search for a track with a tone that’s similar to the mood that your visuals or the voiceover is creating
  • Tempo – ensure that your music matches the pace of your ad; don’t pick anything too slow if you have lots of fast edits

How to license music for TV and radio commercials

If you’re looking to step up in terms of advertising music, a music library gives you far greater options in terms of unique tracks, edits and quality. Libraries have different licensing agreements and price points available, depending on what projects you’re using the music for.

With 87% of marketers using YouTube, it’s important that you don’t fall foul of YouTube’s Content ID system. This detects uploads of music protected by copyright. If they find that you’ve misused music without a licence, your video can be blocked or taken down.

Using music from a catalogue such as Audio Network’s has the advantage that if you’re posting your ad on YouTube, the licence is already cleared for use.

Audio Network’s search tools make it easy for you to find what you need. You can set filters based on moods, emotions or musical style. Or look within genres such as action or comedy and even by bpm. Our hand-pick playlists are updated every month, so you can find the perfect advertising music, whether it’s for fashion or lifestyle, products, travel or services. Plus, our subscriptions make licensing music fast and simple – for a taster, listen to our dedicated

The Best Music From TV Commercials

If you’re looking for inspiration, then we have picked some of our favourite ads which use music particularly effectively.

NIKE’s ‘Nothing Beats a Londoner’, shot in Dalston, Peckham and Brixton, featured 258 Londoners, including cameos from some of the capital’s best-known faces. England striker Harry Kane joined sprinter Dina Asher-Smith, grime star Skepta (nipping about on a Boris bike), Jorja Smith and Olympic hero Mo Farah, whilst England manager Gareth Southgate plays God.

Created by agency Wieden+Kennedy, Steve Vranakis, D&AD president, hailed it as, ‘a piece of work that genuinely captures and celebrates young people’s view of living, training and pursuing their passion in this most multicultural of cities.’ Combining humour, empathy, grittiness, surreality and self-deprecation, the featured talent had credibility with the target audience, with fame that’s based on their skills and abilities – underscoring the ad’s inspirational theme. Londoners loved it – it made them proud of, and genuinely excited to live in their city, and it instantly went viral.

The ad features the instrumental background to Skepta’s ‘Shutdown’, Dizzee Rascal, Giggs’ ‘Yes Yes Yes’ and even a quick blast of Verdi’s ‘Dies Irae’.

If you’re looking for urban or hip hop music, check out our Beats Series


Classical Music for TV ads

BMW – Plug into Something Bold

The BMW i3 is 100% electric, maximising efficiency, dynamics and range and features 85% recyclable materials. The music is a jazz-funk piece from 1973, based on Strauss’s ‘Also Sprach Zarathustra’, by Brazilian musician Eumir Deodato. Film fans will recognise the original music from the opening sequence of Kubrick’s ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’. Is the ad’s gradual ‘sunrise’ effect over the car’s curves a nod to Kubrick’s iconic opener?

Natwest – We Are What We Do

The trials and tribulations of house-buying are presented by NatWest as part of their ‘We Are What We Do’ campaign. They can’t make these aspects any easier or better, they confess, but at least the application process for your longed-for mortgage is now more straightforward. The prospective home owners’ travails are scored by Bach’s jaunty prelude and Fugue No. 1 in C Major.


Check out our dedicated playlist for lifestyle background music.

Alton Towers

Theme park Alton Towers have adopted Grieg’s ‘In the Hall of the Mountain King’ from Peer Gynt as their theme tune and have used it in a variety of ways in their ads; it’s also used around the park itself. The piece starts off relatively slow and low, with a sinister edge, mirroring the feel of a rollercoaster’s upward trajectory. The building speed, with its hectic pizzicato, bringing parts of the orchestra with it like a tornado, is particularly suited to rollercoasters’ highs, lows and loops. Plus, it ends with a satisfying bang which is great for punctuating an ad.

Alton Towers’ ‘Smiler’, showcasing the world’s first 14-loop rollercoaster, uses the track at the forefront; their most recent ‘WickerMan’ ad has it as a much more subtle, and brooding backdrop.

If you’re looking for classical music for commercials, then check out our Classical Collection. It’s arranged, recorded and mixed specifically for media use, making it ideal to tell your stories.

This was originally published 25/06/2015 and updated on 11/12/2019


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