How BEN Group is helping brands identify their sonic identity

TikTok has taken over the world. The video-sharing app has been dominating the social media market since 2020, when it was downloaded 850 million times. Primarily used as a way for Gen Z to express themselves (one in four TikTok users are under the age of 20), TikTok has become the most popular platform for creating and sharing short-form videos. Numerous music careers and brand partnerships have been launched thanks to the global popularity of TikTok, as content creation and consumption continue to change.

Having changed the face of branded content, it didn’t take long for the industry to realize the immense value of TikTok. Despite this, not all brands have been able to master the winning formula, and many struggle to familiarize themselves with creating compelling content that drives success. It’s clear to everyone that when paired with the “right” music, content can explode on a viral scale, but planning the strategy behind these successful sound collaborations requires specific expertise.

BEN Group, part of the Branded Entertainment Network, is the leading entertainment AI company specializing in rights clearance and licensing across advertising campaigns, social media, streaming, TV, music, and movie content. Given the broad scope of its work and its 30 years in business, the company has been at the forefront of influencer marketing and branded content since the dawn of the first social media app.

Knowledgeable and well-connected, BEN has a wealth of experience navigating the ins and outs of sound content first made popular by apps like TikTok. In fact, rights management experts were first associated with the app back in 2016, when it was known as ByteDance, before becoming Musical.ly.

Since rebranding as TikTok in 2018, BEN has worked closely with the brand to deliver strategies for leveraging sound and music on the platform at scale, helping brands authentically engage with their intended audiences. In October, BEN announced that it would be joining TikTok’s Marketing Partner Program as an Official Sound Partner.

There’s rarely much thought given to the finer details of music licensing, but there’s a lot of red tape to go through to carve out a bespoke sonic identity. In this interview, LBB hears from BEN on the topic of his exciting new Sound Partnership and reflects on the use of music in seasonal campaigns. With Christmas just around the corner, how does BEN help brands navigate the choppy waters of rights clearance to find the “right” music for their ads? And how are brands keeping up with micro-trends like the recent renaissance of pop punk/nu-metal music used in this year’s John Lewis and Sainsbury’s Christmas commercials?

In a discussion touching on time constraints, negotiations and the importance of planning for music licensing, especially for seasonal campaigns, LBB’s April Summers chats with BEN Group’s Senior Manager of Brand Partnerships and Music, Demi Kirolos, and Vice President Jake Terrell.

LBB> Congratulations on the TikTok Sound Partnership! How will BEN connect brands with trusted partners to help harness the unique potential of TikTok?

Demi Kirolos, Senior Manager, Music & Brand Partnerships> The TikTok Sound Partner program connects brands of all sizes with trusted partners who can help harness the unique potential of TikTok’s “sound environment” at scale. Through this partnership, TikTok will connect brands already on the platform, or looking to get active on the platform, directly with BEN. Then, we’ll help these brands create successful music strategies on TikTok, starting with helping them curate, clean, and license music so brands can legally and authentically harness the power of music on TikTok to engage with audiences.

LBB> Can you tell us a bit about your long-standing partnership with TikTok, formerly ByteDance and Musical.ly, and what it means to be an Official Sound Partner?

Demi> BEN actually first partnered with ByteDance years ago, to help with their rebrand from Musical.ly to TikTok. As they were released and rebranded in the US, BEN worked from an evolving list of the top 100 best-performing songs on the app to target budget-conscious music releases that eventually included songs for advertising on the theater and promotional packages #YearOnTikTok in the application. . BEN has been a trusted TikTok partner from the beginning and we really value that.

LBB> According to Melissa Yang, TikTok’s director of ecosystems, “sound is the universal language of TikTok, and brands must embrace music and sound to be authentically displayed on the platform.” How does BEN plan to work with TikTok to identify high-impact opportunities for authentic music partnerships?

Demi> For the past two years, I’ve been telling anyone who will listen that TikTok is the new radio. It’s crazy, a song will trend on the platform and then a few weeks later it’ll be on the charts. At BEN, we’re always at the forefront of those trends, paying attention so we can arm our customers with fresh tracks from hot artists.

According to a study by MRC Data, 68% of TikTokers remember a brand better when the brand features songs in its videos that the user likes. BEN is excited to continue helping brands find their sonic identity on TikTok and engage the platform’s young audiences.

LBB> How will BEN use its wide-reaching network as a TikTok Sound partner?

Demi> This strong partnership is proving to be mutually beneficial for all parties involved. Our brand customers are pleased to know that now, in addition to being trusted by long-time music rights holders, we are also trusted by TikTok themselves. Music rights holders are pleased to know that BEN acts as an advocate for their work in this space. And TikTok is pleased that BEN is standing up for the legal use of music on their platform. This further establishes BEN as a premier and preferred partner in the music industry.

LBB> What are the main differences in licensing rights for music clearance compared to film and television?

Jake Terrell, Vice President of Music and Brand Partnerships> While the principles are the same – ensuring the rights of all rights holders involved – the use of music is of course audio only, so there are not always name and likeness (image) rights to cover. That said, it’s also often true that a single studio may own a piece of film or television content, while most songs have multiple composers; up to 6 is not uncommon, and depending on how many songs are sampled within a new song, it can be much more than that. For example, take Beyonce’s recent hit “Cuff It”: there are nine credited writers, including Beyonce herself, which means licensing this single song would involve multiple parties.

LBB> Is there any particular sound or song harder to erase than others?

Jake> Some songs are more difficult than others because the artist or songwriter places a higher value on how their song is used creatively, or some of the rights may be embroiled in litigation (for example, a dispute over which writers are responsible for which part of the song). Sometimes when a song is so new that not even all of the rights holders have been formally and legally established, neither party will yet be in a position to grant formal permissions.

LBB> What makes BEN uniquely positioned as the best company for music license fee clearing work?

Jake> We are in a unique position because we are market agnostic: we do not represent any song catalog or set of artists; we can license any song that interests a brand; we can also act as music supervisors suggesting songs that fit a particular creative brief and budget.

Also, because BEN does a number of other things in the music marketing space (artist partnerships, TikTok campaigns, product placement in music videos), we have a great reputation in the industry with music rights owners due to the volume of business we do with them. so our requests and negotiations on behalf of our clients tend to get priority attention.

LBB> Now that Christmas is approaching, have you been involved in cleaning up music or audio for seasonal campaigns that we should check out?

Demi> BEN has had the pleasure of working on some great Christmas campaigns for our clients. Our favorite Christmas clearances may be the ones we’ve obtained for Hallmark’s line of keepsake ornaments over the years, for which we’ve licensed and licensed iconic Christmas songs like Nat King Cole’s “The Christmas Song,” “Wonderful Christmastime ” by Paul McCartney, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” by Gene Autry, and even classic IP like “Hedwig’s Theme” by John Williams.

As part of its partnership with Hallmark, BEN obtained the rights to Gayla Peevey’s song “I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas” for its collection of holiday decorations.

LBB> Is there anything different about the rights clearance process when planning a Christmas campaign?

Jake> As we always say, the most important thing is to start the process as soon as possible. Many brands don’t decide they want to license a copyrighted Christmas song until fairly close to the Christmas season, when song owners have already been inundated with requests for Christmas songs. These requests can create bottlenecks for two reasons: 1) pure bandwidth; and 2) the song a brand wants may already be licensed for multiple holiday campaigns, so the song owner may feel there is already market saturation.

We recommend seeking Christmas song releases no later than August or September. Plus, the music industry pretty much shuts down the year from mid-December, so for a brand launching a last-minute Christmas campaign, it may well be too late. However, we always try and have definitely done some holiday miracles on last minute clearances!

LBB> Do you have big plans for your new TikTok Sound Partnership in 2023?

Demi> BEN is excited to continue helping brands find their sonic identity on TikTok and empowering them to engage with the platform’s young audiences in the most authentic way – through the power of music.

Jake> TikTok’s audience continues to grow, as do brand activations on the platform, and the opportunity for marketers should be greater than ever in 2023 as TikTok’s shopping functionality rolls out across the United States. . Since music is absolutely integral to the TikTok user experience, we’re excited to help brands release the most engaging content possible, have fun with the hot songs, and expose the brand’s customer base to new artists, through fun and artistic commercial content.

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