How to choose background music for an animated business video
Usually when you’re making an animated video for business, you’re so absorbed with the visuals, and the script that you don’t often give the soundtrack the time and attention that it deserves.
This is a tragedy – the potential that background music has to provoke emotion in your viewer is an incredible tool. As we know very well at Fudge, animation is very effective at using emotion to inspire action.
Background music is used in all sorts of media as an indication to your audience that says: “this is how you should be feeling.” you can harness the mood associations built up by decades of music in entertainment with some well-chosen picks.
That being said – choosing just the right track is no easy feat, so here are some decent tips and questions to ask yourself before you do. We’ll even offer up some of our favourite royalty-free music resources.
What do you want to make your audience feel?
Apart from being impressed by all the exciting animated visuals you’re showing them, how do you want your audience to feel? Is it anticipation and hopefulness from your new product launch? Uplifted and comforted from a customer testimonial? Or perhaps it’s time to focus up and get ready for some vital information.
To nail these moods, run through your project brief/ storyboard/ the video itself, and write down the thoughts and emotions that you want your viewers to experience.
It might sound cheesier than Wallace and Gromit’s pantry, but you should end up with a list of words like: excited, safe, curious, relived, triumphant.
It’s fairly obvious the kinds of music that appeal to certain moods but if you’re struggling, remember that most royalty free music sites will categorise their tunes with the kinds of words you’ll be writing down so just type these in and have a listen!
Just make sure you choose tracks with the appropriate energy level – try watching your video with loads of tracks of different styles and tempo playing underneath to get a feel for this.
What is the message do you want to communicate?
What’s your video for? Its function will inform the kinds of musical pairings that will suit it best. Consider the following examples:
This could be a training video, an explainer or internal communications. For detail-focused videos, you want a supporting underscore that carries the emotion but doesn’t distract from the content. An instrumental works best here with a consistent beat and a slower tempo that doesn’t pull the attention away from the narration or text. For broad concepts where details are less important, foreground music which is more emotive (orchestral, classical or scored pieces) work great.
This category is way too diverse for me to really make specific suggestions for! My advice would be to lean towards scored music, stuff that has been specifically composed for soundtrack purposes. If you go with any old song, it will make your animation just look like a music video. For entertainment, you want to closely examine what kind of emotions or moods you are trying to convey with your video.
Keep in mind whether you’re primarily representing the product or the brand or both, this can often influence your selection.
The right choice for marketing music is as well-debated and theorised as ever. Sometimes you want it more pacy to make the focus seem current and inspire some kind of action from the fear of missing out. Alternatively, go from low, deeper tones to an uplifting, hopeful vibe when you introduce the solution that your client is offering. Sounds a bit cliché and obvious but the obvious stuff stays popular for a reason – it works!
Who are your target audience?
If this isn’t already clear to you, you may be in trouble… I’d recommend going back further than your storyboard and having a chat to the marketing folks that have approved this animated video. If you do know, great! Select music that appeals to them. Younger crowds generally want bouncy, poppier tracks with a lighter tone, for example.
Also keep in mind their geographic location. Portuguese viewers may be more swayed with Fado-style sounds. The southern USA might be more taken with a bluegrass, country & western vibe. Keep these demographic elements in mind when deciding on a mood and tone.
Freaking out because your audience is too broad? No bother, that just means you have to find something with broad appeal of its own! Instrumental is the way to go here, it’s way less polarising than vocals and will fit much more comfortably in a variety of places.
General tips for choosing music for animation:
- A particular vocal hook may be a powerful and memorable tool for companies to build strong brand recognition but it’s usually much safer to go for no lyrics unless they’re very relevant, used sparingly, not the focus of the song or completely unavoidable.
- Frequency and tone – Again on the subject of vocals, try to avoid music with complex melodies played on instruments that use the same notes and tones as the human voice.
- Instruments that may interfere usually include: guitar, violin, cello, and elements of piano and keyboard. If you want the quality and mood of these instruments, go for simple melodies or repetitive chord progressions. If you want to communicate strength or authority with your voiceover, try using instruments in the low frequencies such as bass
- Absence of music at an opportune time will infer that the next words you hear are important. It’s a tested and true technique that’s great for explainers or adverts: get the main tagline in there or introduce your new company/product during these moments.
Why not cut all dialogue and SFX and tell your story with visuals and music only? Sounds risky, I know, but this technique is quite trendy for very short animations and is becoming increasingly common in marketing videos.
It works when you’re going to be having videos autoplay visually but without sound, such as on a company page on Facebook, or on Instagram. Thinking about your animation being viewed on mute forces you to create the best visuals you can and any music that does get through is a great bonus!
Things to avoid when choosing music for your video:
- Too wordy – you don’t want to be fighting the music or vocals for attention.
- Prominent single instrument – I’m thinking saxophone, i’m thinking guitar solos. Again, way too much effort to fight them for the focus.
- Too invested in its own meaning – I have Bohemian Rhapsody in my head as I write this. It’s too narrow, too specific to the artist, already fits in an established situation and is too story-based to work as a soundtrack.
- Too famous – Don’t use anything that went viral unless you’re making a joke out of it or it works for your marketing video. Even so, this is risky business.
- Music shouldn’t dominate your video – Keep your viewer in the moment.
- No sound bites – You shouldn’t have any speaking that’s not your dialogue. No narrative sections, no extracts from a speech by Obama, no “d-d-d-d-d-d-drop the bass”… You get it.
Royalty free music resources:
Yup, it’s that Moby. He started this free music service to benefit non-profit films, student projects, and independent shorts. Determined animators can find a respectable roster boasting a wide variety of moods and styles.
This stuff is great for showreels or anything non-commercial. If you are wanting to use one of these tracks for commercial means, Moby does ask that any money generated must be donated to the humane society.
A guy named Dan-O who introduces himself simply as a singer-songwriter but his free tunes range massively in style. From bouncy “Techno Pop Dance” to “Uplifting, thoughtful” soundscapes and even some exotic “Sitar Tabula” thrown in to keep things spicy.
This site hosts a huge amount of royalty free tunes, nicely searchable and catalogued. It’s managed by a bloke called Kevin MacLeod who is a talented producer in his own right. Check him out.
Variety of subscription services:
Nicely presented, easy to use site with a broad selection. Very helpful use of images paired with the music to inspire you when making a choice.
Yep, they do more than just pictures! Shutterstock isn’t the first place you think of when I say ‘music’, but there’s a decent amount here and you’ll benefit from the well-established Shutterstock website and subscription model.
Some decent freebies to be found here as well, but most of the better tunes are behind a subscription-based paywall.
A beefy library of tracks and well equipped with powerful tools to find them with, Bed Tracks is one of the prettier, more customer-friendly options. Great animated explainer video by the way!
Still struggling with your background beats? Sometimes it’s easier to go with a full-service production studio – luckily, you’ve already found one! Give us a bell for a friendly chat about your ideas.