‘Demo Love’ and how to avoid its trap

By Jonathan Hecht

“Demo Love” can be a painful trap to fall into. It can happen to any kind of production, but it can easily be avoided.

What is demo love? Let’s say you’ve made a promotional video, and you put a piece of music on it. You’re refining your rough cut, and you keep using the same track. Repeat exposure to this singular musical option has drilled into your brain the belief that your video can’t exist without this song, but beware! You may feel like you’ve crossed the finish line, but if you move on to the final cut before confirming the song’s availability, you risk compromising the integrity of your creative vision.

Aside from your artistic attachment to the music, maybe you’ve editorially joined your imagery so completely to your “hero” track that if you don’t get it, you’ll need to detach mentally and materially. If you’re paying for freelancers or any hired guns, you stand to add time and money.

Demo love often originates innocently when a director scripts a song into the treatment or plays it on set. Or when an editor, working unsupervised, edits footage based on the direction they’ve received and uses a famous song (without thinking about what it would cost) in an effort to make a big or favorable impression.

What can you do to avoid the trap?
Start thinking about music as early as when you’re concepting. The musical inspiration doesn’t need to be perfect; it can be temp, but you want to have a blueprint for the music direction. Pro-tip: prepare a shortlist of options.

Bring a music supervisor in before the rough cut, and let him/her start putting vetted options on the table for you and your editor. Then together you can dial into the directions that cast the right tone for the work, and then mine those directions for the songs that connect the best with the characters and story. You can set yourself up for musical success through this discovery process.

Offer the music supervisor as much information as possible. They’ll need the budget, and it’s a good idea to give them treatments, visual/musical references and input from any and all sides, so they can be well informed about the parameters of the project.

Right now I’m working with a client who wants an iconic song for a branded film and smartly called me before they went to shoot. They said: “We want this specific song. It’s important to the concept. How much will the rights cost?” Because they did that, we were able to navigate toward their desired outcome together from day one. It was as simple as calling me and asking the question.

So, build music supervision into your process and your budget. Don’t risk getting creatively or literally stuck on any track you don’t know you can license. Have an idea of what you want, and seek help from someone who knows the ins and outs. Then you can refine your vision for the music together and unleash an expert on navigating the clearance process.

Jonathan Hecht is the founder of Venn Arts, a music supervision company. His experience comes from both the music and marketing industries with a portfolio that includes work for integrated broadcast/digital campaigns, branded content, VR/AR, feature-length and narrative films and more.


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