Gear Seven/Arc Studios/Shift
I Like Music
Contemplative Reptile
  • International Edition
  • USA Edition
  • UK Edition
  • Australian Edition
  • Canadian Edition
  • Irish Edition
  • German Edition
  • French Edition
  • Singapore Edition
  • Spanish edition
  • Polish edition
  • Indian Edition
  • Middle East edition
  • South African Edition

How BEN Group is Helping Brands Identify their Sonic Identity


The entertainment AI company discusses its 30 year history of branded music clearance collaborations, including their most recent appointment as TikTok Sound Partner

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 20 years old -  TikTok has grown into the most popular platform for creating and sharing short-form videos. Numerous music careers and brand partnerships have been launched off the back of TikTok’s global popularity, as content creation and consumption continues to shift. 

Having changed the face of branded content, it didn’t take long for the industry to clock on to the immense value of TikTok. Despite this, not every brand has been able to master the winning formula, with many struggling to get to grips with creating engaging content that will deliver success. It’s clear to everyone that when paired with the “right” music, content can blow up on a viral scale, but planning the strategy behind these successful sonic collaborations requires specific expertise. 

BEN Group are the leading entertainment AI company specialising in rights clearance and licensing across ad campaigns, social media, streaming, TV, music, and film content. Given the wide scope of their work, and their 30 years in the business, the company has been at the forefront of influencer marketing and branded content since the dawn of the first social media app. 

Clued up and well-connected, BEN has a great deal of experience navigating the ins and outs of the sound-first content made popular by apps like TikTok. In fact, the rights management experts first partnered with the app back in 2016, when it was known as ByteDance, before it became 

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 desired audiences. In October, BEN announced they would be joining the TikTok Marketing Partner Program as an official Sound Partner. 

The finer details of music clearance are rarely given much thought, but there is plenty of red tape to get through in order to carve out a bespoke sonic identity. In this interview, LBB hears from BEN on the subject of their exciting new Sound Partnership, and ponders the use of music in seasonal campaigns. With Christmas around the corner, how does BEN help brands navigate the choppy waters of rights clearance in order to find the “right” music for their ads? And how do brands keep up with micro trends like the recent revival of pop punk/nu-metal music used in this year’s John Lewis and Sainsbury's Christmas commercials.

In a discussion that touches on time restraints, negotiations and the importance of planning for music clearance, especially for seasonal campaigns, LBB’s April Summers chats to BEN Group’s music and brand partnerships’ senior manager, Demi Kirolos, and VP, Jake Terrell. 

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

Demi Kirolos, senior manager of music and brand partnerships> The TikTok Sound Partner program connects brands of all sizes to trusted partners who can help leverage the unique potential of TikTok’s “sound-on environment” at scale. Through this partnership, TikTok will connect brands who are already on the platform, or looking to activate on the platform, directly to BEN. We will then help these brands build successful music strategies on TikTok, starting with helping them to choose, clear, and licence music so that brands are able to tap into the power of music on TikTok legally and authentically to engage with audiences.

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

Demi> BEN actually first partnered with ByteDance years ago, to help with their rebranding of into TikTok. As they were launching and rebranding in the U.S., BEN worked from an evolving list of the 100 best-performing songs on the app to target budget-conscious music clearances that ultimately soundtracked songs for in-theatre advertising and #YearOnTikTok promotional packages in-app. BEN has been a trusted partner of TikTok's since the beginning, and we really value that.

LBB> According to Melissa Yang, Head of Ecosystems at TikTok, “Sound is the universal language of TikTok, and brands need to embrace music and sound in order to show up authentically on the platform.” How does BEN plan on working with TikTok to identify high-impact opportunities for authentic music partnerships? 

Demi> For the past couple of years I’ve been saying to 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’s charting. At BEN, we're always ahead of those trends, keeping an ear to the ground so that we're able to arm our clients with fresh tracks from buzzy artists. 

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

LBB> How will BEN utilise its far-reaching network as a TikTok Sound Partner? 

Demi> This Sound Partnership is proving itself to be mutually beneficial for all parties involved. Our brand clients are pleased to know that now in addition to being long trusted by music rights holders, we're also trusted by TikTok themselves. Music rights holders are pleased to know that BEN is serving as an advocate for their work in this space. And TikTok is pleased to have BEN championing legal music use on their platform. This just further establishes BEN as a premier and preferred partner in the music industry.

LBB> What are the main differences in rights licensing for music clearance as opposed to film and TV? 

Jake Terrell, VP of music and brand partnerships> While the principles are the same - securing rights from all involved rights owners - music usage is, of course, typically audio only, so there are not always name and likeness (image) rights to cover. That being said, it's also often true that a single studio may own a piece of film or TV content, whereas most all songs have multiple songwriters; as many as 6 is not uncommon, and depending on how many songs are sampled within a new song, it can be far more than that. For example, take Beyonce's recent hit "Cuff It" – there are nine credited writers, including Beyonce herself, which means the clearance of this single song would involve several parties.

LBB> Are any particular sounds or songs harder to clear than others?

Jake> Some songs are harder than others because the artist or songwriter(s) are more precious about how their song is used creatively, or some of the rights might be caught up in litigation (e.g. a dispute over which writers are responsible for which share of the song). Sometimes, when a song is so new that not even all of the rights owners have been formally and legally established, no party will yet be in a position to grant formal permissions.

LBB> What makes BEN uniquely positioned as the best company for the job of clearing music licensing rights? 

Jake> We're uniquely positioned because we're agnostic in the marketplace: we don't represent any one song catalogue or set of artists; we can licence any song a brand may be interested in; we can also act as music supervisors who suggest songs that fit a particular creative brief and budget. 

Moreover, because BEN does several other things in the music marketing space (artist partnerships, TikTok campaigns, product placements in music videos), we have a great deal of industry standing with music rights owners owing to the volume of business we do with them, such that our requests and negotiations on behalf of our clients tend to garner priority attention.

LBB> With Christmas coming up, have you been involved with clearing any music or audio for seasonal campaigns that we should check out?

Demi> BEN's had the pleasure of working on some great Christmas campaigns for our clients. Our favourite holiday clearances might be the ones we've secured for Hallmark's Keepsake Ornament line throughout the years, for which we've cleared and licensed iconic Christmas songs such as Nat King Cole's "The Christmas Song", Paul McCartney's "Wonderful Christmastime", Gene Autry's "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer", and even classic IP like John Williams' "Hedwig's Theme".

As part of their partnership with Hallmark, BEN cleared the rights for Gayla Peevey's song "I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas" for their festive ornament collection

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

Jake> As we always say, the most important thing to do is to start the process as early as possible. A lot of brands don't decide they want to licence a protected holiday song until quite close to the holiday season, when song owners have already become inundated with holiday song requests. These requests can bottleneck for two reasons: 1) pure bandwidth; and 2) the song a brand wants may already be licensed for a number of holiday campaigns such that the song owner may feel there is already market saturation. 

We tend to recommend pursuing holiday song clearances no later than August or September. Furthermore, the music industry all but shuts down for the year as of 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 worked some holiday miracles on last-minute clearances!

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

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

Jake> The TikTok audience only continues to grow, as do brand activations on the platform, and the opportunity for marketers should be larger than ever in 2023 as shoppable TikTok functionality rolls-out in the States. With music being absolutely integral to the TikTok user experience, we’re excited about helping brands launch the most compelling content possible, have fun with trending songs, and expose the brand’s customer base to new artists, through fun and artistic commercial content. 


view more - Hires, Wins & Business
Sign up to our newsletters and stay up to date with the best work and breaking ad news from around the world.
Greenlight, a part of BEN Group, Wed, 23 Nov 2022 08:13:00 GMT