Outlook 2020: Opportunities and concerns for the production music business
Issue: November/December 2019

Outlook 2020: Opportunities and concerns for the production music business

Stephen Arnold, president of Texas-based Stephen Arnold Music (https://stephenarnoldmusic.com), looks some of the trends and concerns the production music industry is facing in the year ahead. While template-driven music and low-quality compositions are of concern, there are lots of sonic branding opportunities that allow clients to imprint their message quickly.


As brands look to differentiate themselves in this increasingly cluttered media environment, sonic branding is fast becoming the preferred “sensory shorthand” to communicate a corporate image to a customer or client. Since sound is processed much more quickly in the brain than a visual image, the opportunity to imprint a message quickly and in a memorable fashion is becoming “de rigueur” for a successful brand. Stephen Arnold Music is looking forward to expanding this critical expertise with many more clients in the year ahead. With many brand messages migrating to OTT and digital channels, the branding becomes shorter and needs to be more impactful. Using extensive research, developing the memorable musical language to gain consumer or customer mindshare is part science, and part art. In 2020, we look forward to expanding our footprint in sonic branding.


At Stephen Arnold Music, we take pride in our customer-focus and use of live musicians. We call it “hands-on” music. However, live musicians and composers are fast being replaced with digital samples and loops, degrading the quality of the product. We don’t see this as a positive trend, and feel that the poor quality that results from this practice will be a differentiating factor for us. The emotional and physiological impact of music created with real players is palpable, and more effective for our clients in the long run. Cheap, poorly conceived and created music means less impact for a brand. The challenge is to keep providing the best quality product, while still competing against cheaply-produced, semi-automated music products  


In the coming years, we see great opportunities for impactful sonic branding in short-form storytelling and advertising as seen in the OTT, online and streaming models. Shorter production formats like these demand an even great attention to the audio branding of the content. Plus, extending these sonic brands into more traditional, linear formats will mean creating versatile and robust music packages for successful content providers. In the near term, we expect 2020 to be a good year for the advertising industry generally through spending on political ads. We also see growing opportunity with the expansion of The Vault, our Production Music Library. Since combining forces with BMG Production Music, our library has expanded to more than 180,000 tracks. It’s the perfect tool for video producers trying to keep up with the aforementioned increase in content formats. 


As we look to the future, there are some disturbing trends in the industry, such as low-quality music that is heavily template-driven with samples and looping. We also see artificial intelligence as posing a threat to high quality, robust musical compositions. The process of creating an effective musical solution is borne from research, intuition, high-quality talent and exacting production techniques. Cut-rate music creation, on the other hand, not only degrades musical quality, but devalues it as well. In other words, you get what you pay for. It’s important to educate clients about the need for well-crafted and carefully performed music solutions to elevate the brand experience for their customers and audiences, and ultimately achieve greater profitability. Our intention is to use our well-honed practices to exceed the expectations of our client. And in tomorrow’s highly-competitive environment, we‘re convinced that quality will win the day.    

Often referred to as the most-heard, least-known composers in the world, Stephen Arnold Music’s sonic creativity is experienced every day in more than 500 million homes worldwide. Based in Texas, the company calls itself “The World Leader In Sonic Branding” and has more than 25 years of success delivering impactful, brand-defining compositions that make a difference for today’s top media outlets, corporations, production companies, content creators and advertising agencies. Stephen Arnold Music has multiple Emmys, Addys and Promax Golds to their credit.