What’s it Really Like to Write Music for Advertising?

Posted by Mike Schumacher

Advertising is a highly dynamic field, and it’s difficult to summarize advertising trends without excluding a certain approach or style. 

Brands and advertising agencies have been making clever use of talented composers for years, but music for commercials is especially crucial right now, when ads have only a precious few seconds to capture a viewer’s attention. 

Composer, producer, and bassist Juan Peña has worked with high-profile producers and artists while also heading up his own modern rock band, Lithic. But Peña still finds time to create music for advertising and commercials, and that’s exactly what we wanted to ask him about. 

Peña shared his many insights on the process of composing for brands and what it takes to create fitting music and communicate clearly and effectively with marketing teams along the way. 

Aspiring composers should pay careful attention to his advice if they’re looking to get into this fun, challenging, and creative corner of the music industry. 

Juan Pena interview

Composer, producer, bassist Juan Peña.

Jam Addict (JA): What was the very first project where you composed for advertising?

Juan Peña (JP): My very first experience writing for advertising and commercial purposes was for a glue company. They wanted a simple piece of music and it was exciting to work with the team. 

JA: Has your approach to this kind of composition changed since that first project?

JP: Every project is unique. That is what makes working in this field so exciting. In a way, my approach changes every single time. There are some fundamental steps to begin a composition, but after those steps, I make sure to have room for experimentation.  

JA: How important is it to communicate clearly with the brand or agency you’re working with?

JP: Communication is key, especially when time is limited. It is very important to discuss and narrow down the ideas for the piece before beginning the composition. It is important to know what direction the commercial is taking and what the client likes and dislikes.

JA: Are advertisers usually looking for a specific style of music or do you make that decision?

JP: It depends on each project. Usually, clients have a good idea of what they want. After that is when we discuss what works musically and how I can help elevate the intended message. 

JA: Are you ever inspired by existing advertisements? Is there a certain amount of cross-pollination there?

JP: I find inspiration in all kinds of music. Although I often find musical inspiration through commercials I also find it in songs. I really enjoy commercials that have music that you can dance to. My favorite advertisements are the ones that sound like a song that you would want to save on your playlists, but at the same time, it hits the visuals in an engaging and exciting way. 

Juan Pena composer

JA: Are there any brands that you’d love to work with in the future?

JP: I am always open to working with any brand. My passion is to help people and create the best piece of music for their projects to stand out. 

JA: Is there any advice you can give to young composers hoping to work in marketing/advertising?

JP: As a young composer myself, I would advise anyone who wants to work in this field to find ways to challenge themselves and write music they wouldn’t usually write. Experiment with new genres, sounds, and instrumentations. They have to be able to deliver a unique composition at the highest level, regardless of the genre. That is what makes writing for advertisements so exciting. 

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