5 Tips To Choose The Best Background Music For Your Radio Ad

how to choose music for radio ads

With the abundance of music and the complexity of copyright law it can be quite difficult to license the right music for radio ads and commercials.

Mik TunePocket Composer

Hi, I’m Mik, one of TunePocket music composers. In this post I’ve put together 5 simple tips to help you get started with choosing and licensing the best background music for your next radio ad.

Read more below and feel free ask questions in the comments.

How to choose the right background music for your radio ad?

What would be the best music for your ad?

While musical preferences of individual listeners may differ greatly, there is one important criteria to consider:

The best music for your ad is simply the music that helps to get your message to the intended audience.

Here are the 5 tips to help you choose the right soundtrack for a memorable radio commercial:

1. Research your audience

This is by far the most important consideration.

Don’t try using the music that YOU like. Use what goes well with your brand’s image and appeals to your audience.

Know Your Audience

There are several ways to determine the demographics of your audience.

Most likely you already have good understanding of who your clients are.

Another option is to use social media analytics tools to look deeper into your customers’ demographic data.

Once you understand who is your audience, you can better tailor your ads (and music) to appeal to them.

Find out what music they like

Make sure the background music is appropriate for your audience and has good replay value.

Use music that matches the brand / artistic direction of the ad

Depending on the mood and the theme of the ad, you can yourself one or more of the following questions:

Does the music support a positive message?

Does it have a catchy memorable melody?

Does it sound professional and modern?

Do you feel comfortable listening to it?

Does it support your message?

2. Match music to the length of your message

Many people ask how long a radio ad should be?

In North America commercial radio, the ads tend to run for 30 or more, up to the whole minute. In other countries this time can be 40, 20, or even 15 sec. Some stations charge by the second, so you can also come across very short ads of 5 – 6 seconds long.

My suggestion is not to focus on predefined duration and always match music to the length of your marketing message.

The best length for your audio commercial is the time it takes to get your message across.

Here’s how you can quickly estimate the length of the ad based on your marketing copy:

30 to 40 words – you will need a 15 sec music intro.

70 to 80 words – you will need a 30 sec long soundtrack.

120 to 150 words – you will need a 60 sec background music cue.

Related: Choose from thousands or professional music cues between 5 and 60 seconds, made specifically for commercial advertisement.

3. Always get proper license for any music you use

Now the question is where you actually can legally get music to use in your radio ad?

Your first instinct may be just to reach to your mp3 collection and simply pick a song you like. Unfortunately, that won’t work.

Any music you may want to use in your radio commercial must be properly licensed. Period.


All music (with the exception of old recordings that are already in public domain) is copyrighted and owned by someone.

If you want to use that music in any way you need permission of the copyright owner or owners.

Typically, for most commercial artists that involves the publisher (owns the rights to the song) and the record label (owns the rights to the actual recording of that song).

Getting licenses for popular music can be expensive.

If your budget is rather limited, consider getting your music from a commercial music library.

Many music libraries, large and small, offer affordable music priced specifically for small time business owners and advertisers.

background music for radio ads

Another question to consider is if the music owner is a PRO (performance rights association) member.

If so, there may be addition performance license required to air the music in your ad.

The good news is that typically the public broadcast performance license is the responsibility of the radio station, not the client.

You just need to tell the station the music author name and the song title, so they can report this to the composer’s PRO.

If the station does not cover the public broadcast licensing, use non-PRO royalty free music in your radio ad.

4. Experiment for best results

Many beginner marketers make this grave mistake.

They only create one version of their ad, put it on the radio, and hope for the best.

In fact, the most efficient strategy is to create several ads (ideally with different soundtracks) and see which one drives the best results.

Some people I spoke with mentioned that their main concern was the licensing costs. That is, getting licenses for several songs would be much more expensive.

While there is some truth to that, I believe we’ve come up with a good solution:

Take a look at TunePocket’s Pay As You Go plan.

With Pay As You Go, you can download any 5 music tracks or sounds from a large catalog or 10,000+ professional music cues and use these sounds commercial with a lifetime royalty free license.

5. Spice up your ad with attention grabbing sound effects

Radio listening is rather passive.

That is, typically the radio just passively plays in the background while we are occupied with some other activity, like working or driving.

So naturally, sometimes we need to “wake up” the listeners to get their attention.

One of the effective ways to quickly grab someone’s attention is to use a modern sound bite, often used by radio DJs.

These sounds are called DJ drops or radio imaging sound effects.

Music in radio advertisement examples

Here are some examples of music cues that worked well in radio ads and commercials for our clients:

Can’t decide which music to use in your radio ad?

Get unlimited access to thousands of modern music tracks, intros, and sound effects with TunePocket’s unlimited royalty free music membership.

Questions? Comments?

In this post we explored how you can choose and legally license the right music for radio ads. Let us know what you think by posting a comment!

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