How To: Get Your Music In A John Lewis Ad!

We had a chat with Anna from Leland Music, who worked on the John Lewis advert, about the process behind music supervision!

How To: Get Your Music In A John Lewis Ad!

Music and moving images seem to go hand-in-hand. From music videos to adverts, we want visual with our audio… and audio with our visuals.

The placement of music in adverts, TV shows, games, and film have become a massive part of the industry. Would we even know about Phantom Planet’s ‘California’ if it wasn’t for The OC? Or how about the soundtrack to John Lewis adverts dominating the charts around Christmas time?

We had a chat with Anna from Leland Music about her work on the famous John Lewis Christmas advert!


Hi Anna, thanks for speaking with Big Music! First question: Where do you look to find music for synchronisation?

Great to be here Big Music! The music research team does a lot of active work scouring blogs, online magazines and Spotify playlists for new tracks, but we also receive updates from labels and publishers who keep us in the know with what their artists are up to.

So, what do you look for in the music you choose for adverts?

It can vary massively from brief to brief. For one job the client might be looking for a subtle, ambient track so that the visuals do the talking. For another, we might be briefed to find the next massive pop banger. This is so vague…but mostly you just know it when you hear it.

What is the process of placing music in an advert?

Our process begins with the brief provided by our client. The team spends time thinking and planning before heading into our own research. If the brief is for commercial music, we make playlists individually which we then play to one another and discuss before creaming off the best ones to send. If one or more of our suggestions resonate with the client and brand, the project manager will work to license the track for use according to the particular specifications needed for the advert. Alternatively, sometimes the brief requires bespoke composition, and in that case, it’s the project manager who will work alongside a composer to create and record the perfect piece.

Does a company come to you with music they want or do you find a track based on their brief?

The majority of the time we work from a brief to provide our own creative ideas, but sometimes a company does come with a track they have already decided upon. In that instance, a music supervisor works to license the track for them.

What other job roles are involved in the synchronisation of music in adverts?

Within our company, the music research team, the music supervisor/project manager, and the business manager often work alongside one another to provide a full service to our client.

How do you get the permission to use the song?

The project manager has to contact both the master rights holder(s) and the publishing rights holder(s) and negotiate terms and costs with them based on the specifications given by the client.

You’ve worked on 2016’s John Lewis advert and the music is such a big part of that. How was the song chosen?

It was a collaborative process between Leland Music, adam&eveDDB, and John Lewis. We provided a number of searches at various stages of the creative journey, first working to the treatment, then to drawings, and then finally with many different iterations of the film as it was being edited. ‘Half the World Away’ was felt to perfectly capture the character of the advert, and Aurora’s ethereal, other-worldly voice made her the ideal artist to go into the studio with the London Philharmonic to place her stamp on it.

Has working on such an iconic advertising campaign changed your view of music sync?

Working on the campaign showed to me the enormous reach advertising has. It’s not just an advert, but a piece of culture, and for the month leading up to Christmas, it becomes a part of the nations living in a very tangible way thanks to social media. It also acts as a platform for a recording artist such as Aurora to enter the living rooms of an enormous amount of people, and therefore to have her voice heard by a wide and varied audience.

A pleasure to speak with you, Anna!

Thank you Big Music!

To learn more about Sync, check out our interview with Warner Music’s Sync Manager or our chat with a Music Supervisor!