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How Sound Design Can Make Or Break Explainer Videos

When it comes to watching a video, there is nothing more distracting than a bad music choice.

We’ve all been there before when we’re watching something on Facebook or YouTube. Maybe a friend sent it to you, or it showed up in your recommended bar. Either way, you know from the title that it’s something you’re going to enjoy.

Then the video starts, and it’s accompanied by a bizarre song that’s too loud and too fast. After a big eye roll, do you suffer through the bad audio? Do you just mute the video and turn on subtitles? Do you give up altogether?

As a marketer, those are questions you never want your viewers to ask. And that’s especially true when it comes to explainer or whiteboard videos.

You want your audience fully attentive so they can learn something that helps them. And that’s a universal goal for this type of video, whether it’s about the geological makeup of Mars or how to structure an email marketing campaign.

But music choices can make or break explainer videos. To help you learn what not to do in your next project, let’s look at how smart song choices (and sound design in general) can turn a helpful video into a compelling one.

Making The Most Of Sound Design

Visuals are the core of explainer videos. Most people are visual learners, so presenting information they can see helps them internalize what the video is “teaching.” That’s probably why you started producing this type of content for your audience in the first place.

But humans aren’t exclusively visual. Our brains like to use one sense to affirm another, which helps with emotional connection and even memory/retention.

When it comes to video marketing, sound design adds a sense of realism to what our eyes see.

That’s as true for travel vlogs and wedding videos as it is for big-budget films — the audio piece can be just as influential as the visual element, mostly because music affects our emotional or mental state in ways that nothing else does.

In other words, sound design is a fundamental part of creating video content. You can break it down into two parts: music and SFX. Explainer/whiteboard videos benefit from both of these things in a way that is unique from most other video types.

Without human interaction or movement on the screen, videos run the risk of feeling stagnant or lifeless. And as you probably know, the best way to keep whiteboard videos interesting is by using illustrations…but if those animations are just silently happening, they can still fall flat.

Again, you can’t afford to let things get boring. Engagement is what keeps viewers on your video or channel, and it’s what helps the audience internalize the information in your content.

Both music and sound effects add “weight” to the video. There’s a sense of pleasure or even fulfillment in that dual-sensory action. Think about how Apple — the modern Da Vinci of user-friendly design — has evolved trackpads and home buttons with some sort of feedback.

And you can add a similar concept to your explainer videos. You obviously can’t add haptic feedback to your videos (At least not yet…) but you still have ways to make your content more effective.

Of course, the biggest way to make your videos more effective is by choosing the right background music.

Picking Songs For Explainer Videos

I mentioned earlier that there’s nothing worse than watching a video paired with a terrible song. When it comes to videos — especially commercial projects — it’s important to know what goes into adding music to video.

Let’s say you’re going to start work on your next explainer video. The first things you consider are the content you want to cover and the theme/presentation you’re going to use. But it’s equally important to think about your sound design: How will the music fit into the project, and where will you find the right songs?

If your video could be monetized, you need to take a crash course in music licensing. That way, you can make sure you will be protected from copyright claims. And the easiest way to do that is by finding a royalty free music library where any song you buy will be legally covered.

(Don’t make the mistake of using a song you like or don’t own. Breaking copyright law is the quickest way to make some new “friends” on a record label’s legal team. And trust me, they are really good at getting money from filmmakers who use music without properly licensing it.)

Once you’ve laid the groundwork for your video, now you’re on to the fun part.

Choosing background music can seem like a challenge, but it’s actually enjoyable to listen to great music and pair it with your latest project. There are dozens of listicles online to break down the pros and cons of music licensing sites, and most of these companies let you check out their libraries without signing up.

This is the part where your content ideas and sound design really come together. Settling on a tone or style will inform the genre of music that works best.

It’s hard to imagine elevator music paired with an explanation of something serious like how a capitalist economy works. The same goes for a slower, cinematic song playing behind a funny whiteboard about why McDonald’s uses orange cheddar.

Choosing music for video projects is an easy way to set the mood. It’s one of many tools available to you, and it helps you tell your story (and share your message) more clearly. By dedicating a little extra time to sound design, you can start taking advantage of this trick right now.

And even though music choices can make or break explainer videos, you can be confident that your audience will connect with your content and pay attention to the information you are sharing.

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