February 23, 2007

Open Thread...

by Chris Randall

I'm kind of in idle right now. I'm obsessing over this track I'm working on, and I can't really work on anything else until it's done. Waiting for parts at this juncture. Also, my copy of Cubase 4 will be here shortly, which will fix my MIDI issues (hopefully) and I don't want to start anything new until I've dealt with that.

So, our open thread topic for this week. One of the most common letters I get goes something like this:

"Hey, Chris: I know you get a lot of songs in TV shows and video games, and that's what I want to do. Can you hook a brother up?"

This is the one area in which I'm generally unwilling to help people out, and I would think the reasons are obvious. My wife and I have spent almost a decade building our list of consistent placement contacts, and it is probably the single most valuable thing we own. Sharing it is quite simply out of the question. I know several other people that do what I do in some fashion, be it for a production music house, scoring, or placement of existing songs (the latter is what we do) and they're all like us, inasmuch as there's no fucking way they're gonna drop names.

Is this a bad thing? Hard to say. This is a competitive business, and there are always more people out there willing to poop out music than people that have a place for it. What I do know is that reading shit like this is a big fat waste of time.



Page 1 of 2

Feb.23.2007 @ 2:04 PM
I have to say that of all the laughs I get on this site, the links to Record-Producer.com are the funniest. "Thank God the DX-7 busted those evil unions!"

Feb.23.2007 @ 2:46 PM
god-damn, who writes for record-producer.com? That has to be the most simple-minded, bone-headed crap I've ever read. I can't help but think that a certain musical polymath in Belize takes this shit for gospel.

Feb.23.2007 @ 3:47 PM
At the end.

"Do you know something? I'm not making this up - it really does happen"

Just sells it, baby.


Feb.23.2007 @ 6:11 PM
Dave McAnally
Well I don't think it is a bad thing to say that to somebody who has zero contacts and can't reciprocate the favor. If those people are determined enough and didn't suck, I'd imagine they'd figure out how to do it on their own anyway.

Feb.24.2007 @ 5:37 AM
CR I dont blame you at all for not opening up your little black book to the unwashed masses. I remember a similarly themed discussion on osxaudio once where someone refused to share his drum miking technique as it was how he earned his bacon, but this I think goes much further. Good relationships are more valuable and more easily damaged.

Feb.24.2007 @ 12:52 PM
Chris Randall
Don't get me wrong, though. I have no problems talking people through the process of obtaining their own contacts. A lot of this type of thing is luck, plain and simple, though. I mean, if you're able to make music at the (relatively forgiving) level that these companies require, there's no reason you can't get the hookup as well, with a little work.

So, in that light, here's a couple hints that might be worth considering. As I said in the post, I don't score or do custom work (I'm not good at it, for whatever reason) so that limits what I'm able to do. These tips are for my specific thing, which is getting existing music placed in games and TV shows.

1) Listen to what's being used. In my experience, the people that produce visual entertainment are very much of the "let's get on the bandwagon" variety. If there's a popular commercial that has a specific type of song in it, like that Mitsubishi ad with the Death In Vegas track, you'll be able to place stuff like that for a year afterwards. Obviously, this whole process is a bit different than making music for music's sake. You're making music that compliments image, so you need to write to your customer, which in this case will be the music supervisor or director.

2) Be easy to deal with. Eventually, once you've made a contact, you'll get a phone call or email, and the first thing they'll say is "we want to use Song in our upcoming Project." The very next thing they'll say is "we don't have a lot of money in the music budget." Now, this is a loaded statement, because when I get a call from Sony or Microsoft, I know that "not a lot of money" is, in fact, a lot of money to me. But when it's some extreme sports TV production company, it generally means "we're gonna use this, and you'll get ASCAP checks at some point in the future, but nothing up front." Either way, just take what they offer. Unless you're Moby, they're not going to negotiate. They'll just use someone else's stuff.

3) Know this part of the business. The first thing to pay attention to is your publishing. You _MUST_ be a member of ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC, since this is the only way you'll be paid on most small productions. If you don't have a proper publisher, you _MUST_ be both a writer and publisher member. Otherwise, you're giving up half of your check (literally), and some of the larger companies won't even deal with someone that doesn't have a publishing company. Learn about copyright.

4) Learn the terminology. For the smaller companies, and game companies, this isn't such a big deal, but if you expect to field a call from Dreamworks, you have to know what they're talking about. You need to know the difference between mechanical synchronization rights and master use rights. You need to know whether you're getting paid "per side" or "all in." (The former effectively doubles the amount of money you're being paid, so it's good to know this.)

Ultimately, this part of the business isn't so much about what you can make, but rather who you know, how easy you are to get along with, and your understanding of copyright as it relates to sync. Getting the contacts is the hard part. Generally the person doing the clearance is someone's assistant, and is run absolutely ragged, so the easier you make their life, the more likely they are to say to their boss "can we just use Positron stuff on our next project? They were sooooo easy to deal with."



Feb.24.2007 @ 3:12 PM
agreed 100%...your contacts and your ability to deal with them (coddle, kiss ass, whatever) are crucial. i'm the opposite of you in that i make my living composing and almost none from licensing, but the contacts/communication game is the same. and i'm the same way with advice...i'll give out plenty of 'hows', but no 'whos'.

Feb.24.2007 @ 5:37 PM
CR, I've long since known that, like most paid creative endeavors in life, it's a combination of who you know and being in the right place at the right time. Of course, you need to actually have game if you're in it for the long haul. It's dispiriting for us wannabe's but I'm realistic enough to not be bitter. I do appreciate the advice. It's good to know I've got the BMI and easy to get along with aspect of it covered.

Feb.25.2007 @ 1:36 PM
It is contacts. There is an idie label that I worked for that are always putting their music in video games, movies... the "secret" was that one of the bands happened to do well (platinum records, billboard top 10), and licenced some songs for a couple movies at the height of their popularity, and once that happened and the label established those contacts, then it was easy enough for the bands you probably have never heard of to get their music in video games, TV shows, or whatever.

And from what I understand from how the deals worked, they were strictly cash for track. They weren't really concerned with the mechanicals, performance, publishing, as none of that kind of stuff can be banked on. I was told that people get cheated out of royalties all the time, and the only thing important in negotiating deals is the money they offer you up front. I of course never participated in the deals, so take what I am saying with a grain of salt... but I got the information from people who made millions in the music biz, so I certainly trust what they said.


Feb.25.2007 @ 4:36 PM
The Horse Museum
That all depends on whether you make your living from these contacts, like you do, or whether you're part of a collective of artists trying to do so.

Page 1 of 2



Sorry, commenting is closed for this blog entry.