Tips & quotes from music placement companies, production music companies, independent publishers, labels and music supervisors
|CHECKLIST AND SUGGESTIONS|
If and when a music supervisor needs your music or will agree to listen to your material, be ready to send any format they need.
Include full songs rather than 30-second snippets. Have instrumental versions along with lyric sheets available upon request.
It is also most important to have all your legal issues in order before you ever submit any material. There should be no dispute as to who are the publishers (the copyright owners) and master owners (the owners of the recording).
Most prefer a CD in a standard sized jewel case and include the following information: Title of each track and genre (or a brief descriptive emotional word) List the Publisher(s) and Master owner(s) along with the contact info (phone & email). Try to make it easier by designating one contact for the rights to license both sync & master. All of this information should be listed clearly on the disc as well as the CD jewel case.
Music Supervisors will come back to a writer/artist if they know that they can work quickly and efficiently with you.
Finally, if sending an email, most supervisors prefer a link to your website or MySpace page rather than receiving an MP3 file.
Be able to provide a vocal and nonvocal (instrumental) version. Make sure that the lyrics can be heard clearly on the vocal version. It is also a plus to have an acoustic version of the same song.
Avoid excessive sound effects or sound design in your mix.
Create stems (sub-group mixes) when you mix. Some music production companies may want to create surround mixes, remixes or loop-able stems for video games, etc.
Avoid using any samples of copyrighted recordings.
Create a song that strikes a universal emotional chord and avoid writing lyrics that get too specific. Songs with negative or obscene lyrics and lyrics repeatedly referencing someone's name don't get licensed often.
Focus on your art and make the best recordings you can. Create album quality tracks with a great hook and broad appeal that can play to a number of different scenes. The recordings with the most honest and passionate performances have a greater chance of getting noticed.
New technology and popular websites like MySpace and YouTube have empowered the creative community with an array of opportunities. These sites have enabled the indie songwriter/artist to dramatically cut distribution and marketing costs, making it easier to reach an infinite number of fans instantly. Also, as mainstream radio steadily seems to lose its luster and dominance with breaking bands, other media such as television, commercials, and even video games have become more and more powerful tools for the unknown songwriter/artist to get noticed and provide additional sources of income. Aside from the normal income sources such as live gigs and promotional merchandise, music supervisors seem to be the hottest vehicle lately for breaking songwriter/artists and bands on television along with various other media. But, it's not easy to get their attention, considering the volume of material they receive. Even if you have the opportunity to build a rapport with one, it still requires luck and timing.
I asked a few questions to a group of industry professionals who shared some of their thoughts on licensing songs. Read on…
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO A SONGWRITER/ARTIST ABOUT SOLICITING SONGS TO MUSIC SUPERVISORS?
Comments offered from some music supervisors: Do your homework and be conscious as well as respectful of our time. As buyers of music, we are relentlessly solicited by the music community to listen to an enormous amount of music while trying to do the job we are hired to do.
Most music supervisors prefer to deal with companies who have already built a relationship and know what they want, especially because they make it quick and simple. However, if you plan to seek out a music supervisor on your own, you should have plenty of background research prepared on who you're calling and why.
For the record, simply checking imdb.com doesn't qualify as research. Know the programs or films that we've worked on and assess if your music will fit the genre, tone, lyric content and/or mood of the medium appropriately. For example, thrash metal won't have a lot of consistent licensing opportunities in most prime-time dramas given today's current television season. You might have better luck going after sports programming or video games in that case. Most TV shows post the music they license for each episode on the network's website. Finally, try to resist the temptation to follow up or check in more than once. If you haven't heard from us, there is probably nothing to talk about….yet.
If you are left with making a cold call to a music supervisor's office, try to get the name of the person who answers the phone - be polite and courteous - then remember that a friendly voice on the end of the line is appreciated. Often times those same people are the first screeners of your music and are also future music supervisors…Networking will be one of your keys to success and another is having the "right" material at the "right" moment in time. Don't expect to get feedback. If they are not interested, accept it and move on.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO A SONGWRITER ABOUT SHOPPING A DEAL WITH A MUSIC LIBRARY, A MUSIC PLACEMENT COMPANY OR AN INDEPENDENT MUSIC PUBLISHER?
When it comes to your art and your commerce, you stand a greater chance of success when you have a team in place. However, your manager, attorney, publisher or record company, placement company, band-mates, fans and even your mom will all have different opinions, points of view, styles and approaches to the advancement of your career. If your team is not in sync, your career will suffer.
Get an attorney you trust to review your contracts. But, if you don't have one, do your own due diligence on the company interested in working with you. Check out their credits, history, and what kind of relationships they have. Don't let the excitement of a cash advance, a good sales pitch from a company rep or even potential stardom blind you to the reality of doing business within the music and entertainment industry. It is critically important that you understand completely any deal before agreeing to it and make sure that you are content with it.
Most reputable companies do not require payment up-front for song placement. They will share the income on the front-end license deal and also often share in the publisher's interests as well.
Try to find companies who rep artists similar to yourself and with whom you have been successful in song placement. The ideal music placement company will love your music, be motivated and already have great relationship with supervisors. They should offer more than just mass mailing your music. Anyone can get a mailing list of music supervisors. They should also have relationships with movie studios, networks, and game companies as well. Not to mention, they'll also deal with the myriad legal issues in place to license the music.
Music production companies often produce a multitude of specific styles to add to their large catalogues. Some produce up to 50 plus CD's per year and are always on the look out for "fresh" high quality material. When asked, most prefer an email with a link to your website or MySpace page to preview your music first. Then if interested, they'll request a CD to listen to more. Many music production companies commission composers on a work for hire basis, so a list of credits/bio is essential to them.
Independent music publishers can also be a good source for having your music pitched to other established artists as well.
HOW WOULD ONE FIND THESE SOURCES?
Take advantage of attending conferences/ conventions that offer panels with these professionals listed on the program. You might have an opportunity to meet a resource there.
Perform your own showcase or open up for artists who have a buzz.
Get a copy of The Music Business Registry: Film & Television Music Guide – 9th Edition. See www.musicregistry.com or call (818) 995-7548.
Get a copy of The Hollywood Reporter Film & TV Music Special Issue available in January, April, August and November.
Consider asking the people you already know in the business to refer you to other sources.
Music editors are also very important in the selection of music for film & television programs. Look for opportunities to provide your music to music editors if they are open to it.
IS THERE ANYTHING THAT SONGWRITER/ ARTISTS CAN DO WHILE THEY ARE STILL IN THE RECORDING PROCESS THAT WILL MAKE THEIR MUSIC MORE APPEALING FOR USE IN VARIOUS MEDIA?
Comments offered from some music supervisors: When recording, have some foresight into the technical, logistical and legal process of synching a song to picture. For instance, you can't use foul language on network and some cable television, so have "clean" versions of songs available. Also, when we cut songs to picture, we're often weaving in and out of dialogue and sound effects to make the music moment effective. If we have an instrumental version of your song available, it may make that process easier, more artful and a better sell to everyone. If you're cowriting, work out your splits with your partners in writing on the spot. Don't wait until there's an opportunity on the table or money in the pipeline to sort out your business. Do that straight away and take any future guesswork out of it! If you sample pre-existing recordings, identify and clear the sample up front. Don't think no one will notice. There's always someone out there who knows more about music than you. We'll spot it!
DO YOU HAVE ANY FINAL HELPFUL SUGGESTIONS OR ADVICE TO ADD?
Don't go after placements until you understand how the business works.
Don't take it personally if someone doesn't like your music or won't accept your submission.
If anyone you contacted does not call back or states that they are not interested, let it go.
If you are asked to contact someone again in 6 months then do it, but not sooner. The last thing you want is to get on someone's bad side. This information gets shared rather quickly within the community.
Timing is a huge factor.
Be true to yourself. Focus on your strengths as a songwriter/artist and only present your best material. In other words, don't chase the trends, do what you do best!
For independent music publishers, provide accurate credits or a one-sheet when asked (i.e. college radio play, a million MySpace downloads, winning local competitions, etc.).
Before submitting your material, ask yourself, "How will I stand out?"
If your music is great, it will find a way to reach the right people.
A sincere thanks goes out to the many industry professionals who contributed their invaluable time for this piece. Danny Benair (Natural Energy Labs), PJ Bloom (Neophonic), Julie D'Angelo (Music for the Masses), Marc Ferrari (MasterSource), Rich Goldman (RipTide Music, Inc.), Kat Green (BMG Production Music), Cassie Lord (5 Alarm), Jill Meyers (Jill Meyers Music Consultant), Bambi Moé (Courgette Records), Suzanne Moss (Kobalt Music Publishing), Marisa Porter (Zync Music), Sasha Ross (Bicycle Music), Mara Schwartz (Bug), Dean Serletic (Emblem Music Group), Madonna Wade-Reed (Whoopsie Daisy), and Lindsay Wolfington (Lone Wolf Music Supervision).