The input chain of a project studio is of the utmost importance. Your music (read: product) doesn’t stand a chance if signal isn’t recorded at or above the professional threshold. Aside from a great source like an amazing vocal or instrumental performance, the first thing to address is the microphone.
If I were to select one affordable, versatile microphone for a project studio it would be an AKG C414 XLS. Priced at under $1,000, it has cardioid, super cardioid, hyper cardioid, figure 8 and omni-directional polar patterns, a frequency response from 20Hz to 20kHz, three roll-offs and three different PAD options. The 414 flatters a number of common project studio sources, including pop vocals, acoustic guitar, guitar amps and hand percussion. It is a well-rounded, inexpensive option that will yield consistent, predictable results.
An option for those with an affinity for tube microphones (like me) is the Mojave MA-300. The detail, warmth and sensitivity of this microphone makes it a great option for any source that should sound thick and warm, especially vocals. The MA-300 features continuously variable polar pattern functionality, from omni to figure-8 and all patterns in between (including cardioid). Jensen transformers and JAN 5840 tubes make this microphone well worth the $1,300 investment, especially when paired with a quality mic pre and compressor.
The approach to selecting a mic pre and compressor for the input chain of a project studio can be approached one of two ways:
1.) Maximum financial commitment to a mono chain
2.) Split financial commitment to a stereo chain
Consider the objective of your project studio. If the sources are often vocals, guitars or other small, live instrumentation, it makes sense to allocate your remaining input chain budget (after the microphone purchase) to high quality, mono gear.
In the single-source and mono domain, professional engineers and producers have a deep affinity for the Neve 1073 mic pre. It has stood the test of time as at the go-to pre for great sounding gain and pleasing harmonics. However, vintage 1073’s and 1084’s can be expensive, hard to find and difficult to maintain. BAE Audio has modernized these classic Neve modules as a fantastic resource for producers and engineers who desire a professional, classic sound without the almost-certain downtime of a vintage 1073. The sonic texture of the BAE reissue holds up to their vintage counterpart and costs just over $3,000 (power supply included). Any mono source through a BAE 1073 will instantly become professional grade.
If your workspace includes a lot of stereo sources, such as keyboards and synth modules, it may be best to purchase two identical mic pres at a lower individual cost while still retaining as much quality as possible. This is also an efficient approach if your microphone schemes frequently include stereo techniques. TheAvalon M5 is a strong option for a mono mic pre. It provides professional-level gain with low noise. The M5 is priced around $1,700, so the purchase of two units for stereo tracking is equivalent to one 1073 for mono signals.
The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers’ (ASCAP) film scoring workshop has come a long way since it first began when aspiring participants sent cassettes as submissions, recalls Michael Todd, Senior Director of the ASCAP Film & TV program, who co-produces the workshop with Jennifer Harmon.
And while the workshop has evolved and improved over more than 15 years, it is still an under-the-radar opportunity for newcomers in the film composing industry.
“We don’t advertise on a grand scale; I think word-of-mouth from the alumni has been successful and kept up the interest,” Todd says. “I think outside of the carrot, which is walking away with a demo with a major Hollywood company, the benefit is exposure to real people in the industry. It’s a behind-the-scenes look at every aspect.”
The workshop, which has launched Emmy-winning composers’ careers, is a month-long commitment that provides a dozen green but highly skilled musicians from all over the world with a platform to cultivate their craft.
See More: PHOTOS: Composers Score Big with ASCAP in Century City, CA
“It’s geared for someone serious about being a professional, not for the hobbyist,” Todd says. “It’s for aspiring professionals with strong skill sets, but don’t necessarily have access to industry resources.”
Participants meet with award-winning composers, orchestrators and other industry professionals who provide expertise, and they also have a chance to write scores for drama, animation, comedy and action scenes.
“We do try to instill a common theme: there is no one way to score a film,” Todd says.
We can all think of at least one song that, when we hear it, triggers an emotional response. It might be a song that accompanied the first dance at your wedding, for example, or a song that reminds you of a difficult break-up or the loss of a loved one.
“We have a such a deep connection to music because it is ‘hardwired’ in our brains and bodies,” Barbara Else, senior advisor of policy and research at the American Music Therapy Associationtold Medical News Today. “The elements of music – rhythm, melody, etc. – are echoed in our physiology, functioning and being.”
Given the deep connection we have with music, it is perhaps unsurprising that numerous studies have shown it can benefit ourmental health. A 2011 study by researchers from McGill University in Canada found that listening to music increases the amount of dopamine produced in the brain – a mood-enhancing chemical, making it a feasible treatment for depression.
And earlier this year, MNT reported on a study published in The Lancet Psychiatry that suggested listening to hip-hop music – particularly that from Kendrick Lamar – may help individuals to understand mental health disorders.
But increasingly, researchers are finding that the health benefits of music may go beyond mental health, and as a result, some health experts are calling for music therapy to be more widely incorporated into health care settings.
In this Spotlight, we take a closer look at some of the potential health benefits of music and look at whether, for some conditions, music could be used to improve – or even replace – current treatment strategies.
Reducing pain and anxiety
Bob Marley once sang: “One good thing about music, when it hits you feel no pain.” According to some studies, this statement may ring true.
Earlier this year, MNT reported on a study led by Brunel University in the UK that suggested music may reduce pain and anxiety for patients who have undergone surgery.
By analyzing 72 randomized controlled trials involving more than 7,000 patients who received surgery, researchers found those who were played music after their procedure reported feeling less pain and anxiety than those who did not listen to music, and they were also less likely to need pain medication.
This effect was even stronger for patients who got to choose the music they listened to. Talking to MNT, study leader Dr. Catharine Meads said:
“If music was a drug, it would be marketable. […] Music is a noninvasive, safe, cheap intervention that should be available to everyone undergoing surgery.”
This study is just one of many hailing music for its effects against pain. In March 2014, researchers from Denmark found music may be beneficial for patients with fibromyalgia – a disorder that causes muscle and joint pain and fatigue.
Listening to calm, relaxing, self-chosen music “reduced pain and increased functional mobility significantly” among 22 patients with fibromyalgia, according to the investigators.
But why does music appear to ease pain? While the exact mechanisms remain unclear, many researchers believe one reason is because listening to music triggers the release of opioids in the brain, the body’s natural pain relievers.
Dr. Daniel Levitin, of McGill University in Canada, and colleagues talk about this theory in a 2013 review, citing research that found people experienced less pleasure from listening to their favorite song when given Naltrexone – a drug that blocks opioid signals – suggesting music induces the release of opioids to ease pain.
An effective stress reliever
When feeling stressed, you may find listening to your favorite music makes you feel better – and there are numerous studies that support this effect.
A study reported by MNT last month, for example, found that infants remained calmer for longer when they were played music rather than spoken to – even when speech involved baby talk.
The study researchers, including Prof. Isabelle Peretz of the Center for Research on Brain, Music and Language at the University of Montreal in Canada, suggested the repetitive pattern of the music the infants listened to reduced distress, possibly by promoting “entrainment” – the ability of the body’s internal rhythms to synchronize with external rhythms, pulses or beats.
Another study conducted in 2013 found that not only did listening to music help reduce pain and anxiety for children at the UK’s Great Ormond Street Hospital, it helped reduce stress – independent of social factors.
According to some researchers, music may help alleviate stress by lowering the body’s cortisol levels – the hormone released in response to stress.
The review by Dr. Levitin and colleagues, however, suggests this stress-relieving effect is dependent on what type of music one listens to, with relaxing music found most likely to lower cortisol levels.
Another mechanism by which music may alleviate stress is the effect it has on brainstem-mediated measures, according to Dr. Levitin and colleagues, such as pulse, heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature; again, the effect is dependent on the type of music listened to.
“Stimulating music produces increases in cardiovascular measures, whereas relaxing music produces decreases,” they explain. “[…] These effects are largely mediated by tempo: slow music and musical pauses are associated with a decrease in heart rate, respiration and blood pressure, and faster music with increases in these parameters.”
Music’s effect on heart rate and its potential as a stress reliever has led a number of researchers to believe music may also be effective for treating heart conditions.
Alta Centers opened in August 2015 to offer a highly specialized, professional recovery center specifically to meet the unique needs of the entertainment industry, particularly musicians and music industry professionals. As a successful Los Angeles DJ and lifelong music fan, Director of Operations Garrett Braukman knows first-hand about the challenges facing those working on recovering from addiction while still working in the industry.
“I know a lot of awesome sober musicians,” Braukman says. “And a lot of recovery theory says ‘you shouldn’t play shows.’ Alta Centers teaches the opposite—you should get out, and you can maintain your career while working on your sobriety.
Braukman is candid about his own first-hand experience with addiction and spent several years as a recovery counselor before founding Alta Centers. “We are a stand-alone center specific to the industry. There is a lack of understanding about the entertainment field [in the larger recovery programs.]” And while Braukman states that Alta Centers does not base its treatment on traditional 12-step teachings, the program is “12-step informed,” and does not discourage clients from any support group that they find helpful.
The outpatient-only programs are highly flexible, offering an Intensive Outpatient Program that runs three hours each day, as well as individualized daily and evening programs tailored to each individual client. “We have an emphasis on education, and also licensed therapists and case managers, as well as a consulting nutritionist. We encourage our clients, depending on their progress, to go out and have fun.” There are also organized offsite activities and aftercare programs.
“I don’t think I’d be alive without music,” he says. “Once I was in recovery, I found myself enjoying music so much more. I would read lyrics and they made sense to me; they spoke to me.”
Braukman hopes to bring this experience to others through Alta Centers. “Musicians are talking about addiction and recovery prevalently now.”
To get the word out, Alta Centers currently utilizes an “organic marketing campaign,” according to Braukman, which includes YouTube videos, word-of-mouth, approaching unions and other grassroots methods, capitalizing on Braukman’s connections in the industry and his exposure on the nightlife scene.
While the NARAS-funded MusicCares Foundation and Musicians Assistance Program (MAP) have provided addiction rehabilitation service to the music industry for many years, Braukman states that Alta Centers is different in that those organizations primarily serve as referral and financial assistance services, and while they are extremely helpful to musicians in need they don’t provide the stand-alone, dedicated programs that Alta Centers does.
“We truly want people to have fun in recovery, and not experience the stereotypical recovery program. We can be the generation that changes recovery—makes it cool. We want to be the punk rock summer camp for recovery!”
Alta Centers currently operates from one facility in Encino, with plans to add additional centers in Southern California. It accepts most major PPO health insurance companies.
1. It Must Be PERFECT
Always perform songs that you have honed to perfection. Do not choose songs that you can’t perform flawlessly. If you can play or sing the song at 98 percent, that’s still not good enough! Find a way to correct that two percent or choose something you can perform perfectly. For example, if that two percent is a higher note that is difficult to sing, then sing a lower alternate note that you can deliver perfectly.
However, if there’s another problem you can’t fix in time for the performance, choose a different song. Think about a time when you went to a show and the artist performed great up to a point, but then suddenly played or sang some bad notes. What did you remember about that show? The bad notes are more than likely what you remembered. Most people won’t say, “Well, let’s ignore all the flaws in that performance and only think about the good parts.” In the real world, it doesn’t work out that way. Obviously mistakes can happen during a live show, but if there’s a problem that you know about in advance, avoid showcasing until you’ve solved it by working out the issue(s).
2. Choose the Right Songs for the Audition
If you are instructed to perform only a single song, choose one that is up-tempo. If you are instructed to choose two songs, choose an up-tempo song and a moderate to slower tempo song. Perform the up-tempo song first, followed by the slower song. Often judges will have you perform the first verse and chorus of the song and make their decision based upon just that. Vocalists often think that singing a ballad is the best move. But they may not realize that the judges have been auditioning vocalists all day, or for days! And guess what the judges have been listening to all day long? Ballads. If you sing an up-tempo song, and you sound awesome, you will energize the atmosphere. Grabbing the judges’ attention immediately will help your performance stand out from the rest.
3. Choose the Right Songs for the Showcase
Normally a three song setlist is performed for a showcase event. Showcasing your songs with versatility is best. Your performance should include an up-tempo, slower-tempo and moderate-tempo song selection. Each song should represent your music genre. Sometimes bands/solo artists will play an original song that sounds like it belongs to another genre category. To a professional that will suggest the artists haven’t found their sound yet. It is best to prepare three of your best songs that represent your style and genre. You should also rehearse with segues from one song into another without interruption so that there is a smooth transition from song to song and that all songs are not in the same key. Without a segue, the dead space between each song can seem a bit awkward, especially since you’re only performing three songs. Prepare properly and rock your showcase with segues so you will appear to be a professional.
4. Choose the Right Songs for the Live Performance
Arrange your setlist so it has a dynamic musical flow. When selecting the order of the setlist, make sure that each song’s tempo/BPM (beats per minute) as well as the key signature vary from song to song. The first song and last song of the setlist should be an up-tempo song. It is also important that the first song is one that you can play and sing perfectly without exceptional monitors. Why? Usually during the first song of the set, the M.E. (monitor engineer) and the F.O.H. (front of house) are usually tweaking sound levels, so keep this in mind when selecting your first song. In between the first and last songs, choose those that have different tempos from one another. For example, add a few segues between songs and also allow space between songs for the lead vocalist to speak and interact with the audience. Arranging the song setlist in this order will ensure that your live performance has a dynamic flow.
5. You Must Put in the Time
It is imperative to maintain a regimented rehearsal schedule regardless of upcoming performances. Otherwise, cramming rehearsals will inevitably result in fatigue, which will create further problems. Record audio/ video during your rehearsals and then review and critique yourself. You will positively learn what you need to practice and perfect before your upcoming audition, showcase or live performance.
6. Deliver Pure Emotion
This is what performing is all about! To emote fully in performance, you must allow yourself to let go. “Letting go” means not worrying or doubting yourself. Focusing on what might go wrong prior to performing will vibe-slay the performance. If you fill your head with doubt and worry before getting on stage, the odds will be against you delivering a flawless performance. Instead, think of how much work you’ve put into preparing your songs and what inspired you to perform them. The objective here is to tap that original emotion, that place where you were when you were first inspired to play and sing. If you can tap that emotion, that special energy, you will feel confident and, as a result, stack the odds in favor of you delivering a spectacular performance!
Wenty Morris and D.A. Young formed Morris & Young over 10 years ago to provide a one-stop-shop for music licensing needs. Today the company employs songwriters to create music for film, television, video games, commercials and recording artists. Currently their catalog includes 20,000 titles and 90 genres, resulting in hundreds of placements in numerous projects, including major motion pictures, advertisements and TV programs. (Check their website for an impressive list of credits.)
Your company has really evolved and expanded.
At first we were just trying to connect the dots and represent our music. Then the industry changed and we changed with it. Now, we cover a lot more area.
What was the most significant change?
The advent of reality shows changed our focus and created a lot of new opportunities. Networks and production companies needed music for those shows, and we wanted to be their go-to source.
What changed your company for good?
We couldn’t keep up with the demand. We needed to open it up and bring more people in. It was no longer a two-person job––it was way bigger than that.
You deal with 90 genres–is versatility a plus?
It is for us. Naturally, quality is most important but quantity is also crucial. It allows us to pitch more projects. And, it keeps us from being pigeonholed and limited in our reach.
What’s the secret to securing an amazing number of placements?
You have to hustle every day. It comes down to hard work and grinding it out 24/7. Also, you have to do your homework, watch the shows and analyze the music. Our success comes from the fact that we know what they need before we pitch them.
You attach metadata to all your music. How important is that?
We’re anal about metadata. It supplies all the information a music supervisor or production company needs, including key words. They’re usually crunched for time, so we give them what they need to make their job easier.
What’s your opinion about retitling a placement to share royalties?
I’m not a big fan of it. We like to own our material. At first I didn’t see a problem, but then I noticed it caused confusion. Now, with new technology I believe it’s antiquated and short-sighted. If anyone is still doing that today, I would be worried.
Let your passion drive you. Develop new relationships every day. And when you finally get your music heard by millions of people, enjoy the feeling…because there’s nothing like it.
Students actually volunteer to plan and book music on their campus. Go online to any college website and search “Student Activities” or “Associated Students.” This will take you to the right office that pays for musicians to play on campus. If you can’t find a music contact, email the Student Activities Advisor and ask to be connected with the student in charge of music. It is the Advisor’s task to make sure the volunteer students are executing and planning their entertainment. Sometimes you need to stop texting and emailing and just make a phone call to connect
Usually you email the music chair and send a link to your website and a GOOD LIVE PERFORMANCE VIDEO. Rarely does this have to go to a committee; usually just one or two students are viewing and choosing. There are different students in charge of each event so it is okay to email each of them!
HOW MUCH CAN I EARN?
Pricing varies…$300 to $1,000 in California, $500 to $1500 for other West Coast states; double the pay on the East Coast. (There are many more Ivy League schools in the east with higher attendance and therefore, more fees collected for the activities budgets.) You should never do a college performance for ZERO money unless it is connected to a charity event! Most colleges will feed the band, few will pay for lodging (but ask anyhow!) and rarely will the college pay for travel.
Most colleges have great sound systems, so remember to attach a stage plot and technical rider to all of your contracts. You will be required to sign a University Contract; you do not need liability insurance unless you are bringing an entire sound system with you. Ask the college to cross that section out––performing is a service and you are NOT a vendor! The college will be required to finalize the contract 30 days before your event, so you can get paid by check the day of the show. Be ready to send in a W9, which states who is being paid.
EVENTS ON CAMPUS
Nooners (a series where bands play from noon to 1 p.m. every week), Spring Flings (usually outdoor activities celebrating events such as Earth Day), Orientation Week Events (take place during hard starts in the Fall and Spring, these events are used as ice-breakers), Student Open Mic nights (musicians hosting an open mic for students and afterwards performing your own music for an hour). Check out the other clubs and organizations on campus, like LGBT events or special multi-cultural clubs. If your act has more of a party vibe, don’t forget to check out the school’s fraternities and sororities. Most of these organizations have direct websites or Facebook pages where you can connect with the frat or sorority president.
“You should never do a college performance for ZERO money unless it is connected to a charity event.”
MUSIC GENRES & PERFORMANCES
College campuses welcome a variety of music. Typically, singer/songwriters do coffeehouses or nooner events, rock-blues-pop bands play weekly outdoor activities or you may find a jazz or reggae group performing at an Earth Day or Spring Fling. Colleges are a little fearful of loud metal bands or rap events. It doesn’t mean they don’t happen, but they are rare unless they tie it into a specific day like “Hip-Hop Culture & Fashion Day” or “Head-bang Your Test Stress Away.” So, just about every genre is accepted.
No matter the genre, the minimum performance time is one hour. So if you only have a 45-minute set of originals, work up some jams, write more songs or grab hold of some cover songs and make them your own. Some colleges will ask you to do two 45-minute sets. Don’t claim you can do 90 minutes of music if you are not there yet. Prepare!
PROMOTIONAL COLLEGE OFFERINGS
While you are on a college campus there are great promotional activities to help grow your college fan base. If you get booked, ask the student music chair if they are connected with someone on their student newspaper or the radio station. If not, go online and connect yourself. It is as simple as going to the home page and putting, “student radio station” or “student newspaper.” Don’t forget to ask if there is an active on-campus TV station doing interviews and band performances.
I also use the radio and newspaper staff, even if we do not have a performance on campus yet! I call the radio stations and see if we can do an on-air interview with a student DJ, or I offer the newspaper staff some free tickets to our off-campus show so they can check us out. If the student radio or newspaper is covering your music, it will be easier to get booked on campus.
Specializing in rare and vintage instruments, his clientele includes superstars, celebrities and a special breed of humanity that likes to browse and play the most amazing guitars on earth. His store is so popular it has its own clothing line. You can purchase “Norm’s Lucky Brand” shirt from Forgetting Sarah Marshall, or the infamous “Norman’s Rare Guitars” tee that Nigel Tufnel wore in This is Spinal Tap.
Recounting a life way cooler and colorful than most, Harris has written a new book about his adventures: Confessions of a Vintage Guitar Dealer: The Memoirs of Norman Harris. It details his passion for guitars and has some of the best stories about musicians you’re likely to hear. It’s so engrossing, Music Connection caught up with this guitar aficionado to see what makes him tick.
Music Connection: You’ve been dealing in guitars for 40 years. Is it still a thrill?
Norman Harris: The thrill never goes away. There’s always something, a rare custom guitar or a hard-to-find model, that still excites me.
MC: Why write a book?
Harris: Well, I published a book about 10 years ago, Norman’s Rare Guitars, but it was a picture book. I could have included stories, but I didn’t think anyone cared. Then I discovered that people liked to hear the stories and even asked about them. So, I decided to tell my story and the stories behind the guitars.
MC: You came to Los Angeles to be a musician.
Harris: Little Richard brought my band out here and we were signed to a small deal. Plan A was to become a professional musician. Plan B was selling guitars for extra money. Although I did well as a player, Plan B took off and became Plan A.
MC: You got a shout-out in the movie This is Spinal Tap. How did that happen?
Harris: Christopher Guest (who played Nigel) is a regular customer. He told me about the film and wanted to use the store in a few scenes. He also wore one of my T-shirts in the movie. I watched them shoot and it was total fun.
MC: Do you get involved with a lot of films?
Harris: It never occurred to me to do that, but then I was asked to and it was great PR and brought in additional income. The first film I did was Bound for Glory. David Carradine (who played Woody Guthrie) wanted a period correct guitar. Now, I supply guitars and accessories for films and videos whenever needed.
MC: Why aren’t you located in Hollywood where all the action is?
Harris: I didn’t want to be in the middle of all the craziness. Besides, the store is close to my house and it’s a place where professional musicians, rock stars and celebrities can browse without being bothered by paparazzi.
MC: In your book you describe guitars, ones that you had never seen, in exquisite detail. How did you acquire that knowledge years before the Internet?
Harris: A lot of it was word-of-mouth. I established friendships with old players and picked their brains. I also nurtured relationships with people who worked at guitar companies. I just talked, listened and learned.
MC: What makes a guitar vintage?
Harris: Vintage indicates a certain year or era. For example, Fender’s prime era was the ‘50s and ‘60s, while Martin’s was the ‘30s and ‘40s. Almost every prominent guitar company enjoyed a certain period when they were the best. But, vintage doesn’t always mean valuable. “Rare” is valuable because supply and demand determine price.
MC: Are newer guitars better or not?
Harris: They’re different…Some of the reissues are very good. Actually, the Beatles caused guitar manufacturing to suffer. They made guitars so popular, companies started mass producing them and cutting corners to keep up with demand. As a result, standards were lowered and the craftsmanship that made those guitars great started to slide.
MC: You have quite a personal collection. Any guitars you wouldn’t sell?
Harris: I have over 700 guitars in a warehouse. When I started, nobody was preserving them and I was their guardian. Now, I’m 67 years old and it’s time to let someone else do it. So, I would probably sell most of my collection and only keep a few personal favorites.
1. Defining Your Goals—what kind of songs are you pitching?
It all begins with a song, and a great song should be able to stand on its own. What creates that pure and unexplainable “magic” that resonates with audiences? And how can we get those songs working for us, heard on TV, in ads, in films, on famous artists’ records and over the radio?
There’s no secret ingredient on how to write the perfect song, it’s often timing and luck. But, we do have control over defining our goals when pitching songs. Whether you are writing songs in hopes of a publishing deal, or representing yourself with songs to pitch directly to music supervisors, sync houses and ad agencies, having clarity on the kind of writer you are and where your songs fit is key. You must pick and choose writing styles to match which avenue you decide to take when pitching your music; whether as an artist, a songwriter, writing for TV commercials or for film. Let your contacts know where you envision your songs, and whether you are a one-stop shop. The more prepared you are, the more seriously you’ll be taken.
2. When Writing as the Artist, be current with a twist.
Oscar Wilde said, “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” There should always be something definitively unique about your songs, so your voice and style stand out. Everyone is looking for the next craze of music. A “sound-a-like” with non-descript vocals can become dated and get lost in the pile. Be relevant, but hone your own artistic signature.
3. When Writing for Another Artist, uncover something personal.
Listen to the artist you are pitching to, and make sure your song matches their style, their vocal range and timbre. To be clever, read articles, Google them and try to find out what the artist may be going through in their personal life and write about it. Record labels will mention song styles the artist is looking for, but rarely a subject matter or lyrical content. So, touching upon something personal can only help. After all, you are competing with producers and top liners who write directly with that artist.
In addition, make sure to have a great production and write as radio ready as possible.
4. When Writing for TV/Film, familiarize and customize.
Getting a song licensed to television and film is mostly up to a music supervisor. However, a publisher can pitch on your behalf. Pull something from your catalogue that may fit a specific storyline of a show you’re watching, or go ahead and write something for a show to send in. Make sure to identify the current sound they are using before writing something that doesn’t fit. For example: Grey’s Anatomy often features ethereal ballads and love songs, versus something featured on HBO like Bloodline, which gravitates more toward quirky underground songs. When it comes to songs for films, it’s unknown territory. But independent films, versus blockbusters, often choose unknown artists over big names, because the budgets are smaller and the music palettes broader.
5. When Writing for Commercials, investigate products and brands.
There is definitely a formula for big box stores and major brands. Cathy Heller, songwriter and founder of Catch the Moon Music, has a lot of experience and placements. Some of her clients include giants like Walmart, McDonald’s, Kellogg’s and many more.
“It’s all about the vibe,” she says. “80% of the time they want music that is feel good, happy, playful and lyrically about being young, free and on the go. But, be sure to marry that with a hip, indie, fashion forward vibe, so you’re not just writing a jingle but a great standalone song. The other 20% of the time, there will be brands that have a different sonic palette. For example, Subaru gravitates more toward a Boniver and Lexi Murdock sound. Something slow, moody and melancholy. So, be sure to research brands before submitting.”
Furthermore, songs should have variation and dynamics, so there is plenty of room for dialogue if needed, and a production that builds up to the chorus.
Read More: FEATURE STORY: New Music Publishing Parameters: Creative Companies Adapt
6. One-Stop Shop, get everything in the clear.
One-Stop Shop means you’re legally setup to send your songs out without potential complications. You need to complete the following:
• Writers/Publishers Shares: Register all your songs with either ASCAP, BMI or SESAC. Make sure all writers splits are documented and agreed upon.
• Master/Producer Rights: Establish and negotiate Master ownership with your producer.
• Control: Get all creators on your team to give you control for songs to pitch.
Before jumping into the licensing world and getting your music out there, here are some terms you should know about music placement!
PLACEMENT RIGHTS & LICENSES
There are two rights involved with music placements:
(1) Rights to the music/song, and (2) Rights to the sound recording.
Synchronization License is granted by the copyright holder/publisher of a musical composition that allows the music/song to be synchronized with visual media.
Master Use License is granted by the rights holder/owner of the master sound recording that allows the recording to be reproduced in visual media.
Licensing Fees depend on: (1) where the music/song is used; (2) how it is used; and (3) what rights are granted. Theme songs, end credits and major scene usage get the most money.
NOTE: Mechanical Licenses and Royalties occur if a soundtrack album is produced.
The insertion of music as a prompt for action or scene change.
Short pieces of music before and after commercial breaks. Game shows also use them a lot–usually to emphasize key points in the game.
Short musical phrases used as a form of punctuation to indicate the end of a scene or a dramatic climax.
The background music that underscores a scene, and is often instrumental.
Opening Themes and Closing Themes are “Featured Uses” since they are a primary musical focus. They also receive the greatest Licensing Fees and Performance Royalties.
Occurs when a songwriter/composer is paid a one-time fee (usually as a “Work Made for Hire”), for creating music for a specific project. Often, 100% of all rights are transferred without further payment.
Documents that let Performing Rights Organizations (such as ASCAP, BMI, SESAC) know how and when music is used in visual media, and are needed to calculate royalties. Cue sheets are usually prepared by the music supervisor, coordinator and/ or administrator.
A way to market and license content and collect Performance Royalties by registering existing works under different titles, a common practice for music libraries.
Are earned when a musical work is performed and/or broadcast publicly, e.g. on radio, television, in concert or via other media like the Internet. They are collected and paid by Performing Rights Organizations.
Residual Payments are earned when a film or TV program is rebroadcast. Their valuation depends on production time, the type of production it is, and the marketplace.
So, you’re thinking about starting a new business–maybe a new graphics company, a new line of gear, or even a new band. Actually, you’ve been procrastinating about starting it for some time now, unable to pull the trigger and finally make it happen. Well, fear not—the following article by Caroline Moore, a successful artist/entrepreneur who has channeled her punk rock energy and ethos into something substantial, has some highly subjective, in-your-face, punk-injected advice for you—exactly the kind of tough love you may be needing right now.
Just this once
Don’t half-ass it. Don’t ever. Not even if you’re on a deadline to get something out, or you’re working with a difficult client and it is easier to just do whatever is asked of you, even if you know it’s a bad idea. It’s easy to think at the time that it’s just one client, just this project, just this once. But you can’t ever know who’s going to see that one thing. That one project may be the only thing a potential client sees before making a decision about what kind of business you’re running.
People talk, make sure they’re saying something good
Word-of-mouth is a huge deal, especially if you’re just starting out. It’s important to put your best work out there, because that one kid who showed up to a show might be your biggest fan. Maybe that kid comes to all your shows, buys all your records and tells her friends. But she’s only going to do that if you put on a show—a real show, not one you’re half-assing because there are only five kids there or you think playing VFW halls is totally beneath you. Blow those five kids away. Make ‘em talk.
You don’t get to speak for your work
People will find your work independent of you. Maybe someone finds your illustration on a billboard, your article in a magazine at a doctor’s office or a post on your blog through a Google search a year from now. You have no idea who is going to see your work, and you won’t be there to explain it. They see your work all alone, without any of the excuses for why it’s not entirely up to your standards. Do work that can stand up for itself.
What you do, how you do it
The way that you treat people is just as important as the work you do when it comes to building a reputation. One of your past clients might tell a friend about the quality of service you provided. To them, that’s who you are. They don’t have any other context for you—as a person or a business—and they’re not obligated to give you the benefit of the doubt. That’s who you are to them, that’s the kind of work you do. If those impressions are negative, that friend will just find someone else.
Set your bar higher
If you’re in a position where someone is contracting you out, have personal goals that you want to accomplish. There’s a thing I learned when shooting for newspapers. It’s that you always get your editor the shot. Always. Don’t mess that part up. Whatever you’re being contracted to do, make sure you meet those base expectations. But think about what you want to get out of it, too. Set higher standards for yourself than other people set for you.
You’re only as good as your last job
In the photography business, the saying is that you’re only as good as your next job. I’m not knocking that. You should always strive to do better, not just rest on a really cool thing you did a few years ago. But your reputation comes with you. I’ve had a lot of repeat business I likely wouldn’t have gotten if I’d turned in a boring shot that I didn’t put much effort into, or been a pain to work with, or been late delivering the proofs. Your last job and, just as importantly, the attitude with which you handled that job, can make or break you.
Laziness hurts your business
Not researching clients before you email them the same generic pitch that you’re sending to every game in town will hurt your business. Bad customer service, like not returning phone calls, not keeping your customer in the loop or sending out poorly timed surveys will hurt your business. It’s much easier to half-ass customer service, but you will absolutely pay for it in relationships, client retention and ultimately money.
Take an extra minute
My husband’s car broke down, and the company called to ask him to do a customer-satisfaction survey just minutes after they’d picked up his car. This is the worst possible time to have contacted him. Take one literal minute to think about your customer’s point of view when you’re figuring out how you handle things like follow-up calls or booking. Give a bit of thought to your customer’s experience. There will be plenty of times that you are busy, stressed or tired and just want to get something done. Take the extra time anyway, instead of half-assing your client interactions. It always comes back to you in a positive way.
Do what you say you will
If you commit to something, get it done. If you commit to playing a show, you suck it up and play the show, even if you have to get up early the next day. I’ve shot sick, I’ve shot injured, I’ve shot with pneumonia on top of Lyme disease. I’ve worked when I had some valid reasons to cancel, but cancelling can be poisonous to your business. Every time you cancel, that might be one less client or venue who wants to work with you, one less person who cares when you put on an event. This is the exact opposite of what you want.
Sometimes you only get one shot with people, and if you bail, it gets around. Thanks to the Internet, people have a huge platform to complain about your shoddy product or bad customer service. If you’re not putting the effort in, that’s how people will view your business.
Other people are doing your work for you
Be nice, be competent, and you’ll be ahead of half your competition. Most people have been burned by lazy businesses before, and consider it a feat of greatness if you just deliver something when you said you would. This is also why a simple apology when you have screwed up—when you under-delivered, went over the deadline or forgot to return a phone call—goes a long way.
People are used to cable companies not showing up during the installation window and never apologizing for it, or airlines cancelling flights and shrugging when asked, “Well, what do I do now?” Lazy businesses are making your job easier. Just meeting those basic expectations can make your customers blissfully happy. So can you imagine how excited they’d be if you DID go above and beyond? If you exceeded those expectations? You’d have yourself some devoted fans. Set your bar higher.
CAROLINE MOORE is the author of Punk Rock Entrepreneur, out now from Microcosm Publishing. A photographer and designer, she has honed her business sense through years of involvement in the DIY punk scene, and has spoken on the topic at Weapons of Mass Creation Fest and Dare Conference. Her photos have been published in Alternative Press, the Vinyl District and BIE Media, and she’s designed for the CREATE lab under Carnegie Mellon University, Denis Leary and Green Day.