Last weekend I attended a 3 day conference in Hollywood hosted by ASCAP. The ASCAP Expo featured panels, workshops and one-on-ones with folks addressing all of the elements of the business of being a songwriter in 2012. From a session-file exploration of Katy Perry’s “Firework” with Stargate to an interview with Bruno Mars and the Smeezingtons, it was a star studded event, but one with substance.
The attendance crossed genres and hometowns from LA to Maine, but when it came down to it, everyone in the room was a creator, a songwriter, a visionary. We all had voices in our heads. Melodies that woke us up in the middle of the night, and voice memos to prove it.
This is one thing I love about being a musician and a creator – we have this whole secret society slash community-at-large that follows us no matter where we are in the world. On vacation in Hawai’i last year, I ended up spending the week with a local producer and a singer-songwriter, in between surf sessions. In LA, in line for some club, I’m talking to the bouncer about how to honor the muse.
In any case, in addition to making several new friends and collaborators, I learned a few new things at the conference, and feel like sharing them with the music folks that read this here blog. We’ll start with Film/TV.
Contacting Music Supervisors
Music Supes are kind of the “it girls” (& boys) of the business for us songwriter/artists. No one talks about meeting someone from a label. Everyone wants to get their music licensed. Many want a publishing deal. And music supes are the gatekeepers to this promised land. The panel I attended that I found extremely honest and helpful was called, “Getting Your Music Licensed in Film, TV and Beyond,” presented by the Guild of Music Supervisors.
The speakers were all fantastic – and were really open about how they like to be communicated to, and what their jobs are like in 2012. Here are a few tips on communication:
- Connect with the various companies that are connectors to music supervisors. Some of them named: Lipsync, Talent House (more independent), Secret Road (more singer-songwriter), Zinc. These companies have established credibility with the supes and relationships – they know how to communicate and what might be good matches.
- MP3s are ok. Vocal only and instrumental versions of your songs are absolutely necessary. You don’t have to send them all at once, mind you – but you need them available for usage.
- Songs must be pre-cleared for publishing, and it is easier when you own your masters. Pre-cleared means that you are the administrator of the songs and/or have an agreement where all of the composers and contributors have signed off that one person can clear placements. Oh, and have a copy of those agreements! Need an affordable lawyer? Contact California Lawyers for the Arts.
- 90% of music received today is digital. This means supes have tons of digital files on their computers… and if yours just says “Track 1″ you’re out of luck. Label your MP3s metadata with all of the content related to the songs. Genre: Make description of all of the genres. Information: Include pre-cleared, contact information (email/phone/name/PRO/songwriters names and splits). WHAT? It was so helpful to hear this by the way… If someone has left the band that would still need to get clearance from, include their contact information as well.
- Communication Don’ts: Don’t send attachments. Don’t type your subject header as “following-up” or “checking in” in any correspondence. Don’t include photos or press kits. Don’t tell someone that your song would be amazing for X film when you haven’t seen X film. Never say you have the perfect song.
- Communication Do’s: Have appropriate metadata. Compose a brief, 3-sentence email with the kinds of music you are submitting, and where you are from. Don’t make it boring. Include a link to download that does not expire – preferably one where they can stream directly (Box.net was recommended). Be okay with the fact they may not listen to your songs for a month or two.
Here’s some other information I thought was interesting:
- The loss of the soundtrack format post-film changed the revenue model for music supervisors as well as artists.
- The amount of time to place music in a film vs TV is vastly different, and internet is all over the place. Knowing this helps understand the demands on the Music Supervisors. Films are in production for a year, in TV they have 2-3 weeks per episode, Internet is all over the place.
- Online content will likely be the next TV. Publishers are looking at this placement accordingly, and negotiating for more appropriate %.
- Hard ends are great – long intros and builds are as well. (You used to hear otherwise in a songwriting review session.)
- Music libraries are filling the gaps in between songs and dialogue – you can always pitch composition for them. In breaking as a composer, use your songs, create a reel, and show it to film folks to see how your music fits.
- Film and TV guide comes out with contacts every year through Hollywood Reporter.
Hopefully this helps other songwriters – time for me to get back to work!