Whatever we now call ‘production music’ continues to be through various stages of evolution. Its origins are most likely in silent movies, when cinema pianists and organists would watch the movie and provide a live accompaniment. At the beginning, they might use bits and pieces of music production, either from memory or collections of written music, but soon volumes of specially composed or arranged incidental movie music were published, with cues arranged and categorised to suit the many screen actions or moods. Perhaps for this reason this extract from Krommer’s Double Clarinet Concerto is unquestionably a nicely-known tune!
A Review Of ‘Production Music’
Soon, music became seen on discs, and also the introduction of TV from the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s, there was clearly a sizable demand for easily accessible music, which had been referred to as mood music, atmospheric music and, obviously, library music. A great deal of this was of very high-quality orchestral and jazz, though with all the proliferation of synths within the late ’70s it gained a history of being cheap (yet not necessarily cheerful). Originally a united states term, ‘production music’ is already in general use here in britain, as producers have desired to promote a more modern generation of library music which has shed the old image.
Production music has traditionally been distributed on vinyl or CD but it is now also available via download. A production music company is basically a publishing company, or even a department of your publishing company, that specialises in marketing, licensing and collecting royalties for production music. The final user is generally a film, TV or radio production company – but tracks can also be used for video games, sites, live events and also ringtones. Users choose tracks they need to use in a programme and may license them quickly, through MCPS in the united kingdom or other licensing agencies worldwide, in a set licence fee per 30 seconds of music. Fairly often this is certainly cheaper, quicker and less complicated than commissioning a composer.
Most of the television music of your ’60s was jazz-oriented; composers for example Henry Mancini and Elmer Bernstein set the regular in this respect. Library music producers followed suit, and can corner some very good jazz musicians in touring bands who have been very happy to supplement their meagre club fees with several sessions.
Today, a lot larger proportion of production music is pop or rock. This really is due to some extent to some demand from modern TV producers, but another factor may be the digital revolution. The creation of convincing pop music is no longer exclusively the field of companies with big budgets for large studios and vast swathes of session musicians. The standard still must be high and using real musicians wherever possible is certainly a bonus, yet it is now easy for anyone with the talent as well as a decent DAW to contest with the big boys.
Production music CDs might look like ordinary albums…
Production music CDs might appear to be ordinary albums…The recent proliferation of television channels has inevitably thinned the viewing audience for the majority of individual channels, thus causing advertising revenue, and thus budgets, to get slashed. Besides the few in the very top, TV and film composers have had to get accustomed to concentrating on lower budgets. Often – but by no means always – it has ended in either (at worst) lower-quality commissioned music being produced or, sadly, fewer live musicians being involved. Seizing a possibility, the library music companies stepped in with a new generation of music having higher artistic and production values, which could be licensed easily.
My Approach To Composing
As I am commissioned to talkin music, it could either be on an entire album, or any number of tracks to be included in a ‘compilation’ album in which several composers contribute. I have produced six complete albums within the last ten years and about another 30 or 40 single tracks. My first commission was for any jazz album called Mad, Bad & Jazzy, which has three sequels. The title says all of it, really – the music is mad, bad and jazzy – along with a good title can obviously assistance with marketing, by signalling to producers exactly what to expect through the album. The design containing dominated my writing is slightly left-field or quirky jazz and Latin, by using a sprinkling of indie, classical, electronic and just plain bizarre.
I work closely with a couple of producers in the company (Universal – formerly BMG – in this instance), who serve as overall ‘executive’ producers. They have an idea in the whole concept and online marketing strategy in the album, and customarily I’ll provide an initial briefing meeting with them to discuss this. Then they leave me to accomplish the composing and production, but will drop with the studio every now and then, especially as tracks evolve or completely new ideas appear during the course of production.
An album will comprise of about 16 tracks, and even though they is sometimes as short as you minute, I love to consider them as ‘real’ album tracks, so I will often cause them to between two and four minutes long. I also include various shorter versions lasting 30 seconds, 20 seconds and 10 seconds, as well as short ‘stings’. It’s much simpler for the producer to create these at the mixing stage than to attempt to create them from your stereo master later – more details on this in next month’s article.
…but the sleeve notes are meant to help the TV editor in a rush. Note the additional one-minute, 30-, 20- and 10-second versions, and the short ‘stings’.
…nevertheless the sleeve notes are designed to help the TV editor in a hurry. Note an added one-minute, 30-, 20- and 10-second versions, and the short ‘stings’. Because my producers at Universal, Duncan Schwier and Jo Pearson, know the way I work, the briefing session is very much a two-way flow of ideas. I never know what I’m going to be inspired to do, but briefs ranges from your precise to the vague, including:
Writing something which fits an extremely specific commercial demand, for example lifestyle programmes or quiz shows, or perhaps to fit popular search phrases for example ‘s-ex in the city’, ‘money’, ‘countdown’ or ‘stop press’.
Taking inspiration from an existing track, composer or style, being very careful not to infringe any copyright or perhaps to ‘pass off’ as something copyrighted.
Taking inspiration purely from a generic film scene, such as a car chase, slapstick comedy sketch or s-ex scene.
Making a dramatic feel or emotional atmosphere.
“Just have a little bit of fun and find out whatever you come up with, Pete.”
Frequently I may also suggest using existing tracks I’ve already produced for another reason, such as cues from your commissioned score which has now passed its exclusivity date, demos I have done for something that were not actually used, or pieces I wrote only for fun.
I generally take six to 12 months to compose and record a whole album, while i want the tracks to sound great, rather than just like the stereotypical library music from the ‘old days’. I start off with programmed tracks, though before presenting these as demos I’ll make sure they are as convincing as you possibly can by including the maximum amount of real instrumentation when i can – saxophone, flute and a certain amount of guitar and bass. Whatever isn’t a live instrument should have grounds as being there, say for example a drum loop that can’t be recreated or perhaps a particular rhythm that needs to be quantised to suit the genre. I furthermore have a vast assortment of unique samples recorded and collected during my years working in studios as being a producer.
As soon as the early drafts are approved, I print scores and parts from Logic and book sessions for musicians where necessary. This is a crucial step for me – I book musicians I know and am comfortable working with. Yet again, I don’t think ‘It’s just library music.’ I need to believe the musicians are thinking exactly the same: they are contributing creatively as opposed to it being the next session.
It’s great working together with Duncan or Jo at Universal – they have an outstanding handle about what works. It’s extremely good to get some fresh ears with a project when you’ve lived by using it from the studio for a couple weeks. One time i presented a demo to Duncan with his fantastic comment was “great, but the saxophone is a bit too in tune, looks like library music.” This was with a ska track and that he wanted it to sound really raw and rough. I tried a few times to try out badly, difficult to get a seasoned session player who has struggled all his life to experience well. Eventually I played the sax together with the mouthpiece on upside-down, and so i sounded quite convincingly like I’d only been playing for several weeks.
Getting the music accepted or being commissioned to publish production music is every bit as competitive as some of the more traditionally glamorous goals for musicians and composers, for example landing a record deal, publishing deal, film or TV commission. You have got to submit your music with a CD that you should make look as attractive and interesting as you possibly can, though a properly-constructed web site or MySpace site with biography and audio clips might be just like or even more useful. A couple of calls to receptionists can assist you to obtain the names of your right individuals to send your pitch to: an individual letter is better than ‘Dear Sir/Madam’.
The World Wide Web has evolved the way in which production music is distributed, and the majority of publishers now ensure it is easy to search for and download the tracks you will need.
The Internet is different the way production music is distributed, and many publishers now allow it to be easy to look for and download the tracks you require.The biggest thing to be aware of is your music should grab the attention in the listener quickly. If your company is looking for writers, they will definitely pay attention to music that they are sent, but frequently they can be inundated, so it’s probable that they’ll only listen to the initial 10 or 20 seconds of each track (which can adequately be the way their end user will listen to the product, too).
Most significant is not to try and second-guess what you believe ‘they’ want, or exactly what is ‘good’ or ‘typical’ production music. The probability is it’s already in their library plus they don’t need any more, and when they generally do, among their established writers will have to get it done. If you want to come up with a good first impression, it’s far better to write something that has some character, originality and flair; and, especially, it must be something you are good at doing. The most effective potential for getting the music accepted would be to offer something different, fresh and unique.
Often, a piece you wrote being a demo for something else that got rejected may be ideal, but paradoxically, pieces who have actually been employed in TV programmes will not be beneficial to production music. Often I’ve considered that music I have written for the film with a non-exclusive basis would be accepted in a music library but, as Duncan has explained, music written into a specific scene may work perfectly only to that scene, and might possibly not seem sensible naturally. Surprisingly, additionally, it can be that production values for TV music tend to be not sufficient, particularly with today’s increasingly stingy budgets.
The production music company won’t like being told their job, but sometimes there is absolutely no harm in assisting out with some marketing ideas. CDs and sections of CDs will wind up being categorised to help you the end user, so you may consider doing the identical to your demo. Categories can be as vague as ‘drama’ or ‘lifestyle’, or they may be more specific to some music genre or era – for instance jazz, classical, World, ’60s, kitsch, indie, ska and so on. Titles are incredibly important, not only being a description but additionally to aid with searches. It’s the identical principle as Googling: key words or phrases in a title can be very helpful, specifically online searching. However, you will find limits to the amount of tracks that may be called ‘Car Chase’, ‘Celebration’ or ‘Feel Bad Blues’!
Something i still find fascinating is how my music eventually ends up. Whatever you decide to think your music will likely be utilized for, it could possibly show up on something quite different, be that a feature film, TV drama, documentary, shopping channel, game show or gardening programme. To know how production music works, try putting yourself within the position of the stressed-out TV editor who desperately needs some terrific music to get a new part of footage the executive producer asked to be included into a documentary three hours ahead of the deadline. There are various possibilities:
Check out a production music company internet site and do an on-line search, using various keywords that describe either the genre of music or perhaps the scene that requires music.
Of course, an experienced editor or director will already have a great expertise in music which is available, often calling on ‘old faithful’ albums or tracks, but tend to still be on the lookout for brand new and refreshing material.
Many production music companies will also aggressively market their music production blog, just like any good publisher should. This could mean contacting producers for any film or TV projects which can be about to go into production, along with building up close and ongoing relationships because of their main clients, arranging all the stuff that composers would do ourselves if we had the money and time: courtesy calls, birthday cards, free holidays from the Caribbean, that sort of thing.
In this article, we’ve considered this business dimension of production music: what it is, who uses it, how it’s sold and, most significantly, how you can get your foot inside the door. But in the composer’s viewpoint there are technical skills that happen to be specific to production music, like the capacity to create versions of the pieces that are great for exactly in the 10-second format, so the following month, we’ll be looking at techniques you can study to help with making a specialist-sounding production music library disc.