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 film and provide a live accompaniment. At first, they would use bits and pieces of music production, either from memory or collections of written music, but immediately volumes of specially composed or arranged incidental movie music were published, with cues arranged and categorised to match the various screen actions or moods. Perhaps this is why this extract from Krommer’s Double Clarinet Concerto is certainly a properly-known tune!
An Overview Of ‘Production Music’
Soon, music became located on discs, and with the advent of TV inside the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s, there seemed to be a sizable requirement for readily accessible music, that has been known as mood music, atmospheric music and, of course, library music. Much of this became of extremely high-quality orchestral and jazz, though together with the proliferation of synths within the late ’70s it gained a reputation for being cheap (however, not necessarily cheerful). Originally a united states term, ‘production music’ is currently generally use here in britain, as producers have wanted to promote a newer generation of library music which has shed the old image.
Production music has traditionally been distributed on vinyl or CD yet it is now also available via download. A production music clients are basically a publishing company, or perhaps a department of any publishing company, that specialises in marketing, licensing and collecting royalties for production music. The conclusion user is usually a film, TV or radio production company – but tracks could also be used for computer games, websites, live events as well as ringtones. Users choose tracks they need to use in a programme and can license them in a short time, through MCPS in the UK or any other licensing agencies worldwide, at the set licence fee per thirty seconds of music. Very often this is cheaper, quicker and fewer complicated than commissioning a composer.
Most of the TV music of the ’60s was jazz-oriented; composers for example Henry Mancini and Elmer Bernstein set the standard in this respect. Library music producers followed suit, and could corner some excellent jazz musicians in touring bands who had been happy to supplement their meagre club fees with a few sessions.
Today, a far larger proportion of production music is pop or rock. This really is due in part to some demand from modern TV producers, but another factor may be the digital revolution. Producing convincing pop music is not exclusively the realm of companies with big budgets for large studios and vast swathes of session musicians. The typical still has to be high and the usage of real musicians wherever possible is definitely a bonus, however it is now possible for a person with the talent plus a decent DAW to contend with the large boys.
Production music CDs might seem like ordinary albums…
Production music CDs might appear to be ordinary albums…The current proliferation of television channels has inevitably thinned out your viewing audience for many individual channels, thus causing advertising revenue, and for that reason budgets, being slashed. Apart from the few in the very top, TV and film composers have experienced to get used to taking care of lower budgets. Often – but by no means always – this has contributed to either (at worst) lower-quality commissioned music being produced or, sadly, fewer live musicians being involved. Seizing an opportunity, the library music companies stepped in with an all new generation of music having much higher artistic and production values, that could be licensed easily.
My Approach To Composing
When I am commissioned to talkin music, it could be either to have an entire album, or for numerous tracks to be included in a ‘compilation’ album to which several composers contribute. We have produced six complete albums within the last several years contributing to another 30 or 40 single tracks. My first commission was for any jazz album called Mad, Bad & Jazzy, which presently has three sequels. The title says all of it, really – the background music is mad, bad and jazzy – along with a good title can obviously assistance with marketing, by signalling to producers exactly what to expect in the album. The fashion that has dominated my writing is slightly left-field or quirky jazz and Latin, having a sprinkling of indie, classical, electronic and just plain bizarre.
I work closely with one or two producers from your company (Universal – formerly BMG – in this case), who function as overall ‘executive’ producers. They know of the whole concept and marketing plan from the album, and customarily I’ll offer an initial briefing meeting together to go over this. Then they leave me to perform the composing and production, and often will drop by the studio every so often, especially as tracks evolve or completely new ideas appear during the course of production.
An album will include about 16 tracks, and while they is sometimes as short as one minute, I like to consider them as ‘real’ album tracks, therefore i will usually make sure they are between two and four minutes long. In addition, i include various shorter versions lasting 30 seconds, 20 seconds and 10 seconds, along with short ‘stings’. It’s easier to the producer to produce these with the mixing stage than to try and create them from your stereo master later – much more about this in next month’s article.
…although the sleeve notes are created to help the TV editor in a rush. Note the additional one-minute, 30-, 20- and 10-second versions, along with the short ‘stings’.
…but the sleeve notes are designed to help the TV editor very quickly. Note any additional one-minute, 30-, 20- and 10-second versions, as well as the short ‘stings’. Because my producers at Universal, Duncan Schwier and Jo Pearson, know the way I work, the briefing session is quite much a two-way flow of ideas. I never know what I’m likely to be inspired to do, but briefs may range through the precise on the vague, such as:
Writing something which fits a really specific commercial demand, including lifestyle programmes or quiz shows, or to fit popular search phrases such as ‘s-ex within the city’, ‘money’, ‘countdown’ or ‘stop press’.
Taking inspiration from a pre-existing track, composer or style, being careful not to infringe any copyright or to ‘pass off’ as something copyrighted.
Taking inspiration purely from the generic film scene, say for example a car chase, slapstick comedy sketch or s-ex scene.
Making a dramatic feel or emotional atmosphere.
“Just have a certain amount of fun and see what you come up with, Pete.”
Very often I might also suggest using existing tracks I’ve already produced for one more reason, for example cues coming from a commissioned score that has now passed its exclusivity date, demos I have done for an issue that were not actually used, or pieces I wrote simply for fun.
I generally take six to twelve months to compose and record a total album, as I want the tracks to sound great, rather than much like the stereotypical library music from the ‘old days’. I begin with programmed tracks, though before presenting these as demos I’ll get them to as convincing as you can by including all the real instrumentation when i can – saxophone, flute and a little bit of guitar and bass. Everything that isn’t a live instrument must have grounds as being there, such as a drum loop that can’t be recreated or possibly a particular rhythm that must be quantised to fit the genre. I in addition have a vast collection of unique samples recorded and collected during my years employed 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 can be a crucial step in my opinion – I book musicians I understand and am comfortable working with. Once more, I don’t think ‘It’s just library music.’ I have to believe the musicians are planning exactly the same: they are contributing creatively rather than it being merely another session.
It’s great working with Duncan or Jo at Universal – they have got a great handle of what will work. It’s also really good to acquire some fresh ears over a project when you’ve lived along with it inside the studio for a couple weeks. I remember when i presented a demo to Duncan along with his comment was “great, although the saxophone is a bit too in tune, looks like library music.” This is with a ska track and that he wanted it to sound really raw and rough. I used a few times to try out badly, not easy for any seasoned session player who has struggled all his life to play well. Eventually I played the sax with the mouthpiece on upside-down, 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 any of the more traditionally glamorous goals for musicians and composers, including landing an archive deal, publishing deal, film or TV commission. You have got to send in your music on the CD that you simply should make look as attractive and interesting as possible, though a well-constructed site or MySpace site with biography and audio clips may be just as or even more useful. A few cell phone calls to receptionists can help you to discover the names of your right customers to send your pitch to: a personal letter surpasses ‘Dear Sir/Madam’.
The Internet has evolved the way production music is distributed, and most publishers now ensure it is easy to find and download the tracks you need.
The Web has evolved how production music is distributed, and a lot publishers now help it become easy to find and download the tracks you require.The most important thing to be aware of that the music should grab the interest from the listener quickly. If your company wants writers, they will likely definitely hear music that they are sent, but frequently they may be inundated, so it’s entirely possible that they’ll only tune in to the first 10 or 20 seconds for each track (which can very well end up being the way their consumer will listen to the product, too).
Most significant is just not to try to second-guess what you believe ‘they’ want, or what is ‘good’ or ‘typical’ production music. The probability is it’s already in their library and they don’t need any further, and in case they actually do, certainly one of their established writers will have to undertake it. If you would like create a good first impression, it’s a lot better to create something which has some character, originality and flair; and, especially, it needs to be something that you are excellent at doing. The ideal chance of getting your music accepted is usually to offer something different, fresh and different.
Fairly often, a piece you wrote as a demo for something else that got rejected may be ideal, but paradoxically, pieces which may have actually been used in TV programmes is probably not good for production music. Many times I’ve believed music I have written to get a film on the non-exclusive basis could be accepted inside a music library but, as Duncan has explained, music written to a specific scene may work adequately only to that scene, and could not always seem sensible alone. Surprisingly, this may also be that production values for TV music are often not suitable, particularly with today’s increasingly stingy budgets.
The production music company won’t like being told their job, but sometimes there is no harm to help by helping cover their some marketing ideas. CDs and parts of CDs will end up being categorised to help the final user, so you may consider doing the same for your personal demo. Categories is often as vague as ‘drama’ or ‘lifestyle’, or they may be more specific to your music genre or era – for instance jazz, classical, World, ’60s, kitsch, indie, ska and so on. Titles are extremely important, not merely being a description but also to assist with searches. It’s exactly the same principle as Googling: keywords or phrases within a title are often very helpful, particularly for on-line searching. On the other hand, you will find limits to the number of tracks that could be called ‘Car Chase’, ‘Celebration’ or ‘Feel Bad Blues’!
One thing that I still find fascinating is how my music winds up. What you may think your music will be utilized for, it could possibly be visible on something quite different, be which a feature film, TV drama, documentary, shopping channel, game show or gardening programme. To know how production music works, try putting yourself from the position of your stressed-out TV editor who desperately needs some really good music for a new component of footage the executive producer motivated to be included to a documentary three hours ahead of the deadline. There are various possibilities:
Check out a production music company website and do an online search, using various keywords that describe either the genre of music or even the scene that has to have music.
Naturally, a skilled editor or director will already have a good knowledge of 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 likely aggressively market their music production blog, as any good publisher should. This might mean contacting producers of the film or TV projects that are about to go into production, and also strengthening close and ongoing relationships using their main clients, arranging everything that composers would do ourselves if we had the money and time: courtesy calls, birthday cards, free holidays inside the Caribbean, that kind of thing.
In this article, we’ve investigated the organization dimension of production music: what it is, who uses it, how it’s sold and, most significantly, how to get your foot from the door. But in the composer’s viewpoint there are technical skills which are specific to production music, for example the power to create versions of your respective pieces that suit exactly into the 10-second format, so next month, we’ll be looking at techniques one can learn to help with making an expert-sounding production music library disc.