Whatever we now call ‘production music’ is through various stages of evolution. Its origins are probably in silent movies, when cinema pianists and organists would watch the film and supply a live accompaniment. At the beginning, they could use pieces of music production, either from memory or collections of sheet music, but very soon volumes of specially composed or arranged incidental movie music were published, with cues arranged and categorised to suit the different screen actions or moods. Perhaps this is why this extract from Krommer’s Double Clarinet Concerto is certainly a well-known tune!
Introducing ‘Production Music’
Soon, music became seen on discs, and with the introduction of TV within the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s, there seemed to be a big demand for easily accessible music, that was called mood music, atmospheric music and, needless to say, library music. A great deal of this is of extremely high-quality orchestral and jazz, though using the proliferation of synths within the late ’70s it gained a good reputation for being cheap (but not necessarily cheerful). Originally an American term, ‘production music’ is currently generally speaking use here in the united kingdom, as producers have desired to promote a more modern generation of library music which includes shed the old image.
Production music has traditionally been distributed on vinyl or CD however it is now also available via download. A production music company is basically a publishing company, or perhaps 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 may also be used for computer games, internet sites, live events and also ringtones. Users choose tracks they would like to include in a programme and might license them in a short time, through MCPS in britain or some other licensing agencies worldwide, with a set licence fee per thirty seconds of music. Very often this is certainly cheaper, quicker and less complicated than commissioning a composer.
Much of the TV music from the ’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 excellent jazz musicians in touring bands who were happy to supplement their meagre club fees with several sessions.
Today, a significantly 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. Producing convincing pop music has stopped being exclusively the arena of companies with big budgets for big studios and vast swathes of session musicians. The standard still should be high and using real musicians wherever possible is certainly a bonus, however it is now easy for anyone with the talent along with a decent DAW to contest with the large boys.
Production music CDs might seem like ordinary albums…
Production music CDs might look like ordinary albums…The current proliferation of television channels has inevitably thinned out of the viewing audience for almost all individual channels, thus causing advertising revenue, and so budgets, to become slashed. Apart from the few with the very top, TV and film composers have had to get accustomed to working on lower budgets. Often – but in no way always – it has resulted in either (at worst) lower-quality commissioned music being produced or, sadly, fewer live musicians being involved. Seizing the opportunity, the library music companies stepped in with a brand new generation of music having greater artistic and production values, that could be licensed easily.
My Method Of Composing
Once I am commissioned to talkin music, it can be either to have an entire album, or any number of tracks to get incorporated into a ‘compilation’ album in which several composers contribute. I have got produced six complete albums within the last 10 years contributing to another 30 or 40 single tracks. My first commission was to get a jazz album called Mad, Bad & Jazzy, which has three sequels. The title says all of it, really – the songs is mad, bad and jazzy – along with a good title can obviously assistance with marketing, by signalling to producers exactly what to expect from your album. The style which has dominated my writing is slightly left-field or quirky jazz and Latin, with a sprinkling of indie, classical, electronic and only plain bizarre.
I work closely with a couple of producers in the company (Universal – formerly BMG – in this case), who function as overall ‘executive’ producers. They have an idea in the whole concept and marketing plan from the album, and generally I’ll provide an initial briefing meeting using them to talk about this. They then leave me to perform the composing and production, and can drop from the studio from time to time, especially as tracks evolve or completely new ideas show up during the duration of production.
An album will contain about 16 tracks, and even though they can be as short as one minute, I love to think about 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 thirty seconds, 20 seconds and 10 seconds, in addition to short ‘stings’. It’s much easier for your producer to create these at the mixing stage than to try and create them from a stereo master later – a little more about this in next month’s article.
…although the sleeve notes are made to help the TV editor in a big hurry. Note an added one-minute, 30-, 20- and 10-second versions, and also the short ‘stings’.
…however the sleeve notes are made to assist the TV editor in a rush. Note any additional one-minute, 30-, 20- and 10-second versions, along with 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 really know what I’m going to be inspired to do, but briefs ranges from your precise to the vague, such as:
Writing something that fits a really specific commercial demand, like lifestyle programmes or quiz shows, or even to fit popular search phrases including ‘s-ex from the city’, ‘money’, ‘countdown’ or ‘stop press’.
Taking inspiration from a current track, composer or style, being very careful not to infringe any copyright or to ‘pass off’ as something copyrighted.
Taking inspiration purely from a generic film scene, for instance a car chase, slapstick comedy sketch or s-ex scene.
Making a dramatic feel or emotional atmosphere.
“Just have some fun and find out what you put together, Pete.”
Fairly often I may also suggest using existing tracks I’ve already produced for an additional reason, including cues from your commissioned score which has now passed its exclusivity date, demos I did so for something which were not actually used, or pieces I wrote only for fun.
I generally take six to one year to compose and record a complete album, while i want the tracks to sound great, and never such as the stereotypical library music of the ‘old days’. I start out with programmed tracks, though before presenting these as demos I’ll make sure they are as convincing as you can by including all the real instrumentation because i can – saxophone, flute and a certain amount of guitar and bass. Everything that isn’t a live instrument really needs grounds to be there, such as 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 selection of unique samples recorded and collected during my years working in studios as being a producer.
When 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 dealing with. Once more, I don’t think ‘It’s just library music.’ I have to think that the musicians are thinking the same way: that they are contributing creatively instead of it being just another session.
It’s great working together with Duncan or Jo at Universal – they have got an outstanding handle of what works. It’s extremely good to have some fresh ears on a project when you’ve lived by using it within the studio for a couple of weeks. One time i presented a demo to Duncan and his awesome comment was “great, nevertheless the saxophone is a bit too in tune, sounds like library music.” This became with a ska track and then he wanted it to sound really raw and rough. I used a few times to try out badly, difficult for any seasoned session player that has struggled all his life to play well. In the long run I played the sax using the mouthpiece on upside down, so I sounded quite convincingly like I’d only been playing for a couple weeks.
Getting your 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 on the CD which you should make look as attractive and interesting as you possibly can, though a highly-constructed site or MySpace site with biography and audio clips could be equally as or maybe more useful. A couple of phone calls to receptionists will help you to obtain the names of the right men and women to send your pitch to: a private letter is superior to ‘Dear Sir/Madam’.
The World Wide Web changed how production music is distributed, and many publishers now ensure it is easy to locate and download the tracks you require.
The Internet has changed the way production music is distributed, and many publishers now make it easy to search for and download the tracks you need.The biggest thing to understand is that your music should grab the interest of the listener quickly. If a company wants writers, they are going to definitely listen to music that they are sent, but frequently these are inundated, so it’s entirely possible that they’ll only pay attention to the 1st 10 or 20 seconds of every track (which could adequately be the way their consumer will pay attention to the item, too).
Most significant will not be in order to second-guess what you think ‘they’ want, or what exactly is ‘good’ or ‘typical’ production music. The probability is it’s already inside their library plus they don’t need any longer, of course, if they do, among their established writers will be asked to undertake it. In order to make a good first impression, it’s a lot better to write something that has some character, originality and flair; and, above all, it needs to be something you are great at doing. The most effective chance of having your music accepted is to offer something different, fresh and unique.
Frequently, a piece you wrote being a demo for something different that got rejected could be ideal, but paradoxically, pieces who have actually been utilized in TV programmes may not be good for production music. Many times I’ve considered that music I actually have written for a film on the non-exclusive basis can be accepted within a music library but, as Duncan has explained, music written to your specific scene may work adequately only to that scene, and might not always make sense naturally. Surprisingly, additionally, it can be that production values for TV music are usually not suitable, especially with today’s increasingly stingy budgets.
The production music company won’t like being told their job, but sometimes there is no harm in assisting out with some marketing ideas. CDs and/or parts of CDs will wind up being categorised to help you the conclusion user, so you might consider doing exactly the same to your demo. Categories may be as vague as ‘drama’ or ‘lifestyle’, or they could be more specific to some music genre or era – for instance jazz, classical, World, ’60s, kitsch, indie, ska and the like. Titles are exceedingly important, not simply being a description but additionally to aid with searches. It’s the identical principle as Googling: key words or phrases in a title are often very helpful, specifically online searching. On the flip side, there are actually limits to the quantity of tracks that could be called ‘Car Chase’, ‘Celebration’ or ‘Feel Bad Blues’!
Something that I still find fascinating is when my music ends up. What you may think your music is going to be useful for, it might be visible on something quite different, be that a feature film, TV drama, documentary, shopping channel, game show or gardening programme. To understand how production music works, try putting yourself inside the position of any stressed-out TV editor who desperately needs some really good music to get a new bit of footage the executive producer asked to be added in into a documentary three hours prior to the deadline. There are various possibilities:
Check out a production music company website and do an on-line search, using various keywords that describe either the genre of music or even the scene that requires music.
Naturally, an experienced editor or director will already have a good understanding of music which is available, often calling on ‘old faithful’ albums or tracks, but tend to still keep an eye out for new and refreshing material.
Many production music companies will also aggressively market their http://musicproductiononline.tumblr.com, as any good publisher should. This may mean contacting producers associated with a film or TV projects that happen to be about to enter production, as well as strengthening close and ongoing relationships with their main clients, arranging everything that composers would do ourselves if we had the time and cash: courtesy calls, birthday cards, free holidays within the Caribbean, that sort of thing.
In this post, we’ve checked out the organization dimension of production music: what exactly it is, who uses it, how it’s sold and, most of all, how you can get your foot from the door. But from your composer’s viewpoint in addition there are technical skills which can be specific to production music, including the power to create versions of your respective pieces which fit exactly in to the 10-second format, so next month, we’ll look at techniques you can study to make a specialist-sounding production music library disc.