What we should now call ‘production music’ has been through various stages of evolution. Its origins are probably in silent movies, when cinema pianists and organists would watch the movie 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 soon 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 such a properly-known tune!
A Review Of ‘Production Music’
Very soon, music became on discs, with the introduction of TV within the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s, there was a big need for readily accessible music, which was called mood music, atmospheric music and, naturally, library music. Much of this was of very high-quality orchestral and jazz, though using the proliferation of synths in the late ’70s it gained a good reputation for being cheap (however, not necessarily cheerful). Originally a united states term, ‘production music’ is already generally speaking use here throughout the uk, as producers have wished to promote a newer generation of library music which has shed the previous image.
Production music has traditionally been distributed on vinyl or CD but it is now made available via download. A production music company is basically a publishing company, or even 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 video games, websites, live events as well as ringtones. Users choose tracks they want to include in a programme and may license them in a short time, through MCPS in the UK or some other licensing agencies worldwide, at the set licence fee per half a minute of music. Fairly often this is cheaper, quicker and much less complicated than commissioning a composer.
A lot of the television music from the ’60s was jazz-oriented; composers for example Henry Mancini and Elmer Bernstein set the typical in this way. Library music producers followed suit, and could corner some really good jazz musicians in touring bands who had been happy to supplement their meagre club fees with a few sessions.
Today, a significantly larger proportion of production music is pop or rock. This is certainly due partly into a demand from modern TV producers, but another factor is the digital revolution. Producing convincing pop music has stopped being exclusively the world of companies with big budgets for large studios and vast swathes of session musicians. The regular still should be high and the usage of real musicians whenever you can is certainly a bonus, but it is now easy for a person with the talent plus a decent DAW to take on the big boys.
Production music CDs might seem like ordinary albums…
Production music CDs might appear to be ordinary albums…The recent proliferation of television channels has inevitably thinned out the viewing audience for almost all individual channels, thus causing advertising revenue, and for that reason budgets, being slashed. Apart from the few on the very top, TV and film composers have had to get accustomed to concentrating on lower budgets. Often – but in no way always – this has ended 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 new generation of music having higher artistic and production values, which may be licensed easily.
My Approach To Composing
When I am commissioned to music production online, it can be either on an entire album, or for a variety of tracks to get included in a ‘compilation’ album that several composers contribute. I actually have produced six complete albums during the last several years contributing to another 30 or 40 single tracks. My first commission was for the jazz album called Mad, Bad & Jazzy, which has three sequels. The title says all this, really – the songs is mad, bad and jazzy – plus a good title can obviously help with marketing, by signalling to producers exactly what to expect in the album. The design and style which includes 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 one or two producers through the company (Universal – formerly BMG – in this instance), who work as overall ‘executive’ producers. They have an idea from the whole concept and online marketing strategy from the album, and generally I’ll provide an initial briefing meeting together to go over this. They then leave me to complete the composing and production, and often will drop with the studio every once in awhile, especially as tracks evolve or completely new ideas appear during the duration of production.
An album will consist of about 16 tracks, and though they can be as short as you minute, I really like to imagine them as ‘real’ album tracks, and so i will often get them to between two and four minutes long. I also include various shorter versions lasting 30 seconds, 20 seconds and 10 seconds, and also short ‘stings’. It’s much simpler to the producer to generate these with the mixing stage than to try to create them from the stereo master later – much more about this in next month’s article.
…nevertheless the sleeve notes are created to help the TV editor in a rush. Note the additional one-minute, 30-, 20- and 10-second versions, and the short ‘stings’.
…but the sleeve notes are meant 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, be aware of way I work, the briefing session is extremely much a two-way flow of ideas. I never understand what I’m going to be inspired to do, but briefs can vary in the precise to the vague, such as:
Writing something that fits a really specific commercial demand, for example lifestyle programmes or quiz shows, or even to fit popular search phrases such as ‘s-ex from the city’, ‘money’, ‘countdown’ or ‘stop press’.
Taking inspiration from a current track, composer or style, being cautious to not infringe any copyright or perhaps to ‘pass off’ as something copyrighted.
Taking inspiration purely from a generic film scene, say for example a car chase, slapstick comedy sketch or s-ex scene.
Building a dramatic feel or emotional atmosphere.
“Just have a little bit of fun and see the things you develop, Pete.”
Very often I may also suggest using existing tracks I’ve already produced for the next reason, for example cues coming from a commissioned score that has now passed its exclusivity date, demos I did for something that were not actually used, or pieces I wrote only for fun.
I generally take six to 1 year to compose and record a total album, as I want the tracks to sound great, and not just like the stereotypical library music of the ‘old days’. I usually begin with programmed tracks, though before presenting these as demos I’ll get them to as convincing as you can by including just as much real instrumentation while i can – saxophone, flute and a certain amount of guitar and bass. Everything that isn’t a live instrument really needs a reason as being there, for instance a drum loop that can’t be recreated or perhaps a particular rhythm that must be quantised to match the genre. I in addition have a vast collection of unique samples recorded and collected during my years employed in studios 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 to me – I book musicians I know and am comfortable dealing with. Once again, I don’t think ‘It’s just library music.’ I need to feel that the musicians are thinking the same way: they are contributing creatively instead of it being yet another session.
It’s great working together with Duncan or Jo at Universal – they already have an excellent handle about what work. It’s also very good to get some fresh ears over a project when you’ve lived with it from the studio for a couple of weeks. I remember when i presented a demo to Duncan along with his comment was “great, but the saxophone is a bit too in tune, looks like library music.” This is over a ska track and then he wanted it to sound really raw and rough. I used a couple of times to try out badly, difficult for any seasoned session player who may have struggled all his life to experience well. Ultimately I played the sax with all the mouthpiece on upside down, thus i sounded quite convincingly like I’d only been playing for a few 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, like landing an archive deal, publishing deal, film or TV commission. You will have to submit your music on a CD that you simply should make look as attractive and interesting as is possible, though a highly-constructed web site or MySpace site with biography and audio clips can be just like or even more useful. A number of telephone calls to receptionists can aid you to discover the names of the right people to send your pitch to: a personal letter is superior to ‘Dear Sir/Madam’.
The Net is different the way production music is distributed, and most publishers now ensure it is easy to search for and download the tracks you want.
The Net has changed just how production music is distributed, and the majority of publishers now allow it to be easy to search for and download the tracks you require.The main thing to understand that the music should grab the interest of your listener quickly. If your company wants writers, they will likely definitely listen to music they are sent, but frequently they can be inundated, so it’s possible that they’ll only hear the first 10 or 20 seconds of every track (which may adequately end up being the way their consumer will tune in to this product, too).
Most important is just not to try and second-guess your opinion ‘they’ want, or what is ‘good’ or ‘typical’ production music. The chances are it’s already inside their library and so they don’t need anymore, of course, if they do, certainly one of their established writers will have to practice it. In order to produce a good first impression, it’s much better to write an issue that has some character, originality and flair; and, first and foremost, it must be something you are excellent at doing. The ideal possibility of getting the music accepted is always to offer something different, fresh and unique.
Frequently, a piece you wrote being a demo for something else that got rejected might be ideal, but paradoxically, pieces which have actually been employed in TV programmes may not be great for production music. Many times I’ve believed music I have written for any film over a non-exclusive basis would be accepted in the music library but, as Duncan has explained, music written to some specific scene may work well simply to that scene, and may not necessarily sound right on its own. Surprisingly, additionally, it can be that production values for TV music tend to be not good enough, especially 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 helping out with some marketing ideas. CDs or sections of CDs will become categorised to aid the final user, so you may consider doing exactly the same for your demo. Categories can be as vague as ‘drama’ or ‘lifestyle’, or they may be more specific into a music genre or era – for example jazz, classical, World, ’60s, kitsch, indie, ska etc. Titles are really important, not merely as being a description but also to assist with searches. It’s the same principle as Googling: key phrases or phrases inside a title can be extremely helpful, particularly for on-line searching. On the other hand, you will find limits to the quantity of tracks that might be called ‘Car Chase’, ‘Celebration’ or ‘Feel Bad Blues’!
Something i still find fascinating is when my music winds up. Whatever you think your music will be useful for, it could 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 from the position of the stressed-out TV editor who desperately needs some good music for any new piece of footage the executive producer motivated to be included to your documentary three hours ahead of the deadline. There are numerous possibilities:
Check out a production music company web site and do an online search, using various keywords that describe either the genre of music or even the scene that requires music.
Naturally, a skilled editor or director will already have a great expertise in music that may be 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 http://musicproductiononline.tumblr.com, as any good publisher should. This may mean contacting producers for any film or TV projects which can be about to go into production, and also strengthening close and ongoing relationships with their main clients, arranging all the stuff that composers would do ourselves once we had the money and time: courtesy calls, birthday cards, free holidays within the Caribbean, that kind of thing.
In this post, we’ve looked at the company dimension of production music: what exactly it is, who uses it, how it’s sold and, most of all, ways you can get your foot within the door. But from the composer’s standpoint additionally, there are technical skills which are specific to production music, including the ability to create versions of the pieces that fit exactly in to the 10-second format, so the following month, we’ll look at techniques you can discover to help make a specialist-sounding production music library disc.