Whatever we now call ‘production music’ has become 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. In the beginning, they might use pieces of talkin music, either from memory or collections of sheet music, but soon volumes of specially composed or arranged incidental movie music were published, with cues arranged and categorised to put the numerous screen actions or moods. Perhaps for this reason this extract from Krommer’s Double Clarinet Concerto is certainly a nicely-known tune!
Introducing ‘Production Music’
Immediately, music became available on discs, along with the coming of TV within the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s, there was a big need for easily available music, which had been called mood music, atmospheric music and, needless to say, library music. A lot of this is of very high-quality orchestral and jazz, though together with the proliferation of synths in the late ’70s it gained a history of being cheap (but not necessarily cheerful). Originally a united states term, ‘production music’ is now generally speaking use here throughout the uk, 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 even a department of a publishing company, that specialises in marketing, licensing and collecting royalties for production music. The end user is usually a film, TV or radio production company – but tracks could also be used for computer games, web sites, live events as well as ringtones. Users choose tracks they need to use in a programme and can license them rapidly, through MCPS in the UK or any other licensing agencies worldwide, at a set licence fee per half a minute of music. Frequently this is cheaper, quicker and much less complicated than commissioning a composer.
A lot of the television music of your ’60s was jazz-oriented; composers such as Henry Mancini and Elmer Bernstein set the typical in this way. Library music producers followed suit, and could corner some great jazz musicians in touring bands who are delighted to supplement their meagre club fees with a number of sessions.
Today, a far larger proportion of production music is pop or rock. This really is due partly into a demand from modern TV producers, but another factor is definitely the digital revolution. Producing convincing pop music is not exclusively the world of companies with big budgets for large studios and vast swathes of session musicians. The standard still needs to be high and the usage of real musicians whenever you can is undoubtedly a bonus, yet it is now easy for anyone with the talent and a decent DAW to contest with the important boys.
Production music CDs might seem like ordinary albums…
Production music CDs might seem like ordinary albums…The current proliferation of television channels has inevitably thinned out your viewing audience for many individual channels, thus causing advertising revenue, and thus budgets, to become slashed. In addition to the few in the very top, TV and film composers have experienced to get accustomed to taking care of lower budgets. Often – but by no means always – this has led 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 a brand new generation of music having better artistic and production values, that could be licensed easily.
My Strategy To Composing
When I am commissioned to music production online, it could either be for the entire album, or numerous tracks being a part of a ‘compilation’ album that several composers contribute. I have got produced six complete albums in the last several years and approximately 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 it all, really – the music is mad, bad and jazzy – plus a good title can obviously assistance with marketing, by signalling to producers exactly what to expect from your album. The fashion which has dominated my writing is slightly left-field or quirky jazz and Latin, using a sprinkling of indie, classical, electronic and simply plain bizarre.
I work closely with 1 or 2 producers through the company (Universal – formerly BMG – in such a case), who serve as overall ‘executive’ producers. They know in the whole concept and web marketing strategy in the album, and customarily I’ll provide an initial briefing meeting with them to go over this. They then leave me to perform the composing and production, but will drop from the studio every now and then, especially as tracks evolve or completely new ideas surface over the course of production.
An album will consist of about 16 tracks, and though they can be as short as one minute, I really like to think of them as ‘real’ album tracks, and so i will normally make them between two and four minutes long. I also include various shorter versions lasting 30 seconds, 20 seconds and 10 seconds, along with short ‘stings’. It’s less difficult to the producer to create these on the mixing stage than in order to create them from your stereo master later – a little more about this in next month’s article.
…nevertheless the sleeve notes are created to help the TV editor in a big hurry. Note the additional one-minute, 30-, 20- and 10-second versions, and also the short ‘stings’.
…however the sleeve notes are designed to assist the TV editor in a hurry. Note the additional one-minute, 30-, 20- and 10-second versions, and also 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 understand what I’m likely to be required to do, but briefs may range from the precise to the vague, including:
Writing something that fits a really specific commercial demand, such as lifestyle programmes or quiz shows, or to fit popular search phrases such as ‘s-ex inside the city’, ‘money’, ‘countdown’ or ‘stop press’.
Taking inspiration from a preexisting track, composer or style, being very careful never to infringe any copyright or to ‘pass off’ as something copyrighted.
Taking inspiration purely coming 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 bit of fun and find out the things you think of, Pete.”
Often I may also suggest using existing tracks I’ve already produced for the next reason, for example cues from the commissioned score which includes now passed its exclusivity date, demos I have done for an issue that were not actually used, or pieces I wrote just for fun.
I generally take six to 1 year to compose and record an entire album, as I want the tracks to sound great, instead of like the stereotypical library music from the ‘old days’. I usually start off with programmed tracks, though before presenting these as demos I’ll make sure they are as convincing as is possible by including all the real instrumentation as I can – saxophone, flute and some guitar and bass. Something that isn’t a live instrument should have a reason to be there, for instance a drum loop that can’t be recreated or perhaps a particular rhythm that needs to be quantised to match the genre. I in addition have a vast assortment of unique samples recorded and collected during my years doing work in studios being a producer.
When the early drafts are approved, I print scores and parts from Logic and book sessions for musicians where necessary. This really is a crucial step for me – I book musicians I know and am comfortable utilizing. Once more, I don’t think ‘It’s just library music.’ I have to believe the musicians are planning exactly the same: that they are contributing creatively as an alternative to it being just another session.
It’s great dealing with Duncan or Jo at Universal – they may have a great handle on what works. It’s incredibly good to have some fresh ears over a project when you’ve lived with it in the studio for a couple of weeks. I remember when i presented a demo to Duncan and his awesome comment was “great, although the saxophone is a bit too in tune, may sound like library music.” It was over a ska track and that he wanted it to sound really raw and rough. I tried a few times to experience badly, quite difficult for a seasoned session player that has struggled all his life to perform well. In the long run I played the sax with the mouthpiece on upside-down, and so i sounded quite convincingly like I’d only been playing for a few weeks.
Getting your music accepted or being commissioned to write production music is every bit as competitive as the more traditionally glamorous goals for musicians and composers, like landing an archive deal, publishing deal, film or TV commission. You need to submit your music on the CD that you simply should make look as attractive and interesting as possible, though a highly-constructed web site or MySpace site with biography and audio clips could be equally as or even more useful. A couple of calls to receptionists can aid you to get the names of your right men and women to send your pitch to: a personal letter surpasses ‘Dear Sir/Madam’.
The World Wide Web is different just how production music is distributed, and a lot publishers now allow it to be easy to look for and download the tracks you need.
The World Wide Web is different the way production music is distributed, and a lot publishers now help it become easy to find and download the tracks you need.What is important to pay attention to that the music should grab the attention in the listener quickly. If your company wants writers, they may definitely listen to music they are sent, but frequently these are inundated, so it’s entirely possible that they’ll only tune in to the initial 10 or 20 seconds of each and every track (which could perfectly function as the way their end user will hear the product, too).
Most important will not be to attempt to second-guess what you think ‘they’ want, or what is ‘good’ or ‘typical’ production music. The likelihood is it’s already inside their library and they don’t need anymore, of course, if they generally do, among their established writers will have to do it. If you would like produce a good first impression, it’s significantly better to write down a thing that has some character, originality and flair; and, first and foremost, it ought to be something you are good at doing. The best possibility of getting your music accepted would be to offer something different, fresh and unique.
Frequently, a piece you wrote being a demo for something else that got rejected could be ideal, but paradoxically, pieces which may have actually been found in TV programmes will not be best for production music. Many times I’ve believed that music I have got written for any film on the non-exclusive basis can be accepted within a music library but, as Duncan has explained, music written to a specific scene may work well simply to that scene, and might possibly not make sense by itself. Surprisingly, it may also be that production values for TV music are frequently not good enough, especially with today’s increasingly stingy budgets.
The development music company won’t like being told their job, but sometimes there is absolutely no harm in assisting out with some marketing ideas. CDs or parts of CDs will become categorised to aid the conclusion user, so you might consider doing the same for your demo. Categories can be as vague as ‘drama’ or ‘lifestyle’, or they can be more specific to some music genre or era – for instance jazz, classical, World, ’60s, kitsch, indie, ska etc. Titles are really important, not simply as a description but in addition to help you with searches. It’s the identical principle as Googling: key phrases or phrases within a title are often very helpful, specifically for online searching. Alternatively, there are actually limits to the volume of tracks that may be called ‘Car Chase’, ‘Celebration’ or ‘Feel Bad Blues’!
One thing that I still find fascinating is the place where my music ultimately ends up. What you may think your music will likely be utilized for, it might be visible on something quite different, be which a feature film, TV drama, documentary, shopping channel, game show or gardening programme. To comprehend how production music works, try putting yourself from the position of your stressed-out TV editor who desperately needs good quality music for the new bit of footage the executive producer required to be included to your documentary three hours before the deadline. There are several possibilities:
Visit 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 needs music.
Naturally, a highly skilled editor or director will already have a good familiarity with music that is available, often calling on ‘old faithful’ albums or tracks, but could 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 might mean contacting producers of the film or TV projects that are about to go into production, as well as developing close and ongoing relationships with their main clients, arranging everything that composers would do ourselves when we had the time and cash: courtesy calls, birthday cards, free holidays within the Caribbean, that kind of thing.
On this page, we’ve investigated this business dimension of production music: what exactly it is, who uses it, how it’s sold and, most significantly, ways you can get your foot from the door. But through the composer’s viewpoint there are technical skills which are specific to production music, including the power to create versions of your own pieces that are great for exactly in the 10-second format, so next month, we’ll look at techniques you can discover to make an expert-sounding production music library disc.