What 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 movie and provide a live accompaniment. At the beginning, they will 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 match the different screen actions or moods. Perhaps that is why this extract from Krommer’s Double Clarinet Concerto is certainly a highly-known tune!
An Overview Of ‘Production Music’
Soon, music became available on discs, and also the introduction of TV from the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s, there is a huge demand for easily accessible music, that was called mood music, atmospheric music and, needless to say, library music. Most of this became of extremely high-quality orchestral and jazz, though with all the proliferation of synths inside the late ’70s it gained a history of being cheap (but not necessarily cheerful). Originally an American term, ‘production music’ is already on the whole use here in britain, as producers have wished to promote a newer generation of library music which includes shed the previous 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 even a department of your publishing company, that specialises in marketing, licensing and collecting royalties for production music. The end user is generally a film, TV or radio production company – but tracks can also be used for computer games, web sites, live events and even ringtones. Users choose tracks they would like to use in a programme and will license them in a short time, through MCPS in the united kingdom or other licensing agencies worldwide, with a set licence fee per half a minute of music. Fairly often this really is cheaper, quicker and fewer complicated than commissioning a composer.
Much of the TV music in the ’60s was jazz-oriented; composers such as Henry Mancini and Elmer Bernstein set the typical in this respect. Library music producers followed suit, and may corner some really good jazz musicians in touring bands who have been very happy to supplement their meagre club fees with a couple of sessions.
Today, a far larger proportion of production music is pop or rock. This really is due partly to a demand from modern TV producers, but another factor is the digital revolution. The production of convincing pop music is no longer exclusively the arena of companies with big budgets for large studios and vast swathes of session musicians. The conventional still has to be high and the application of real musicians wherever possible is surely a bonus, but it is now possible for a person with the talent plus a decent DAW to contest with the major boys.
Production music CDs might look like ordinary albums…
Production music CDs might look like 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 become slashed. Besides the few in the very top, TV and film composers have experienced to become accustomed to taking care of lower budgets. Often – but by no means always – it 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 a new generation of music having much higher artistic and production values, that could be licensed easily.
My Strategy To Composing
Once I am commissioned to talkin music, it may either be for an entire album, or any number of tracks to get contained in a ‘compilation’ album which several composers contribute. We have produced six complete albums within the last a decade contributing to another 30 or 40 single tracks. My first commission was to get a jazz album called Mad, Bad & Jazzy, which now has three sequels. The title says it all, really – the songs is mad, bad and jazzy – along with a good title can obviously aid in marketing, by signalling to producers what to expect through the album. The design and style which has dominated my writing is slightly left-field or quirky jazz and Latin, by using a sprinkling of indie, classical, electronic and simply plain bizarre.
I work closely with a couple of producers from the company (Universal – formerly BMG – in cases like this), who work as overall ‘executive’ producers. They know of the whole concept and online marketing strategy of your album, and generally I’ll provide an initial briefing meeting with them to talk about this. They then leave me to perform the composing and production, and often will drop with the studio from time to time, especially as tracks evolve or completely new ideas appear throughout production.
An album will contain about 16 tracks, and while they can be as short as one minute, I like to consider them as ‘real’ album tracks, thus i will normally make them between two and four minutes long. I also include various shorter versions lasting half a minute, 20 seconds and 10 seconds, along with short ‘stings’. It’s easier to the producer to generate these with the mixing stage than to attempt to create them from the stereo master later – a little more about this in next month’s article.
…but the sleeve notes are made to help the TV editor in a rush. Note any additional one-minute, 30-, 20- and 10-second versions, and also the short ‘stings’.
…although the sleeve notes are created to help the TV editor very quickly. Note the extra 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 very much a two-way flow of ideas. I never understand what I’m will be required to do, but briefs ranges through the precise towards the vague, such as:
Writing an issue that fits a very specific commercial demand, for example lifestyle programmes or quiz shows, or even to fit popular search phrases such as ‘s-ex in the city’, ‘money’, ‘countdown’ or ‘stop press’.
Taking inspiration from an existing track, composer or style, being cautious to not infringe any copyright or perhaps to ‘pass off’ as something copyrighted.
Taking inspiration purely coming from a generic film scene, say for example a car chase, slapstick comedy sketch or s-ex scene.
Creating a dramatic feel or emotional atmosphere.
“Just have a certain amount of fun and find out the things you put together, Pete.”
Very often I might also suggest using existing tracks I’ve already produced for one more reason, like cues from a commissioned score which has now passed its exclusivity date, demos I have done for something which 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, while i want the tracks to sound great, rather than such as the stereotypical library music in the ‘old days’. I usually start off with programmed tracks, though before presenting these as demos I’ll cause them to as convincing as is possible by including just as much real instrumentation as I can – saxophone, flute and a certain amount of guitar and bass. Whatever isn’t a live instrument really needs a good reason to be there, such as a drum loop that can’t be recreated or perhaps a particular rhythm that must be quantised to put the genre. I also have a vast selection of unique samples recorded and collected during my years operating in studios like a producer.
Once 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 personally – I book musicians I realize and am comfortable dealing with. Yet again, I don’t think ‘It’s just library music.’ I have to believe the musicians are thinking exactly the same: that they are contributing creatively rather than it being yet another session.
It’s great dealing with Duncan or Jo at Universal – they already have a fantastic handle of what will work. It’s also really good to obtain some fresh ears on a project when you’ve lived with it from the studio for a few weeks. I remember when i presented a demo to Duncan along with his comment was “great, although the saxophone is a little too in tune, seems 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 experience badly, not easy to get a seasoned session player who has struggled all his life to play well. In the end I played the sax with the mouthpiece on upside down, so I sounded quite convincingly like I’d only been playing for a couple weeks.
Obtaining your music accepted or being commissioned to write production music is every bit as competitive as some of the more traditionally glamorous goals for musicians and composers, including landing a record deal, publishing deal, film or TV commission. You will need to submit your music on a CD which you should make look as attractive and interesting as you possibly can, though a well-constructed internet site or MySpace site with biography and audio clips could be in the same way or even more useful. A number of calls to receptionists can aid you to get the names from the right customers to send your pitch to: your own letter is superior to ‘Dear Sir/Madam’.
The Net has changed how production music is distributed, and the majority of publishers now make it easy to search for and download the tracks you want.
The Net changed the way production music is distributed, and most publishers now ensure it is easy to search for and download the tracks you need.The most important thing to understand is that your music should grab the attention in the listener quickly. If your company wants writers, they will likely definitely listen to music that they are sent, but frequently they may be inundated, so it’s possible that they’ll only hear the 1st 10 or 20 seconds for each track (which could adequately become the way their consumer will pay attention to the product, too).
Most important will not be to try to second-guess your opinion ‘they’ want, or what exactly is ‘good’ or ‘typical’ production music. The chances are it’s already with their library and they also don’t need anymore, of course, if they do, one among their established writers will be asked to get it done. If you wish to make a good first impression, it’s a lot better to write down something which has some character, originality and flair; and, most importantly, it ought to be something that you are great at doing. The best chance of having your music accepted is always to offer something different, fresh and different.
Frequently, a piece you wrote like a demo for something diffrent that got rejected might be ideal, but paradoxically, pieces which have actually been used in TV programmes may not be beneficial to production music. Often times I’ve believed music We have written to get a film with a non-exclusive basis will be accepted within a music library but, as Duncan has explained, music written to a specific scene may work well merely to that scene, and could not really appear sensible alone. Surprisingly, it 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 sections of CDs will wind up being categorised to help you the conclusion user, so you might consider doing a similar to your 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 incredibly important, not merely as being a description but additionally to assist with searches. It’s exactly the same principle as Googling: keywords or phrases in a title can be quite helpful, particularly for on-line searching. However, you will find limits to the volume of tracks that might be called ‘Car Chase’, ‘Celebration’ or ‘Feel Bad Blues’!
One important thing that we still find fascinating is the place where my music winds up. Whatever you think your music is going to be utilized for, it could possibly show up on something quite different, be that the feature film, TV drama, documentary, shopping channel, game show or gardening programme. To comprehend how production music works, try putting yourself in the position of any stressed-out TV editor who desperately needs some good music for any new part of footage the executive producer required to be included to a documentary three hours just before the deadline. There are numerous 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 maybe the scene that needs music.
Needless to say, a skilled editor or director will already have a very good expertise in music that may be available, often calling on ‘old faithful’ albums or tracks, but tend to still keep an eye out for brand new and refreshing material.
Many production music companies may also aggressively market their music production blog, just like 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 using their main clients, arranging everything that composers would do ourselves if we had the time and cash: courtesy calls, birthday cards, free holidays in the Caribbean, that kind of thing.
In the following paragraphs, we’ve checked out the company dimension of production music: what exactly it is, who uses it, how it’s sold and, most importantly, how you can get your foot within the door. But in the composer’s point of view there are also technical skills which are specific to production music, including the capacity to create versions of your pieces that suit exactly in to the 10-second format, so the following month, we’ll look at techniques you can learn to help make an expert-sounding production music library disc.