Everything 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 film and provide a live accompaniment. Initially, they will use bits and pieces of music production, either from memory or collections of sheet music, but immediately volumes of specially composed or arranged incidental movie music were published, with cues arranged and categorised to put the different screen actions or moods. Perhaps for this reason this extract from Krommer’s Double Clarinet Concerto is unquestionably a nicely-known tune!
A Review Of ‘Production Music’
Very soon, music became located on discs, and with the introduction of TV inside the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s, there was clearly a sizable interest in easily available music, that has been known as mood music, atmospheric music and, naturally, library music. Much 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 (yet not necessarily cheerful). Originally a united states term, ‘production music’ has become on the whole use here in britain, as producers have planned to promote a more recent generation of library music which includes shed the existing image.
Production music has traditionally been distributed on vinyl or CD yet it is now available too via download. A production music company is basically a publishing company, or even a department of a 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 can also be used for video games, web sites, live events and in many cases ringtones. Users choose tracks they want to include in a programme and will license them quickly, through MCPS in the UK or some other licensing agencies worldwide, at a set licence fee per half a minute of music. Often this really is cheaper, quicker and fewer complicated than commissioning a composer.
Most of the TV music from the ’60s was jazz-oriented; composers like Henry Mancini and Elmer Bernstein set the regular in this respect. Library music producers followed suit, and might corner some great jazz musicians in touring bands who have been delighted to supplement their meagre club fees with a few sessions.
Today, a lot larger proportion of production music is pop or rock. This can be due in part to your demand from modern TV producers, but another factor is the digital revolution. The creation 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 typical still must be high and the use of real musicians whenever you can is surely a bonus, yet it is now entirely possible that a person with the talent along with a decent DAW to compete 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 out the viewing audience for the majority of individual channels, thus causing advertising revenue, and for that reason budgets, to get slashed. Besides the few in the very top, TV and film composers have had to get accustomed to taking care of lower budgets. Often – but by no means always – this has resulted in either (at worst) lower-quality commissioned music being produced or, sadly, fewer live musicians being involved. Seizing a possibility, the library music companies stepped in with a brand new generation of music having higher artistic and production values, that could be licensed easily.
My Procedure For Composing
As I am commissioned to music production online, it may be either for the entire album, or for a variety of tracks to become a part of a ‘compilation’ album which several composers contribute. I have produced six complete albums during the last a decade and about another 30 or 40 single tracks. My first commission was for a jazz album called Mad, Bad & Jazzy, which has three sequels. The title says everything, really – the tunes is mad, bad and jazzy – as well as a good title can obviously assist with marketing, by signalling to producers what to expect through the album. The fashion which includes dominated my writing is slightly left-field or quirky jazz and Latin, by using a sprinkling of indie, classical, electronic and only plain bizarre.
I work closely with 1 or 2 producers through the company (Universal – formerly BMG – in this instance), who function as overall ‘executive’ producers. They know of the whole concept and web marketing strategy from the album, and customarily I’ll provide an initial briefing meeting together to discuss this. Then they leave me to do the composing and production, and definitely will drop with the studio every so often, especially as tracks evolve or completely new ideas show up during the course of production.
An album will consist of about 16 tracks, and even though they is often as short as you minute, I love to imagine them as ‘real’ album tracks, therefore 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, along with short ‘stings’. It’s less difficult to the producer to build these with the mixing stage than in order to create them from a stereo master later – more details on this in next month’s article.
…but the sleeve notes are meant to help the TV editor in a big hurry. Note the additional one-minute, 30-, 20- and 10-second versions, as well as the short ‘stings’.
…although the sleeve notes are meant to help the TV editor very quickly. Note the extra one-minute, 30-, 20- and 10-second versions, as well as the short ‘stings’. Because my producers at Universal, Duncan Schwier and Jo Pearson, are aware of the way I work, the briefing session is quite much a two-way flow of ideas. I never determine what I’m gonna be required to do, but briefs may range from the precise for the vague, like:
Writing something that fits an incredibly specific commercial demand, for example lifestyle programmes or quiz shows, or to fit popular search phrases for example ‘s-ex from the city’, ‘money’, ‘countdown’ or ‘stop press’.
Taking inspiration from an existing track, composer or style, being careful not to infringe any copyright or perhaps to ‘pass off’ as something copyrighted.
Taking inspiration purely from your 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 some fun and see the things you develop, Pete.”
Fairly often I might also suggest using existing tracks I’ve already produced for an additional reason, such as cues from your commissioned score which has now passed its exclusivity date, demos I have done for a thing that were not actually used, or pieces I wrote exclusively for fun.
I generally take six to 1 year to compose and record an entire album, while i want the tracks to sound great, and never just like the stereotypical library music of the ‘old days’. I begin with programmed tracks, though before presenting these as demos I’ll make them as convincing as is possible by including the maximum amount of real instrumentation as I can – saxophone, flute and a bit of guitar and bass. Whatever isn’t a live instrument has to have grounds to be there, for instance a drum loop that can’t be recreated or perhaps a particular rhythm that should be quantised to match the genre. I in addition have a vast variety of unique samples recorded and collected during my years operating in studios as a producer.
When the early drafts are approved, I print scores and parts from Logic and book sessions for musicians where necessary. It is a crucial step to 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 much the same way: that they are contributing creatively instead of it being yet another session.
It’s great working with Duncan or Jo at Universal – they have got an outstanding handle on which work. It’s incredibly good to get some fresh ears on a project when you’ve lived along with it inside the studio for a couple weeks. I once presented a demo to Duncan and his comment was “great, but the saxophone is too in tune, looks like library music.” This was on a ska track and the man wanted it to sound really raw and rough. I attempted a few times to perform badly, quite difficult for a seasoned session player having struggled all his life to try out 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 several weeks.
Getting your music accepted or being commissioned to create production music is every bit as competitive as the more traditionally glamorous goals for musicians and composers, including landing a record deal, publishing deal, film or TV commission. You will have to submit your music on the CD which you should make look as attractive and interesting as you can, though a well-constructed web site or MySpace site with biography and audio clips might be just as or even more useful. A couple of phone calls to receptionists can assist you to discover the names of your right people to send your pitch to: an individual letter is superior to ‘Dear Sir/Madam’.
The Web has evolved the way production music is distributed, and the majority of publishers now make it easy to search for and download the tracks you will need.
The World Wide Web has changed the way production music is distributed, and a lot publishers now help it become easy to look for and download the tracks you want.What is important to pay attention to is that your music should grab the interest of your listener quickly. In case a company is looking for writers, they will definitely pay attention to music they are sent, but frequently they may be inundated, so it’s entirely possible that they’ll only pay attention to the first 10 or 20 seconds of each track (which can adequately become the way their end user will hear the item, too).
Most important is not in order to second-guess what you think ‘they’ want, or what exactly is ‘good’ or ‘typical’ production music. The chances are it’s already inside their library and they don’t need any further, and in case they do, among their established writers will have to practice it. If you want to come up with a good first impression, it’s much better to write something which has some character, originality and flair; and, especially, it ought to be something that you are good at doing. The very best possibility of obtaining your music accepted is to offer something different, fresh and different.
Very often, a piece you wrote as a demo for something else that got rejected may be ideal, but paradoxically, pieces that have actually been used in TV programmes might not be great for production music. Many times I’ve believed music I actually have written to get a film on the non-exclusive basis can be accepted in the music library but, as Duncan has explained, music written to a specific scene may work perfectly only to that scene, and may not always make sense by itself. Surprisingly, this may also be that production values for TV music are frequently 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 sections of CDs will become categorised to help the final user, so you might consider doing the same for your demo. Categories is often 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 and the like. Titles are incredibly important, not only like a description but in addition to aid with searches. It’s a similar principle as Googling: keywords or phrases in a title are often very helpful, especially for on-line searching. Alternatively, there are actually limits to the volume of tracks that might be called ‘Car Chase’, ‘Celebration’ or ‘Feel Bad Blues’!
Something that I still find fascinating is how my music ends up. Whatever you decide to think your music is going to be used for, it might be visible 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 inside the position of any stressed-out TV editor who desperately needs some really good music for a new bit of footage the executive producer motivated to be added to some documentary three hours prior to the deadline. There are several possibilities:
Go to a production music company site and do an online search, using various keywords that describe either the genre of music or the scene that has to have music.
Of course, a seasoned editor or director will already have a great familiarity with music which is available, often calling on ‘old faithful’ albums or tracks, but tend to still be on the lookout for new and refreshing material.
Many production music companies will likely aggressively market their music production blog, just like any good publisher should. This may mean contacting producers associated with a film or TV projects that are about to go into production, as well as accumulating close and ongoing relationships because of their main clients, arranging everything that composers would do ourselves whenever we had the time and cash: courtesy calls, birthday cards, free holidays within the Caribbean, that sort of thing.
In this article, we’ve considered this business dimension of production music: what exactly it is, who uses it, how it’s sold and, above all, how to get your foot inside the door. But through the composer’s viewpoint there are technical skills which are specific to production music, including the capacity to create versions of your own pieces that suit exactly to the 10-second format, so the following month, we’ll be looking at techniques one can learn to make a professional-sounding production music library disc.