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. At the beginning, they could use bits and pieces of talkin music, either from memory or collections of written 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 really a nicely-known tune!
Introducing ‘Production Music’
Immediately, music became on discs, and with the coming of TV from the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s, there was a huge interest in easily available music, that has been called mood music, atmospheric music and, obviously, library music. Much of it was of very high-quality orchestral and jazz, though with the proliferation of synths from the late ’70s it gained a history of being cheap (although not necessarily cheerful). Originally an American term, ‘production music’ has become in general use here in the united kingdom, as producers have wished to promote a more recent generation of library music that has shed that old image.
Production music has traditionally been distributed on vinyl or CD however it is now made available via download. A production music clients are basically a publishing company, or perhaps a department of the 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 can also be used for computer games, internet sites, live events and even ringtones. Users choose tracks they wish to use in a programme and can license them quickly, through MCPS in the united kingdom or other licensing agencies worldwide, at the set licence fee per half a minute of music. Very often this can be cheaper, quicker and fewer complicated than commissioning a composer.
A great deal of the TV music from the ’60s was jazz-oriented; composers for example Henry Mancini and Elmer Bernstein set the conventional in this way. Library music producers followed suit, and may corner some great jazz musicians in touring bands who had been delighted to supplement their meagre club fees with a couple of sessions.
Today, a much 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 world of companies with big budgets for big studios and vast swathes of session musicians. The standard still needs to be high and the application of real musicians whenever you can is surely a bonus, but it is now feasible for a person with the talent along with a decent DAW to compete with the large boys.
Production music CDs might look like ordinary albums…
Production music CDs might seem like ordinary albums…The current proliferation of television channels has inevitably thinned out of the viewing audience for the majority of individual channels, thus causing advertising revenue, and thus budgets, to get slashed. Besides the few on the very top, TV and film composers have gotten to get used 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 a possibility, the library music companies stepped in with a new generation of music having higher artistic and production values, that may be licensed easily.
My Method Of Composing
As I am commissioned to talkin music, it might be either to have an entire album, or even for any number of tracks to be included in a ‘compilation’ album that several composers contribute. We have produced six complete albums within the last a decade and about 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 all of it, really – the background music is mad, bad and jazzy – plus a good title can obviously assistance with marketing, by signalling to producers exactly what to expect through the album. The fashion 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 through the company (Universal – formerly BMG – in this instance), who serve as overall ‘executive’ producers. They know in the whole concept and marketing plan from the album, and usually I’ll offer an initial briefing meeting with them to go about this. Then they leave me to accomplish the composing and production, but will drop from the studio every now and then, especially as tracks evolve or completely new ideas appear over the course of production.
An album will consist of about 16 tracks, and although they is often as short as one minute, I like to think of them as ‘real’ album tracks, and so i will normally cause them to between two and four minutes long. Also i include various shorter versions lasting thirty seconds, 20 seconds and 10 seconds, in addition to short ‘stings’. It’s much simpler for your producer to produce these with the mixing stage than in order to create them from the stereo master later – much more about this in next month’s article.
…but the sleeve notes are meant to help the TV editor in a rush. Note any additional one-minute, 30-, 20- and 10-second versions, as well as the short ‘stings’.
…although the sleeve notes are created to assist the TV editor in a rush. 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, be aware of way I work, the briefing session is quite much a two-way flow of ideas. I never determine what I’m gonna be inspired to do, but briefs ranges from the precise for the vague, for example:
Writing something that fits a very specific commercial demand, such as 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 cautious not to 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 everything you put together, Pete.”
Very often I might also suggest using existing tracks I’ve already produced for another reason, like cues from the commissioned score containing 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, because i want the tracks to sound great, rather than like the stereotypical library music of your ‘old days’. I start off with programmed tracks, though before presenting these as demos I’ll make them as convincing as possible by including as much real instrumentation because i can – saxophone, flute and some guitar and bass. Anything that isn’t a live instrument should have a reason as being there, like a drum loop that can’t be recreated or a particular rhythm which needs to be quantised to put the genre. I in addition have a vast variety of unique samples recorded and collected during my years operating in studios as a producer.
After 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 in my opinion – I book musicians I am aware and am comfortable utilizing. Once more, I don’t think ‘It’s just library music.’ I need to believe the musicians are thinking much the same way: they are contributing creatively as an alternative to it being just another session.
It’s great working with Duncan or Jo at Universal – they have an excellent handle on what will continue to work. It’s incredibly good to get some fresh ears with a project when you’ve lived from it in the studio for a couple of weeks. I once presented a demo to Duncan and his awesome comment was “great, but the saxophone is too in tune, may sound like library music.” This was on a ska track and then he wanted it to sound really raw and rough. I attempted a few times to play badly, not easy for any seasoned session player who may have struggled all his life to perform well. Ultimately I played the sax with the mouthpiece on upside-down, therefore i sounded quite convincingly like I’d only been playing for a couple of weeks.
Obtaining 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, for example landing an archive deal, publishing deal, film or TV commission. You will have to send in your music with a CD that you should make look as attractive and interesting as is possible, though a well-constructed website or MySpace site with biography and audio clips may be equally as or even more useful. Several calls to receptionists can assist you to find the names of the right individuals to send your pitch to: a personal letter is preferable to ‘Dear Sir/Madam’.
The Net changed the way in which production music is distributed, and most publishers now make it easy to search for and download the tracks you require.
The Web has changed how production music is distributed, and most publishers now make it easy to find and download the tracks you require.The main thing to understand that the music should grab the interest in the listener quickly. If a company is looking for writers, they may definitely pay attention to music they are sent, but frequently they may be inundated, so it’s probable that they’ll only hear the initial 10 or 20 seconds for each track (which may well function as the way their consumer will listen to this product, too).
Most critical will not be to try to second-guess what you think ‘they’ want, or what exactly is ‘good’ or ‘typical’ production music. The chances are it’s already within their library plus they don’t need any further, of course, if they are doing, one of their established writers will have to do it. In order to produce a good first impression, it’s far better to create an issue that has some character, originality and flair; and, above all, it must be something you are perfect at doing. The very best probability of obtaining your music accepted is to offer something different, fresh and unique.
Fairly often, a piece you wrote being a demo for something diffrent that got rejected could be ideal, but paradoxically, pieces who have actually been used in TV programmes is probably not best for production music. Many times I’ve believed that music We have written for the film on a non-exclusive basis can be accepted in the music library but, as Duncan has explained, music written to your specific scene may work well simply to that scene, and may not always appear sensible on its own. Surprisingly, this may also be that production values for TV music are frequently not suitable, especially with today’s increasingly stingy budgets.
The development music company won’t like being told their job, but sometimes there is no harm in assisting out with some marketing ideas. CDs or sections of CDs will turn out to be categorised to assist the final user, so you might consider doing the identical for your personal demo. Categories is often as vague as ‘drama’ or ‘lifestyle’, or they are often more specific to a music genre or era – for instance jazz, classical, World, ’60s, kitsch, indie, ska etc. Titles are extremely important, not only being a description and also to help with searches. It’s a similar principle as Googling: key words or phrases inside a title can be extremely helpful, particularly for online searching. On the other hand, there are limits to the number of tracks that could be called ‘Car Chase’, ‘Celebration’ or ‘Feel Bad Blues’!
One thing i still find fascinating is the place where my music ultimately ends up. Whatever you decide to think your music will probably be utilized for, it may show up on something quite different, be 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 a new bit of footage the executive producer inspired to be added in into a documentary three hours just before the deadline. There are numerous possibilities:
Search for a production music company site and do an online search, using various keywords that describe either the genre of music or even the scene that needs music.
Needless to say, a seasoned editor or director will already have a good expertise in music that may be 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 even aggressively market their music production blog, just like any good publisher should. This could mean contacting producers associated with a film or TV projects which can be about to go into production, and also building up close and ongoing relationships with their main clients, arranging everything 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 the following paragraphs, we’ve looked at the company dimension of production music: what 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 perspective additionally, there are technical skills that happen to be specific to production music, for example the ability to create versions of your own pieces that suit exactly in to the 10-second format, so the following month, we’ll be looking at techniques one can learn to help make a professional-sounding production music library disc.