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Whatever we now call ‘production music’ has become through various stages of evolution. Its origins are most likely in silent movies, when cinema pianists and organists would watch the film and provide a live accompaniment. In the beginning, they might use pieces of, 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 fit the many screen actions or moods. Perhaps this is why this extract from Krommer’s Double Clarinet Concerto is such a properly-known tune!

Introducing ‘Production Music’

Very soon, music became seen on discs, with the coming of TV inside the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s, there seemed to be a huge interest in easily accessible music, which was generally known as mood music, atmospheric music and, of course, library music. A great deal of this is of very high-quality orchestral and jazz, though with all the proliferation of synths in the late ’70s it gained a history of being cheap (however, not necessarily cheerful). Originally a united states term, ‘production music’ is now generally speaking use here in the united kingdom, as producers have wished to promote a more modern generation of library music which includes shed that old 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 your publishing company, that specialises in marketing, licensing and collecting royalties for production music. The final user is usually a film, TV or radio production company – but tracks could also be used for computer games, sites, live events and also ringtones. Users choose tracks they want to use in a programme and might license them in a short time, through MCPS in britain or another licensing agencies worldwide, with a set licence fee per half a minute of music. Frequently this can be cheaper, quicker and fewer complicated than commissioning a composer.

Most of the TV music of your ’60s was jazz-oriented; composers like Henry Mancini and Elmer Bernstein set the conventional in this respect. Library music producers followed suit, and may corner some excellent jazz musicians in touring bands who are 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 can be due partly into a demand from modern TV producers, but another factor will be 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 typical still must be high and the use of real musicians wherever possible is undoubtedly a bonus, yet it is now entirely possible that anyone with the talent and a decent DAW to contend with the important boys.

Production music CDs might appear like ordinary albums…

Production music CDs might appear to be ordinary albums…The current proliferation of television channels has inevitably thinned the viewing audience for almost all individual channels, thus causing advertising revenue, and for that reason budgets, being slashed. In addition to the few in the very top, TV and film composers experienced to become accustomed to taking care of 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 an all new generation of music having higher artistic and production values, that may be licensed easily.

My Approach To Composing

As I am commissioned to talkin music, it might either be to have an entire album, or even for any number of tracks to get included in a ‘compilation’ album which several composers contribute. I actually have produced six complete albums over the last ten years and about 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 it all, really – the songs is mad, bad and jazzy – as well as a good title can obviously aid in marketing, by signalling to producers what to expect from your album. The design which includes dominated my writing is slightly left-field or quirky jazz and Latin, with a sprinkling of indie, classical, electronic and only plain bizarre.

I work closely with a couple of producers in the company (Universal – formerly BMG – in such a case), who serve as overall ‘executive’ producers. They know of your whole concept and online marketing strategy in the album, and generally I’ll offer an initial briefing meeting along with them to talk about this. They then leave me to perform the composing and production, but will drop with the studio every once in awhile, especially as tracks evolve or completely new ideas show up during the course of production.

An album will include about 16 tracks, and although they is often as short as you minute, I love to think of them as ‘real’ album tracks, so I will usually get them to between two and four minutes long. Also i include various shorter versions lasting thirty seconds, 20 seconds and 10 seconds, along with short ‘stings’. It’s much easier for the producer to create these with the mixing stage than to try and create them from the stereo master later – much more about this in next month’s article.

…however the sleeve notes are created to help the TV editor very quickly. Note the additional one-minute, 30-, 20- and 10-second versions, along with the short ‘stings’.

…however the sleeve notes are designed to assist the TV editor very quickly. 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, know the way I work, the briefing session is quite much a two-way flow of ideas. I never understand what I’m will be required to do, but briefs can vary from the precise for the vague, such as:

Writing an issue that fits an incredibly specific commercial demand, including lifestyle programmes or quiz shows, or perhaps to fit popular search phrases such as ‘s-ex in the city’, ‘money’, ‘countdown’ or ‘stop press’.

Taking inspiration from a preexisting track, composer or style, being mindful to not infringe any copyright or 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.

Making a dramatic feel or emotional atmosphere.

“Just have a certain amount of fun to see what you develop, Pete.”

Very often I may also suggest using existing tracks I’ve already produced for another reason, including cues from your commissioned score which has now passed its exclusivity date, demos I have done for something that were not actually used, or pieces I wrote just for fun.

I generally take six to 1 year to compose and record a total album, as I want the tracks to sound great, rather than just like the stereotypical library music of the ‘old days’. I usually begin 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 because i can – saxophone, flute and a bit of guitar and bass. Everything that isn’t a live instrument must have a good reason as being there, such as a drum loop that can’t be recreated or perhaps a particular rhythm that should be quantised to suit the genre. I in addition have a vast selection of unique samples recorded and collected during my years doing work in studios like a producer.

When 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. Once more, I don’t think ‘It’s just library music.’ I have to feel that the musicians are planning the same way: they are contributing creatively as opposed to it being yet another session.

It’s great working with Duncan or Jo at Universal – they have got a fantastic handle on which works. It’s also very good to have some fresh ears on a project when you’ve lived along with it within the studio for a few weeks. One time i presented a demo to Duncan and his comment was “great, nevertheless the saxophone is a little too in tune, may sound like library music.” This became on the ska track and that he wanted it to sound really raw and rough. I used a few times to play badly, difficult for a seasoned session player who may have struggled all his life to experience well. Eventually I played the sax with all the mouthpiece on upside down, and so i sounded quite convincingly like I’d only been playing for a few weeks.

Having your music accepted or being commissioned to write production music is every bit as competitive as any one of the more traditionally glamorous goals for musicians and composers, such as landing a record deal, publishing deal, film or TV commission. You will need to submit your music on the CD that you simply should make look as attractive and interesting as you possibly can, though a highly-constructed website or MySpace site with biography and audio clips can be just as or maybe more useful. A number of cell phone calls to receptionists can assist you to find the names of your right people to send your pitch to: a personal letter is preferable to ‘Dear Sir/Madam’.

The Web changed just how production music is distributed, and most publishers now ensure it is easy to locate and download the tracks you will need.

The Net has evolved how production music is distributed, and a lot publishers now allow it to be easy to search for and download the tracks you will need.The main thing to be familiar with is that your music should grab the attention of the listener quickly. When a company is looking for writers, they are going to definitely tune in to music that they are sent, but frequently they are inundated, so it’s possible that they’ll only listen to the first 10 or 20 seconds of every track (which might perfectly function as the way their end user will listen to the merchandise, too).

Most significant is not to attempt to second-guess your opinion ‘they’ want, or what exactly is ‘good’ or ‘typical’ production music. The chances are it’s already inside their library and so they don’t need anymore, and if they do, one among their established writers will be asked to get it done. If you would like make a good first impression, it’s significantly better to write an issue that has some character, originality and flair; and, first and foremost, it ought to be something you are perfect at doing. The most effective chance of getting your music accepted is usually to offer something different, fresh and different.

Very often, a piece you wrote as a demo for another thing that got rejected could be ideal, but paradoxically, pieces that have actually been employed in TV programmes will not be beneficial to production music. Frequently I’ve thought that music I actually have written for a film on a non-exclusive basis can be accepted in a music library but, as Duncan has explained, music written to your specific scene may work perfectly only to that scene, and may even not really seem sensible alone. Surprisingly, additionally, it can be that production values for TV music are frequently not sufficient, particularly with today’s increasingly stingy budgets.

The production music company won’t like being told their job, but sometimes there is not any harm in aiding out with some marketing ideas. CDs or parts of CDs will become categorised to help the conclusion user, so you may consider doing a similar for your demo. Categories can be as vague as ‘drama’ or ‘lifestyle’, or they could be more specific to a music genre or era – as an illustration jazz, classical, World, ’60s, kitsch, indie, ska and the like. Titles are incredibly important, not merely like a description but also to help you with searches. It’s a similar principle as Googling: keywords and phrases or phrases in the title can be very helpful, particularly for on-line searching. On the flip side, there are actually limits to the number of tracks that could be called ‘Car Chase’, ‘Celebration’ or ‘Feel Bad Blues’!

One important thing i still find fascinating is the place where my music ends up. Whatever you decide to think your music will probably be used for, it could show up on something quite different, be a feature film, TV drama, documentary, shopping channel, game show or gardening programme. To understand how production music works, try putting yourself within the position of any stressed-out TV editor who desperately needs some good music for any new part of footage the executive producer motivated to be included to your documentary three hours ahead of the deadline. There are several possibilities:

Check out a production music company website and do an online search, using various keywords that describe either the genre of music or perhaps the scene that has to have music.

Of course, a seasoned editor or director will already have a great knowledge of music that may be available, often calling on ‘old faithful’ albums or tracks, but could still search for new and refreshing material.

Many production music companies will even aggressively market their, as 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 developing close and ongoing relationships because of their main clients, arranging all the stuff that composers would do ourselves once we had the time and money: courtesy calls, birthday cards, free holidays in the Caribbean, that sort of thing.

In this article, we’ve considered the business dimension of production music: what exactly it is, who uses it, how it’s sold and, most importantly, ways you can get your foot inside the door. But in the composer’s perspective in addition there are technical skills which can be specific to production music, such as the power to create versions of the pieces which fit exactly to the 10-second format, so the following month, we’ll be looking at techniques you can learn to help with making an experienced-sounding production music library disc.