Love and obsession – it’s a match made in cinematic heaven.
The latest film to go there, and then go deeper, is Love Sick Love, a new indie film released by the NYC-based mouseROAR. Directed by Christian Charles (Cheech & Chong’s Hey Watch This), the movie is a deft combination of suspense, comedy, and romance (or it’s evil twin, rather).
The feature-length tale follows power-couple Dori and Norman as their weekend trip to the countryside completely unravels, spurred on by her psychopathic tendencies. Throughout the film, music plays a key role, constantly helping to set the scene and keep the viewer oriented – the result of a sharp collaboration between Charles, music supervisor and SongHunters co-founder Dave Hnatiuk (Heights, Cheech and Chong’s Hey Watch This), and John Swihart (Napoleon Dynamite, Youth In Revolt, Employee of the Month).
Making the original music and soundtrack gel on a movie – whether it’s an indie film or Hollywood release – is always a complex task for the music supervisor, who wants to ensure that the sonic component fully supports the director’s vision. SonicScoop took the opportunity to get the perspective of both Charles and Hnatiuk on their work together throughout many of the music supervision phases of Love Sick Love.
For an in-depth look at the interplay between director and music supervisor on a film soundtrack that was equally rewarding and challenging to pull together, keep reading.
The Love Sick Love full-length trailer:
Meeting of the Minds
Before a music supervisor and director dive into a feature film together, there’s no substitute for trust and the chemistry that comes with it. Hnatiuk became involved with Love Sick Love after working on a film with Charles and mouseROAR in 2003, the New Line Cinema-distributed Full of It starring Ryan Pinkston and Terri Pollo.
“Christian and I met by being introduced by a mutual friend who worked on the advertising campaign for Christian’s first feature Comedian, starring Jerry Seinfeld,” Hnatiuk recalls. “Around this time Love Sick Love was in the early stages of script development, and Christian handed me the script to kind of put it on my radar as something I should read, with the notion that we may one day be making this film together. Well, about five or more years later, we made it, and here we are!”
Meanwhile, Charles had developed a clear director’s perspective on music’s importance in a movie’s storytelling. “It’s emotional support,” he says. “It sometimes can define a specific emotion that isn’t clear with picture alone. It’s also the biggest cheat as far as getting your audience emotionally invested in a scene – that’s what Dave is so good at delivering and why we collaborate so much.
“I love music that has bold expression,” he continues, “that unashamedly makes its emotional or lyrical point. No time to beat around the bush when you’re telling a tight story.”
Besides knowing what he wants in his music, Charles knows what he needs in a music supervisor. “Breadth of musical knowledge,” he states. “Unending delivery of material when you’re searching for a specific song to fit the bill. Great negotiating skills. Great taste and passion for music. This is one of the more fun parts of making a film — it should work that way with a music supervisor. Dave has all these qualities and a whole lot more.”
Setting the Musical Direction for Love Sick Love
Once his collaboration with Charles on Love Sick Love was established, Hnatiuk began laying the groundwork for pairing each scene with the right music.
“I started reading early versions of the script years before we actually made the film, and this gave Christian and I plenty of time to play with and brainstorm on a variety of musical directions that Love Sick Love could take,” says Hnatiuk. “The process starts with the ‘blocking/spotting’ process of breaking down the script and deciding simply where music will be and where it won’t.
“Once, the blocking/spotting is done, we then look at each cue/spot and play with ideas on whether each spot we deemed music-worthy should be original score, or commercially licensed music.”
After some back and forth on what the music direction would ultimately become, Hnatiuk and Charles landed on the fairly traditional approach of original score, by John Swihart. Complementing it would be a carefully curated selection of modern multi-genre indie pop and rock, singer/songwriter ballads, and pop vocal classics circa the 1950’s.
“The film is multiple genres, deliberately,” Charles says. “The musical tone was tricky. We ultimately found our way in by using the voice of Dori. The majority of the music comes from a female perspective, although there are pieces in there that are pure nostalgia to set a tone in the isolated old house.”
To Hnatiuk, obtaining synch licenses for the Love Sick Love soundtrack was an ideal opportunity to match up emerging artists with classic tracks. “This ended up being a multi-genre, multi-time period, pop and indie rock direction chock full of incredibly talented and on-the-rise indie artists that many viewers probably have not heard of before, but will be excited to experience for the first time,” he says.
“Those indie artists that will be new discoveries for many viewers are consciously complemented throughout the film by well-known and forgotten classics from the 1950’s vocal pop era, such as Jackie Wilson’s ‘My Heart Belongs Only to You’ which we were able to license from our good friend Jamar Chess of Sunflower Entertainment, as well as a number of other classics that for our younger viewers may be a first-time experience which will broaden their musical horizons. For our more mature viewers, it will be a nice nostalgic reminder of how the old and new can meet in a musically timeless way.”
Deciding When to Use Original Music vs. Synch Licensed Tracks in a Scene
With their extended pre-production period, Hnatiuk and Charles were afforded ample time to start the decision making process on which scenes would call for score, and which would call for commercial music that would require synch licensing to clear.
“One of the simplest ways to determine the possibility of using score or commercial music could be determined by the physical setting or environment of any given scene,” Hnatiuk explains. “Source music cues are one of the easiest places to feature commercial songs. If a song is playing from a bedroom clock radio, a car stereo, a jukebox at a bar, or at a club/restaurant, all of these type of scenes allow for the opportunity to place a commercial pop/rock song.
“And we took advantage of plenty of source opportunities in LSL,” he adds. “Anytime you have a human scenario in a relatable scene where viewers are used to hearing source music –which means you have a song in a scene being played from a realistically believable physical source/location – you have the opportunity to try using a piece of commercial music. Then it becomes the question of what kind of song would or should be playing in this scene which can be determined by any number of character traits, storyline, geographical influences, time-period, and more.”
According to Hnatiuk, scenes will call for original custom designed music when the director is looking to establish a very particular emotional backdrop, that cannot be accurately focused upon by using a piece of commercial music. “Our main title sequence is composed score,” he says. “We have some action sequences that are driven by score, and we have some other various dramatic scenes that called for score as well.”
When and Why to Commission a Cover Song
One scene in particular in Love Sick Love presented a tricky challenge. For director Christian Charles, only the classic New Year’s Eve standby “Auld Lang Syne” would do
However, it soon became clear to Hnatiuk that there wasn’t a version of the song that was both ideal for the visual, and also affordable to license. “We searched for covers of ‘Auld Lange Syne’ tirelessly,” Hnatiuk notes, “in hopes to find a version that we could both afford to license and that supported the pacing of our sequence as well as the tonal feel / emotional backdrop – two critical elements that cannot be sacrificed in any scene of a film, let alone such a climactic scene as this cover was used.
“Our search led us to a handful of versions that we liked all of which we tried to use, but each ended up being flawed in some way. That said, we decided to take the inspiration from the parts of each version we liked, as well as significant additional production notes that led us to the beautiful cover of ‘Auld Lange Syne’ that lives in Love Sick Love forever.”
As you may have guessed, the solution for the fruitless search was to record an updated edition. The result was a collaboration with the Australian duo The Kin, who tailor made “Auld Lang Syne” for Love Sick Love.
“There were a couple reasons to make a new cover version of the song,” says Hnatiuk. “First off, the pacing of the scene was of the utmost importance, and there were variations in character motivation/scene development/ physical movements that needed to be taken in consideration when producing this cover.
“In that sense, we treated this cover almost identically to how score is developed — this is precisely why our score composer John Swihart co-produced this track with Christian Charles and I. John’s song arranging skills were imperative in helping us produce this song, and seamlessly support the pace of one of the most important scenes in the film.”
To make the new song, the recording process was done remotely and file transfers occurred via FTP, allowing for a short demo phase that eventually lead to locking down and finishing the track as the video cut of the sequence it was in came closer and closer to final. Engineer/producer Nic Hard tracked the vocals in NYC, with the Kin’s Isaac and Thorald Koren performing the vocals, and Thorald also playing guitar. Swihart co-produced, arranged, and mixed the song, as well as playing additional guitars out of his LA studio.
It was extra work, but worth it: Charles got the exact musical mood he was looking for, and added to the film’s impact in the process. “I’m excited for the world to hear it,” Hnatiuk says. “It’s definitely memorable, and hits home in the way this song was intended to.”
Learning From Experience
Just as every film is a unique viewing experience, each project also presents a different music supervision path for all involved. For Charles, the development of Cheech & Chong’s comeback concert film, Hey Watch This, (released in 2011 by Weinstein Company) proved completely distinct from scoring and synching Love Sick Love.
“Cheech & Chong was so much about what the duo had done before,” Charles observes. “Both score and needle drop were inspired by their original musical vibe — hard to ignore and probably foolish to ignore too. Love Sick Love is purely it’s own thing, and required so many subtle decisions to make sure the multi-genre feeling was successfully accomplished. Harder work but ultimately way more satisfying.
“The accomplishment of making the multi genre idea work was ambitious, and the reason I wanted to make the film in the first place,” continues Charles. “I would also say that we managed to create a really rich and confident soundtrack with an incredibly limited budget. This is a real sleight of hand and I’d like to think we pulled it off very effectively.”
For a music supervisor like Dave Hnatiuk, wrapping up a feature, with every cue composed, cleared, fully licensed and locked to picture, qualifies as a high.
“The feeling of seeing the final film finished on the big screen with a final mix, especially after having worked on it for literally years is extremely positive — the sense of accomplishment is like no other feeling,” says Hnatiuk. “The artistic achievement to complete a feature length film within your budget, on time/deadline, and within the framework of your artistic/musical strategy, is one of the best payoffs I’ve ever felt. When a feature length film is completed, there is a great feeling of camaraderie in the team effort that was achieved. It’s truly priceless.”
– David Weiss is the Founder/Editor of SonicScoop, and co-author of the book Music Supervision: Selecting Music for Movies, TV, Games & New Media.
Music supervision is set to take a star turn in New York City.
The venue: Sync Summit NY, a conference taking place at Soho House on June 19-20 that gathers together an A-list of music supervisors from the worlds of TV, film, advertising, video games and interactive media.
In addition to high-level keynote addresses and panels, Sync Summit is there to facilitate first-class networking and deal-making for everyone involved in music licensing.
Speakers include Music Supervisor PJ Bloom (“Glee”), Karl Westman (Ogilvy), Brian Lambert UMG Publishing, Cynthia Sexton (Island Def Jam), and Robert Kraft (Kraftbox). An impressive gathering of highly knowledgeable panelists is on board as well, including Gerald V. Casale (Devo), Anita Chinkes-Ratner (SVP Music and Media Licensing for MTV, VH1, CMT and Logo), Josh Deutsch (Chairman/CEO, Downtown Music), Leigh Henrich (Director, Licensing Razor & Tie), Zach Pollaoff (Music Director, Grey Group) and many more — see the full docket of participants and their bios here.
Created by Mark Frieser, CEO of the NYC-based music rights licensing marketplace Sync Exchange, Sync Summit emphasizes a triumvirate of benefits best attained from attending an industry conference live and in-person: 1) Face time with key business leaders and deal makers, 2) Access to the latest industry intelligence and initiatives, and 3) Access to the latest service providers and technologies.
Visit here to see the full agenda, which promises to make NYC a true music licensing hot spot just in time for summer. The registration rate is $999, but readers of SonicScoop can obtain a special discounted rate of $350-$699 off the full fare by registering at this link.
Bureauexport has partnered with Sync Summit to provide you with a discounted rate of $350 – $650 off the standard $999 rate. To register at the discounted rate, visit here.
Here are the full details, as provided by Sync Summit NY:
If you’re in the business of music licensing, Sync Summit NY is a must-attend event.
Keynotes from top music licensing executives:
- Karl Westman – Executive Music Producer, Ogilvy and Maher
- Cynthia Sexton – EVP Brand Partnerships and Licensing IDJ/Republic Labels Groups
- Brian Lambert – EVP, Head of Film and TV, Universal Music Publishing Group
- Robert Kraft – Founder, Kraftbox Entertainment
- PJ Bloom – Partner, Neophonic
Panels covering vital music licensing issues:
- Branding, advertising and licensing
- Sync and A&R
- Sync, Video Games and Interactive Media
- Best seller practices to ensure successful licensing
- Sync, Video Games and Interactive Media
- Best seller practices to ensure successful licensing
- Sync and artist exposure/revenue
- The Music Licensing Value Chain
- Music Discovery
- The Music Supervisor Perspective on licensing
Visit the Sync Summit NY agenda page for the full agenda.
There are generalists, and then there are specialists – the newly launched NYC music licensing company Remix Your Brand definitely qualify as the latter.
Co-founded by music producer Matt Nelson, and Tom Hinton (also known as DJ Mantra), Remix Your Brand (RYB) has a laser focus on music with serious beats, including Electronic Dance Music (EDM), ambient, indie-electro, and dubstep, among others.
The pair has culled their decade-plus of producing and DJing within the scene to create RYB, using the deep relationships they’ve formed along the way to build a strong roster of artists and labels. Major players that they have available for licensing and custom/original compositions include Beats in Space, Play Me, Profound Audio, Proper Villains, Butterz, Circuitree Records, Kentsoundz and Ming.
The decision to go niche and provide authentic tracks appears to be paying off. Completed projects already include work for Leo Burnett, Chicago which tapped Remix Your Brand for their launch spot for the new Nintendo Wii U. RYB supplied the track ”Head Vice” by Silent Killer and Rex Riot, which can be heard in versions of the spot showcasing different features of the Nintendo Wii U.
For Sprint, RYB provided tracks for a new ad that broke during the March Madness NCAA basketball tournament. Their music is part of online branded content for fashion retailer Bloomingdale’s, and a custom track was recently written by Hinton for Bongo jeans brand via New York agency Iconix.
Check out some of their recent work to experience RYB first-hand.
They like THE ROCK at BMG Chrysalis US: The multinational music rights management concern – which maintains offices in New York City and Los Angeles — just made a big addition to its million-plus-song repertoire, with the signing of Soundgarden to a worldwide administration agreement.
The deal covers Soundgarden’s entire catalog. Seattle’s famed Chris Cornell-fronted rock four-piece brings a formidable collection of hits to BMG Chrysalis US, which include the GRAMMY Award-winning “Spoonman,” and “Black Hole Sun”, along with pioneering songs like “Rusty Cage” and “Outshined”.
Highlights for Soundgarden include the 1994 album Superunknown, which debuted at Number One on the Billboard charts and yielded the aforementioned singles. The band took a 12-year hiatus in 1998, then reassembled in 2010 to record and tour, including a headlining slot at the Lollapalooza Festival. The band’s Fall, 2012 release, King Animal, was their first in 16 years — the second leg of their North American tour begins in May 2013.
Music rules this coming Monday in Brooklyn, when New York Sound City (NYSC) will be running a powerful one-day event.
NYSC is being put on by Sound City, the UK-based brand that’s gotten good at holding boutique technology, music and media festivals worldwide.
The central theme of their New York Sound City 2013 conference explores the notion of British Invasion – how the relationship between New York and Liverpool, two accomplished ports and hotbeds of music and creativity have shaped popular music for generations.
Along the way, expect to get caught up on state-of-the-art info on the music biz at Williamsburg’s Wythe Hotel (12-6 PM), followed by a smokin’ six-band showcase at The Knitting Factory (starting at 7 PM).
Tickets can be purchased here, at the following prices: Delegate Pass (All access pass to panels, podcast & showcase) – $80; Knitting Factory Showcase + The Anfield Wrap Live Podcast – $30; Knitting Factory Showcase only – $20.
Just announced is the addition of Brooklyn Nets Music Supervisor J. Period to the hip hop panel. The full lineup of topics, moderators, and more follows, as provided by NYSC:
NETWORKING ROUNDTABLE TOPICS AND MODERATORS ANNOUNCED
Music & Brands: Erika Thomas (Cornerstone Promotion)
Labels: From Multinationals To Cottage Industries: Ray Paul (CEO, The Playmaker Group UK)
The Promoter Vs. Venue Dilemma: Dave Pichilingi (CEO, Sound City International)
Music Tech: Roundtable: Seth Hillinger (Organizer, NY MusicTech Meetup)
PLUS KEYNOTE SPEAKER ANDREW LOOG OLDHAM (ROLLING STONES)
& DANNY FIELDS (RAMONES, VELVETS, STOOGES)
MONDAY MARCH 11 AT THE WYTHE HOTEL (12-6PM)
FOLLOWED BY SHOWCASE AT THE KNITTINGFACTORY (7PM)
Delegate Pass (All access pass to panels, podcast & showcase) – $80
Knitting Factory Showcase + The Anfield Wrap Live Podcast – $30
Knitting Factory Showcase only – $20
Music & Brands: How Brands are Using New Music to Reach Consumers, what are they looking for, where do they find it and how do you get your tunes in front of them?
Moderated by Erika Thomas, Cornerstone Promotion
Labels: From multi nationals to cottage industries: Do bands and artists really need record companies anymore? Moderated by Ray Paul, CEO, The Playmaker Group UK
The Promoter Vs. Venue Dilemma: Promoters want to sell great art. Venues want to sell beer. It’s the great Promotor vs. Venue dilemma. Moderated by Dave Pichilingi, CEO,Sound City International
What not to do: For every music industry success story there are many failures. The truth is we can all learn from each other’s mistakes. This discussion is all about getting those stories out in the open. Moderated by Mita Carriman, Entertainment Attorney, Carriman Law Group, Women In Music
Music:Tech – a multi pronged attack! music:tech products currently offer a huge number of solutions and sometimes an even bigger list of problems! What ways do you engage with technology and what would be an ideal solution to your problem?Moderated by Seth Hillinger,
ABOUT J.PERIOD: As Music Supervisor for the Brooklyn Nets’ inaugural season, DJ/Producer J.PERIOD is redefining the role of the remix as the musical meeting point for fans from every corner of the borough’s diverse landscape. Praised as a “music guru” in the latest edition of Rolling Stone Magazine and called one of the “world’s Top DJ’s” by The New York Times, J.PERIOD’s vast musical repertoire bridges cultures, generations and styles, making his signature sound the perfect compliment to the Nets’ new Barclays Center home. A veteran in moving large crowds, J.PERIOD has served as official Tour DJ for artists including Lauryn Hill, Black Thought, Q-Tip and international icon K’NAAN, performing at venues from NYC’s Central Park Summerstage to Johannesburg’s Coca-Cola Dome. In his new role with the Nets, J.PERIOD is both curator and producer, creating an exclusive library of remixes for the team-an NBA first. J.PERIOD’s resume of remix and production credits includes work with Grammy-winners including Kanye West, Joss Stone, John Legend, and Mary J. Blige, and his “audio documentary” mixtapes have won numerous accolades and awards.
There’s no letup in the thickening competition of music publishing.
The latest development comes from Imagem Music, the pop music division of the Imagem Music Group and the world’s largest indie music publisher, which has just expanded with new Los Angeles offices at 9165 West Sunset Blvd. in West Hollywood.
The West Coast location is strategically located to be close to the heart of the film and TV community, and will be staffed with some serious experience. The Imagem catalog includes works by Elvis Presley and Sammy Cahn, in addition to songwriting talent that includes Ludacris, Phil Collins, Genesis, Anna Nalick, Steve Robson, Jens Gad, Temper Trap, Hesta Prynn, and Bombay Bicycle Club.
Here are additional details on the California crew, as provided by Imagem:
Joining the Imagem Music LA team is Shari Reich, Director of A&R. Shari comes to Imagem from Warner Bros. Records in Burbank where she was Director of A&R. At Warner Bros. Records, Reich contributed to albums from artists such as The Veronicas, Jason Derulo, Cher, and Josh Groban and worked closely with the licensing and sync department for song placement pertaining to Warner Bros. catalog in film, television, advertisement and web content. In her new role at Imagem, Reich will be working on acquisitions and song plugging.
Robert Thomas has been named Manager, Creative Services for Imagem’s West Coast office. Previously, Thomas was a Licensing Accounting Manager at Rumblefish. His other work experience includes a Coordinator role in the Film & TV department of BMG/Universal Music Publishing in LA and a Consultant at Creative Control Music Supervision in LA. At Imagem, Thomas will be working in the synch department with a sharp focus on Film & TV.
Steve King, who is based in LA for Imagem Music, has been promoted to Director, Creative Services. He was formerly Manager, Creative Services. Before starting with Imagem, King owned an artists and brand development company. Among many projects, he worked on music for global Coca-Cola campaigns such as the 2008 Beijing Olympics, “Open Happiness” song and 2010 South African World Cup. In King’s almost 4 years with Imagem, he has been instrumental in procuring opportunities in film, television and gaming. He will now oversee the U.S. Creative Services team, across all media types for synch.
Imagem has promoted Brian Suh, based in LA, to Director, Business & Legal Affairs. He was formerly Associate Director, Business & Legal Affairs. Suh will continue to handle Business Affairs matters for Imagem Music.
In addition, Lauren Shulkey-Barker will be joining Imagem’s West Coast office and supporting the team as Creative Assistant.
When you’re with a media company capable of pumping out 60 minutes of new video per day, there’s a need for your music supervision services.
That’s the happy situation that Ricki Askin, Music Supervisor for Brooklyn-based VICE Media finds herself in. A constantly expanding multi-media youth culture brand, VICE has long had a talent for making content that’s magically delicious.
Whether you’re watching it, reading it, wearing it, or otherwise experiencing it, VICE has developed a very enticing knack, and their reach is worldwide – these were the crafty content creators behind Dennis Rodman’s surreal trip to North Korea last week.
Formerly a music supervisor with MTV, Askin’s current post keeps her knee-deep in music discovery and licensing, which is just the way she likes it. Her responsibilities at VICE include clearing all the music in the company’s multiple online franchises including “The Creator’s Project,” “VICE Guide to Travel” and “VICE News.”
Also under Askin’s auspices are music synch scenarios that go beyond visual media. She pitches and places talent for various performance, programming and event opportunities including coverage on VICE’s live music discovery site, Noisey.com, plus brand partnership opportunities in conjunction to VICE’s VIRTUE, which is a full service agency that pairs brands with VICE’s production expertise and style, among other endeavors.
Now her latest project is about to get plenty of ears and eyes on it: VICE Film’s Reincarnated, centered around hip hop hero Snoop Dogg himself. With the theatrical run of Reincarnated about to kick in (on March 15th), it felt like a fine time to check the head of this busy music supervisor – our Q&A commences.
What attracted you to being a music supervisor for VICE – what makes this a unique gig in the world of music supervision?
VICE has a strong, raw voice in the world of pop culture and news, and I love that while it’s rapidly expanding and creating some major programming, it still has a startup feel.
I really have the best of both worlds here: It is a staff, stable position but the projects I work on are so diverse and constantly changing in subject matter and nature.
In addition to doing music supervision for visual media, you also pair music to brands for VICE Virtue. How is that the same as traditional music supervision, and how is it different?
Once you start to get involved with a brand, you have to step into the mind of the brand’s messaging and position the music placements to align with what the brand is trying to represent.
Any kind of music supervision requires this, but often this area has more limitations on how far you can push the creative boundaries.
Let’s talk about Reincarnated, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival last September and is slated for a limited theatrical run starting March 15. What’s the scope of this film musically?
Reincarnated is a music documentary, so it is very heavy in both old school Snoop Dogg hits and his upcoming album [also entitled Reincarnated and slated for released in April 2013] as the film follows his journey to Jamaica where he explored the roots of reggae and collaborated with Major Lazer to produce his latest album.
It has been a music lover’s dream to be involved in this project, which documents a new avenue for Snoop and is an up-close-and-personal look at the methods behind his madness.
When you’re working on a film like this, what do you get the opportunity to learn from a music knowledge perspective, and/or from a licensing perspective?
This was my first major film and it was such a great learning experience to see the expanded variables that effect licensing fees on a larger scale. The film is a great marketing tool for Snoop’s upcoming album, also called Reincarnated, and a great look at the creative process behind his music making.
We’re stoked to see it ourselves! Pulling back to the 10,000 ft. view, what are the biggest ways in which your job as a music supervisor is changing?
The ways in which music is shared and discovered is constantly evolving. There is unlimited space for musicians to get their music out there and for quality to rise to the top – be it YouTube views or sites like SoundCloud or Bandcamp.
When I started, everyone sent out physical CDs, now I don’t receive any and listen to everything online or via Spotify. While it makes sifting through the weaker artists more time-consuming, it gives more opportunities for non-label artists to be heard.
So what are some of the primary ways that you discover music today?
I am on a lot of label distribution lists and often get to hear new music that way. I also have an array of music lovers in my life that keep me up to speed on breaking artists, as well as my own blog perusing.
Here’s our last probing question: What are some songs or artist that you’re just dying to place in a VICE project and get some exposure for?
Being a music fanatic, I fall in love with far more music than I’m ever able to place. I often make mental notes of music I come across that would be great in film/TV/online and try and go back to it when opportunities present themselves.
– David Weiss is the Founder/Editor of SonicScoop, and co-author of the book Music Supervision: Selecting Music for Movies, TV, Games & New Media.
Feeling Super Bowl ad withdrawal? Any time of year is good for a recharge of the uncontested Ultimate TV Event of the Western World.
Here’s a fresh addition to the multitude of Super Bowl ad lists: Stephen Arnold Music, based in Dallas, has created one that looks at the best by sonic branding. See the article on Shoot Online – they also have an expanded list on their blog.
The original music competition has just intensified on both coasts, courtesy of new moves by Comma Music.
An original music house and library founded in 2001 by the prolific composers Larry Pecorella and Bryan Rheude, Comma Music simultaneously announced it has opened a new studio in New York City’s TriBeCa neighborhood with additional staffing, and also added personnel to its Los Angeles studio.
Comma’s new NYC home is a penthouse studio located at 299 Broadway, complete with a terrace and sweeping views of lower Manhattan.
The facility will be overseen by Executive Producer Michael Paoletta, who is taking on a new position as A&R/Music Supervisor. Prior to producing for Comma, Paoletta was the Brand Marketing Editor and Dance/Electronic Music Editor of Billboard magazine. In his position, Paoletta will play a vital role in connecting artists and their music with the advertising, branding, and entertainment communities. Developing opportunities in film, TV, and other creative outlets, as well as underscoring Comma’s status as a one-stop-shop for music-related solutions, will also be a significant focus for Paoletta.
Day-to-day producing in NYC will be handled by Lauren Pecorella, who comes to Comma from One, the production arm of the post-production concern Optimus. Rounding out the NYC team is composer Matt Kelly, whose credits include Allstate, Kellogg’s, Nintendo, Alka-Seltzer, Payless, and more.
Comma’s California studios at 2340 South Centinela Avenue lay on the border of Los Angeles and Santa Monica. There, Becca Scampini has assumed the role of Senior Producer, and is working with Comma’s three West Coast Composers—Justin Hori, Josh Good, and Mark Scearce.
Libby Morris assumes the title of Producer for Comma’s Chicago studios, completing the company’s coast-to-coast team of producers.
In addition to being Co-Founder/Creative Director of Comma, it is worth noting that Larry Pecorella is President of the Association of Music Producers (AMP). Comma’s credits include iPhone/Apple, Canon, McDonald’s, Nike, Coke Zero, Sprint, Kellogg’s, Kawasaki, Bud Light, and others. It is also the progenitor of Particle, an independent post audio and sound design facility, and Onda, which offers integrated music and audio solutions to the Hispanic market.
It used to be the dream music biz gig was A&R for a major label. Those jobs are certainly becoming scarcer, but the coveted paid occupation of finding new music talent, and helping it to be heard, is alive and well – if you know where to locate it.
One of the best places to get an A&R-style position – whether or not it carries that exact wording – is at music houses that service the advertising, TV and film sectors. At Amber Music, the sound concern led by the colorful industry veteran Michelle Curran, the title of “A&R Rep and Music Licensor” is held by one Christian Morrissey.
Amber recently moved its studios from TriBeCa to the newly dapper DUMBO district, all the better to service an original music, sound design, and music supervision client list that includes Budweiser, Motorola, Kraft, Porsche, Ford, and Tropicana. With his fresh perspective of the Manhattan skyline, Morrissey gave us an inside view of his talent-hunting occupation – find out how artists get on his radar, and why the live show really does matter on the way to a successful synch license.
What’s the 2013 elevator pitch on Amber Music?
Amber Music is a music production company, offering custom commercial and long form composition, sound design, and full music supervision services including licensing from third party publishing houses and record labels, as well as from our own back catalogue. We work with award-winning composers and sound designers who have helped us to produce award-winning work.
What were you doing before you joined Amber that was good preparation for becoming their A&R person?
Most recently I worked as an assistant to the VP of Licensing at Beggars Music which first introduced me to the licensing world.
But prior to that I held a wide variety of positions and internships within the music industry – from the music PR firm Press Here to the editorial department of Rolling Stone – constantly surrounding myself in the business. Also, for what it’s worth, I was music director at my college radio station which kept me continuously up-to-date with new music.
All these experiences have helped build an ever-growing network of like-minded friends and colleagues who live and breathe music, and this industry – well, every industry really – revolves around whom you know and your reputation. People would rather work with their friends over strangers, so why not try to keep making friends?
Also, all that exposure helped me widen my palette. For the longest time I was adamantly against electronic music, mostly because I was just so familiar and comfortable with indie rock. Then in 2006 my friend, whose taste I trust wholeheartedly, suggested I check out The Knife. Silent Shout remains one of my all-time favorite albums ever — she was referring to Deep Cuts at the time though, also a great record.
But that suggestion more importantly changed my perception of discovery. There was so much to explore. It’s the same way I feel about eating in foreign countries – you have to try it to know if you like it. Similarly, you have to listen to everything; you never know what new sound you’ll fall in love with.
Words of wisdom! So tell us more detail about you do for Amber Music.
I am mostly in charge of keeping my ear to the ground, so to speak, to find new and emerging talent to potentially work with.
I’m constantly scouring the Internet for the latest sounds, whether that be from a brand new band in Sweden to a new direction from an established Brooklyn band. This keeps me constantly in touch with artists, record labels, promoters, publishers, managers, and other A&R reps. Furthermore, coming from a background in music licensing, I help in all aspects of that process – from performing music searches to tracking down rights and clearing songs.
Easier said than done, though: There are a billion bands on the Web – how does an artist leap out of the Internet and get your attention?
Personally, I get interested in artists that are at the forefront of the sonic interpretation, people who are exploring new sounds or revisiting and perfecting old ones. So obviously, what’s most important is a musician’s sound. From there, it’s a matter of getting noticed.
Just as there are a billion bands on the Web, there are a million ways of finding new music – countless blogs, Spotify recommendations, email lists, suggestions from friends – it can be exhausting just staying up to date. But it’s kinda you’re job to do that. If you want to stay current, you need to know everything that’s going on –the slant of certain critics, formations of new groups, the popularity of specific genres and the birth of new ones — which gets laughable at a certain point… “witch house?” Really? I guess so!
After a while, there are certain blogs you trust due to their curation or breadth of music news. Becoming affiliated with one of those blogs is the best chance an artist has of getting noticed. And there are so many niche blogs – every emerging artist/band should know which specifics ones to align themselves to or pitch to. There’s one for every genre and subgenre.
Those are great insights about the virtual aspect of A&R. But I know you also make it a point to see artists live when you can – why is that an important part of your job?
First and foremost, concerts are fun. Losing yourself in such a collective experience is a joy I will never, ever tire of.
But of course, there are many technical reasons a live show is important from an A&R perspective – you have the ability to see a band at their most vulnerable and see how they stack up to their recorded material. Nine times out of ten you’ll be able to tell if the musicians are truly talented by judging their live show.
So what would you say is your personal A&R philosophy – in other words, what artists get your attention to bring to Amber?
Good ones. Honestly, it really stems from being a true creative professional who understands his or her own sound. You can always tell who cares about the music versus those just trying to sell. And ironically, that latter set never produce sellable material.
We’re really proud of our latest Smirnoff ad which features the fabulous voice of Angela McCluskey, written by Mark Tewarson and Rob DiPietro. They really emphasized a cohesive dynamism between the two different yet corrolated styles the company was going for. Also, all three are talents on the rise to watch out for. So grateful to be able to work with them!
Do you recruit artists to work with Amber in general, or are you on the lookout for them for a specific project?
I don’t really see fostering relationships with artists as recruitment. I try to treat all business from the standpoint of a fan rather than someone in the industry. I see and hear as much as possible, building a mental library, as well as digital library, so that when we get a request for a certain style or genre, I know who to go to.
What is the business relationship that results when you bring an artist into the Amber fold? Is there a standard arrangement, or is it different every time?
There are a lot of facets to that part of the business relationship – how long we’ve worked with an artist or composer, the quality of the work, how much the budget is for a specific job, how popular an artist or composer is, etc…
It’s a weird, instinctual balancing act between those factors – ultimately, it ends up being a different arrangement each time, really, but relies on the same set of qualifications.
Along those lines, how does your background in licensing help you in your job, day-to-day?
Learning about licensing has helped me most in understanding and dealing with budgeting issues. It’s expensive to license music; everyone may want a Beatles song in their car commercial but an agency’s music budget won’t allow it. Having some knowledge about pricing brings fantasies and expectations down to earth – what can we do to produce something cheaper but with those same qualities?
Also, just generally, knowing the differences between the many licenses out there and, more importantly, which ones you’ll need to use a certain song, just makes everything run much quicker.
Once you’ve found an artist that Amber wants to work with, do you develop them to make them more “music-for-picture-friendly”? Or do you just encourage them to keep working in their own particular style?
We let artists be artists, we wouldn’t work with them if we wanted to change their sound. Sometimes we need to edit a song for time purposes or, when producing original material, we’ll get notes back from the agency on what was working and what wasn’t, but ultimately it’s in the artists hands to create.
For artists who read this, what’s the right way to get your attention. And what’s the WRONG way?
I try to stay as open-minded as possible regarding new music. Granted, having an online presence and/or some sort of notoriety definitely works in a band’s favor. If I get a blind email from a musician, I immediately Google and/or Hype Machine them, see which blogs are posting their music.
What works is having some personality, but remembering that it is a professional relationship you’re trying to build. Don’t be an asshole. Do be appreciative. Don’t flood an Inbox — seriously. Do offer to guest list – that may sound assuming and arrogant, but honestly it works if you’re trying to get someone to come to a random show.
More good tips – I hope everyone’s listening! Shifting gears, what would you say is the most challenging thing about what you do?
Finding time to balance the nights out with exercise. That and having to turn down working with an artist. There’s some shitty music out there, no question. Some people dedicate their lives to being musicians and they still sound mediocre. You have to respect that integrity and passion… it just sucks when you just don’t agree with their artistic choices or general sound.
That would make for a tough day. On the flipside, what’s the most rewarding thing about what you do?
I cherish the ability to expose a new, talented artist to the world at large. I remember a few years back when one of Grizzly Bear’s songs appeared in a car commercial. As a fan, I was rather appreciative of the advertisement for using a cool song, something I liked and related to – music I’d listen to on my own. It made me even respect the car company, being an elitist music fan at the time. Let’s face it, still am!
But furthermore, it’s a way of broadening an artist’s audience. I’m utterly astounded by some of the music that’s being created today, but so much of it is left unnoticed by the mainstream. If I can help bring good, interesting, engaging music to a broader variety of listeners, I’m happy with myself and my job.
Finally, how do you see music for picture evolving – why is it more and more important for the right song/sound to get matched to the right brand?
I was at a conference recently where the hosts screened a commercial first without sound, then with. The associations one makes with the muted track are completely freeform, no sense of cohesion whatsoever.
A good song will not only give a picture unity but will also develop an image for the brand. Are you a company whose target demographic is 18-30 year olds? Are you trying to brand yourself as young, edgy, cool? Then it would behoove you to use a modern song as opposed to say, something classical.
Even though I made a big point about music speaking for itself earlier, there’s no denying band and genre associations. Knowing what those associations are and how they align – or rather, how to make them align – is the key to building something memorable.
– David Weiss