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Music Marketing

Posted By Musician Coaching on July 6th, 2013

A blog for musicians and music industry people. It is a free educational resource and it is also the way I advertise my music consulting services. I am an entertainment professional with deep roots in the music industry. Throughout my music career I have been a major label A&R representative, a music supervisor, an artist manager, a reality show producer, a bass player and the head of a digital record label.

 

Music Placement in Film and TV

Posted By Musician Coaching on August 9th, 2011   
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William Richter is the co-founder, along with Daniel Lessner, of Skanda Music, a music production house. Their collaboration has resulted in a catalog of over 1,200 tracks for feature films, sports, television and commercials. Will got his start in the music industry after graduating from Berklee College of Music, where he studied Music Composition and Film Scoring. From 1995-2002, he wrote scores for many TV movies and independent films. He eventually began producing music for commercials, and won several CLIO Awards for his work. His music can be heard in over 100 theatrical trailers and international commercials. He started Skanda Music in 2006.

 

 

I recently got to sit down with Will and talk about how he got started in the industry, the process of building and marketing such a large catalog of music and some advice he has for artists that want to get their music placed in film and television.

 

Musician Coaching:

 

Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to me, Will. How did you end up in the music business?

 

WR:

 

After I finished high school, I went to the Berklee College of Music. There I mostly studied composition. And when I got out of school in 1996, I would say that was the first time music was starting to really be affected by computers. I was fortunate enough to know the computer program Finale. So, my first gigs were all working in music preparation. That was a great training ground. Every day I was able to see orchestras recording on stages out here in L.A. – guys like Danny Elfman, John Williams and Basil Poledouris all doing their thing at Sony and Fox. I got a sense of how those guys dealt with producers and directors to deliver film scores. This led to some of my own work. I was scoring for TV movies and independent films. From about 1995-2002, I was doing a lot of work in those fields.

 

Then I had an abrupt turn. I started doing work more in commercials. I was offered some work from a commercial house that was based in both New York and L.A. It’s a very full-time pursuit to deliver on the schedule that those houses demand. It shifted me away from doing a lot of film work into doing commercial work. In that field I did work for a lot of big, heavy-hitter clients and won a bunch of CLIO awards. I stayed with them from about 2002-2007.

 

At that time, I had another little independent venture going that was suddenly coming to fruition. In 2004, I had started working with another composer friend, and we started putting out independent tracks that the publishers were using to try to find work in trailers and on television. We started seeing some good returns back from that investment. Those things were starting to take off.

 

Musician Coaching:

 

So, you just put together a teaser library that eventually got you better work?

 

WR:

 

Yeah. With all the commercial work, it was the sort of thing where it was great money and great business. I was happy with all that, but I wanted to do independent music too. These recordings of independent tracks that I’d do on my own or that I do with my partner Daniel now for Skanda Music started to take off. We had a number of really good placements and it was the sort of thing where I could leave commercials and start working independently to produce library tracks that were getting good work.

 

Musician Coaching:

 

That’s great. Is that where your business is today?

 

WR:


Absolutely. If you go to our website, you’ll see that in the last month alone, we’ve had placements for Showtime and HBO. We also did a big campaign for the History Channel when they launched their new high def network. One of our tracks became their promo piece to announce that. We’ve had some pieces that have gone in trailers. Every day it’s a different thing. We never know which place we’re going to land in. But we have a very steady line with about three publishers that we cater our tracks to that have been getting all this kind of work I’ve been describing.

 

Our music is big, dramatic overtures. It’s John Williams meets Hans Zimmer kind of  drama music with big orchestras.

 

Musician Coaching:


Speaking of Hans Zimmer, I’ve heard that when you see his name on a piece of music, it’s actually him and 50 other musicians, including yourself from time to  time.

 

WR:

 

Yes. To be perfectly honest, his method of doing things is certainly to have a number of guys that are working. My personal involvement has been down the chain from what he’s doing. He has his own team of guys he works with. So, what you’re saying is true. There are several bits of music I’ve done where I’ve worked with one of his guys – a guy named Michael Levine. I worked with him on a number of cues on the side. But that type of work hasn’t been the main focus of what I’ve been doing.

 

Musician Coaching:


Right. I just thought that was interesting. It’s certainly a great name to be affiliated with.

 

WR:

 

Yeah. I did work with him on Matchstick Men and Black Hawk Down. Those were the credit pieces I got that were with Remote Control Studios, which is his whole operation. Most of what I’ve been doing is something that’s been independent, and my own thing.

 

Musician Coaching:

 

I understand. It sounds like you’ve come to a place where you’re able to wake up in the morning and make music. And you have relationships in place where you have people out there pitching it and getting it placed. That’s where a lot of people dream of being. But most people wind up starting by having to pitch their own music. What are some best practices for getting music placed?

 

WR:

 

We focus mostly on trying to have our own unique sound. We found that has led to relationships with both producers and editors that we regularly have a line of communication with. As an example, about a year ago we sold that track to the History Channel. We tracked down the editor and said, “Thanks so much for placing us in what you’re doing. Here’s the latest of what we’ve been doing.” And we sent them our newsletter. And those guys have gone out and are finding further work for our tracks in a number of other History Channel shows. We try to listen to what they are in need of and provide a little bit of what people are asking for while still sticking to the dramatic tone of our tracks.

 

Musician Coaching:


There are so many Berklee grads I know who wind up doing five-second licks and selling a guitar to someone at Sam Ash. What about you, your music and your pitches has made you succeed where a lot of other people did not?

 

WR:

 

I think a lot of my own music reflects honestly what I see out there as an artist and my philosophy about life. My tracks are not always universal. They have a very specific moment where they will be needed. But when it’s that moment, it’s something special. I think there’s a no-holds-barred approach with our music. We really go for something that is both intellectually and emotionally satisfying. It’s quite a lot to swallow at any given moment. But when it’s time to really push the envelope, we’re right there.

 

Musician Coaching:

 

What about on the business side? Clearly you’ve done something right when it comes to marketing yourself and building relationships.

 

WR:

 

“Always under promise and over deliver.” It’s basically that. It’s the sort of thing where I know in order to deliver something that really sounds great, it’s never good to have the deadline in your head. I remain ambiguous about when I’m going to deliver it. And when something is actually done and artistically at the point where I think it’s at its best, then it’s time to go and offer it to a client, put it on the market and try to go with it. I think a lot of times publishers will say, “We’re looking to release our next ‘action’ music CD in the fall.” And I’ll think, “Yeah. Sure. But that doesn’t mean I’ll have my best ‘action’ work done by then. We take the very best music and try to do it on our own time and our own schedule. Then, when it’s ready, they get it.

 

Musician Coaching:

 

You’re clearly in a place where a lot of these relationships are thriving. A lot of the people who approach me are people who are just trying to get started in the music industry. Obviously the music has to be great. But from a business perspective, if you’re thinking back on the experience of making your first set of contacts, what advice do you have for people in terms of just finding someone that will be receptive to their work?

 

WR:

 

When I first began, I remember it was the industry practice that most of the publishers or licensing houses were offering was a 50/50 split of publishing rights. That’s a very good rate to start with. These people are going to put some time forward and try to get your music marketed. It’s a great place to get your first few shots. I personally waited a little too long to renegotiate; somewhere in the range of four or five years in I was still taking that cut with some of these publishers. And I didn’t even realize it was the sort of thing you can renegotiate. After a while, you can go in and say, “You’ve made more money with us. Now our share should be greater.” I think my advice would be just to be aware where a good starting place is and then where to go from there. And that was my own mistake. I spent a couple years in that transition window and then suddenly realized I needed to make a change when the BMI statements were coming in. I didn’t really think that much of it until someone told me I could ask for a bit more.

 

Musician Coaching:

 

You’ve mentioned working with multiple publishers. Do you have a publishing deal in place?

 

WR:


Yes. My partner and I work with three different publishing houses. I use different publishers for different types of tracks, because each one is good at marketing and selling a different kind of music. We take whatever tracks we have and try to get them with the best publisher who seems to have the right place to put them.

 

Musician Coaching: 

 

I know you’re doing music that’s very orchestral – music that’s well arranged and uses multiple instruments. It’s very different from music made by four dudes in flannel shirts. Most people have one publishing deal and then are stuck relying on that film and TV placement house. Do you still own all of your own publishing and then just strike administration deals? How does that work?

 

WR:

 

Sometimes we take deals with these different companies and are actually being hired on commission. They say, “We want X percentage.” We show some early sketches of what we’re working on, they show an interest, and then we strike up a deal from there. Other times it’s a track that has been completed, we sign a deal with someone for a year or two, and after that time, those guys haven’t done anything with it. So, we pick it up, move it over, play it for someone else and try to move it around a little bit.

 

Musician Coaching:


The reason I’m pausing on it so much is because I come mostly from a straight rock ‘n’ roll background. And in that world, you did a deal with one publisher, and that was it. But it seems like that’s never how it has worked for you, which is great.

 

WR:

 

I work with one other guy closely. Skanda is half myself and half another guy named Dan Lessner. Both of us had our own relationships with our own publishers when we started working together. And he’s ASCAP, I’m BMI. That’s great, because we can use the both sides to work to our advantage. That’s been the attitude we’ve independently maintained:  Nobody owns us. We’re going to do our track, we’re going to see who is selling what where, and put what we have in the right place at the right time. The catalog we have is somewhere around 1,200 tracks. We like to promote our biggest, grandest things and put them forward on our site. But we also have hundreds of background cues that work in reality television and similar places.

 

Musician Coaching:

 

And quite literally, you built this network of contacts one by one and by over promising and under delivering, as you stated.

 

WR:

 

That’s what we’ve tried to do. Absolutely. The other part of this is what I was describing before:  Any time we find we’ve gotten a placement, we do a little bit of Googling and some IMDB’ing and send a follow-up to the editor saying, “Thanks for placing us. Here’s our catalog and here’s what we do.” We function independently and try to nurture those relationships in that way.

 

Musician Coaching:

 

Similarly, I’m sure if you felt like you had something for a given show or movie, but you didn’t have a relationship with anyone attached to it, you could go in on a cold call as well.

 

WR:

 

Yes. For example, we make a habit of calling the sports teams each season. We have had music that has been used both as sports shows’ themes and as the bumper for teams in the NBA and for Major League Baseball – for the Tampa Bay Rays, Phoenix Suns, St. Louis Cardinals. Every year, we call all the teams and send them our press update kit. Every season there’s at least one bite that makes the few days we spend on the campaign every year trying to reach all these people and sell them our music worth it.

 

Musician Coaching:


What would you tell someone who was just starting out in music to be careful of?

 

WR:

 

These days, it’s such a competitive industry. It’s so hard. There are so many things to think about. I would say the biggest would be to try to be wary of catering to the industry too much. Be true to your own artistry and really capture that within your music and have the confidence to sell it in that way. Dan and I get together and are good at inspiring each other in that way. And we try to capture that spirit of encouraging each other in the music. You should do whatever it takes to make you strong in that way and able to take on the whole industry.

 

To learn more about William Richter and his work, you can visit the Skanda Music website.

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4 Responses to “Music Placement in Film and TV”

Jeff Shattuck

Another great interview, thank you for sharing this. Any pointers on where to pitch songs that are songs (pop songs, country, rock, etc) not orchestral/score pieces? There’s Taxi, of course, and Sonicbids, but is there one you recommend that might not be so well known?

Musician Coaching

Jeff,

I will be posting another interview later this week or early next with a very cool musician who runs a site called musiclibraryreport.com – it’s a great resource on companies that collect music for pitching.

Thanks for writing,

-R-

Jeff Shattuck

Looking forward to it!

Clarabell

Thank you so much for writing all this out. It’s always appreciated. “Under promise and over deliver.” Great advice!

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