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Music Marketing

Posted By Rick Goetz 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.

 

Posts Tagged ‘DMG Clearances’

All About Music Clearance

Posted By Rick Goetz on November 22nd, 2011

Deborah Mannis-Gardner is the President of DMG Clearances, Inc., a music clearance company that has been in business for over 15 years. A graduate of Emerson College, Deborah got her start in music working at Diamond Time in the early ‘90s alongside many other music sample pioneers. During her over 20-year career, she has worked with major labels including Atlantic Records, Sony Music, Capitol Records and Warner Bros. and has cleared samples for major artists such as John Legend, Lil Wayne, Lady Gaga, U2, Kid Rock and Beyonce. She has also done extensive work clearing music for film and television, working on movies like School of Rock and The Aviator and with studios like New Line Cinema, 20th Century Fox and Paramount Pictures. She is also the clearance agent for Rockstar Games – creators of the “Grand Theft Auto” series – and has worked as a consultant for EA Entertaiment, Activision and many other video game companies. Deborah also recently started a music library called Zah Muzickwerks! designed for DIY, indie and emerging artists looking to get their music placed by TV networks, film companies and video games looking for less expensive, artist-owned masters.

 

 

Deborah spoke to me recently about how the music and sample clearance industry has evolved throughout the past 20 years and how she has grown her own business. She also offered some advice for DIY artists that want to use samples or get their music placed in film, TV and video games and build successful careers.

 

Musician Coaching:

 

Thanks so much for taking some time to talk to me, Deborah. Tell me how you first got into the music business.

 

DMG:

 

I started doing music videos. I went to Emerson College and was doing college radio and music videos. I started working on the music side of things at a company called Diamond Time, which was a clearance company. I fell into doing music and sample clearances because no one was really doing that. It was pretty much just Madeleine Smith on the West Coast handling all the gangsta rap. Her husband at the time was Dirty Don, and she was doing all the N.W.A. stuff. There was Hope Carr on the East Coast, and her husband was Larry coming out of Tommy Boy. And then there were a couple people dabbling in it, but there weren’t a lot of people doing it.

 

I wanted to do it, so I started working doing sample clearances in 1990-1991 and really loving the challenge of it. There weren’t really any rules to it. As people were doing clearances, they were creating the rules. When Madeleine and Hope were doing it, they were doing it for handshakes and t-shirts. Back then, we were getting James Brown screams for $500 buyouts. We were getting his “Hey, hey!” for $500. The world of clearances was totally different.

 

It’s how many years later now? And I’m still doing it. That genre of music is still strong. And it’s crossed over. It’s not considered “black music” or any specific genre of music anymore. It’s for any age, any race. Sampling isn’t just done within one genre of music. I’ve worked with U2, who have sampled. The B52’s have sampled. Michael Jackson even sampled.

 

Musician Coaching:

 

You’ve done sample clearances for 20 years. So often, you’ll see artists run out and sample something they love and put it out there because, in the Internet Age, everything is open source. On the internet, you can just view, click and copy anything. People are under the impression that it’s easier to beg forgiveness than to ask permission. Without someone like you paying to clear samples, does a DIY artist stand a chance of even getting his/her phone call taken by these record companies to clear samples?

 

DMG:

 

No. That’s why you need to hire people like me. I’m one of the few people left around that are still doing sample clearances. I love it, and I take on anyone. And I give free advice, because there are so many people that are trying to do things themselves. I give them guidance on what to do, see what their budgets are like or if they can replay something to eliminate the master costs. If musicians and artists can create something themselves, they should create it.

 

But sampling is an art. It’s like when you’re cooking and adding seasonings to something. Good and true sampling is when you’re adding elements of something in order to enhance it; it shouldn’t be the whole bed of the song. Although, some producers do that, and it works out as a good flavor. Salaam Remi, who I love as a producer, sometimes puts a little dash of a sample in it, and it just enhances a song. It’s incredible the way some of these guys do things.
As for the internet and going crazy, sampling something and putting it on YouTube and mixtapes, back in the day, mixtapes used to be something you sold from the trunk of your car; it was a lot more forgiving. Mixtapes are now sold on the internet, and it’s not as forgiving. The battle I’m having as a clearance agent is when someone is selling all these mixtapes that have samples in them. And then they try to release something legitimately with samples in it. And the publishers and record companies go and research the artist and say, “You know what? We’re not going to clear the samples until you back clear something you sampled on your mixtape and didn’t get permission on.”

 

Musician Coaching:
Let me guess. When you go and back clear something, that costs a lot more money.

 

DMG:

 

Is there a penalty cost? Sometimes there is and sometimes there isn’t. As a good clearance agent, I try for there to not be too much of a back penalty. Sometimes you try to see how many units were sold and try to limit it to that. It depends on who the artist is, but you don’t want it to be a huge amount. What you try to determine is, what the extent of the sample is and what the value is. And then you pay for the cost based on the use and the units sold.

 

Musician Coaching:

 

I don’t want you to give too much information away for free, but are there certain things that are just unclearable that people should stay away from?

 

DMG:

 

Sure. There are certain artists that do not allow their material to be sampled at all. There are artists that even if they respect the artists that have sampled them will not let their material be sampled. Anita Baker is someone I respect so much, because she’s even had artists she is friends with come to her and say, “Come on. We’re friends … Please?” And she’ll say, “I’m sorry. I can’t do it. Because if I do it for you, it means that I’d have to do it for other people, and I don’t want to be sampled.” She doesn’t want the music to be used differently from how she initially created it. As an artist, that’s how she chooses how her material is seen or used.

 

There are other artists that have had their careers reborn because of sampling: Syl Johnson; Johnny Guitar Watson, before his passing. There are quite a few guys. And then there are great guys like Hamilton Bohannon, who has been sampled and still has his career going because of it. There are a lot of people who have done well by being sampled,  because it’s revived their career and brought back their music. Obviously compact discs, then MP3s helped. But prior to that, these guys weren’t receiving any revenue, because their stuff was lost, and no one was using it anymore. If you think about it, brought back James Brown.

 

Musician Coaching:
Sure. And it brought back Sly and the Family Stone, Parliament and Funkadelic …

 

DMG:

 

And Barry White and all those people. And then there are some purists. Led Zeppelin doesn’t want to be sampled. But Led Zeppelin is even hard to clear for use in movies. When we did School of Rock, it was very hard to get that music cleared, just for synchronization purposes.

 

Musician Coaching:

 

Somewhere along the line, you also picked up synchronization licenses for movies, TV, video games, etc.

 

DMG:

 

I work on movies. And I handle all the Rockstar games projects. I’m working on the new “Grand Theft Auto 5” right now. I also do clearances for shows that are part of BET’s programming. Then, I work with the film studios. That started because everyone was concerned about the clearances of the hip hop and rap samples being used in their films. It really isn’t difficult. I know where a lot of the bones are buried, so it makes it really easy for me. I also do music clearances for commercials.

 

Musician Coaching:

 

Obviously it sounds like you’re working with a lot of the upper-echelon, name-brand artists. In terms of the DIY and emerging artists that come through you, what are the ones that are succeeding at getting their music placed in film and TV doing right? I get so many of these artists coming to me and saying, “Can you help me get my music placed?” And I usually have to say, “No, I can’t.” There’s so much cold calling, and at any given time you’re competing against Sony, who has everything you can imagine available. It’s a tough thing.

 

DMG:

 

It is a tough thing. And it is a lot of cold calling, but it can be done. We worked on a video game called “Pop Star,” and they were looking for unknown guitar bands. We got a bunch of unsigned, unknown guitar bands. And one of the bands we chose – a local band here in Delaware – ended up being the band you had to beat in that game. And that’s how I started up a company called Zah Muzickwerks!, a company my son named. It’s a music library. And we’re actually just populating right now. The whole purpose of it was to look for small local people who write their own material. Hopefully by the beginning of 2012, we’re going to get it out to TV networks, film companies and video games that are looking for less expensive, more easily cleared, artist-owned masters to be used as fillers. Because stuff is getting so expensive these days. I set it up so it’s not just the music – it also has lyrics. Sometimes people like to put songs in based on lyrics. A lot of HBO shows do that. So, I did it with lyrics and feeling and instruments and BPMs and all those other details.

 

Musician Coaching:

 

Going back to that local Delaware band – what did they do right in terms of making themselves easy to find?

 

DMG:

 

First of all, they knew me.

 

Musician Coaching:

 

Fair enough. I sat behind the desk where dreams go to die for a very long time as an A&R guy, and I had my own policies when it came to artists approaching me. Is there a right way and a wrong way to approach you when an artist is going in cold?

 

DMG:

 

Anyone can send me an e-mail. I don’t turn anyone away. Sometimes people will send me an e-mail and just say, “What do you think of this song?” I respond by saying, “I’m not A&R, but I can tell you what I think.” For example, some guy sent me a really great song. But it sounded just like Green Day. And I said, “It’s really good, but you have to come up with your own style.” But anyone that wants us to put their music in our music library, giving them the chance that someone else will listen to it for use, we don’t charge anyone. But if their music gets picked, we get a percentage of the money they would receive.

 

Musician Coaching:

 

I know this is really hard to ballpark, because there’s so much context that figures into it. But, people call me all the time and say, “Rockstar Games or True Blood just called me, and they want to use a little bit of my music as an interstitial.” How do people know what they should be charging? Are there any “absolutely do not do” deals?

 

DMG:

 

That relates to the other company that I’m working with. I have a business partner, and we have a boutique company where we administer publishing. We charge a small administration fee and handle that for their clients. And if they own their own publishing, we can help them with that. We have some big names like Redman and Keith Ross. But it’s run by a friend of mine, Deborah Evans. And she has years of experience. The reason I partnered up with her is because there are so many little guys out there that don’t know how to handle those requests, or have a small percentage of a song by Rihanna, Pitbull or Eminem and don’t know how to collect their mechanicals outside of the U.S., or don’t know if their song is being used in a TV show, and if someone forgot to request their five percent. That’s why I wanted to get into the world of publishing administration – to help those people out.

 

It’s a pretty important issue. I’ve set it up with her so we have publishing administration worldwide, because it’s important to be able to collect all over the world. The whole basis of everything I do is that I want to help people in the music industry. My fees and everything I do are based on flat fees or a percentage, just so everyone knows what my costs are. It’s all about giving advice and truly helping people.

 

Musician Coaching:

 

As someone who provides such a wide range of services pertaining to publishing and placement, what are the top handful of things aspiring or younger musicians need to know about?

 

DMG:

 

They have to make a decision:  Do they just want to be a musician and create music, and then have someone handle the business side of things … or do they want to do it all? I’ve just recently expanded even further where I’m now handling an artist out of South Africa and bringing him over to the United States in January. And he has taken the position where he wants to understand the business side of things, but he wants me to handle the business aspects in the beginning. So, if you’re an artist, it’s important that you understand registering as song, copyright, etc. And if you don’t know how to do these things, find someone else to do it. My artist in South Africa has done a single, and I’ve been able to get it into my friend’s new iTunes app. Then, I was able to cross promote it so his song was on iTunes through CD Baby. And now we’re going to be doing a music video. And I’m doing all this set up stuff before I decide which label I’m going to shop the music to or if I even want to shop it to a label.  I have to gauge what technology is doing, and whether labels are even the way to go based on changes that are happening within the industry. You have to sit down and really follow the business and know what’s going on.

 

Or, you need to decide that you’re going to spend your energy booking gigs and getting fans. It’s hard to wear all those hats and be the artist that creates the art.

 

Musician Coaching:

 

If you were 20-years old again and a musician just starting out, but you knew what you now know thanks to your experience, which hats would you choose to wear?

 

DMG:

 

If I were a creative artist, I would find that one person that I could trust and maybe even do a contract with that person to do my business for me. And I’d give that person a percentage of the money I’m going to make.

 

To learn more about Deborah Mannis-Gardner and the work she does with artists looking for help with music clearance and music publishing, visit the DMG Clearances, Inc. website.