6 Rules For Not Pissing Off Music Supervisors

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I’m writing from the beautiful Hyatt in Los Angeles while finishing up details on a music supervision project for a film. This one was a beast. Over 30 cues (and six original compositions), in various styles, plus less than three weeks to temp, turn, and place. Every supervision project is pressure-filled, from the challenge of artistically finding the perfect placement, to the negotiation of the master/syncs.

[For more music licensing tips from Performer Magazine, click here.]

Add to that listening to the slew of submissions, dealing with file transfers, and the mountains of paperwork, and it’s a wonder how any project gets done on time. But they do. And the reason is normally because of excellent relationships with producers and artists who know how to professionally play the licensing game. They make it easy to choose their tracks because the files are named perfectly, their business is order, and they only pitch excellent masters based on the request.

With all of that fresh in my mind, I thought I’d take this opportunity to give you some real-life tips on successful pitching for placements. In this case it’s for a film, but these tips work for any other pitch, too. More specifically, these are six rules you need to learn to not piss off a music supervisor.

Rule #1

If you are asked to pitch, unless otherwise stated, do not spread the pitch around to your network. This creates hundreds of intro emails, a whole backlog of tracks to wade through, and then a bunch of “sorry, you didn’t make it” emails. And it should go without saying, but be focused with the songs you are pitching in that they match the callout or brief. Don’t send your quirky ukulele track (that you’re just sure is a hit) to a pitch asking for House Trance.

Rule #2

Do not pitch if you do not have your song properly prepared. This means: registered with your PRO, publishing and co-write splits on paper, and knowing to whom payment(s) will be going. Make it easy for a supe to use your music, and help your career. Two artists were knocked out of contention on this project because there’s no way to properly credit and cue the tracks, plus there is a possible soundtrack backend.

Rule #3

Re-title your pitch songs to include the artist or writer name, genre, and then the name of the song. Trying to find and temp 100 tracks is already a workflow nightmare using submitted songs in different folders, but it’s even worse to do a track count without this info included. So, if your band name is “ShockerKahn,” and you’re pitching an instrumental based on a callout for techno, your filename should look like this: “ShockerKahn_techno_Shake-the-house-instr.wav”

Sidenote (a): If you are the one-stop, or a licensing agent, pitching multiple tracks and artists, you should add that to the filename as well, like this:  “SongPitcher_ShockerKahn_techno_Shake-the-house-instr.wav”

(Dibs on the band name SkockerKahn, BTW)

Rule #4

If you have been trusted with what the project (film, TV show, ad, etc.) is about, do not tell anyone about it. Not your media contacts, not your industry friends, no one. Understand the industry; if you’re music is being temped, the project is in post-production, but not finished yet. There are countless competitive reasons to keep a project under wraps until the right time, and you are not privy to those decisions. Chances are, even though you’re trying to help, you can only hurt the project by promoting it without permission.

Rule #5

Have instrumentals. You are not just in the “song” business. Almost every license worth significant money requires an instrumental because of the mixing process. Supes must be able to find space for VO [voice over] without losing the track, and while also maintaining emotion. Lyrics – even just one line – can make this nearly impossible. But with the instrumental, supes and editors have every option open to them.  Can you get licensed without instrumental? Sure. Will it ever be for much money? No.

Rule #6

If your music is not good enough, don’t pitch it. Sounds simple, right? But I often get pitched tracks that are mixed horribly, and sometimes not mastered at all. Too many artists seem to think that if their music is just chosen, they would be given a chance to kind of “fix it” before the deal is finished. This is not going to happen. Further, I will probably be less inclined to listen to what you send me next time, if there is one.

So, be patient, and pitch like a pro. Wait until you’re ready, and be as easy to work with as possible. Often, the way in which someone pitches me will earn the artist another chance, even if their music isn’t right for this particular project.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

-Michael St. James is the founder and creative director of St. James Media, specializing in music licensing, publishing, production and artist development.

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1 Comment

  1. David Das

    November 19, 2014 at 11:05 pm

    Good stuff, but no mention of metatagging? Most music supervisors insist on good metatagging so that the owner of a file can be easily located. Metatagging can be done very easily in iTunes or similar.

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