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F.A.Q. – Frequently asked questions about submitting music

August 23, 2007

Date: August 23, 2007 2:24:15 AM EDT
Subject: F.A.Q. – Frequently asked questions about submitting music

I get asked a lot of questions from artists about submitting their music.  I picked a few of the popular ones and answered them here.  If you have additional questions, please email them to me and I’ll answer them next time!

Jennifer Yeko
True Talent Management
9663 Santa Monica Blvd. # 320
Beverly Hills, CA  90210
http://www.truetalentmgmt.com

Q:  Why should I care about these music requests you send out?  Why should I care about getting a song in a movie or on TV?  In a video game, or TV commercial?

A:  Well, as an indie artist, getting your music into film and TV is one of the best things you can do for your career.  Not only is it one of the few things that will actually PAY YOU, but it also exposes your music to millions of people.

Here’s one example:

As you may know, Journey’s song “Don’t Stop Believin” was recently featured in the season finale of “The Sopranos” and afterwards rocketed to become the 19th-most downloaded song in the iTunes store, according to Forbes.  The song also saw a 153 percent spike in U.S. radio play compared to the prior week (source: Pollstar Magazine).

The litany of artists that have either broken or received major career boosts from having a song in a TV show, in a major film/soundtrack, video game or ad campaign is staggering.  Let’s see, on the film side:  Elliott Smith was Academy Award nominated for his song “Miss Misery” in “Good Will Hunting,” Aimee Mann also was nominated for an Academy Award for “Magnolia”; on the TV side: Gavin DeGraw’s opening theme song for “One Tree Hill,” The Rembrants might have one of the most famous placements as the theme song “I”ll Be There For You” for “Friends”; on the video game side: Fall Out Boy and Good Charlotte have received massive exposure through video games and Fall Out Boy was signed in large part due to their following developed from their video game placement; on the advertising side: just about everyone has received tremendous exposure from Dirty Vegas’ song “Days Go By” broken by their Mitsubishi ad to artists like The Fratellis, Wolfmother, The Vines and Black Eyed Peas, to name just a few, that were featured and broken from iPod commercials.

With terrestrial (traditional) radio losing its audience and record stores closing left and right, film and tv placement has been called everthing from “the new radio” to “the best thing an artist can do for their career”.  In fact, one major advertising executive predicted we’ll soon see a song hit # 1 on the Billboard charts that was broken SOLELY THROUGH A TV COMMERCIAL PLACEMENT.

All this plus not only will placing a song pay up front money on the master/publishing, you’ll also receive performance royalties from ASCAP/BMI/SESAC (except for video games).

So money + exposure + more money + more exposure = SUCCESS!

Why should you care about these music listings?

Because the next request I send out could be the opportunity that breaks YOUR song and YOUR career.

Q:  Do you ever need instrumental tracks/cues?

A:  Sometimes.  But for any music request I send out, I ALWAYS want songs with vocals unless I specify “instrumentals ok” or “instrumentals needed”.  Most every TV show and film already has a composer on it so the music/song needs people come to me for are for songs with vocals, not instrumental cues.  Sometimes I’ll get asked for instrumental tracks (or a vocal track — but they also want the non-vocal version to make editing easier).  It all depends.  But as a general rule, ONLY send instrumental cues if I ask for them.

Q:  What does this placement pay?

A:  Sometimes I know the budget for a song for a particular music request.  Many times I don’t.  Asking me what something pays is a bit equivalent to being given a gift and asking the giver, “How much did you spend on this?”  i.e. It’s rude.

If I know the budget, believe me, I’ll tell you.

But if a particular listing doesn’t say, assume I wasn’t told.

Also, what a placement pays can all depend on the song too and how much they love it.

Many times the budget may be open depending on how much they like the cue, who the artist is signed to (no label, an indie label, etc). There are so many factors.

So when there is no number given, that’s usually a good sign in that they aren’t asking for songs for free or $200 a pop!  Because the smaller the budget, the more likely they’ll tell me “$ XXX is all I can afford.”

Q:  Why can’t you pitch music by an artist that I manage? Or that has more than one co-writer?

A:  I can.

But it’s more work for me.

In one word it’s all about easy CLEARANCE.

I need permission from all songwriters to pitch a song, especially if it involves exclusive publishing ownership if placed.

If you’re a manager, your approval might be ok initially — but I really need permission directly from the songwriters to pitch their material.

Same goes for a song with more than one writer.

So, if you have a lot of songs with more than one co-writer (or have a manager submitting music for you), you either need to hire me to pitch your music, or we need to put together a more comprehensive agreement for me to pitch your material.

And for the love of god, if you or someone in the band isn’t singing the song, be sure you get a “Work For Hire” agreement!  Oftentimes I’ll need this to pitch a song sung by an outside singer.

Q:  Why are you so picky in needing so much information for each submission?

A:  Again, it’s clearance.  Most of the work I do isn’t just finding a song that works for a spot.  The creative end of what I do is sometimes only 25%.  That “creative end” meaning, finding the right song that works for a particular request.

The rest of my job is like that of an attorney.  Clearing rights and making sure the end buyer has all the rights to air the song.

So, as a result, a lot of this responsibility goes back to you, the artist.

You need to be detail oriented and meticulous about reading my emails and following the directions because I have to be detail oriented and meticulous about the songs I submit.

It’s really not that difficult; you just have to want to do it.

This is the music BUSINESS after all, and while you get to do a lot of the “fun” things like writings songs and peforming, to be truly successful, you also need to master the BUSINESS end of things.  Which means reviewing contracts and reading things carefully and following directions.

A lot of artists do this and do it well.

Others don’t — and therefore miss out on opportunties to make money from their music.

Artists that don’t follow directions? Well, I just don’t take them that seriously.  I don’t listen to their submissions and their music doesn’t get pitched.  And they miss out.

Q:  Why is the tone of your emails, well, so harsh?

A:  I have thousands of artists on this email list.  I’d say at least 1/2 of them don’t follow directions.  Maybe 75%.

Imagine that you ask someone to go to the store to get you eggs, milk, bread and spaghetti.  They come back time and time again with just eggs, and a bunch of other stuff.  Or milk and bread, but not spaghetti and eggs.  How can you work with that?  You need all the ingredients to make this meal work.  Getting just 1/2 of them won’t do.

Now, would you trust this person to do another errand or task for you?

Would you hire them and trust them?

Probably not.

My job is not just creative.

A lot of it is clearance – making sure I have all the legal rights to pitch and license a song.

I’m not giving you a hard time for no reason.

I am picky because the people I work with are picky. They want the best possible songs at the best possible rate and they only deal with me because they know they can trust that everything I send them I can clear.

So that means I have to trust YOU and make sure YOU have cleared everything on your end.

That you are actually the one singing the song you send in.

That you are the only writer (or got permission from co-writers).

That you didn’t use any samples.

That you haven’t ripped off or covered someone else’s songs.

The people I work with work for very large companies – movie studios, TV networks, major ad agencies, corporations and video game companies. They don’t want to get sued.  And neither do I.  And neither do you.  Hence all the questions and verification.

Q:  Why do you ask for publishing on certain placements?

A:  Great question.  I’ve been asked this one a lot.  Times have changed A LOT in the music business, as you’re probably aware of if you read the trades or news.  CD sales are down 20% this year compared to last year.  While major labels downsize on a regular basis, yes, labels do still have A&R folks out there signing talent.

But how does this affect you and licensing your music for film and TV?

Well, do you want the good news or bad news first?

The bad news?

Ok, the bad news is that music budgets are shrinking. Everyone is looking for a way to cut costs and one of the first things they seem to do is cut the music budget (in TV, film, etc).

The good news?

Well, the good news is that that the demand for indie music is bigger than ever.  Perhaps the biggest demand in the history of licensing.  Why?  Because indie music is: 1) good 2) cheap and 3) easy to clear.  And these days, many of the indie labels and indie artists are churning out music that is just as good, if not better, than major label fare. So why pay for a major label artist when they can have a great indie artist, and for cheap?

The problem is that getting a song placed is no easy feat.  Everyone I know that pitches music understands this. The reality is, a lot of music supervisors these days are out of work. Between projects. Getting out of the business.  There is less work for them.  So, imagine, your job is to place songs with people who are now oftentimes, out of work.  The amount of work out there for music supervisors is shrinking and the budgets are coming down.

Yet, many supervisors I know are gainfully employed and busier than ever.  It’s a greater and greater divide but there are seismic shifts going on right now, that’s for srue.

Again, the good news is that film, tv, video games and commercials want more and more indie music.

Now, from my perspective, I need to get paid.  And since many artists have “no money,” if I’m working for free, and then responsible for getting your song in major ad campaign, video game, TV show, film, etc. and helping break you as an artist, I should be entitled to ownership of that song. That seems only fair when I’m working 100% on commission, doesn’t it?  Well, it does to me as many days, weeks, or months may go by as I pitch songs and they don’t stick and I don’t get paid.  Can you imagine going to work this week and not getting paid?  How about next week?  Next month.  Don’t cash your paychecks for a month and see how it feels. Then cash one.  Then repeat the cycle next month.  It’s not an easy life nor an easy way to make a living!

Also, know that a particular spot may go through 50, 100 or more songs before choosing one that works and gets licensed.  It’s a creative decision, so if you’ve ever had even one song placed, know that’s a major accomplishment!  It’s a bit like throwing darts and getting a bull’s eye.

And realistically, how much is your song worth?  I know, that’s a bit like placing value on one’s children as your songs are like your children.  You’ve worked long and hard to create them and you love them dearly. But using this analogy — imagine I am responsible for helping that child get his or her first job in the business world.  The kid is fresh out of college (or high school) and has no experience.  No one has paid this person to work for them before.  The kid has obvious talent, but no real world experience.  A recruiter would get paid to place that kid in his/her first big job.  And paid very well, thank you.  The kid may be making an entry level salary but he/she has his “foot in the door” and that’s what counts.

As a song plugger and music placement person, I need to get paid too, just like that recruiter.  And oftentimes the money involved in placing that song isn’t that much.  So I ask for song ownership for one song.  It just seems fair.  And really, a song is not worth anything (in the music BUSINESS world) unless someone is willing to pay money for that song. And it has demand.  99.99% of songs don’t.  Not until I come along anyhow.

Sadly, most artists out there will not get signed to a record deal.  Or publishing deal.  I’m not saying this to be mean but let’s be realistic here.  An artist’s chance of getting a record deal are actually much higher than getting a publishing deal, from what I’ve seen.  Many, many artists on my list have been signed to major record labels, while I know of just a few that have been signed to major publishing deals. And publishing companies are downsizing and merging now and laying off staff, just like their major label counterparts.  They are selling off their catalogs and songs to other investors.  It’s just the way things are now.

So, if I’m responsible for getting your song, your career, a major PUSH, when there are literally MILLIONS of artists and songs out there on myspace and in the world, shouldn’t I be paid accordingly?  You still keep writer’s share, I keep publisher’s share, and it’s only one song.  You have 10 more songs. 20 more songs.  Hopefully dozens more.  You’re an artist.  You can write more songs.  That’s what you do!  Sometimes you have to give up something to get something!  And in reality, giving up publishing on one song is still a 50/50 split.  You still own the master.  You keep writer’s share.  We are getting an equal amount of money and ownership.  You wrote the song and spent time and money recording it.  I spend time and money marketing it and finding a home for it.

Everyone in the business is doing this.  Want a song in a video game? Great, now the video game companies want to own your publishing in exchange for the exposure. Same with the ad agencies and songs in commercials.  What I’m doing is pretty much industry standard.  So I put forth my time, oftentimes free of charge for days, weeks, months and maybe even years looking for that one opportunity to break an artist or song. And if I get it, it’s a bit like winning lotto. All I want is 1/2 the winnings from that lotto ticket.  That’s fair, don’t you think?  Especially since I picked 1/2 the winning numbers.  And drove to the store to buy it!

(And if for some reason, you still think “no, it’s not fair” — well that’s fine too.  I am more than happy to work entirely as a paid hand.  Pay me $3,000 a month to pitch your music, just like what a music publicist would charge.  Hmm, now giving up publishing on one song doesn’t sound like such a bad deal, does it? 🙂

Q:  What’s your favorite color?

A:  Great question.  Depends on the day.  Sometimes it’s blue, red or purple.

LOL.

What’s yours?

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