Where did you grow up?
Really? You seem like the quintessential New York girl,
so I thought you were going to say Lower East Side or something.
I was born in Manhattan, but I grew up in Dayton. You said
How long did you live in Ohio?
I moved there when I was five months old. I also lived in
Florida a lot, and Tennessee and Texas.
Did you grow up in a musical family?
I was trained classically. I was a protege of Notre Dame Country
Day School, which is a parochial school in Dayton. Everything
we learned was music related. I never had arithmetic. I loved
it. Piano was my main instrument, but I started to drift away
from classical and started leaning toward pop. At eight, I
was taking Hawaiian guitar lessons. I went to the guitar after
piano, and that's sort of where I ended up. But I still have
to go to the piano to write a chart.
What made you decide to get into the music business versus
just being a musician?
I didn't know anything else. That's all I had done all my
When did you make the transition into the business end?
was always involved with publishing and copyrights. As a singer/songwriter,
you just know that's what you have to do. I got a job working
for Scruggs Publishing in Nashville, doing all the royalties
and stuff for Louise Scruggs. I also got a record deal from
Bob Johnston on Columbia. Clive Davis had signed the deal.
I was with Herb Pederson who did Dolly and Emmylou and all
those girls he had been producing and working with them
for years. He happened to be in Tennessee at the time that
I was. We played together and worked together. It was just
a musical age.
working for Flatt & Scruggs, I licensed the song "Foggy Mountain
Breakdown" for Warren Beatty's movie Bonnie and Clyde. I charged
a pretty reasonable rate I thought, even though maybe it was
a high rate at the time. I didn't know. Not even realizing
what I was doing, I made them send a telegram that they were
going to pay the fee before the movie could be released. I
made a huge issue out of it, and the movie was already ready
to be released. Everything went great though. Everybody was
happy. But Gil McKean from CBS flew down to find out who the
mouth was on the phone, and he brought me to New York. So
I moved to New York from Tennessee in 1969.
wife of Gus Gabriel of Dunhill Publishing Company was Ethel
Gabriel, the only woman record producer in the industry. She
was at RCA at the time. The president of RCA used to have
his picture taken with all the Grammys and gold and platinum
records that Ethel had produced. We're talking Montavani,
the Livingstons, everybody. That was it for me, because my
musical background was orchestrationtotally symphonic as
a child. I always loved parts. I wanted vocal backgrounds.
I wanted this partI wanted that part. There were never enough
tracks to record with. So I realized I would be best as a
producer. I loved music, and I know music. I decided I needed
to learn what makes music sound greatwhich was engineeringand
that's where I went.
ended up working with Jack Malcon at Secret Sound who put
out Bette Midler, Eddie Murphy, Spyrogyra, and a ton of other
hits. He was building a new room, so there I was there hammering
and nailing. He eventually let me learn the board and how
to produce records.
How did you go from being an engineer and a producer, back
to publishing, and eventually into the music library business?
The business side was never a big deal until Doris [Kaufman]
came. We had been in a band together. I saw her at Folk City
one night. It had to be in the early Seventies. I thought
she had such a beautiful voice. I said, "Gee, do you want
to work together?" She said yes, and we've been together ever
Is that where DSM comes from? Doris, Suzan and somebody?
No, a guy at KTU radiowhen it was the first dance music
station of the Seventiesgave us the name "Decidedly Superior
Music," which happened to be DSM. We just kept that name.
It sounded corporate.
For our readers who don't know what a music library is,
can you explain what it is and give some background?
A music library is just that, it's a library of music that
film and television producers use as a resource when their
budgets won't allow them to do original music.
got into the business because I read an article in the New
York Times that said $371 million in performance royalties
went out of the country via ASCAP and BMI to all the foreign
countries. That was a huge figure for American composers to
have to swallow. At that time... and for the previous sixty
years, England, Italy, and Spain had all this music that was
being used in network television and feature films, but not
the United States. Unions had a lot to do with it because
so many television shows couldn't afford to pay union rates.
So they used foreign music which is non-union. There are also
no re-use fees. Only the composer and publisher get paid by
the performance affiliates. That's itthe musicians, the
artists, nothing. It's strictly a publishing deal.
in 1979, I actively began collecting tracks from everybody
I knew. They were all record producers. I'd say, "Give me
what you've got. Give me what you have sitting on your shelf.
I know I can sell it." So I was collecting stuff that sounded
like records because it was from record producers. I did that
for ten years. Doris has a long history in the library business
because she's worked at several other libraries. The library
she was working for at one point licensed music from me because
they didn't have what I had, which was Americana. Doris joined
DSM in 1989. She resigned from the job she had.
So you had really started a music library without calling
it a music library. You were just in the business of collecting
tracks and licensing them.
Exactly. Licensing them to be used in feature film and network
So how does a library work? Who uses a library? Is it the
music supervisor? Is it the director? Is it the producer?
It's all of the above, including editors, including the gopher
that found your music and delivers it. Anybody could pick
up your music. Seriously, our music has been used by people
that walked on a set and handed somebody a CD. A library consists
of, I would say, a compilation of a certain style of music
so that it is easy for the listener or the user to pick out
what they need. Let's say it's horror. The whole CD is horror.
There is no jazz, there's no comedy. It's just strictly horror.
But that's what they are looking for at the moment. That's
exactly what they want. So a library is very much like a regular
library. You go to the section you want to read about, and
you pull from that. That's what they do with music.
So let's say a producer from CBS Television is working
on a Saturday afternoon sports show and they need background
music for skiing. The producer would call the library and
say, "I'm looking for this type of music?"
Right. Exactly. They do. Now in some cases, for example, Wimbledon,
the producer needed nine minutes of the piece because he was
going to start it and stop it at the end of the segment. Which
means we get on the phone and call the composer and say, "Okay
you know that piece you did? I want nine minutes of it." And
he comes up with it overnight.
What's the ratio of music that's already on a CD that you
have in the can that gets used, versus custom jobs?
I'd say ninety percent is already finished. All of our music
is sold off of our CDs. We had two series of them of the same
categories. Every single piece has sold. I couldn't believe
it. I'm happy. And a lot of them are writers we found through
Are some of the tracks more popular and used more frequently
Yes. That's the thing. When producers find a piece that they
love, they'll use it over and over in different shows. You
pray that they are going to use a guy's second and third and
fourth piece, but they often stick to that one piece forever.
It's like a hit.
So somebody from CBS Sports may use that piece for a skiing
show, and then a month later use the same piece for a tennis
show, and six weeks later use it again in a car racing show?
And for whatever else, yes. Because it works for them. That's
really important. The music has to work. It has to flow with
the their shots.
So part of your job I would guess is being able to hear
a piece of music and know it would work with a variety of
Absolutely! I never publish anything I don't think we can
How does the writer make money? How does the person who
created that music make his or her money?
Well, we split it. As a publisher, you usually split 50-50.
A sync license fee is 50-50, and they also collect 100-percent
of their writer share of performances directly from their
performance affiliate (ASCAP, BMI, SESAC). We're splitting
our publishing with another company, so the writers actually
get more than we do.
Give me a profile of your typical person who supplies you
with music. Is a TAXI member who has three ADATs, a Mackie
console and pretty good recording skills pro enough to work
in the library field?
I bet the fact that ADATs and Mackie consoles exist has
probably really been a big plus for you.
A big change. A big plus. You can tell when something is done
on a four track. The writer may have talent, and we even sometimes
call them and say, "you know you're really good, you just
need better equipment and a real studio." It's worth it to
invest in yourself and your music. Take that track you just
did and go in a better studio and see what sounds you come
Do you think it's feasible for somebody to get library
work if they've got eight tracks of digital at home, a decent
console, a few good pieces of outboard, and they know their
way around a MIDI system well?
Eight tracks is rough because you're going to be bouncing
quite a bit. Things are going to be compressed. They just
sound that way. But it depends upon the style of music you're
writing. You might be able to do fine on it. I've released
8-track recordings of rock bandsbasement bandsthat were
Is there anything special to know about music for feature
That's when you really need the very best audio quality you
can possibly get. One thing that is important to do is to
take your cassette or DAT or CD and play it on four or five
different speakers before you turn something in. I have HD1
near field monitors. Lucas Films has HD1's, Warner Bros. has
them. Big rooms have them. If you're listening on say a Yamaha
speaker or something, you're not hearing what is going to
come over those HD1's, but those guys are. Don't be afraid
to remix if you're not sure the first or second or third time.
Is the mixing style different for film than it would be
for a record? Do you have to emphasize different things?
No, it should be just commercial quality.
How many tracks would you say you have in your library
now that you've built up over the last ten years?
That's a good question. Lots.
Do you think you've hit 50,000 tracks yet?
A lot more.
Do some of these tracks make money for the writer year
Yes. There are tracks from 1989 that are still making money
on performances. But that's the idea of it. All the people
in Europe used to get the work, but no American composers
ever had a chance to get it. There was only one library and
that was foreign. There were no American libraries as such.
Even then, there was only a small group of maybe five or six
composers. I have thousands of composers here that my clients
can choose from.
Is it possible for a writer who is talented to make himself
a six-figure income working on library cuts?
Sure, if they write a lot of tracks and keep writing consistently
for a number of years. Eventually the performance royalties
will add up.
Can you give some examples of popular genres that frequently
get requested by your customers?
Are you talking about songs or instrumentals?
I guess drama, dance music, comedy, sports and holiday stuff.
Those are your mainstays because they're always being used.
Are most of the tracks requested instrumental, or do you
find yourself getting more and more requests for stuff with
I've always had songs.
What lengths are typically requested on these tracks?
Well, we request at least two and a half to three minutes
in length. Now, we have never sold to radio, local television,
or corporate production houses that do all of those radio
spots. We have never outwardly sold to any of those markets.
We're strictly film and television. That doesn't mean we're
not going to. We've got tons of :60s and :30s. But we haven't
gone to those markets yet.
I don't know. I just kind of stuck to film and television.
There were only two of us doing this. Now there are three
of us doing it, and I'm planning to expand and have a couple
How can somebody learn to write and record music that is
suitable for library work? There is not really a school for
that type of specific knowledge, is there?
No, but you do need some sort of musical training because
your compositional skills have to be as good as the best seller
out there. Your chops have to be that good.
But doesn't it go beyond just being a good musician? Don't
you have to understand something about film and TV?
I find that every composer writes the way they write. There
is something unto them that you recognize in their style of
music, and what they would be best suited for. Then you go
that way with them and approach an area, like soap operas,
or sitcoms, or dramatic stuff.
Do they need to know the technical terms, like about doing
a buttoned ending versus a fade?
How does somebody learn that terminology? Where do they
learn that you shouldn't put a saxophone in a middle octave
playing the melody because it would step on a voice-over guy
or dialogue? Where do you learn these rules?
Well, you have to go to a commercial production studio. Ask
for an internship. We have a lot of interns that come through
us too. It really helps. There is no school that is going
to tell you that kind of inside stuff.
What about somebody who wants to learn how to write for
film? Where do you learn that?
At a music school. You learn different styles of writing.
Classical, jazz, pop. By just being there you can experience
different styles. Study more than one instrument. Understand
what keys wind instruments play in, so that when you're writing
a piece, the saxophone isn't playing a keyboard or a guitar
part. Understand what you're dealing with here, instrument-wise.
Know your instrumentsall of them.
If there was one piece of advice that everybody who'd like
to enter this field as a musician should know, what might
I hope they've listened to good musicmusic that's sold millions.
They should also read the charts, because they reflect styles
that are proven. Whether you like the style or the sound or
not, these are gold and platinum proven sounds. Our whole
library is based on Billboard categories. They are there for
a real reason. Somebody put a dollar down for them.
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