In one of my recent columns I wrote about recognizing opportunity
and then seizing it. This month, I'm going to make it even
easier for you. I'm going to show you the fastest, cheapest,
and easiest way to make money with your music.
I'm surprised you haven't figured it out for yourself yet.
You stare at it night after night, and it stares right back
at you. As a matter of fact, it even talks to you (and millions
of other people). That's right you slackers, wake up and smell
the half-caff, low-fat, double mocha-latte, it's your TV!
Think about it. In the early days of television there were
only three networks and only slightly more channels. With
the advent of cable and Direct Satellite transmission, the
average American home has 60-100 channels of programming and
virtually every show needs music. Even betterthere are a
lot more countries other than the U.S. that have TV's with
music hungry programs, and more channels are popping up every
Let's see... you've got your big time networks, then you've
got your not so big networks (I hate the frog with the top
hat logoreally dumb), you've got your food networks, your
travel networks, your hunting networks, your fishing networks,
your beauty networks, your health networks, your classic movie
networks, your porno movie networks, your "classic" porno
networks, your religion networks, your fire-breathin' heathen
networks, and God only knows what else. My point? They all
have programming that needs music!
So where does all that music come from? Most of it comes from
people like you. If you think all those shows have high priced
music houses do custom scoring for them, think again. The
majority of the music you hear on TV comes from what are commonly
called production music libraries (they used to be called
needle-drop libraries, but for obvious reasons, they're not
Production music libraries buy much of their music from people
who work out of home or project studios. You don't need to
have an arsenal of equipment. A studio with MIDI and at least
eight tracks should do the trick. If you can afford to go
digital, so much the betternot because anybody listening
at home will have a clue that they're listening to a digital
recording, but because it allows you to bounce tracks more
cleanly, thus needing less tracks, and keeping the cost of
your studio to a minimum.
So, what's the next step? Well, you need to know that making
music for TV isn't like making records, and it isn't like
making demos. The quality of your recording has to be what
is commonly called, "Master Quality." In short, that means,
better than a demo, but not necessarily as good as a record.
The companies that buy or use these tracks are not looking
for good compositions that need to be re-recorded. They want
something that's done, finished, complete, finito. They want
a mix done to DAT that they can then use in their library,
or master on to a CD. No re-cutting, no re-mixing.
Many libraries house their most popular cuts on CD volumes
that are often categorized by type of music. Some categories
that typically get requested by end users are: Jazz (of all
types), Rock, R&B, Country, Alternative, Horrific, Serial
Dramatic, 50's, 60's, yep, even 70's period music, Rap, Anthemic
(think Marlboro man meets Francis Scott Key), World Beat,
Ethnic, Corporatein short, just about every kind of music
is needed for something sooner or later.
Tracks for TV, radio, documentaries, and corporate videos
are usually requested in lengths of :2, :5, :10, :15, :30,
:60, and 3:00. Most libraries will ask for a specific track
in all or most of the aforementioned lengths. Some lengths
are used for TV commercials, some are for radio, some are
used for station I.D.'s, and some are used for cues in films.
Be prepared to write your tracks so they are easily editable
to the shorter lengths from the longer "parent" track, and
make sure the tracks have a button, or closed ending. That
simply means the tracks ends on a beat, not a fade, and by
the way, should somebody tell you they need a :30 track, they
really mean they need a :29.5 (reverb decay included), a :60
should be :59.5 and so on. If the tracks are too long, they
will be cut off by the next commercial or segment of the TV
show. Golden rule: never go over the allotted time. Come in
just short, ring out included.
The exception to the button ending, timed to perfection track
is when the film or TV show needs a song with lyrics, not
just an instrumental track. There are often cases where a
scene requires something that sounds like a hit song, but
has never actually been a hit. It's cheaper to license a song
from somebody who is "nobody" than it is to license a song
from a major superstar. In fact, it can be tens of thousands
of dollars cheaper. My advicetry to license the stuff that's
been sitting on the shelf for a while and has no great probability
of ever being a hit. Save your best for Clive Davis if your
ultimate goal is to get a record deal.
Speaking of record deals... I realize that for many people
a record deal is the brass ring they're after, but the truth
of the matter is that getting a deal on a major label is very,
very hard, and getting a deal on many indie labels means that
you've just signed with a label that can give you lots of
attention, but they have no marketing machine or promotion
money behind them so your record is doomed.
I'm guessing that most of you who are reading this column
would be very happy to just make a living doing nothing else
but music, and the most realistic way I know how to do that
is to get your music in to TV shows and film. You probably
won't make millions, but you can earn a very nice living.
I know of quite a few people who subscribe to my service (TAXI),
who have been successful in getting their music into music
libraries, who in turn have placed their music in T.V shows
and films. One of our subscribers makes over $100,000 a year
working from his home doing music for film and TV, and another
was recently able to quit his day job as a phone line installer
(with 20 years seniority) because he is becoming very successful
doing music for film and TV Nice work if you can get it!
One of our subscribers had three songs picked up by the show,
Sisters on NBC last year and between his publishing income
and his performing rights income (in this case, ASCAP), he
made about $1,700 per song for a grand total of $5,100. While
he didn't make a fortune, at least he made a nice chunk of
change and some credits on a national TV show.
The bottom line is that if you get off the couch and get motivated,
you can make enough money making music to quit your day job.
One word of advicethe companies that need this music won't
track you down, you'll need figure out who they are and how
to make contact with them. Hint: The networks themselves aren't
the people to call. Try to find music libraries, publishers
who regularly work in film and TV, and music supervisors working
on film and TV projects. There are directories that list some
of these companies. Work on your phone presentation before
you callbe succinct, keep the conversation very short and
very to the point.
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