By Michael Laskow
No matter where I go to give my free seminars, somebody always stands up and says, "It seems like a lot more TAXI members get film and TV placements than get record deals." And you know what? They're right. And there's a darn good reason for it—less risk.
When an A&R person signs a group or an artist, they're gambling over $1,000,000.00 of their company's money that they've just signed a hit. The probability of it actually becoming a hit is unbelievably small. As a matter of fact, the chances of the record just breaking even for the record label is less than 5 percent.
When the record goes "lead," the A&R person stands a pretty good chance of losing his or her high paying gig.
Most A&R people make six-figure salaries. Some of the very top A&R people make insane amounts of money—$750,000.00 or more! Scratch the insane comment; Bill Gates makes insane money. A&R people just make "obscene" amounts of money.
Not only do they stand to lose their jobs, they also stand to lose their cosmetically altered spouses, their bratty kids, the private schools their bratty kids attend, their company Beamer, their expense accounts, and eventually their over-priced home in Beverly Hills.
I bet you're overcome with grief.
In their defense (and I might need F. Lee Bailey for this), most A&R people pay their dues for years before they finally get the high paying job, the fancy house, the plastic spouse and the bratty kids. And what might make it slightly more satisfying for those of you with sadistic inclinations is that they often lose those high-paying jobs after having them for just a couple of years. Typically one or two flops will do the trick.
But, I digress, kind of. The reason it's far easier to get your song placed in a movie or TV show is that far less money is at risk. When there's less money to risk, people naturally take more chances. When they take more chances, you, and people like you, become the beneficiaries.
A music supervisor typically assembles a temp sheet or cue sheet, outlining where in the film or TV show the music goes. After that, they confer with director, and they work together to decide what types of music should go in to each slot. The supervisor will spend weeks, sometimes months looking for the right tracks, and then present them to the director.
At that point, the director will give a "thumbs up" or "thumbs down" on each track, and send the supervisor back to the mines for more music. The key point to note is the music supervisor didn't get fired for presenting tracks that didn't make the grade. They are simply expected to go find other options.
An A&R person doesn't have that luxury. If they sign something and it tanks, they're in deep doo-doo. If a track that a supervisor picks doesn't really work in the film, who cares? It's just one component of the overall product, and by itself, it won't cause the film to be a disastrous flop.
Alrighty then—we know that it's extremely difficult to get a record deal, and not nearly as difficult to get a film or TV placement. So what can you do with that information?<>
Use film and TV placements to finance your survival while you continue to try to score that ever-elusive record deal. Why not earn some extra bread for doing what you're already doing? It makes a lot of sense doesn't it?
I know I sound like I'm chanting my mantra, but I believe so strongly that many of you are missing tons of great opportunities, that I won't let it go. And if you're worried that your recordings aren't "master quality," consider this: we've had plenty of placements that have come from home studio rigs. They aren't looking for 24-track digital recordings. They're looking for tracks that are clean and well balanced. Frankly, they care far more about texture and lyric content than they do about recording quality.
So do yourself a favor; don't overlook the film and TV listings from now on. It's a hell of a lot easier to score a deal there.