Answered by Michael Laskow, TAXI CEO
I've only been a member of TAXI for a few months and because of too many time constraints to mention, I've only been able to submit twice. Both submissions were not forwarded. I have probably not given you guys much a chance, but the second critique said that my CD was not broadcast quality. Now what the heck does that mean? I don't want to be the one who is singing the song anyway! I want to be the songwriter not the performer (although I could have been a few years ago ... not my ambition now). How do I let it be known that when I send my CDs in, it's the song and the words and the style, etc., that I am plugging, not my voice or the quality of the recording (which I was under the impression didn't have to be perfect).

— Thanks for any advice, Kelly M. Ramsey

Dear Kelly,

My guess is that you submitted that song for a film and TV listing which asked for "Broadcast Quality."

The definition of broadcast quality is pretty straight-forward—they are looking for something that sounds cleanly recorded, with a well balanced mix. People often incorrectly think that broadcast quality means that you need to go to a high-priced, professional studio and drop big bucks on the recording. Absolutely not true!

I've heard thousands of tracks come in here over the years that have been perfectly fine for broadcast, and they were done in home studios—some with as few as four tracks!

Imagine that you were doing an instrumental track that was loosely in the style of Maroon 5, or a similar Modern Rock band. What do you really need on your tracks? Bass, drums, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, piano or B3 track, and a lead guitar, right?

Well, if the bass eats up one track, stereo drums use two, the acoustic and electric guitars use two more, the keyboard one, and the lead guitar one. That's just seven tracks! If you need a vocal, that's still only eight tracks.

And if you watch your recording levels, avoid distortion, and have reasonably good taste in how you blend your tracks, the end result will be broadcast quality.

I've heard thousands of tracks come in here over the years that have been perfectly fine for broadcast, and they were done in home studios—some with as few as four tracks!

Let's make it even simpler. Imagine a scene with a man and woman breaking up, and walking away from each other. What kind of music would you expect to hear? I'm guessing it would be something simple and melancholy. How about a piano doing light, little minor tinkles, with a solo cello underneath it?

You could literally do that with just two tracks, and if it's not distorted, it would be broadcast quality. Easier than you thought, huh?

Now, regarding your vocals—that's a bit of a problem because the folks in film and TV land aren't really into auditioning songs, then re-cutting them, and re-doing the vocals. Why? Because they don't need to! They have tons of other people submitting tracks that don't need to be re-cut or re-sung, so why bother?

Also, film and TV people often need their music for shows that are already in post-production, and might be airing in a week. They just don't have the time to fix things. They need to find what they need and lay it into the show.

But don't lose hope! If you feel that your vocals aren't up to snuff, you could hire somebody else to sing for you, or you could do instrumental tracks with no vocals at all! Frankly, if I were trying to get film and TV placements, I'd go with instrumental pitches more often than not because you don't need to write any lyrics and you don't have to sing anything.

Seems like at least half the work, and a greatly increased chance of success. :-)

I hope this clears things up for you, and helps you to understand that there is always more than one way to skin a cat (sorry P.E.T.A. ;-) ).

— Warm regards, Michael

I just finished reading the interview with Steve Corn that I thought was very informative and straight forward, however, I do have a question related to my specific situation.

I composed instrumental music for a couple of well established music libraries for more than 12 years, and have been quite fortunate to have my pieces receive widespread usage. Having successfully worked and composed for music libraries for years I decided to create my own small music library so that I could maintain creative control of my music and own the publishing. In creating the library I've come to the realization that my focus needs to remain primarily on composing and production to maintain my goal of releasing at least three CDs a year. Therefore, I believe I need to find a person or company to market or represent my library.

What is the best way for me to 'rep' a small, niche library? Years ago one I would have simply approached one of the few gigantic existing libraries, and they would "add me to their roster" basically. But, in the last five or six years a new generation of individual libraries, artist representatives, delivery and marketing methods have changed the playing field. In addition, there has really been a huge shift in the music library industry to 'vocal' songs, with seemingly less emphasis on 'instrumental' music which used to be the core of production music libraries in general.

— Dave Remmers

Hi Dave,

I've seen that shift to more film and TV placements asking for tracks with vocals too, but maybe you should zig when everybody else zags! One of the cornerstones of great marketing is your ability to be unique—to stand out from the crowd. If everybody else seems to be doing Modern Rock tracks with vocals for their libraries, maybe your thing should be doing Ethnic Instrumental music, and let the post production world know that you specialize in really niche-oriented music from specific regions of Africa or authentic Danish wedding marches! How many other people do that? Not many, I'm guessing. And if you create all your marketing around that unique quality of your library, and remain consistent and persistent with that marketing message, in a couple of years, you'll be known as the guy who does all those hard to find niche tracks.

As to finding somebody to do the marketing for you—two thoughts:

#1: You would really need to find somebody who has a great deal of experience in marketing a library to be sure you can effectively compete with the other companies that have pro marketing and salespeople.

#2: Short of that, you should suck it up and do it yourself. Nobody will ever do the kind of job you will do when your livelihood depends on it. I know it's easy to say, "I just want to be the creative guy." That's exactly why so many musicians don't ever achieve their "Indie" musician dreams and goals. It's the music business, and the people who succeed are typically willing to work hard at both aspects—music and business.

— Good luck, Michael

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