Tanvi Patel (right) got a hearty laugh from her fellow panelists, (R to L) Jeff Gray, Steve Winogradsky, and Matt Hirt during the Understanding and Profiting from the Music Library Business panel at TAXI's Road Rally 2014. Photo by Ryan Taalbi
Panelists: Matt Hirt, Steve Winogradsky, Jeff Gray, Tanvi Patel
Moderator: Michael Laskow
Matt Hirt is a highly versatile and prolific composer with about 17,000 unique published songs and instrumentals in nearly every musical style imaginable to his credit. Matt’s songs have been featured four #1 box office motion pictures, including Limitless, Tropic Thunder, Rush Hour 3, and Mr. and Mrs. Smith starring Brangelina. His music is heard daily on broadcast network and cable TV shows such as Hawaii Five-O, How I Met Your Mother, CSI, Parenthood… basically every TV show on television has used this man’s music at one point or another, including The Olympics in Beijing, Vancouver, and London on NBC, and many, many others. Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Matt Hirt. [applause]
Steve Winogradsky has over 30 years experience as an attorney in the music industry. He is a partner in Winogradsky, Sobel in Studio City, California, providing global media and music business affairs and legal support for composers, songwriters, music publishers, recording artists and television, film and video multi-media producers. He was twice elected President of the California Copyright Conference. After spending nine years on the board of directors, he has served for four years as the President of the Association of Independent Music Publishers, and was named as one of the outstanding instructors in Entertainment Studies in Performing Arts at UCLA Extension, where he’s taught since 1997. He is the author of Music Publishing: The Complete Guide. Please welcome, Mr. Steven Winogradsky. [applause]
Jeff Gray, aka Pesci, he’s a Composer, Performer, Music Supervisor, Music Licensor/Licensee, Music Consultant, Mechanical Royalties Specialist, Manager of Creative Services and Contracting, A&R/Talent Relations, Copywriter, Booking Agent, Talent Scout, Manager, Music Researcher, and more. Jeff has worked for MTV, Bug Music Publishing, Warner Music, Cleopatra Records, Fox Sports Music, Future Content LLC, Amoeba Music, Swinghouse Productions, Guitar Center, and more. He also plays an active role in the music community as a performer, songwriter, arranger, and collaborator. He is a nine-year ambassador and on-air talent for the Hunnypot Unlimited radio show and live events, and he’s an active member of The Guild Of Music Supervisors. Ladies and gents, Mr. Jeff Gray! [applause]
Tanvi Patel is the CEO and 50% partner in Crucial Music Corporation. She moved to L.A. in 2005 to manage the Point Classics Catalog of over 2,500 classical compositions, securing ringtone deals, CD licenses, distribution, and film and TV placements that have included Oscar winner Brokeback Mountain, Oceans Twelve, Land of the Dead, HBO’s Classical Baby, Wildfire, Judging Amy, Malcolm in the Middle, and The Simpsons. Her Crucial music placements include Nebraska, Gravity, Captain Phillips, Scandal, Homeland, Boardwalk Empire, Orange Is the New Black, The Good Wife, and countless others. Tanvi and her partner Jim Long called TAXI when they first started Crucial and they said, “We need to find 3,000 high quality songs in a year to launch this catalog.” And they have been running listings with us and getting placements for our members ever since on network TV, feature films, and TV commercials. Ladies and gentlemen, give it up for Ms. Tanvi Patel. [applause]
Welcome all, and thank you for joining us today!
I got an email from a TAXI member that I know pretty well, and he’s got a wide-open door to pitch music to the executive producer of a broadcast network, primetime TV show. I was comfortable running a listing for him, and I suggested that he start out slowly and offer non-exclusive deals. This was the first sentence of the listing that we ran: “Heartfelt, hopeful singer/songwriter songs with pop-rock sensibilities are needed by a new non-exclusive film and TV music company with a direct connection to the executive producer of a primetime drama on a major broadcast network.”
We screened probably about a hundred songs. We found 10 that we thought he should hear. And this is part of an email that I got back from him after we sent him the music:
“By the way, I reached out to three members. Only one got back to me and ended up getting signed and pitched. Another one I talked to felt that it was a little uncomfortable because the company was brand new. I’m also shocked that some of the people have been members for much longer than I and still don’t know what non-exclusive and exclusive means. To me that was mind-blowing, and I jotted down these three things:
“Why wouldn’t you get back to somebody offering you a deal? You joined TAXI, you paid the money, and you paid the submission fee. You want to get a deal, and then somebody shoots you an email or leaves you a voicemail and says, ‘I’m interested in signing your music,’ and you just don’t get back to them?”
“Why would you submit your music to a listing that says, ‘This is a new company’ in the first sentence, and then turn down the deal because the company is new? Especially when it’s a non-exclusive deal and you really can’t get hurt.”
“How can you be a TAXI member for a number of years and not know the difference between exclusive and non-exclusive when I write about it constantly. I talk about it on TAXI TV fairly often—probably many times a year. It’s covered at least 10 ways till Sunday here at the Road Rally every year. How could you not know the difference?”
So that really underscored for me the need for this panel. Tanvi, I know that you’ve had the same issue. Tanvi has been running listings with us for eight or nine years now, and one day she called me up and said, “The strangest thing is happening. I recently sent out a bunch of deal offers to people in the form of an email, and only 10% of them got back to me. What can we do?” So I ended up writing a little note that goes out with all her deal offers to TAXI members, and it says, “This is a gold-plated company. You want to sign with them.” And that upped the response rate to 50%. But still, it should be like 98%. I can understand if somebody’s on vacation or they’ve got a family member in the hospital, or whatever. But I would think everybody would get back to you. So how does that make you feel about TAXI and our membership at large when people don’t get back to you? Doesn’t that cast a bad light on them and on us?
Tanvi: I don’t think any less of TAXI or the members. At the end of the day there are great musicians who are bad at business, and they are bad at communicating. A simple “No thank you” will work. I don’t take it personally, and for everyone that doesn’t respond, there are 10 others that really want to be in the catalog. So I welcome the ones who really want to do the work and want to sign and see something happen for them. So you’re shooting yourself in the foot if you’re not even responding. If I have sent you an email, I’m excited about your song. If you don’t respond, it’s not hurting me, it’s just hurting you.
Jeff, you’re a man who has always got his ear to the street, and you know tons of professional and amateur songwriters and composers alike. Am I nuts, or do you see them making stupid mistakes that cost them placements and income as well all the time? If so, can you rattle off some of those mistakes that you see very frequently?
Jeff: It happens all the time. Yeah, the communication is probably the biggest part of it. I don’t get a lot of responses sometimes, or the lack of understanding the terms, or having someone that can deal with that for them. There’s nothing wrong with being completely ignorant about the business, as long as you’ve got somebody who’s handling the business for you. Of course, that costs money.
But yes, people have walked away from stuff all the time. They don’t get back to me, and the second choice [song or track] gets it. So musicians will walk away from $2,500, $5,000—easy money for something small. But the minute a car commercial offers them a thousand bucks for something national—like insult money—they jump all over it. That happens a lot. So like you’re kidding me, right? You’re going to enter a contest to get paid nothing to be in this car commercial that I know they’re paying other people a hundred grand for, and then they’ll walk away from the little one that takes two seconds to sign it and it’s done. And there’s back-end money on that. Car commercials don’t always have that.
Steve, can you please tell the audience the difference between exclusive and non-exclusive?
Steve: Here’s the difference. If it’s a non-exclusive library, it means you can pitch your music through several different sources. Tanvi can pitch it; Jeff can pitch it; I can pitch it. Exclusive means that one company has the right to pitch that music to the exclusion of everybody else. So you sign with a company because you want them to be your representative and no one else can pitch the music. Maybe the company will allow you as the artist to pitch it, because that’s not really competition with them. But exclusive companies don’t want other companies pitching the same music for a couple of reasons. They want to have the cache of the music that they’re controlling, but also, if four people pitch the same song to a music supervisor, does the music supervisor know which party they are going to license from? It could be any one of us. So there’s the problem with non-exclusive. If there are multiple people pitching the same music, and a lot of times the music won’t be identified as to who pitched it, it’ll just have the usual meta-data, title, composer, publisher, all of that stuff. So the supervisor comes out, or the editor comes out and picks the song and they don’t know who to license it from, or they license it from the wrong party. Or the four parties that have all non-exclusive deals fight about it. Once that happens the music supervisor will not license from any of those people again.
What is going to happen when they finally get around to using audio finger printing, or some sort of unique identifier, and there is an instrumental that is in four or five or eight catalogs? Wouldn’t that identifier be with all those?
Steve: Well, that’s one of the problems. And it’s also a problem in the library business with people who retitle music. Is everyone familiar with a re-titling model? I write a song, I give it a title, I’m the composer, I’m the publisher, I give it to your library or your company, and you retitle it. I’m still the writer; you put down your publishing company name. Now there are two versions of the same song.
Jeff: And you’re still the copyright owner; you haven’t transferred a copyright.
Steve: Well, no, I haven’t transferred copyright, but they are listed as publisher and they would get all the back-end money. So now there are two versions of the same song with different metadata. You get these digital recognition technologies that hear the song and go, “It’s this song.” And it’s either my song or their song, whoever registers it. Then if there are two of them, the [performing rights] societies don’t know who to pay, so the money gets held.
He’s talking about ASCAP, BMI or SESAC.
Steve: Right. And I’ve had situations where clients have hired TuneSat, which does digital audio recognition. They will scour the networks and television shows to decide what music was being played using this fingerprinting technology. TuneSat will send a report back to a client and the client will go, “Hey, I never licensed that song.” Turns out somebody else licensed that song, and then they go to the production company and say, “You’re infringing my copyright,” and the production company goes, “No, we got rights from this company over here.” And then all hell breaks loose. So you run into a problem where you’ve got two, three, four different versions of the same song, all of which have the same digital fingerprint, because they only get one, and the [performing rights] societies won’t know who to pay. So the money doesn’t get paid at all until it gets resolved.
Matt, you’ve got stuff in exclusive libraries, non-exclusive libraries, and you’ve got a methodology that I think has worked out incredibly well for you over the years. Can you tell everybody how you treat it? And understand, Matt’s world is so evolved, and he’s been doing this so long, and he gets a lot of calls from companies that he works with, and sometimes supervisors directly asking him to create stuff just for them. So he might treat the way he does business differently than somebody just starting out. But that said, how do you do it? Matt: Well, for me there’s really the non-exclusive and exclusive model; both have their advantages for the composer. If you retain your copyright, then obviously that’s something of value. If you give up that copyright to somebody who represents it for you, then they have that value instead of you. But on the other hand, some of the libraries that I do business with that are really big and are distributed worldwide by Universal or somebody like that, they get into way more places than you can get maybe with a non-exclusive company in many cases, because they have more issues typical with foreign distribution, for example. So having some of that music that can reach anywhere in the entire world and get used in French movies and Italian television shows and German commercials is an advantage, but on the other hand, you also want some music that you own. So I try to do both things. I also feel with a non-exclusive business model, I tend to only to business with people that are doing such a good job for me that I don’t have to give the same music to a bunch of other people. And when you do that—when you treat a non-exclusive deal as an exclusive deal for your own purposes—then you are really not running into any of the issues that the retitling model that Steve described brings with it. Because, like with the stuff that Tanvi has of mine, nobody else has that stuff. It’s just her, because I don’t need to give it to anybody else, because she does a really good job for me.
So in a sense, that’s a safe way to do that. The way I look at it, basically, is I’m always thinking about risk versus benefit. If I give the same music to a bunch of different companies, and for some reason this business model is no longer viable, perhaps because of fingerprinting or other issues that might come up, then I don’t want to be stuck with a big problem, because I don’t want to have this in a bunch of different libraries, all of which have a different term—maybe five-year over here, over here might be three years. You can’t pull it out of these companies whenever you want to, so your music might not do anything for a while until all those terms run out. So to me, that’s just risky, and I’m not a person who likes to take risks, so I’d rather just work harder and write more music.
Steve: And a lot of companies are moving away from the re-titling model. It used to be fairly common, but a lot of companies are moving away because of this digital technology issue that comes up.
Jeff: And I won’t touch it. If someone asks me, “Hey, can you get this to somebody? Can you get this to the supervisor that way?” I ask them if it’s anywhere else, and if they say that they’re with specific places, quite frankly, I won’t have anything to do with it. I’d be like, “You made your mistake; I don’t want it.” I can’t deal with it. I can’t deal with it if I go on the other side and I pitch it and I know it’s coming from other sources and stuff like that, and then one of my friends who’s a supervisor will be like, “I got this 10 times already.”
Don’t miss Part Two of this interview in next Month’s TAXI Transmitter!