Moderated by Michael Laskow
EDITOR’S NOTE: We’re publishing Frank and Bob’s introductions again so you can be reminded of who is giving out this great information. Enjoy Part 2!
Frank Palazzolo is a music supervisor at Mad Doll Productions in Los Angeles. Some of his credits—and these are just a very few—include The Path on Hulu, Sheer Genius—which is coming to CBS—plus About a Boy, Graceland, Hemlock Row, Hand of God, Hawaii Five-O, The Leftovers, The Affair, Twisted, House of Lies, Friday Night Lights, Friends With Benefits and many, many more. Frank’s film credits also include Scream 4, Take Me Home, The Truth About Emanuel, Apart, Americons, Enough Said, and The Kids are All Right. Frank is also an accomplished songwriter and composer in his own right. Mr. Frank Palazzolo, come on up, buddy. [applause]
Our other panelist is Mr. Bob Mair. He’s the CEO, owner and founder of Black Toast Music and Black Toast Records. He is also a composer and a producer. Since it’s launch, the company has placed music in hundreds of TV series, including hits such as Homeland, The Good Wife, Modern Family, New Girls, Girls, The Walking Dead, Shameless, Sons of Anarchy, True Blood, Dexter, Madam Secretary, Treme, The Wire, and many, many others—countless others, actually! Black Toast has also placed music in high profile motion pictures, including Neighbors, American Reunion, and video gamessuch as“Dance, Dance Revolution,” as well as national advertising campaigns for Domino, Microsoft, Walmart and Whole Foods. Bob’s company has also signed dozens of TAXI members—maybe even a couple hundred over the years—and placed countless songs and instrumentals from them in TV shows, feature films and commercials. Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Bob Mair.
Bob: So because I’m a publisher, I don’t know how you handle this. If somebody approaches you directly and there’s a 50/50 split and you’re talking to one of the two writers…
Frank: I need somebody to sign off on behalf of both of them. That’ll be the next level. So then we have something called a one-stop.
How many of you guys in the audience know what one-stop means? I’m curious. [About 50% of the hands in the ballroom go up.] All right, I’m really glad you’re talking about this, because 100% of musicians pitching film and TV music should know this.
Frank: So what one-stop means is that if Bob calls me up and says, “This is a one-stop,” that means that he is able to license on behalf of the master and on behalf of the publishing even if there are multiple writers, even if there are multiple publishers, he can take care of it in one-stop. And if you know that term and you send me a song and you say, “This is one-stop,” that means that I know that you know what you’re doing. It’s pretty simple. If you just represent both sides of it and everybody involved in it, and you say you’ve got contracts where I can sign off on all of it, it helps your cause. Because if you have four writers on a song and it’s not the next Beyoncé track, I’m probably not going to take the time to send out four publishing request forms.
Bob: Yeah, if you’re going to represent yourself and there are multiple writers, whoever is doing the representation should have an administration agreement, something that says you can administer on behalf of all of us.
Nobody’s got that. How many of you guys have administration agreements with your co-writers? A very small percentage, maybe 5% of the people in this ballroom.
Frank: I’m surprised.
"If you’re going to represent yourself and there are multiple writers, whoever is doing the representation should have an administration agreement."
This is the reason we do TAXI TV and the Road Rally. Member Matt Vanderboegh is a great example. Five years ago he didn’t know all this stuff, and now he’s making enough money where he’s going to be able to walk away from his day job and do music full time. We really, really want our members to learn this stuff, because it’s not just about making cool music—there is so much more to it. A lot of musicians are very inclined to say, “I’m a creative person; I don’t want to do the business.” Well, a lot of the business will get done for you by giving up 100% of the publisher’s share to the publisher. They earn their money making sure that Frank doesn’t call me or call Bob or call somebody in the middle of the night and go, “Holy crap, I just got a phone call from CBS, and boy are they pissed off, because they just got a cease-and-desist letter from an attorney after somebody who was a writer on something and didn’t make it on to the cue sheet or the agreement. Now you’ve got a potential lawsuit. It probably won’t go that way, but…
Bob: Ah, no, it actually will.
It will? So let’s talk about that. Let’s put the fear of God into them, Bob.
Bob: Well, it’s a litigious world right now, and we are as a publisher, extremely careful. We dot our I’s and cross our T’s. I mean, even if a writer says it’s a one-stop to me, I get on the PRO sites and I see if that song exists anywhere else. And unfortunately, it has happened too many times.
So that’s before you’ll pitch it?
Bob: That’s before I’ll even sign it. Or I’ll search and see if the piece of music has been used in television before.
That’s a lot of work. I can’t even fathom the amount of time that a publisher must spend. And most of the publishers we’re talking about in the film-and-TV world are mom-and-pop shops, where it’s two people, three people, five people. There are some big ones obviously out there that are owned by Sony or Universal—big, giant libraries that might have 300,000 tracks and a staff of 50 or 100 people. But the vast majority of the music libraries are small, hard-working companies.
Bob: Well, the smaller you are, the more detailed you can be. You know, it gets lost in the cracks. And, you know, truthfully—I’m a writer/producer myself—I’ve been doing this a while. I’ve worked with a lot of really great people—amazing writers—but when it comes to the business side, they are just not quite as about dotting I’s and crossing T’s. So it’s not that they’re evil people, but it’s just, “Oh, right, man, I did this like five years ago.” And you go, “Well, OK, so we can’t work with that song,” or “We can’t work with that piece of music.” It’s not like they are evil or they’re trying to take advantage of us, but things happen. Just like cue sheets not being filed, it’s just humans being humans.
I want to talk about… Because both of you guys are artists or composers and do stuff yourself, would you sign a deal with a publisher that says, “I want 100% of the publisher’s share, and I’m not giving you anything upfront.” It’s an issue for our members, and my personal feeling is I would do a deal with Bob in a heartbeat if he wants 100% of my publishing and he’s not giving me anything upfront, because I know Bob. I know how hard Bob works, how effective he is, and how much money he makes for his writers. There are other people I wouldn’t do that deal with, so it’s a tough decision. So what can you tell them about how to judge whether or not to do a deal where they give up 100% of the publishing.
Bob: What I tell people that are really new to the situation… You know what? I turn a lot of people away that are so green, because in 26 years of doing this, the last thing I want to do is burn anybody. My business isn’t built on bad will. It’s built on good will. You know, the proof’s always in the pudding. You make somebody money, they keep coming back to you, and they bring you better and better music. But like you say, only time will tell with that.
As you know, there are some great publishers out there, I’m not the only one—in fact, we’re gonna be seeing some this afternoon [on the Music Library panel at the Road Rally] that do really clean business. But I tell people to tiptoe in.
Don’t put all your eggs in the first basket.
Frank: Exactly. These are assets. Your music is an asset; it’s a money-generating thing. So just like, dare I say, the stock market or anything else, you wouldn’t put all of your eggs in one basket. You want to diversify your portfolio, and you want to be with the best publishers that are out there. You have to do research. I have people approach me, and unfortunately, I hear some amazing music … just amazing. But I can’t sign it because I don’t have those clients. So rather than just absorb music and have it sit on the shelf, it doesn’t do me any good and it doesn’t do you [in the audience] any good. So I’ll just go, “You know what? We’re not the right place for you.”
I would do my research. Find out who’s doing what, who’s big in the advertising world, who’s big in the trailer world, who’s big in film and television, and just kind of find your… Because some of you guys are writing everything.
"Your music is an asset; it’s a money-generating thing. Just like the stock market or anything else, you wouldn’t put all of your eggs in one basket."
Frank, how about you? Taking off your music-supe hat for a minute and putting on your musician/writer’s hat. How do you feel about doing a publishing deal with somebody where you’re giving them 100% of the publisher’s share for no money upfront?
Frank: Well, my philosophy and what I’ve told people before, is how many songs have you written? So let’s just say I’ve written 50 songs. All right, you have 50 completed songs; how many songs have you made money off of? None of them! Yeah, you should sign a publishing deal. [laughter] You haven’t made any money, right? So sign a publishing deal. If somebody has a stake, if somebody is involved in the industry and they have access to music supervisors, if they know where the music’s gonna go and they want your music, that means they see a potential revenue in it. So obviously if they have your publishing, they’re gonna be trying to make it money. So I don’t see a major problem if you trust them and if you’re making no money. To give your entire catalog away in one shot, I agree, go little by little and see what happens. Just because you have a publishing deal with somebody, you don’t have to necessarily give them everything that you’ve got. Just ease in.
You’re always gonna write another piece of music.
Frank: Yes, you’re gonna write another piece of music. And also, if you just wrote it and you’re like, “This song is the best thing I’ve ever written,” don’t run out and go give that away. But if you wrote something 10 years ago and you still haven’t made money with it, hey, you’re due. It’s time to get somebody to make you some money, because obviously you haven’t figured out how to do it on your own. There’s no shame in that, but you need a little bit of work.
I always tell people, “Look, if you’re writing for records as well and you want to get into film and TV, and you think you’ve got Beyoncé’s next hit, don’t give that to Bob.”
Bob: No, please… [laughter]
He’s probably not the right place for it, and it’s not the right time. Maybe a year or two from now, you know, when you see that Beyoncé has changed her style, and what you’re doing or what the song is not really right for radio anymore, but it might be perfect for a TV show, at that point, I wouldn’t have a qualm about giving a publisher 100% for no money up front. There are some publishers who will pay you money up front. Generally speaking, those situations are derived from relationships that have built over some time, where a publisher knows this is a person that he or she could reach out to and say, “I need a collection of 15 pieces like this—in this particular genre—and I’m commissioning you to do this work for hire, and I’ll pay you $200, $300, $400 a track.” It used to be like a $1,000 back in the day, I think, when they commissioned…
Bob: Some still pay that. I don’t know how that they do it, but…
I don’t know how they do it either, but it does happen.
Bob: But the business changes. So once a check gets written, nine times out of 10, then, the master ownership then becomes the publisher’s.
Frank: Let us be clear, we’re talking about publishing. We are not talking about giving away your writer’s share.
Bob: So there are the masters; that’s the actual physical recording. Then there’s the writer’s share, which is the writer’s portion of the piece of music. Then there’s the publishing share. Those three pieces are what Frank needs to make sure are cleared and clearable. And depending on how one negotiates with any publisher, or not, those are the pieces that have to be controlled to be able to be licensed. Does that make sense?
It does, and I like the fact that you brought up the word negotiate. If somebody gets a call from a publisher who says, “I love this song. I’m interested in putting it in my catalog.” As a newbie, do you dare negotiate, or do you not?
Frank: It depends on how good the song is. I mean, sometimes you know how good a song is, and you’re just like… Like, I’ve had some libraries actually contact me about my music. “I want it; I want to represent it all.” And then I’d be like, “Well, this other person wants it as well.” And then I get people arguing over it, because everybody heard it and they know that it’s syncable. And then you have other stuff where it’s just like, “We could take it or leave it; we have a catalog full of this stuff.” And then that goes back to the, “I haven’t made money in 10 years” thing. If you have a Jazz track that’s been sitting on the shelf for 10 years, libraries are full of Jazz. Publishers have tons of Jazz. It’s there, but if they think that there’s some potential and money for it, take what you can get. But you also know a bad deal when you see it. If you feel like you’re being taken advantage of, there’s a chance you might be. You know, don’t feel like you have to commit to something just because it’s your only option. There are other options. Talk to other artists; talk to other writers; talk to a supervisor that you met.
I think having an intermediary is a good thing. Having somebody to discuss other business with. Sometimes people come to me and they pitch me their music directly. I don’t like that; I prefer not to have it; I’d rather get it from these guys [meaning Bob or Michael/TAXI]. But if you come to me and you say that you’re thinking about doing business with one of these guys, what do you think? I say, “Sounds like a good deal; I think you should talk to them.” But there are other people where if you said you’re thinking of doing business with, I might go, “I don’t like that person, and I don’t particularly do business with them. Your call if you want to go for that. I don’t know anybody that does do business with that person.” So it’s all situational.
It’s tough for them, because so many of them are entering virgin territory. All they’ve had to do so far in their musical career is just simply create the music, and now there’s all this nuance—business nuance—that you have to know.
Frank: But there are some things where you have no way to negotiate, you know, where they say, “The way our catalog operates is you give us 100% of your publishing and we take it from here.” So you can’t be like, “50%?” [laughter] Like, “We don’t do that.” Like, “Nobody in our catalog is 50%; that’s the way our business model operates.” And then you decide, OK, well, then, I like the company. You know you can give it a shot, like, “Well, what about 50%?” And if they straight-up say they don’t do that—everything is 100%, then see if you like the company or not.
Bob: Let me put it to you this way. I get a phone call: “Hey, we want to use a piece of your music for two grand,” and I go, “Five grand.” What’s gonna happen?
Frank: What, from me? I’m gonna go, “Two grand.” [laughter]
Don’t miss Part 3 of this Interview in the January 2017 edition of the TAXI Transmitter.