Part Three, TAXI Road Rally 2016
Moderated by Michael Laskow
Bob, how important is it for the songwriters and composers to understand the terms of the deals that happen between them and the publishers or music libraries?
Bob: One thing I would say on this stage in front of everybody is that people should carefully read TAXI’s industry listings, because Michael [and TAXI] is very good about being very succinct about, “This company is looking for this.” And I don’t just mean stylistically; I mean the business stuff is spelled out—“This company does this kind of deal or that kind of deal.”
Like exclusive or non-exclusive, or in perpetuity…?
Bob: Whatever the heck it is, read those listings before you send stuff. I can tell you, I get the phone calls, “Oh, really, it’s an exclusive deal,” or “I need to control the master and the publishing?” I get copies of TAXI’s listings; I read them; they are very clear; the deals are spelled out. But if you don’t take a minute to see what kind of deal you’re submitting for, it wastes your time, and it wastes my time. So, after listening to a ton of music and deciding, “Oh, we love this, we want to put it in our catalog,” and then finding out that we can’t, is a waste of time caused by somebody not paying attention to a simple business thing.
Frank: Well, from my side of the business in film and TV, but TV for the most part, we are a very, very fast-paced side of the business. So if you don’t have all your ducks in a row by the time it gets to me, you’re lost and could be lost forever. It’s just kind of one of those things you need to take care of. Your metadata goes a long way as well. And if you don’t know what a metadata is, I’m gonna go through and show everybody how to do it in our session tomorrow.
Let’s see a show of hands, how many people really truly know what metadata is as it relates to music licensing?
Frank: OK, now my questions. Raise your hand if every music supervisor you ever see on a panel says “metadata.” [laughter] And the funny thing is they never show you, really. Tomorrow, I’m gonna break out the computer and I’m gonna show you how I put metadata into the tracks, how they need to go out —step-by-step! It needs to be so easy for me to find all that information that when I open it up and look at it I go, “They got it. They know what they’re doing.” And if I’m afraid that you don’t know, I’m just deleting it. If I get a track that says “Track One” on it for your first song—unless it’s really called “Track One,” I’ll delete it. [laughter]
You guys laugh, but sadly, in our world we see this stuff on an hourly basis. First of all, just so you know, metadata is simply embedded information like who the writers are, who to contact, who the publisher is, which PRO, and the splits. Those are the basics of metadata. Frank will explain it in detail tomorrow.
I also think titles matter for a couple of reasons. First of all, probably 15% of all the music that comes into TAXI is poorly titled. If we run a listing where somebody is looking for a public domain Christmas instrumental cover, we will actually get submissions that say “Public Domain Christmas Instrumental Cover” as the title. I’m not kidding! And we sit there scratching our collective heads, going, “This is actually a really good piece of music, but why would somebody title it like that?” So now it becomes sort of our responsibility; we want this member’s music to be heard for that show that Frank needs music for. We want to send it to him, but I’ll be damned if I’m gonna send a piece of music with that title on it.
Frank: And I’ll be damned if I’m gonna keep it.
"If you don’t have all your ducks in a row by the time [your music] gets to me, you’re lost and could be lost forever."
So now, somebody on my staff would have to call up somebody in Minnesota and say, “We need you to retitle that, and we need you to get that in the metadata and send it back to us.” We’ve got thousands and thousands of members and a hundred thousand or something submissions a year. Who’s got the time to do all that?
Let’s talk about titles from another perspective, which is: do you like it when you get titles in from potential composers in your catalog where the title telegraphs a clue as to what the music is going to sound like or what it might be useful for?
Bob: Absolutely I do. And I learned that being a writer back in the ’90s that… You know, I wrote a song called “Blame.” That track made me so much money, because every time—and there’s always a scene where someone’s getting blamed in a relationship, especially back in the ’90s—that track went boom, boom, boom. And I went, you know, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist after a while to figure out, “Hey, you know what? That makes sense.” And you know, with reality, imagine you’re an editor and you’re dealing with God knows how many libraries that have done business with E-Entertainment or MTV or VH1 or whatever, and you type, “I need a fun-loving Hip-Hop.” How many results do you think you’re gonna see?
Frank: None. Fun-loving Hip-Hop? I wouldn’t even know how to find it.
Bob: You’d be surprised, because for comedic…
Yeah, like the movie Let’s Be Cops. They would use fun-loving Hip-Hop.
Bob: Or some of the ’80s stuff, some of the early stuff. Point being is that when you’re staring at that many results, a title will… If you can separate yourself from the chafe by a title. I’ve just learned over the years anything that can separate you from the multitude of things that somebody’s saying. I’m sure you see a lot, Frank.
Frank: It’s starting to happen. I do a lot of iTunes searches. I have 800 gigs of music in my iTunes. That’s a lot of music. So basically, the way that it operates is now somebody asked me to do a search for Halloween, so what’s my first thought? I have way too much music in here, I’m gonna type in ghoul, ghost, teeth, blood, devil, monster, grave, all those words. If you wrote a Halloween song and those words aren’t in your metadata or in your title, I’m not going to find it. I’m not going to find it even if you pitched it last week on an album called Halloween Phase. I’m probably not going to do it, because I’m not going to go look at who sent me emails this week. I’m just gonna go right into my search and see what comes up. If you wrote a song about family, put love in your title, put home in your title, put family in your title, put friends in your title. If your song is about best of friends, call it “We’re the Best of Friends.” Why not? Because I’m probably gonna find it when I type in best friends into the iTunes search. So titles are becoming pretty important.
Bob: And this is something as a publisher, you talk about us with time. We are very, again, anal with our metadata, because I know—and I’ve learned from some of the best guys… I sit and talk to these guys. I go, “What do you look for?” And if I can have 10 to 20 killer keywords that are going to drive you to the right thing, then I’m separating myself from the multitude of my competition.
Frank: One of the pitchers that I go to—pitchers are publishers, labels, third parties, whatever—they recently put a la White Stripes in the metadata, and I was looking for White Stripes and that popped up and I listened to it and it sounded just like a White Stripes song, and I put that in the favorites bin for when I can’t afford White Stripes, and I’ll use that track. I didn’t even know it was in there; they gave it to me in June of last year—didn’t even know I had it. That’s how much music I have and I don’t even know I have it.
Music Supervisor Frank Palazzolo was clearly enjoying his time on stage at the 20th TAXI Road Rally.
I’ve seen people abuse keywords to the point where nobody wants to work with them. Many people don’t know what their music sounds like or what genre it is. We all know the phrase elevator speech, right? So, if you happen to get in the elevator with Frank after this panel and he asks, “What kind of music do you do?” And you say, “Well, I do a little bit of Rock, I do a little Pop, I do a little Country, I do a little bit of this,” you’ve just lost his interest. Not because he’s a bad guy. He just knows that you’re probably not at that level of professionalism yet where you know to say, “I do edgy Hip-Hop.” Now he’s interested, because he uses edgy Hip-Hop in his shows all the time.
Frank: Well, yeah. It’s like going to a hospital and saying, “What kind of surgery do you do?” “I do a little bit of everything.” I don’t want a doctor… Leave my appendix in there. Like, I want a specialist, man. So don’t abuse that. Don’t write a la Black Keys and White Stripes and all these bands, because if it doesn’t sound exactly like what you say it sounds like, it makes you look pretty bad.
One of the things that truly irks me and causes me to lose sleep at night is when somebody goes on the internet and posts something bad about TAXI, saying, “Ah, man, I was a member for a year and I didn’t get anything.” Of course they don’t put a link to their music, which may not have been very good, or they don’t tell you that they only pitch three things in a year, or they don’t tell you that they didn’t pitch very effectively. Somebody asked for Country and they sent indie-folk. So then they conclude their little rant with, “And I got a bunch of stuff signed to libraries without TAXI.” Now maybe sometimes they got signed to good libraries. There are bad libraries and there are libraries that are like gigantic bulk wholesalers, where they will take anything and sign it and put it on a website in massive numbers. There might be some that are good; there are many that are not.
"There are some libraries that are kind of bottom feeders. They’re not fighting to keep writer’s integrity; they’re not fighting to make sure the PROs are still able to collect money."
Let’s talk about the level of quality of libraries, the ranges. I’ve got Bob sitting here with me because he owns a very high-quality music library, and I know that for a fact. Let’s talk about what the audience should look out for in the lesser-quality libraries.
Bob: What they should look out for artistically or…?
No. It’s just, “I got my stuff in a music library—I’m all excited.” Yeah, but you’ve got it in the trailer park, crap library of the world, so don’t be so excited about it.
Bob: Right. Well…
And mention names…[laughter]
Bob: No. No, like I said, this afternoon, there are gonna be some very stellar people on this stage. It’s just like shopping for clothes or going to a grocery store. You know, you’ve got your options, and productions know that they have their options. And unfortunately, budgets keep going down, down, down. There are some libraries that are kind of bottom feeders. They’re not fighting to keep writer’s integrity; they’re not fighting to make sure the PROs are still able to collect money on their behalf; they’re doing a lot of direct licensing; they could give a darn how you guys end up doing in the end. They’re absorbing a lot of music, as much music as possible, possibly so that in five years they can go, “I got a hundred thousand tracks—buy me.”
They’re not looking out for them [pointing to the audience].
Bob: They’re not. I don’t deal with them; I avoid them. They are not going to last. They’re not going to be around in five years; they’re not going to be around in 10 years. The people I like to associate with are building and fighting for you guys. They’re trying to keep copyright alive; they are trying to keep royalty rates up.
Some of my very good friends are pretty far up in the BMI/ASCAP world, and if we don’t all kind of try and keep it up, it’s going into the toilet.
Frank: And you can ask around about reputations. Everybody knows who to work with and who not to work with. There are no secrets. Go on their website and do some searching. A lot of times you can stream some of the music that they have there. Listen to the quality of music they have on there. Think, is this a cool song, or is every single track you click on worse than yours? If it is, then it’s probably not the one for you, you’re probably the best in their catalog. If you’re hearing some great stuff, hey, they’ve got good stuff. Talk to them, talk to other people about them. If everything lines up… Like I said, this business is about intuition, man. There was a company that was just signing people left and right like crazy, and they went out of business last year and they stiffed everybody. And I’m sure a lot of the people in this room know who they are. People are saying, “I didn’t get paid; I didn’t get anything submitted to any PROs; I’ve got nothing.” But this company made a couple million dollars and then just dipped out. And it seemed shady from the get-go.
Music Library owner Bob Mair (right) chats with a TAXI member right after finishing his panel.
But they were kind of a brand name; they were pretty well known.
Frank: They seemed it, because they appeared to be. But if you would’ve asked me about it, I was like, “Eh, I don’t really do business with them. I don’t know much about them, and they don’t seem that legit. Give them a little time, see where it goes.”
That’s the thing that bothers me is when a TAXI member doesn’t get a deal through us because of the various reasons I mentioned before, and they would do a deal and put their music in that company’s catalog because they accept virtually anything. Then the member posts something online like, “Why do I need a filter like TAXI when I can get my music signed by myself?” Because you want to get your music to the quality publishers and music libraries, that’s why!
Bob: Well, and the reason that I’m quality-conscious is because of something I learned years ago with another music supervisor that we were talking about earlier. I remember I was doing a lot of business with him, and all of a sudden a new kid in town came on the scene, had a library, guys started using his music, and then in two years I’m getting phone calls [and requests] from that supervisor again. So I asked, “Hey, so what happened to that company?” His answer was, “He started absorbing a ton of music—stuff that sounded like it was coming off of cassettes. And, you know what? I’m never using him again.”
Again, if you’re in business, pay attention. My bulb went off, I am never gonna be that guy. I’m never gonna be the guy that sends you [pointing to Frank] or anybody else mediocre stuff, because you’ll never call me again.
Read the final part of this interview in next month’s TAXI Transmitter!