(Left to right) TAXI Founder, Michael Laskow, Black Toast Music CEO, Bob Mair, and Music Supervisor, Frank Palazzolo on stage during the Music Licensing Basics session at the TAXI Road Rally.
Moderated by Michael Laskow
I’m gonna change course a little bit, now. This is something that may not relate much to Frank’s world as much as Bob’s, but I want to cover it because these guys [in the audience] will hear the phrase blanket license. How many people have heard of blanket license? A fairly small percentage. So Bob, can you please tell them what a blanket license is and how it works. Sometimes they get paid if apportioned money is given out, sometimes they don’t. Can you explain all that?
Bob: Well, again—and we were talking about this earlier—contracts are negotiable. It’s two people agreeing on something, and a blanket license is a contract between, generally, publishers and an entity—MTV, VH1...
So it doesn’t affect you guys, directly. Your music goes into a catalog at a publisher and then they cut what’s called a blanket license deal with MTV, let’s say.
Bob: Yeah, and I would say blanket licenses, I would assume, are less directly done with individual musicians, and most frequently with publishers.
We get the question from our members, “Do I sign with a library or a publisher that is well-known for doing a lot of blanket deals?” People have the feeling that they’re getting screwed by these blanket deals. Sometimes they are, sometimes they might not be, right?
Bob: Well, it depends on who they are doing blanket deals with. I have a lot of blanket deals that I deal with. There are blanket deals with some people, and those are gratis licenses, and there’s a lot of that in the reality world.
Let’s stick with blankets, and then go to gratis for a minute.
Bob: So blankets are an agreement where you negotiate... Say there’s a production and they’ve got 10 episodes, and they’ve got a budget of three grand an episode. They may come to me and go, “Hey, we’ve got 10 episodes, a budget of three grand an episode, we want to use your catalog exclusively for those 10 episodes. And what that blanket would be, if we agree to it, would be—I’m just throwing numbers... What it would be is they could use music from the entire catalog as much or as little as they want...
All you can eat on the user end.
Bob: All you can eat for those 10 episodes! But say, again, for let’s just say numbers’ sake, 10 pieces of music...
Per episode times 10 episodes. So you’re looking at a hundred licenses.
Bob: Three hundred bucks a pop.
OK, so it’s a $3,000 check for the blanket. But what happens if they use 11 pieces in one episode? Or 15?
Bob: You do the math. You divide $3,000 by 11 or 12 or...
"It’s not the music supervisor’s job to tell you all the stuff we don’t want to use."
OK, so the number doesn’t go up, it just gets apportioned out over the larger number of pieces of music used.
Bob: Exactly. And then as a publisher we do the math, we do the splits, and send sync income out to the composers, which is the upfront money.
The upfront money that you get...which you don’t always get...
Bob: We may want to get into that, because I’m seeing heads shake.
Yeah, we’ve got 15 minutes, but let’s do that.
Bob: OK. So then that money gets divided amongst the writers. And then on the publishing side, obviously, they’ll see their performance income from ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC at a later date. So there are those kinds of blanket licenses. Sometime people will do a blanket license for a year. They could do a five-year blanket. I don’t think I’ve heard of anybody doing more than that.
So let’s talk about the so-called bad blanket license where these guys would get kind of “screwed” in the deal, where the money maybe doesn’t get apportioned out as upfront money.
Bob: Well, “screwed” is a relative term. [laughter]
Bob: Well, no, I’m just saying there are some people that, you know, if you’ve got 5,000 instrumental pieces of music, and those 5,000 pieces of music are stellar—and I know you personally know some of these people. They make a lot of money, even if it’s a gratis license on MTV, because the performance income makes up for where there is no sync income. So that same person may go, “I’m gettin’ screwed.”
So what are you saying? I’m doing a quick translation, if I may.
Somebody could do a blanket license—all you can eat—with MTV. And I’m just using them as an example; I’m not saying they do this, necessarily. Here you go: Here’s 10,000 tracks; use whatever you want for all these shows for this entire season for the next three years’ worth of seasons. And let’s say they get a check for 20 grand for that, they [the publisher] may not send any of that 20 grand to the people whose music gets used, and the musicians and the composers are then relying strictly on getting paid their backend performance royalties that come to them from ASCAP, BMI or SESAC, or whomever their PRO is. So yes, they consider themselves screwed because the publisher took the whole 20 grand and didn’t apportion out sync fees to each person whose music got used. So a lot of musicians feel that’s a skanky deal, but sometimes it may not be.
Bob: I feel what I would be more concerned about is people doing direct license blankets.
OK, explain what that is in short, please.
Bob: Well, direct license blankets would be where—and there are certain networks that that’s all that they do, so I don’t even do business with them—where they say for the year we’re gonna give you 50 grand, 100 grand—whatever the heck it is—and we can use as much music as we want from your catalog for that year. The problem is, for that 50 or 100 grand or whatever the publisher gets, there are no cue sheets generated [by the shows], so there’s no PRO money, there’s no performance money on the backend, so that 50 or 100 grand goes into the coffers of the publisher, and there’s no way for the publisher to know what does or doesn’t get used. There’s no way for them to apportion that money out to the writers. So yeah, the writers...
...get screwed—in the vernacular.
Frank, I want to talk about pitching etiquette.
Frank: All right. The most important part of etiquette is you have to treat your relationship with a music supervisor as a relationship as if you just got somebody’s number at a bar last night. So if I got somebody’s number last night at a bar and I text them the very next morning, I could say, “It was really nice meeting you. I look forward to seeing you again. Maybe we can go out sometime.” They don’t respond, so then the next day I write, “Hey, just following up on that text message that I sent you yesterday when I was explaining that I just met you and I had a really good time and would like to get to know you.” Then the third time I come back and go, “I would really appreciate some sort of a response to the second message about the first message about being really excited about getting to know you.” I’m pretty sure that you’re not going to go on that date. It’s just not gonna happen. The same goes with when people treat me that way.
So I get a lot of emails from people that send me music, and I look at the email and I think to myself I’ve got 10 scenes that I’m working on right now and three scripts that I need to read by tomorrow. And I’ve got this one person that I met at a convention this weekend whose music isn’t going anywhere. Which do I do first? I’m gonna do my work first, and tomorrow I might have just as much work and I’m gonna do my work first again and again and again, and over and over again this email will be unread. It doesn’t get read, it doesn’t go away. It’s still in my unread, and once I’m done with all my work, I’m gonna go back and look through all that. And if I have four emails from you in that same unread email before I got a chance to read it, I’m not responding to it. But if it’s just that one, and it’s just maybe an MP3 in there, “Hey, it was great to meet you. Here’s the song we talked about; would love your input.” I’ll check it out; if I like the song I’ll hit you back. Probably gonna want to use it. I’m gonna ask you all about it; hopefully your metadata is in there, so I know that you own the whole thing one-stop [meaning that the person who sent it controls the master and the copyright]. If I don’t like it, maybe I’ll get back to it. But it’s not the music supervisor’s job to tell you all the stuff we don’t want to use. It’s not my job to tell you when your song didn’t go in the cut after we asked you how much it would cost if we decided to. That’s just the game, because if I had to tell everybody all the songs that I didn’t use, that would be my job. [laughter]
"If you want to get into film and TV music, you might want to pay attention to what’s in the marketplace."
That may be the single most important thing that you learn in your entire career. I kid you not.
Frank: I can’t do it. [applause] But you guys need to know going into this that I’m here for you guys. I’m counting on you to write good music, because when you write good music, I look good. I put it in the show, you make money, I help the industry continue to make money, and everybody goes, “Damn, Frank’s really good at music supervision.” And I get to speak on panels and stuff. [laughter] So keep writing good music; keep letting everybody hear it; don’t focus on one person. Grind and grind; try your best not to be annoying. If you want to follow up with somebody, follow up in two weeks and you say, “Following-up on what I sent to you. Hope you checked it out. Let me know if you need anything else,” and forget it. Just forget it. And I know that you love your music. We all love our music. I do too, but you can’t be insulted when somebody doesn’t critique it for you, because they might be busy trying to make their career happen too.
So when everything lines up, it’s perfect. But this is why I say get an intermediary for this, because if you give it to these guys [pointing at Michael and Bob] they’ll follow up. They know when it’s time to follow up. They know when it’s time to sneak it in the next pitch, and they can give you a little wink, “Hey, I put this in the last time you were looking for Blues Rock. I snuck it back in there, let me know if you want to use it.” And maybe I go, “Damn, I never knew about this.”
Tell them how many songs you listened to shortly before we saw each other in Hawaii a few months ago... You listened to something like a thousand songs in an hour or something insane like that?
Frank: Yeah, it takes about five to 10 seconds per song [to listen to music] that people submit to me. I probably get about, I’d say, 200 to 500 songs a week that people ask me to listen to. I probably have five to 20 people a week that ask me why I’m an asshole. [laughter] Seriously. Like, “Hey, I sent you this music. I don’t understand. I don’t understand following up, again. Some people have even made AGAIN in caps.
You can’t back somebody into a corner and then have a good working relationship. You gotta be delicate. I’ve got publishers that ask me if I need anything, but they do it perfectly. “Hey, Frank, hope you’re having a good Monday. Let me know if you need anything.” And then they go away. They don’t follow up, they don’t ask me why I didn’t respond, they don’t call me. Don’t ever text a music supervisor, “Hey, do you need anything?” That’s probably the most annoying... I put that on my block list when people do that to me. It’s really annoying. I’ll be out drinking with my friend at seven o’clock at night, “Hey, dude, do you need anything for the show that you’re working on? Let me know?” And I type back, “Who is this?” Because it’s rude. You don’t bother people during their personal time.
So just be chill, let it happen. If you see that things aren’t working the way that you are currently doing it, find a different way to do it. Talk to other people who are making it happen. And who knows? You just might not be writing the style or type of music that you’re supposed to be writing. I have some people that let me listen to all their music, and then they have one song that’s a Dance song, but they were writing Country music. And I’m like, “Your best song out of the 10 that I just heard, is the Dance song.” But they’ve been pushing their Country music. So you didn’t even realize that your talent wasn’t in what you were asking me to listen to over and over again. I had a poor representation of what you sound like.
Bob, we’ve only got a couple minutes left. If you were starting out in the film and TV music side of the industry today, what would be the thing that you would focus your time and effort on? What would you do when you get home from this convention?
Bob: Well, I think—and we’ve talked about this—one of the missing pieces is people actually knowing the marketplace. I mean, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve talked to people and they’re like, “Well, I don’t watch TV.” And I’m like, “Well, if you want to get into film and TV music, you might want to pay attention to what’s in the marketplace.” Like I say, I get some amazing music that comes my way from writers and composers. I listen to it and I go, “My God,” but I have to actually tell these people, “I don’t know where I’m gonna get this placed.” Because in my world it’s gonna be the one something in five years where some producer goes, “Oh, I want something that sounds like, you know, cats farting.” Not that, but just some obscure thing.
"It takes about five to 10 seconds per song [to listen to music] that people submit to me. I probably get about, I’d say, 200 to 500 songs a week."
So it can be great music, but just not right for the market...
Yeah... certain shows develop a sound. So I would say that if you’re writing Blues/Rock, pay attention to the shows that embrace that sound. You know, it used to be Justified, True Blood, now it’s Longmire. Pay attention to those shows. If you’re writing...
And don’t email Frank and say, “What are you looking for,” because watching some recent episodes will...
Frank: Yeah, you know what I’m looking for, and don’t ask me if I’m looking for music for a show that was canceled two years ago! That’s a bad look. [laughter]
Bob: Well, and there’s IMDB...
Frank: I agree with you. You have to realize that when you’re writing for film and TV, which is what we’re talking about here. You have to make the transition from being just an artist who’s writing albums to... Essentially you are composers now. Whether you’re writing with lyrics or not, if your goal is to place songs in film and TV, you need to write film and TV level music, and they don’t always match “album music.” Like you were saying, I have a friend whose album is amazing. He’s like Bob Dylan meets Bruce Springsteen. It’s amazing, but I have trouble using his music because his songwriting is so intelligent that I can’t hide it behind anything. [laughter] I can’t hide it behind dialog, you know what I mean?
His lyrics are beautiful. And I’m like I could use this maybe in a montage, but that means that he has this much [indicating a small chance with hand gestures] of a spot to put it in. But if you write for the style that everybody is using, you have this much [indicating a big chance with open arms], right? Just make a song that sounds kind of like what everybody is using. There’s a constant theme.
Bob: You said it earlier, Michael: I have always been a proponent of if you’re gonna be an artist, that doesn’t preclude you from writing for film and television. You can do both.
You can paint houses and portraits.
Bob: Exactly. And I have friends that do that.
You guys have been amazing. I could do this all day long with the two of you. Thank you very much, Mr. Bob Mair and Mr. Frank Palazzolo! [Cheers]