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TAXI Road Rally, 2018

Beth Wernick shows her passion for music and musicians during her panel at TAXI’s 2018 Road Rally convention.
Beth Wernick shows her passion for music and musicians during her panel at TAXI’s 2018 Road Rally convention.

Panelist: Beth Wernick
Interviewer: Michael Laskow

Beth Wernick began her career in the music industry as a publicist in New York City, working with iconic recording artists like Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Fleetwood Mac, Heart, Ambrosia, Judy Collins, Tanya Tucker, KC and the Sunshine Band, War, and many others. After moving to Los Angeles, Beth worked at Rhino Records and later on co-founded Imaginary Friends Music Partners with singer/songwriters Stacy Robin & Donna Rawlins. Imaginary Friends is a one-stop, exclusive song catalog, which licenses the music of unsigned, Indy artists to TV shows, films, commercials, etc. In 19+ years of pitching songs, IFMP has had a wealth of placements, including regular uses on CBS's daytime drama, The Young & The Restless; ABC's Nashville and American Crime; Hallmark Movies; NBC's Nightshift, MTV's Siesta Key; the film The Bleeder; plus numerous reality series and films. Beth gives full credit to the truly gifted artists, bands and songwriters whose music she is honored to represent. We give credit to Beth for finding many of those artists through TAXI listings, and landing lots of placements for them. Ladies and gents, please give a warm welcome to Miss Beth Wernick!

Beth and I have known each other for years and years, and about a week after TAXI's 2017 Road Rally she called me and said, "Michael, it's killin' me. Every time I'm up there on your panels at the Road Rally, there are so many dopey mistakes that I see people making. I just want to help them stop making those mistakes. Can we do a session on just that, next year?" Well, here we are, and we ultimately decided to call this session, "10 Reasons Your Song Will Get Used or Not" Ladies and gentlemen, please give a warm welcome to Ms. Beth Wernick [applause]

Well, first off, I just want to say, Is this man fantastic or what? Come on!

Awww. Thank you Beth. I love what I do!
Well, that shows, and you're helping people get their music covered, and that's one of the toughest things in the world to do. I think it's easier to be an actor!

So let's go through the 10 reasons why your song did get used.
This is the best part. I wanted to come from a place of being positive, because you (the people in the audience) get enough rejection.

Number one (reason your song got used): Your song was exactly what the music supervisor requested, but sometimes you just don't hit the mark; it's just not right for the scene. It doesn't mean it wasn't a good song; it's just not what the scene requires. You can't take that to heart—you have to be tougher than that.

Number two (reason your song got used): It wasn't in the budget, but you did a gratis license. Sometimes they don't have a lot of money. You know, I work on The Young and the Restless,and we have no budget for upfront sync fees. It's a gratis situation, where you get paid performance royalties only. That's not the worst thing in the world, because it's a broadcast network TV show and the royalties are actually better than when you get something on cable. So when you're cooperative—when you say, "Well, you know, I'd rather have my song heard than not heard," and you go along and help with the budget on the show—first off, that makes you a hero, and second, it makes them want to work with you again. So understanding that sometimes there isn't a lot of money, you just have to play the game, and eventually you're going to get one of the big ones.

Number three (reason your song got used): The song fits the scene perfectly, even though sometimes it's just buried in the background, and you're sitting in your living room, you've got your 42 friends and relatives over because you got a placement, and you can't hear the song—don't be upset. You know, the editor got in there, they mixed it, and they did whatever. You are part of the process, you got in there, and that's a win whether you could hear your lyrics or not. Just understand most song placements are going to be background, and they are going to be under dialogue. Once in a blue moon you're going to have that wonderful featured vocal placement where everybody goes, "High five," and then forgets you had it the next day. But that's how it works.

Number four (reason your song got used): You delivered the song on time. This is one of my favorites. I can tell you that I have a deadline, but if you don't make that deadline and you send me that song later in the day, I've already submitted music to the Music Supervisor and the train has left the station. You send your song in the middle of the night—I get to sleep sometimes. You send it the next day or the next weekend, and I know a lot of you have to have jobs and that you can't support yourself completely with the income from your music yet, but when there's a deadline, there is a deadline. There's no flexibility; if they're looking for something right now, that's when our opportunity is there.

"If you don’t make that deadline and you send me that song later in the day, I’ve already submitted music to the Music Supervisor and the train has left the station."

Number five (reason your song got used): When your song nails their needs, and I say you've got to have an instrumental mix of the song, you've got to have it. That's how they edit. If you don't have your WAV files of a mix minus the vocal, the editors have nowhere to go if they need to do specific edits in the scene to make your song work. A lot of you go to somebody to have them produce your stuff, for God's sake, you are paying them, remember to get your files from them. Get your WAV file, get that instrumental track, because you're gonna need it. A lot of times on The Young and the Restless, they use the instrumental track more often than the vocal track, and that doesn't suck either. It's still good; your music is still being heard. But you have to have those elements [like the mix minus vocal], or they probably can't use it.

How often do they ask for a WAV?
It depends. Today, the Hallmark Channel called and asked for two different WAVs. We do a lot of Hallmark, especially for the Christmas movies, and they surprise me. When they ask for the WAV file, that probably means they're cutting to picture. That means that you've probably got a 99% chance that the song is going to be in the scene. So, if I don't have those when they're getting ready to make it work around the film, you're going to lose that placement. I have songwriters and artists who send me songs and say, "I sent you 10 songs, but I don't have instrumentals for three, four and seven." Please don't send them, because I'll fall in love with songs three, four and seven, and you didn't bother to have all your elements, well... that's all I'm saying on that subject, because that's what you need to have to get placements.

Number six (reason your song got used): You've cleared the writing and publishing beforehand. In other words, all stakeholders in that song are identified and approve of it being licensed. I don't like surprises, except on my birthday. I don't like having a song in my catalog [where] you don't tell me who all the writers are. Sometimes somebody slips me a Mickey and says, "Oh, did I not tell you that I had a co-writer on that?"

Do you think they do it by intent? Or do they just not know any better? That's a fatal error, right?
It's a really fatal error. That's the big one. I'm small but mighty. [laughter] The truth is; I won't work with you again if you do something that causes problems for the production. Make sure that you've got all that stuff lined up before you come to anybody. Even when you pay a singer a session— you have them sign a document saying Work for Hire. You own all the rights to that song, and when you've got that Work for Hire document, they can't surprise you later with a claim for a piece of the composition.

What about when you have a friend do you a favor and sing on one of your songs for free?
She just sang it and they didn't pay her at all? They should give her something, because the singing sold the song, right?

So what would be the right thing to do?
Oh, a little piece of the publishing. Or write her a check for $100 or $200 or $500 or $1,000. Yeah, I think people should be paid for their work. [applause] Thank you. I don't see any reason why you shouldn't.

And to your point, if you've sent something where you don't have all that stuff cleared, it's not all kosher, and it gets found out late in the game, that's really bad.
We've had some real crazy stuff happen. Just one anecdote: There is this wonderful TV show—a really big show—and the music supervisor called and said, "Will you bring so-and-so's song?" Terrific. It was in my catalog, and I let him know. About six weeks down the road, they tell me that it's final and it's in the show, and I call the writer and tell him that it's confirmed, and he says, "Actually, that song might have been bought by Mike Curb years ago." And I'm like, "You had six weeks to tell me that you don't own this song?" I had literally had a huge panic attack, and I called up two ex-boyfriends in the music business and said, "You owe me! How do we fix this? Do you know Mike Curb? Can you call him?" Long story short, they did use the song. They got the license, but I wasn't so happy, because it was my placement and I wasn't going to make any of the money. But there is a God! Write that down. A year later the Greenspan Company called me and said that there is $1,000 that's been sitting here a year for part of the master sync fee. And I said, "It's mine!" I hadn't got anything for the song, and it had been sitting there for a year and nobody claimed it? It's mine. But that's the kind of thing that is just wrong. I mean, he had ample opportunity to think that through. Were he not the greatest songwriter and had so many other amazing placements, I would have kicked him off the roster. But people make mistakes, and you have to forgive sometimes. But that was a bad one. If you've previously sold your song's copyright, don't give it to me!

By the way, something we run into almost weekly when I do TAXI TV and I play members' music, and then get a notice from YouTube saying, "We're letting you know that the publisher..." Not a take-down notice—I forget what they call it. So many people that get stuff through CD Baby or TuneCore online sign a publishing agreement and don't realize that they have signed a publishing agreement. And there's also a company called Hexford that apparently is hijacking publishing on songs that go on YouTube. I get these publishing notices through YouTube that these things are signed by Hexford, and I've called some of the members and go, "We didn't connect you with company called Hexford." And when I Google them, it turns out they are a scam company that is stealing copyrights. There are all kinds of stuff about it online.

"The truth is; I won’t work with you again if you do something that causes problems for the production."

Anyway, my longwinded point being that when you work with TuneCore or CD Baby, make sure you understand what you are signing. Not that either of the companies are evil in any way, shape or form, but they have a routine thing where they say, "Would you like us to publish you?" "Oh yeah, I've got a publishing deal." Well, now you go to send your music to Beth and you don't remember that three-and-a-half years ago you signed a publishing deal where you agreed to the terms and conditions of CD Baby or TuneCore or other things like them, and that's a problem. Someone told me there are something like 600,000 songs, or something, that are published by CD Baby, so I've got to believe that a lot of people in this room have stuff that's published that they may not even know is published.
Yeah, that's a really valid point. You might want to check CD Baby and see what you find.

Again, not evil...
No, it's just stuff that happens that you didn't really read.

The next reason [number seven] your song got used is, your mix was perfect, it was master-quality. And a lot of people have been asking me about that today. "You mean I don't have to master it?" No, you do not have to spend the time and money to have it mastered, but it needs to sound like a master and not a demo—master quality.

You and I differ on the terminology for this, but it's the same thing. Years ago, back when TAXI first started doing film and TV, "master-quality" was a Michael Jackson record—something done in a pro studio, blah, blah. But film and TV stuff very often was not something that would be done at Westlake Studios or Record Plant or whatever. And I saw an ad for a Panasonic video camera, and it said "Broadcast Quality." And I thought that's what it is; it's good enough for a broadcast. So that's why TAXI started using the term Broadcast Quality, and the industry picked up on it. If it's cleanly recorded, has a well-balanced mix, and sounds good enough, and they would be happy to put it on their show, it's Broadcast Quality. Is that a fair statement?
Exactly! So you want the sound to be the best that it can be. But you don't necessarily have to go that extra mile and have it mastered unless you're going to make an album. So you know, it's a good thing. Just do your best.

Number eight (reason your song got used): You hired a great singer, or you are a great singer. And this is so wonderful to give singers work, if you are a wonderful singer, but sometimes I get songs that could be really good, but the singer is terrible. You may love to sing, but you might not be the greatest singer in the world, or you might not even be the best singer for your own song. And it's kind of fun when you explore working with singers and what they can bring to the party. A lot of you are wonderful singers and you should sing your own songs, but sometimes there is somebody who could take it to the next level because their emotional content or their tone makes it come alive. So don't always be in the studio thinking you only have you. There's a room full of people who would love to sing and help make your song even better.

Number nine (reason your song got used): You did your homework about the show or the film, and you know about—thank God—Tunefind, which I find that so many people don't know about. So we are here to say write it down: It's the best thing you can do to research current TV shows. You can go on there; they have these onesies and twosies.... They don't have all the songs for you to be able to play there, but they have the titles of all of them, so you can go on to YouTube and find the ones they don't post. You hear the vibe of the show; most shows really do have a distinct feel to them. Even The Young and the Restless, we have a real vibe. So the tools that you need are there.

When I started this, we didn't have Tunefind, we didn't have any way of finding out what the... And that famous phone call you would make to the music supervisor, "What are you looking for?" that they never want to hear from you again as long as they live. The object is, now you guys have tools I never had, and you can go up there and type in whatever show you love—Grey's Anatomy, Blackish, whatever—and see and hear what they've used. You can see if that is something you can create, or is that something that you have something similar to? You know the tone of the show. You do have to watch a lot of TV, I guess, and there is so much TV now, I don't know how you're doing it.

But the object is to have your best foot forward. Go to Tunefind, or go and watch the videos, because they are using sometimes very current artists and even artists you've probably never heard of. They are signing the most obscure new artists. The label is launching this guy now, and you might never even have heard of him because they don't play him on radio. You need to know what is current and happening in music—even genres you might not normally listen to!

Don't miss Part 2 of this interview in next month's TAXI Transmitter!