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Panel interviewed by Michael Laskow at TAXI’s Road Rally conference, November, 2023

Panelists (left to right) Pedro Costa, Mason Cooper, Michael Laskow, Matt Vander Boegh, Craig Pilo, and Vince Nicotina grab a pose after wrapping up their, 'Does it Feel Like Your Music Has Gone into a Black Hole?' panel at TAXI's Road Rally 2023.
Panelists (left to right) Pedro Costa, Mason Cooper, Michael Laskow, Matt Vander Boegh, Craig Pilo, and Vince Nicotina grab a pose after wrapping up their, "Does it Feel Like Your Music Has Gone into a Black Hole?" panel at TAXI's Road Rally 2023.

Editor’s Note: We’re repeating the introduction to this panel at the beginning of each month’s section to give the discussion that follows some context.

Moderator, Michael Laskow asks the audience seated in the ballroom: How many of you have had music forwarded by TAXI and feel like it’s gone into a black hole? [Lots of audience members’ hands go up] That’s why we’re doing this panel.

We’ve got a bonafide panel of experts up here to help you understand if it is a black hole or it isn’t. On the left we’ve got Pedro Costa, who’s a music library CEO that started out as a TAXI member, so he’s seen the black hole from both sides of the coin. Next to him we’ve got Mason Cooper who’s a highly experienced music supervisor working on films and TV shows. We’ve got Matt Vander Boegh, who has become one of TAXI’s more successful members over many years. Next to him we’ve got Craig Pilo, who is TAXI’s head screener, as well as a composer and a music library owner himself. And then we’ve got TAXI member Vince Nicotina, who posted this on TAXI’s Forum.

“Recently, I’ve received a series of cue sheets, and got some nice payouts from instrumentals in my ASCAP quarterly statement, too. It seems that my music was played all over the place in 2022, and I had no idea about it.

Some of the places I’ve had music in 2022 were Stromboli, a Dutch movie on Netflix; Celebrity and Somebody, Korean TV shows on Netflix; Emmerdale and Coronation Street, long-running British TV shows; as well as other TV shows in the U.K., France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Romania, Honduras, Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland, Australia; and The Con on ABC, a true-crime show.”

Then Vince wrote a follow-up email. “In 2023 so far, I’ve had tunes in the finale of Grease, Rise of the Pink Ladies, on Paramount+. Had some stuff on German TV, but it’s probably too soon to know what happened overseas. The Paramount+ placement paid me a $1,000 sync fee. The true-crime show came from a deal I made through TAXI Forward, and my co-writer was somebody I met in the registration line at the Road Rally. My Paramount+ deal came from a library I learned about from a guy I met at the bar at the Road Rally.

This just goes to show that there really is a long gap of one to two years between when your music gets placed and when you learn about that placement. It takes even longer to get paid, so if you’re frustrated that you got some tunes in a library and they never got placed, just wait a couple of years before you do anything rash.

The rule of thumb is just keep making more music, getting it in more libraries. That’s the plan. I only have a little over 100 tunes in libraries, but the action is finally starting to pick up. Now I need to press for 200 tunes.”

Thank you, Vince for inspiring us.

Part 3 begins here:

Michael: Everybody [in this ballroom] wants to know, “Why can't [the music supervisors] just let me know that they're not using it, and tell me why? Why are they not using my music? Don't they have 30 seconds to pop off an email and tell me, “Sorry, I’m not going to use it?” Let's start with Pedro. Why is that impractical and unrealistic?

Pedro: That kind of fits in with what I was just thinking about what Mason was talking about. In a way, like how earlier we talked about TAXI protecting you from putting the wrong foot forward, there's other things that we're doing to protect the people that we work with, our writers and our artists. When I first started the company, I was pretty excitable about a lot of things as well. So, if Mason reached out and said, look, they're considering this song for this show, I would probably reach out to the artist and say, “Hey, look, we're going to get a placement.” And then what if it didn't happen? Then it would be a massive disappointment, well, for me, but also for the artist, right?

Michael: And their 27 friends and relatives that they immediately told. [audience laughter]

Pedro: So we don't do that anymore, obviously because we don't want to disappoint anybody. Once it's locked and the license is signed, that's when I let them know. Yeah, you have a song coming up on this film or in that TV show or ad or whatever it is.

Michael: It's just everybody has that same feeling and that same question. And my heart breaks that people have that feeling because we're in the business of helping people become successful. And oftentimes, TAXI has to take the bullet for the industry not getting back to them. But I completely understand your situation. And Mason, do you wanna chime in? Why is it that you don't answer? Everybody whose music you consider for a slot, just one slot in one film, and you've listened to 74 different pieces of music and the 75th one was the one where you went bingo and your director said, “Yep, good job, Mason. I love that one, let's put it in.” Why don't you send an email to the other 74 entities, whether they're composers, artists, or libraries, saying, loved your piece, thanks so much for sending it, but it didn't go in because why don't you do that?

Mason: And there’s a relationship. TAXI talks about this. You guys talked about it regarding people in the Rally registration line and building relationships. I will get back to some people after we’ve developed a relationship. So, if I’ve used your song, or I have met you at TAXI… If I have met you at TAXI and you’ve pitched to me and I get back to you and we kind of have this conversation, it might foster that. I’ve met people here this year that have said, “Oh, I’ve pitched to you.” And you know what, the next time you pitch to me, put something in the subject line or put something in the body that says, “Met you at TAXI,” so I remember. And guess what, I may try to reach back out to you because now we’re building a relationship. But if it’s just 74 blind people, the time…

Michael: Matt, you’re a go-to guy for several, if not many, libraries. You’re almost always working on projects that music libraries ask you to do. Even though you’ve got this incredibly direct relationship with them and an “in” with them where they kind of feel privileged to know you and are really happy that they know you, because they know they can consistently get great stuff from you. Do they always get right back to you in a minute or five minutes or an hour, or do you still have to kind of wait in line even though you are royalty in their world?

Matt: You know, there are some times where I usually—unless the library has a submission portal, like their own personal submission area—I usually send stuff on WeTransfer. And, gosh, eight times out of 10, the only way I know they even got the music is if I get that “Your file has been downloaded” email. They don’t reach out to me and say, “Hey, got your tracks.” What happens from there, I don’t know. I know they got them, that’s it.

“People don’t read emails, that’s one of the problems.”

Pedro: I’m gonna jump in for a second. It goes both ways. Our company does a lot of communication to our artists and writers. We send out newsletters; we have a Facebook group constantly posting information. I’ve run into some of our writers here that had no idea we had vocal songs in our catalog. We’ve always had them. We communicate in a quarterly newsletter the placements, the release on our new record label, all of that. People don’t read emails, that’s one of the problems.

Michael: That’s true. They don’t read emails. We had somebody the other day that asked a staff member, “What time is XYZ panel?” They were standing right in front of a two-foot-by-three-foot sign that had the panel time on it. Here’s a good example of people just not paying attention. A well-known music library CEO who was having dinner at our house one night. She said to me about halfway through dinner, “Why doesn’t TAXI do anything to educate its members?” She’s a hardworking library owner, but she was literally ignorant of the fact that we do a really good newsletter that takes me personally 16 hours a month just to do my part of the newsletter. She is completely unaware of the Road Rally, which takes 90 straight days of minimally 12 hours a day for me, and then there’s the staff and all the hundreds of hours they cumulatively put into it. She had no clue. So people just don’t pay attention, they live in their own lane, they live in their own little bubble and unfortunately that’s just the reality of life. I can’t fault her, because she’s one of a million. But I get it.

Vince: So, it creates that black hole both ways!

Michael: Matt Vanderboegh is such a great, shining example of getting it all right. Great attitude, great work ethic. He pays attention, he follows rules, he gets stuff delivered on time, every time. So, it literally causes me heartache knowing that a fairly large percentage of people in this room are frustrated with TAXI, and frustrated with the industry, but maybe they should be a little frustrated with themselves, as well. Because anybody in this room that wants to be as successful as Matt Vanderboegh is, or becoming as successful as I have no doubt that Vince will become, because these people figure it out.

TAXI provides a proven method to get your music to the industry and works with very, very real clients. It’s literally uncountable at this point for us to know how many deals happen. Unknowable and uncountable and here’s one reason why; TAXI forwards a song to a library. For the sake of this example, let’s say it’s Pedro, and he signs that member’s song. The member doesn’t tell us, “Oh, I got a thing signed by a library.” We don’t know. Now, Pedro reaches out to the member six months later and says, “Can you do a full album of that style?” “Yes, I can.” So now that person has got 12 pieces of music in Pedro’s catalog, and over the next year or two they end up with 37 pieces of music in Pedro’s catalog, and over the next five years might get 50 or 100 different placements. We don’t know about any of that, none of it. We literally find about a little tiny trickle of our members that get deals. The libraries rarely tell us. The members rarely tell us. TAXI is also in a black hole!

But my point is that we know that TAXI works, and we know that it works really well! If you don’t get forwarded the variable could very well be a bad pitch.

The reason I’m so emphatic about this is I live in a constant state of frustration, because every one of us, the screeners, the staff, the industry people, we all want you to live your dream, which is “I can earn my living making music,” and you can!

So just ask yourself every time you’re not getting a forward, why not? And we tell you why not [in the feedback you get], because 80% of the time it’s just not close to what the listing has asked for. If you sat there next to our screeners listening to stuff, you’d be in shock when you heard some of the music. Sometimes it’s really good, but there’s no way on God’s green Earth that you would ever say that it matches what they asked for, you just wouldn’t.

“I know that you need a hip-hop song, but I have this great country song. If you have to put ‘but’ in your sentence, you’re not respecting the call, the brief, our time, our needs, yourself, and the time that you’re spending.”

Mason: People have heard me say this, so it’s kind of my shtick, but when you’re pitching to the libraries through TAXI, I have a thing that I say, “I hate big buts.” It’s “B-U-T” with one “T.” I know that you need a hip-hop song, but I have this great country song. If you have to put “but” in your sentence, you’re not respecting the call, the brief, our time, our needs, yourself, and the time that you’re spending. You know it’s not going to get forwarded. If you have to say “but, you’re not following the right line. The country song might be awesome and perfect for another brief. Don’t do that. We’ve all had that happen.

And by the way, the black hole goes a long way also. I know that Pedro has somebody here that pitches for him—I won’t use his name—who said, “Hey, I pitched to you,” and I probably haven’t gotten back to you, I guess. There’s the black hole right there, they don’t get back to the libraries all the time, or to the writers all the time.

I’m about to contract a new film. It’s a sequel. I worked with the director, I worked with those people and I said, “Great.” I sent them my contract. “Oh, great. We’re on, we’ll sign the contract.” Well, it’s in review. Three weeks later, they changed accountants, and they got this, “But you’re on. It’s gonna happen.” But how ’bout that black hole. And by the way, the director is already doing his next film. Good for me because they’ll leave me alone on this film. But when I need to ask him a question, I don’t hear back from him. Black hole, we all have that.

Michael: Yeah, it’s just part of life, but I understand our members’ frustration, because it’s their creation.

Craig: There’s another thing to you, another level of this that I feel from also being a producer and composer before I became a publisher. First of all, I’m pretty impatient. Out here in L.A., I’m like at a red light, I’m like, “Oh, my God, go!” And when I submit music to somebody, I’m like, “God, why can’t you just call me back—and where’s my money, Mason?” But the truth of the matter is if you submit something through TAXI, you know, that takes a month, okay? And then if, assuming that the publisher doesn’t have a need for a specific TV show, or maybe it’s a series, that might take me a month to get the contracts back, and worse, you might take more than a week or two to get your contracts back to me. That drives me crazy, by the way. So, there’s maybe a second month. Then maybe the library has some sort of ingestion period. I know the bigger libraries only ingest music three or four times a year, and that could take a couple of months. Then you get it to the music supervisor, they pitch it to the TV show and the TV show locks it. Okay, so you do get the placement, but it could take an editor one to three months to sync it to a show. From there, the show is finished, it’s locked, it’s done but goes into a queue while the show or the network waits to air it. That could take three, six months, or even a year. And then after it airs, BMI, ASCAP, your PRO has three months to pay you for that. So that adds up to about 18 months. Folks, that’s not a black hole, that’s normal. That’s how it goes.

Michael: And that timeline doesn’t include the writers’ strike or the actors’ strike.

Craig: And that’s assuming nobody’s on strike. So that’s not a black hole, that’s normal operating procedure. So that’s one thing you might want to understand: Your music is not in a black hole, it just takes a certain amount of time for you to get paid.

A black hole would be something that happened to me a few years ago when I had a bunch of placements. I was like, “Wow, Craig’s gettin’ a new car.” Well, the show that all my music went into got canceled. They canceled the second season, and I must have had 50 or 100 cues in it. It was a season’s worth of music, and the show got canceled. That would be a black hole, but then I found out about it, and they’re like, “Yeah, well, maybe you should keep your 2010 car for another few years, because you’re not gettin’ it.”

Anyway, you should also understand the difference between what’s normal and what’s a black hole. I would think—correct me if I’m wrong, you guys would probably know better than me—but 18 months to two years to get paid for TV is becoming normal.

Michael: Sounds about right to me.

Don’t miss Part 4 of this interview in next month’s TAXI Transmitter!