Event Review: Marketing Your Music
Exposing the ASCAP Expo
Some of you may have been bombarded by e-mails and
press releases about the 3-day "I Create Music" Expo
held in Los Angeles and produced by the American
Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP).
If I printed out all the material they've sent to me,
it would require another trip to Office Depot to buy a
ream of paper and additional ink cartridges for the
While it's nice to see so much hard work from the
publicity teams at ASCAP, there is a bit of overkill
in their efforts. And from reading the press
announcements, there may be an element of hype in some
of their material.
Let's take their most recent press release as an
example. It contains such phrases as "landmark event,"
"major entertainment industry conference," and, well,
let me quote from some of their passionate prose:
"The non-stop menu of education, entertainment and
excitement proved to be a recipe for success for the
eager-to-learn attendees who traveled from all 50 US
states and abroad, including Australia, the Bahamas,
Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Japan, the
Netherlands, Norway, Turkey and the United Kingdom, to
discover new technology, share knowledge and
experience, develop new skills, inspire one another
and celebrate the craft of creating music."
Whew. After all that, you can imagine how thrilled
some of us are just to have survived the event.
But let's set aside the condescending reference to
"eager-to-learn attendees" and focus on the positive
aspects of the conference.
Networking. Yes, you could get your business card into
the hands of a lot of people. On Thursday, you might
have been able to bump into Jimmy Jam, Linda Perry,
and Marilyn Bergman. On Friday, you could have rubbed
shoulders with DJ Quik, Glen Ballard, Jeff Rona,
Michael Giacchino, Marcus Miller, Jimmy Webb and Paul
Williams. And on and on.
So the networking could be great. In addition to the
potential interaction, there's, um, well, that's
pretty much it.
Yes, there were panel discussions, and I'm going to
present the details from one of them so you can see if
you feel you've missed anything by not attending.
"How to Get Your Music Placed in TV, Film, Advertising
and Games" was the title of the panel in question. The
information presented was fascinating and often quite
lively. Members of the panel presented a nice mixture
of facts and amusing anecdotes. And it was
What was not covered, however, was an answer for the
"how to" part of its title.
Perhaps this would be impossible since all but one of
the speakers is in the business of selling their
services as an intermediary between the producers of
TV, film, advertising and games on the one hand, and
the creators of music on the other. If they truly
revealed "how to" accomplish things, they would be out
of a job.
PUMP IT UP.
Only Michael Babcock, the West Coast Director of Pump
Audio ( www.pumpaudio.com ) could directly answer some
of the questions because his firm is attempting to
level the playing field for independent artists. As
Scott Andrew wrote about Pump on the Creative Commons
Web site, "They serve as a marketplace of independent
music for film, TV, and radio, representing thousands
of independent artists. The thing that really makes
them stand out is that they don't assert control of an
artist's copyright, instead signing non-exclusive
licenses that last for a year or two."
The other speakers, most of whom I've met, are
serious, hard-working, and very bright people. They
are proud of what they accomplish and are
well-respected in the industry. And I believe they
would like nothing better than to help out the next
talented composer or songwriter they encounter. But
they are not about to simply hand over the reins of
their firms to the artists who approach them for help
Making the 75-minute presentation flow smoothly was
moderator Michael Eames, President of Pen Music Group
( www.penmusic.com ), a publishing company headquartered
in Los Angeles, but whose reputation for quality is
global. Peter Janson of CRC Jianian in China has
praised Eames, and there is an excellent interview
with Eames at: www.bmusic.com.au/links/industry/archives/ararchiv/meames.htm .
Also on the panel:
Marc Ferrari, President of MasterSource Music Catalog
( www.mastersource.com ). Marc has an interesting
approach in that his firm effectively becomes both the
publisher and the record company when representing
material. Often using work-for-hire contracts,
MasterSource has assembled a huge catalog utilized by
a vast array of TV shows, film studios, and more.
Rich Goldman, President and Creative Director of
RipTide Music ( www.riptidemusic.com ). RipTide, founded
and run by musicians, ofers one-stop licening of music
in multiple genres. They also feature rerecorded
masters as well as providing access to music in
private collections and on a variety of indie labels.
Matt Kierscht, Music Supervisor, Quiet on the Set, has
an impressive list of motion picture, television, and
music industry credits. You'll find a brief interview
with Matt here: http://www.globalgraffiti.com/interviews/kierscht.htm
Doug Wood, President, Omni Music ( www.omnimusic.com ).
A composer, businessperson, and musician's rights
advocate, Wood oversees a catalog of more than four
thousand compositions, and growing.
Highlights from their presentation follow.
ON FEES & BUDGETS:
Kierscht: "Normally, music is part of post production,
so it's often viewed as icing on the cake... or the
last guy on the totem pole."
Ferrairi: "We get asked to license as cheaply as
Babcock: "They may spend 90% of the music budget on
three songs but still have 15 slots left to fill."
Kierscht: "Reality TV doesn't budget music properly.
This may give indie artists an 'in,' but it doesn't
help the industry overall."
Eames: "Videogames don't pay royalties except under
extraordinary circumstances. They say it's a
promotional opportunity. I just laugh."
Babcock: "It's not the singers, it's the songs, and
how music conveys the message or the mood."
Goldman: "Always do an instrumental version of every
Babcock: "Quality, production, performance, and
professional presentation are crucial."
Goldman: "Get a release from singers and performers
who work on your song recordings. You must own and
control 100 percent of the composition."
It was suggested that G.A.N.G. ( www.audiogang.org ) and
AMP, the Association of Music Producers ( www.ampnow.com )
are potential sources for information and networking.
Word of warning: as of this writing, the general
e-mail on the AMP site ( email@example.com ) defaults over
to Eric Kaye at The Lodge mastering facility in New
York, and I can tell you right now he is totally
uninterested in hearing from people who are not
registered members of that organization.
From what was hinted at by almost everyone on the
panel is a dirty little secret of the industry. If you
make music that sounds like a well-known artist, you
can get your work licensed.
Wood: "Companies often want a sound-alike track
without a big payout and without getting sued."
So, if you have a song that everybody complains sounds
too much like today's radio flavor-of-the-month,
submit it for licensing. Sad, but true.
As at any music convention, there are some firms in
the business of "selling hope" to unsigned artists.
With a little common sense, you can spot them because
they seem to be offering a way into the business for a
monthly fee. Since these people were sponsors of the
event, a case could be made that ASCAP agrees with
Then there are people like the Music Business Registry
(www.musicregistry.com ) who offer a real and valuable
service, one that is utilized by people in the
industry as well as those who are attempting to break
Perhaps the main problem is the overall approach of
the executives who put on this event. Several people
with whom I spoke really disliked the oppressive waves
of self-congratulatory statements pouring from the
officials and many of the panelists.
It is truly offensive to have to endure phony-friendly
words in the vaguely snooty tone used by those who
have somehow achieved a foothold in the business as
they spout tired old expressions ("this is an exciting
time for indie artists..." "go out there and make it
happen for yourself…" "listen to your heart…" "utilize
your passion..." etc. etc.) followed almost
immediately by a list of the roadblocks, locked doors,
restrictions, and high walls that prevent access to
all but a very few people.
Which people? Those who already know somebody who can
As the panelists put it:
Eames: "There are legal aspects to accepting
submissions. Plus, we're already two months backed up
Babcock: "For most situations, submissions must come
via an agent or a known source. That's what makes Pump
Goldman: "The key is access. It all depends on your
relationship with the studio and production people."
Coming back to my studio after absorbing as much of
the Expo as I could stand, I was motivated once again
to make new music and get it into even more
commercials, corporate presentations, nightclubs, DJ
remixes, Internet radio stations and other licensed
uses. So the ultimate result of the ASCAP Expo was
If only one didn't have to hear all the platitudes.
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