It’s no secret, certainly in our business, that music makes a lot of visual content as impactful as it is. It’s why the role of music supervisor exists, to find the best soundtrack to the film, tv show, commercial or even video game and it’s a task that’s given a lot of credence in the production world. But not every time.
Thanks to vast audio libraries out there, the generic sound is easily attained often for free.
My old editor told me once:
“If you write for free, then that is the perceived value of the work you put out there.”
In other words there is no value because there has been no exchange for the work. To return to our case, how can it be that artists create music that’s used to improve or complete the work of others and receive nothing in return?
While this is not an issue only present in the music industry, it’s a bizarre arrangement and a compromise in quality. That’s why the sync agency side of things here at Music Gateway is set up the way it is, the subscription fees paid by our members keeps the lights on, we provide tools to help sell their music and get it to music supervisors who pay for the tracks they want and we take a small commission, with the rest going straight into our members pockets.
This is a sign of the times as many a music industry pro will tell you, sync is becoming the golden egg of monetised music, particularly for indie artists. What about the biggest thing in Hollywood? Marvel movies, that franchise has songs that are synonymous with The Guardians of the Galaxy or The Mighty Thor. Silver Screen Musicals are an event again, Mama-Mia: Here We Go Again, which looks to be enjoying a similar reception (you can check out our friends over at the Guild of Music Supervisors interview with Supervisor, Becky Bentham who worked on the film right here).
Music in film and TV has clearly never been more important. One man who knows this better than anyone, is BAFTA-winning Director, David Skynner.
David had recently completed principal work on his documentary series: ‘Rock and Roll Cars’, which focuses on various music stars,their car histories and the relationship between music and cars. I asked him what it is about cars and music that makes them so culturally compatible and he told me:
“As you become mature, 16-17, you are suddenly allowed to drive and the car is the means by which you become more free and you start to go out, you can take a girl out, you can zoom around.
“It’s like an escape from childhood into adulthood, and music accompanies that entire period as well. So there’s such a strong connection that we thought we’d try to explore it. And I’m not being funny, freedom, coming of age, sexual discovery… All of those things are tied in with music. So both of the scenes work really well with each other and work hand in hand.”
For David, it was crucial for the soundtrack to the show to reflect that sentiment. This is true for other directors, so to rely on an audio library of free tracks seems to betray the rest of the production. It goes without saying that sourcing and licensing quality music can be a time-consuming affair. But it’s an important part of the process, as David points out:
“The music was such a crucial part of it, and the time-scale as well meant I had to go through what seemed like millions of music tracks just to find the thing that was right. And I did the whole thing as well and the music proved to be such a difficult thing to do, I needed such a massive resource.”
It’s comments like this that let us at MG know that we’re doing the right thing because our concierge team can do this process for free.
The requirement for projects like this can be very niche, from Chinese rap to Mexican ranchero, you can never know exactly what’s required of the project. But the project will inform the music, as David demonstrates:
“Music is so integral; it sets the tone. Finding the right piece of music determines everything that comes after. It is the atmosphere, it’s the background, it sets the tone. It’s always looking for the right piece of music, and it takes weeks.
“And the cars comes from different eras, different periods and different kind of vibes associated with them. There was a piece that I found to go with the Ferrari Dino that sounded very much like the Who, and that was very much the era of the car. The Who drummer, Keith Moon, he had a Dino and so it seemed like the right kind of thing. But we went through dozens and dozens of things. We would just listen to 5 seconds of each track and go ‘No. No. No. Maybe?’ until I had a list, and this would take a day at least.”
You heard it here first folks, but as our own CEO Jon Skinner discusses in the this video, it’s often the case that the music for the production gets left to the end of everything. But if, as we’ve proved with David’s help, music is so integral to the final project, why would you leave it to the end of the production schedule? Surely it makes it easier for everyone if the theme or purpose of the scene is contextualised by the music? Wouldn’t that make for a better result? David thinks so:
“I think it’s a mistake, sound is so important. Music is such a vital part of it. But for a piece like this there was no point in doing any research beforehand, because you don’t really know what you’re going to need until get into the edit. And the time-scale, we went from being greenlit to starting in about 5-6 weeks which is absurdly quick, but it’s down to availability.
“We immediately had to jump in and do something about it, the cast had to become available. And the whole thing took about a year to complete and deliver the edit. Pretty much a year after being commissioned we delivered, but it was a hell of a year, very long hours. But it was a nice result.”
While time is always a factor, the idea of having someone frantically search through an audio library to find a track that loosely fits the scene rather than having someone source tracks that match their requirements as a separate process, feel like missing a trick.
Ultimately, by collaborating with others you get an idea of how clear your vision is for your project. If you go to a company like Music Gateway or hire a music supervisor and they find the right track, that’s a great indication that your original concept was on point. Or maybe it wasn’t but by pulling in an expert, they can help refine that concept. David was very much of this mind-set when it came to collaboration:
“I think collaboration makes everything so much easier, it’s sharing the burden. It’s so difficult to get things moving. I think collaboration means knocking each other’s bad ideas out of the way, and we all have bad ideas, and everyone has good ideas as well but it’s important to knock the edges off each other’s bad ideas, collaborations are very strong in that respect.”
So keeping all this in mind, the question we have to ask is: if your project requires music and it’s crucial to the outcome, why on earth would you compromise on quality?
At Music Gateway, we believe that filmmakers and other production pros shouldn’t have to compromise their vision when it comes to music, regardless of budget or timescale. That’s why our concierge team is available to meet their needs with a diverse marketplace of quality tracks.
Go here to schedule a call with them to find out more.