for Film and TV:
Talk the Talk?
Back to The
I've worked in film and video for the last several years and have always been
the one to place most of the music in commercials and TV shows I work on.
What's surprised me throughout my career is discovering some musicians who know
how to talk the talk, and some who don't. In my line of work, I would never
know if a musician was a college student or a seasoned professional, provided
they packaged their work and presented themselves correctly. So how can I
tell? What do I hear?
Consequences of Not Talking the
The talk isn't always verbal, sometimes it comes in non
verbal cues. They may not have a label on their CD or it's crinkled or smudged
or looks like it was run off from my Apple II C computer in 1985. Presentation
is important in that I should look at a CD in my hands and not even notice it.
I don't want to think twice about it. And if I do notice it, the artwork is
either amazing or it looks like a five year old put it together.
Jewel cases are often cracked. Perhaps this happened in route, but
it's easy enough to buy a few padded envelopes to take care of this. And
actually I prefer cases with spines so I can group the CD's I like together.
This makes it difficult to do with skinny cases. They get lost in the shuffle,
I have to take them off the shelf to see what they're called and ultimately they
fade away into a jumble of discarded music.
I like CD's that come in
groups. A mini box set of tracks for commercials and TV. The variety is what
matters. A rock, pop, hip-hop, acoustic, and mellow collection of CD's makes
life easier. I'm not forced to listen to the same thing over and over again.
The single CD's that come in from musicians give me pause. The music might be
fantastic and I wonder when they're going to send more. I often work with the
same clients over and over again and they don't want to hear the same selection
of music for every spot or show we do. I need fresh variety and the musicians
who keep sending me their work are the ones who succeed.
headache I frequently encounter is when the tracks aren't laid out to spec. A
simple beat of tone two seconds before the song starts would suffice and without
it, my job is twice as hard. Maybe the play list or the duration of the song is
missing from the jacket and I'll have no idea if I'm working with :30 tracks or
2:00 tracks. If I'm in a rush, I'll just skip over it completely and go onto
the next CD.
And when the talk does come in verbal cues, that's the
ultimate telltale sign. I might call a musician to find out if they have other
work that sounds similar to a track I like. Maybe I just need the tempo
quickened or a little more percussion. The musician will often blurt out "How
much am I going to get paid?" before my clients have even decided if they want
to use the track at all. It's not uncommon for a track to be used on a
commercial until right before it airs. We may nix it because the melody needs
to be reworked or the client may change their mind at the last minute. A
seasoned musician would know this. They would understand payment isn't even
discussed by me at all, that the producer on a commercial sends out all the
contracts and payment.
Or, in their excitement they'll gush on
about how this is the first time they're music has ever been bought and you can
practically hear the tears bubbling over. While this is all very special, for
them, I don't really have time for it. Throw yourself a party instead.
But when I come across a professional, I know it.
They're calm, they know the drill, they're happy to accommodate a fast turn
around. They don't gasp when I say I need it the next day, or even in a few
hours. And if they can't accommodate, they're direct about it. They don't
stammer. They tell me when they can get it to me if at all. And if they can't
help me out at all, they offer to send more tracks over as soon as they can for
future use and wish me luck on my project.
I can tell from these
professionals that they didn't just end up trying to compose for TV and
commercials by chance. They researched it, they set up shop to specifically
cater to my industry. Sure, they may be in a band and looking at their work for
hire as a day job until they get signed, but they never let me know that. They
don't make me feel as though they're doing me a big favor by lowering their
standards for my product and client. They exude experience, whether they have
it or not.
Their CD's are laid out to industry expectation. I know
how long their tracks are, they don't name them obscure names like A Farewell to
John Lennon. Instead they're called what they sound like. Jazzy Nights and
Acoustic Melodies. Although not the most creative names, I like knowing I can
flip over the CD and immediately recognize if this track might work just based
on its name.
But more importantly I feel their confidence and faith
in themselves. There's nothing worse than working with a musician who is
unsteady on their own feet. Selecting music is a small part of my day. I might
spend a half an hour in my week looking through CD's and I want it to work. I
want to hear your best, I want to know that when I press play I might find the
perfect track. If a musician makes my life easier, that's when I know I'm
working with a professional.
Susan Finch is a freelance writer and film and video professional based in New
York. She has written a book Trax: Get Your Music Heard available at http://yourmusicheard.com.
|Submit An Article for Consideration!
Would you like to submit an article for publication at MusicBizAcademy.com? If you have music-related expertise
you'd like to share with other musicians including career tips, how to's, or general music business-related articles,
please feel free to send them our way. We'll be glad to consider them. Submit your article!