All Things Music Industry-ish
I haven't see a Wienerschnitzel commercial of any kind here in the non-food chain land of San Francisco, but apparently Tullycraft hadn't seen one either until its song "Sweet" appeared, rather by surprise, on--well, you guessed it--a Wienerschnitzel commercial.
It seems like it went down like this. Tullycraft gets signed to the tiny Boston based Harriet Records and the label Darla, in turn, picks up the band's old Harriet catalog after Harriet becomes defunct. Tullycraft signs an agreement with Darla directly, but doesn't read it/understand it/loses page 5, etc. Darla licenses the song for the promotion of hot dog consumption and Tullycraft only later finds out what they're pitching.
Now the drama really starts and Darla at this point gets in on the action.
And Now, How Things Like This Can Be Avoided:
1. Band should really read agreement.
2. Label should really give band a heads up on what's coming down the pike.
Otherwise, it'll only end in tears.
Speaking of which, it just makes me sad getting arbitrary html emails in my in box. I get fancy color infused ones from the majors, budding music licensing competitors and other pitching-like agencies and ultimately, I greatly suspect, they don't work, at least not for me. There's nothing like a non-personal advertisement promoting (and to who? for what purpose?) music without a hint of what it sounds like, accompanied by unbacked up claims and quotes of faint praise. But really, I love this one. It's my favorite for so many reasons.
Why Things Like This Should Be Avoided:
1. Well, first off, the album cover alone...
2. 518% percent?!
3. I love. Just love. The quote. I know what instant reaction I had.
There are quite a few perverse products in which music is used beyond the film and TV world and here's a few of my licensing use roundups:
REAL INDUSTRIAL MUSIC!
Way back in the days of yore licensing preexisting music was rare and jingle writers abounded. Radio station WFMU offers a compilation of the finest industrial ditties written for the likes of Ford, Exxon and 7-11. They all rock, although Clark Equipment's Hooray For Human Engineering is a jingle writing feat in and of itself, if only for fitting the title into a melody.
While I have a personal connection to American Standard's Rosemary Clooney-esque My Bathroom Is A Private Kind of Place, there are others to which one might find some very special meaning or other. Case in point, one wonders why the dubiously named likes of Squibb Pharmaceuticals isn't still thriving to this day with a jingle such as this. Needless to say none of these songs will probably find their way on to Gray's Anatomy, but it does lend another dimension to the meaning of "selling out".
MUSIC GAMES WITHOUT MUSIC!
Next up, a lesson in how to create a music product without licensing any music. Hasbro releases the Music Edition of a game called Catch Phrase, in which participants must name a song title in response to a clue while being distracted by a repeating piece of very painful royalty free library music.
Clues include US Dummy (American Idiot), Brought Together Again (Reunited) and other ambiguously random hints and I am immediately surprised into thinking that the game is vaguely hip. Example: 123 and... Well, Go! by Tones On Tail, of course. Oh. No, wrong. Okay, Again and Again. Duh, Over and Over from Fleetwood Mac's Tusk. Nope. One more try: Not Going and Not Dead. Screw it, how about Bauhaus's Bela Lugosi's Dead (okay, random association kicks in). I give up and go home.
KIND OF CREEPY!
There's nothing inherently wrong per se with the concept: parents and children listen to a vaguely thematic selection of music (Music Talking, and About Goals and Values: Good Music. Good Times. Good Kids.) and then "discuss". In my family, most of the discussion might center around the inanity of Bobby McFerrin's Don't Worry, Be Happy and emphatically and consistently skip over Matthew Wilder's track Break My Stride. God forbid any child show an interest deeper than the tracks listed; Ian Dury's Reasons To Be Cheerful is safe on surface level but deeper catalog exploration would inevitably dig up his better songs like, oh, Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll. Good thing there's a guided discussion book or families across America would be lost.
KIND OF WRONG!
Every election year this happens. A Republican candidate inevitably chooses something they deem hip and cool and usurp it without any given thought to the human being who actually created the music or that musician's inevitable political leanings. This year, apparent Medal of Honor: European Assault fan John McCain uses Barack Obama supporter Christopher Lennertz's composed game music for a campaign ad.
By Lisa on Jul 7, 2008 | In Various Music Musings
Because I've been working with musicians for about a million years, I've learned a great deal about the subtle hints in conversation, styles of pitching oneself and overall accomplishments in assessing the success and happiness of working with artists quite quickly.
Aside from the obvious (see Rock and Roll Confidential's Hall of Shame), an email is as telling as anything. Despite the constant appeals from music industry folk via interviews, panels and other advice outlets, the "be yourself" suggestion often goes unheeded, despite the fact that we really, really mean it. Because if you're not, we can tell. We all like working with musicians who are actual people, we swear. And real people are easier to work with because we're really all in the same boat together.
Some giveaways on what does and doesn't make a good working band:
Advertisements: I receive pitches from artists mostly via email and here's a hint, if the heading begins with a "dear sir", it's difficult to get beyond the greeting. Also warning signs: "now available for listening" and "now offering tracks for licensing", often accompanied by html embedded graphics of the band. What it comes down to: I don't want an advertisement, I don't need to be hyped, and the music will speak for itself. Over hype makes us industry types suspicious and I've found that the best artists also tend to be simple and sincere.
Failure: Artists that have failed at some time in the past are great. I love them. I work with artists who have been signed to major labels and dropped, written crappy songs and go on to record something brilliant down the road, survived horrible band breakups and re-form new groups. Artists who have failed and are still in the game are still making music because they're true musicians; they can't do anything else and they'll continue to do so no matter what. Artists that believed their own hype so heartily don't continue on and thus don't improve. Those that have had some failure in their past and forge ahead always, always succeed on some level and they truly appreciate what comes to them much more deeply.
Overhype: Something I learned late in my management days, artists that over-hype, insist that others absolutely love them when those others ultimately claim they do not, speak with amazement that they drew 5,000 people at their show (when they didn't) and exaggerate tells me they're not as good as they think they are. Again, the music speaks for itself and if you're great but still have an audience of one, there will be more fans to follow.
I've worked with, and continue to work with artists who truly love making music and of every single band I've signed to my roster, not a single one thus far has happened to include selling points and super-hype in their introduction. Bands in it for the long haul tend to want personal relationships with the people they work with just as much as we on the business side do.
By Lisa on Jun 25, 2008 | In Various Music Musings
Every once in awhile mindless distraction via the internet is a great, great thing--the risk being getting sucked endlessly into what I like to call those "just-one-more-page sites". My latest addictive find is http://www.passiveaggressivenotes.com. My favorite note, of course, is this one. Oh, Graham.
By Lisa on Jun 19, 2008 | In Music Licensing and Placement
$10 million plus is what Portfolio.com's "back-of-the-napkin" analysis estimates as the licensing potential for Led Zeppelin's "Stairway To Heaven". Thus far, the value of the song's earnings--for public performance royalties and sales alone--is $562 million. Keep in mind, there are multiple albums by the band containing equally incredibly classic and amazing songs, so multiply that by ten or fifteen or fifty or so and you've got a good idea what that might look like. On paper. Or in your bank account.
Much was made when Zeppelin et al agreed to license "Rock and Roll" for the Cadillac commercial campaign; they own their own publishing--a rare, glorious thing for a band of their stature--and have much more control of their work. And indeed, that rare license rankled fans. But why the band could potentially make millions of more dollars but doesn't is neither here nor there. I don't think it's a question of needing more money or having enough--Cadillac commercial aside--it's that they don't need the exposure.
There's a bit of schizophrenia going on in the general public's mind in regard to licensing, particularly for commercials. The selling out debate has its ebbs and flows and lately it's been in ebb mode. But it's always been there--The Who released an album about it, The Sex Pistols openly swindled fans, and Carly Simon finally managed to shock people with a ketchup endorsement.
On the flip side, there's commentary like this, heralding the emergence of TV as the new radio. New artists are simultaneously selling their music along with the product. These commercials are in heavy rotation, artists don't have to "pay" for the exposure (quite the opposite) unlike commercial radio, and the song, in a national commercial campaign, reaches a huge amount of ears.
Basically, TV exposure is for the young. The public accepts that a new band needs the income and the exposure, and also discovers new music this way. But Led Zeppelin is already embedded into their iPod as well as their musical being. It's a badge of taste and distinction. And if ever Feist or Joe Purdy or the next artist with a hit on an iTunes commercial lasts half as long or consistently writes and records music a third as good as Led Zeppelin, then they too eventually will be seen as selling out because by then, they don't need to advertise their wares no matter how much they get paid to do so.
By Lisa on Jun 15, 2008 | In Music Licensing and Placement
I've been a little jealous lately of my as-yet-unmet colleague/competitor Lyle at Bank Robber Music, a NY based licensing company that's been having fun using some of its music in homemade videos and posting them on its site. There's a tongue in cheek Sex In The City sampling and a quirky little office piece too. Perhaps, if I one day wake up with some untapped video syncing skill and more hard drive space and RAM, I too will do the same.
At around the same time I saw Lyle's videos, I came across an article written last year titled Music Licensing In The Era Of YouTube, in which a company called Dollartracks (apparently now very defunct) offered music for a few dollars to license in, among other things, You Tube videos.
If there's one thing the RIAA has done accidently right in its disastrous attempt to sue music fans out of being music fans, it's inadvertently educated the general music listening population at large that it is illegal to use a Coldplay song in your high school reunion video and upload it to YouTube.
Indeed, I get various requests--mainly from high school science teachers--politely asking permission to use Thomas Dolby's "She Blinded Me With Science" for science project videos, and for whom there's little I can do; EMI grants permission for the master and guiding the honest school teacher through the morass known as clearance is more than I can muster.
Simultaneously, the seemingly increasing discussion of ways to replace music income post-digital file sharing age, which includes variable pricing, merch sales, touring income and public performance royalty-like income from file sharing, tends to omit the licensing side of the business. Mainly, I suspect, because film and TV licensing aren't necessarily consistent bets and also because they're not sold to the general public.
So what better way to sell a single for $5.00 as a YouTube license. And what a good way to get the bonus of exposure and fan endorsement at the same time? Getty, in conjunction with PumpAudio offers music for this purpose but it's only a matter of time when someone does it right, markets it for the YouTube audience and the consumer licensing business will take off.
Even in the world of licensing unknown startup artists there are some that always do better than others. I love these songs above and beyond their licensable accessibility and, while you might readily recognize a regularly licensed track from Death Cab For Cutie or (I feel it coming) MGMT, these are great songs too.
I've abbreviated the songs, because I can't upload more than 2MB. Bleh.
Sex And Reverb: CORONER.
Great laid backed super-melody. Most recently used in an episode of Men In Trees, Sex and Reverb tracks get regularly licensed for film and TV, including CBS' Numb3rs, NBC's Knight Rider, Fox's Drive, and ABC's What About Brian.
SuperGiant: HERE SHE COMES.
This song is brand new, and I love the bluesy, Beatles-like feel to it. SuperGiant's generally electronic/rock hybrid sound was spawned in the UK as H2S04 and was licensed for episodes of HBO's The Sopranos and Six Feet Under. The band's other incarnations have been used in What About Brian and Dirt.
The Elevator Drops: JULES.
Recently use in Toyota's Sequoia commercial. It's a chaos of pop sound. The band's Sex Pistols-like Resistance will also be heard on the upcoming Dakota Fanning/Forrest Whitaker feature Winged Creatures.
Derby: STREETLIGHT. So happily upbeat and poppy, Derby was used five times in last year's season of Men In Trees, in ABC's Eli Stone, and this month, a nationally airing Coke commercial.
With incredible production, Swedish artists Brainpool can effortlessly run the musical gamut of influences, which range from Brian Eno to Led Zeppelin. Licensed in Notes From The Underbelly and One Tree Hill, , this Swedish Grammy award winning band is virtually unheard of in the States.
Parry Gripp: DO YOU LIKE WAFFLES
Sadly, this song has never been licensed. I had Parry (of Nerfherder fame) write this on spec years ago, in response to a kid's breakfast product and it was never used. But it has spawned countless YouTube inspirations and literally over a million views.
Maybe someday it'll sell a waffle, too.
Ten years ago the ability to sell a snippet of a hit song was something only a pothead could think up. Yet P2Pnet reports Hasbro's recent release of its new Turbo ToothTunes music in your mouth toothbrush--similar, I suppose, to musical greeting cards, with accompanying abbreviated tune.
My amusement of this product is deep, partly because I tend to wander, bored and restless, while teeth brushing, leaving a trial of toothpaste with which I can find my way back to the sink. Further, I can't think of a better way to embed, permanently, an annoying heavy rotation of "Walking On Sunshine" in my head for all time, as if a single radio play weren't enough. The musical delivery is guaranteed to do just that:
Sound waves stream through the bristles and travel through your jawbone to your inner ear where the music is heard in your head!
But what I really like is the weird hodgepodge assortment of available brain worms found in the Tooth Tunes Catalogue, which you can sample on site (and yeah, they're the actual artists). What Neil Sedaka's "Waking [ie. Breaking] Up Is Hard To Do" or The Beach Boy's ""Fun Fun Fun" is doing in a children's selection gives me pause--do they REALLY have Sedaka loaded into their iTunes?. I ponder what kind of advance so tempting that Queen and Kiss also got in on the mix. And what kind of parent gives his kid a toothbrush that plays The Village People's "YMCA" anyway? Don't they know WHY it's fun to stay there?
But hands down, Devo's "Brush [Whip] It" wins for my first Best Song In Children's Toothbrush Award. Just the sample snippet of the snippet is totally hilarious, and may make a hit with potheads worldwide.