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PMA Talks Maxing Your Production Music

The Production Music Association (PMA) held its second annual Production Music Conference in early September at the Directors Guild of America headquarters in Los Angeles.

LOS ANGELES, CAThe Production Music Association (PMA) held its second annual Production Music Conference in early September at the Directors Guild of America headquarters in Los Angeles. The PMA, a non-profit organization which advocates for the production music community, with more than 675 members—music publishers, composers and industry professionals—offered a dual-track schedule focusing on creative, financial and legal issues associated with production music.

Kicking off the second annual Production Music Conference were (l-r) PMA executive director Hunter Williams, composer Brian Tyler and journalist Jon Burlingame This year also saw the launch of the PMA’s Mark Awards, recognizing excellence in production music in a range of genres and uses, as well as two special achievement honorees. The awards are named for the late Andy Mark, a music library owner and founding member of the PMA.

Composer, conductor and multi-instrumentalist Brian Tyler was the keynote speaker, in conversation with author and journalist Jon Burlingame. Tyler has more than 70 films to his credit, including blockbusters such as Avengers: Age of Ultron, Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World and installments of the Fast & Furious franchise.

There was no one big break, said Tyler, who worked his way up from small indie projects. “The early ones were so micro-budget that I played all the instruments,” he said. Tyler still enjoys playing on his own scores, often contributing keyboards, an assortment of esoteric instruments and especially drums, his first instrument.

Tyler also prefers to conduct his scores. “I know the film so well; I’ve watched every frame of it. A conductor probably saw it only once or twice. You have the ability in the first take to save the take,” he noted.

When asked what business lessons he has learned, Tyler laughed, “Invest in real estate.” He received some criticism in his early days for investing too much back into his craft: “Every dollar that I would get, I would get a piece of music, or upgrade the studio.” But, stressed Tyler, “Make sure that you are up to date, technologically and musically.”

During “Follow the Dollar,” a panel on revenue streams on the Business Track, Cassie Lord of 5 Alarm Music observed, “The most important thing in the revenue stream with sync is to hold onto it; so many people are giving it away.”

The way to do that is knowing what to ask, she said, offering an acronym—TTRV, for territory, terms, rights and versions. Where is the piece going to air? For how long? “Ask the questions and you’ll get more money for the usage,” she said.

With the proliferation of internet destinations for production music, moderator Andrew Gross of Konsonant Music asked AdRev’s Noah Becker how to know what to charge for a license. “It’s important to evaluate the subscriber count, overall views on their channel, recent views” on YouTube, Facebook or whatever the platform might be, said Becker. AdRev, which monetizes YouTube placements, uses a similar formula to broadcast, in terms of impressions.

“It’s pretty easy to gauge how much a specific content creator is going to make off of a video containing your content,” Becker said. For YouTube, “Factor about 50 cents to a dollar of revenue for the creator for every 1,000 views of their video. You should quote them a sync fee that’s appropriate.”

There can be a tendency to undervalue the music, he added. “We’ve seen $35 needle drop fees go into videos that generated over $25,000 in revenue. Huge missed opportunities, there.”

Two detection methods can find and help monetize music usage. Fingerprinting by companies such as TuneSat, Soundmouse and Ad-Rev works by delivering to a database master mp3 files with metadata containing instructions—dependent on the monetization methodologies of the providers—in the event of a match being detected. (Shazam uses a similar method, linking consumers with retail outlets.)

Fingerprinting can detect false positives, the panel cautioned, for example, detecting identical samples used in multiple original pieces, requiring post-broadcast detective work to ascertain the rightsholder. Watermarking, typically through Source-Audio, travels with the file, reducing errors.

On the Creative Track, a panel offered tips on writing a music library hit. “A good piece of production music says one thing and says it well,” said composer Jeff Rona. Making it editable is also a big help, he added.

According to Nick Phoenix, “The trend has gone toward stems, where [the client] really wants control over your piece.” There should be at least four or five stems—drums, brass, strings, synths and so on. “They’re cutting music up in ways that maybe you won’t appreciate—but in the end, you appreciate the paycheck,” he laughed.

Phoenix also commented, “Sound quality is very important. You have to make sure your production values are up to a very high standard.”

Production Music Association