The Business of Making Music

Marshall Smith Photo: Mardo El-Noor

Marshall Smith
Photo: Mardo El-Noor

How can you make a living out of your creativity? Run it like a business and don’t be sloppy, says Marshall Smith, co-owner, composer and producer at The Sound Room.

In this article, we learn how musicians can make money from their music for screen productions and interactive content.

The film and advertising industry is uniquely positioned to be voluminous consumers of every strain of music; no genre too weird, no musical style unbefitting the right story.

Respected Kiwi producer and composer, Marshall Smith, who co-owns The Sound Room with Tom Fox, teaches us his canny knack for adapting, surviving and keeping profitable in an age where people are increasingly turning to stock music libraries.

Tom Fox Photo: Mardo El-Noor

Tom Fox
Photo: Mardo El-Noor

Indeed, any business that enjoys year on year growth, provides a good annual income for its principals, and does that in a creative arena that has historically been better known for its starving artists, is worthy of serious examination.

Musical ability is a gift some are born with – or not. Although it’s still a joy playing and composing music as a hobby, many are determined to make a career of it. Besides, who wouldn’t want to ‘do what you love and the money will follow’, as Marsha Sinetar promises in her book of the same title.

However, for all but a few who find (or make) their own good fortune, most artists face a real challenge staying afloat financially.

 

Hip Hop-eration

Hip Hop-eration

With Marshall Smith’s guidance, let’s discover more about this important avenue of revenue for musicians. 16 Steps for music producers to make money in the film and gaming industry:

  • 1. Produce commercial quality music. You already need to be producing high quality music. You need great songs, great sound and something a bit different too. Apple’s Logic Pro is a great music creating package for beginners and pros alike and it’s very affordable compared with Pro Tools.
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  • 2. Contact Music Publishers. They are like book publishers but instead they publish songs. They are most people’s main route into film and advertising placements. They will licence your songs. There are publishers all over the world including New Zealand, Australia and the UK. The Sound Room has publishing deals all around the world with a whole heap of small and large, independent publishers. They have about 2500 tracks between them both from jingles to opuses, full orchestral to rock. Check out music publishers in New Zealand.
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  • 3. Contact Music Supervisors. Their raison d’etre is to work for film productions and find music to place in their film. A director might say, “I need to find an angelic sounding voice with acoustic guitar.” It could be that specific. So the music supervisor will research, check their books and collections of music. Check out these New Zealand options Mana Music, Aeroplane and The Platform.
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  • 4. Contact Advertising Agencies. They’ll have a TV producer attached to the commercial who is looking for a particular kind of song – or they’ll want a specific sound like an indie-pop sound or maybe an up and coming artist so they’ll search through their networks and contact record labels.

 

7-Up TVC for Vietnam

7-Up TVC for Vietnam

  • 5. Pay for Subscription Services. Marshall says that every day he’s getting requests from the services he’s joined, where people put out a call for a song. One recent example read: “we need dark apocalyptic songs for a Belgium action adventure, $2000”. Submit songs and if you’re very lucky and it’s the perfect song then you’ll be placed. Try these: Tracks and Fields, Music Gateway and Film Music.
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  • 6. Submit tracks to online music libraries. Sure, they may be killing the industry but only because the quality is often excellent. So why not join them? It is worth noting that, for films and TV shows, producers want a non-exclusive license to use your track. The Sound Room has their own online library called thesoundlibrary.co.nz with about 1200 tracks, non-exclusively available for anything.
     
    They represent some local artists for genres that they don’t do themselves. e.g. new artist Caitlin Blake from Hamilton with her “amazing ambient-style music that we couldn’t do”. Their database has a split of tracks that are 50% vocal, 50% instrumental. Most music libraries offer breakdown versions – the track without drums or lead guitar or vocals which gives the editor many options. When submitting your tracks, have ready a range of different versions so they appeal to every need.
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  • 7. Build relationships with filmmakers. Despite the rise in popularity of stock music libraries, 80-90% of The Sound Room’s work is still commissioned; meaning they create music that matches the picture and follows the action. The great news for composers is that it’s often very hard for film directors to find an existing track and fit it perfectly into a scene. It’s often easier and cheaper just to commission something.
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LEAVE A COMMENT

  1. Excellent advice and know how .