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Music for tv/film....how long do you make your tracks? Studio Headphones
Old 17th November 2009
  #1
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ryst's Avatar
 

Music for tv/film....how long do you make your tracks?

I still have a lot to learn about the tv/film industry and how it relates to music so bare with me please.

If I was to makes some "cues" for tv shows, commercials, films, trailers....basically a demo reel or just a bunch of cues to shop around for placement, how long should they be? For instance, when I watch something like "Man VS Food", it seems like they play 10 second clip after 10 sec clip of music. Does that mean the composer probably only created about 10-30 seconds of music? I'm just trying to understand how this works.

Same question for commercials and film trailers. Are composers making whole songs and then the ad agencies determine how much of the track will be used? Or do composers usually just create tracks which are the average length for what will probably be played/used?

Any books or sites to recommend to understand this part of the industry better?
Old 17th November 2009
  #2
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I don't have a ton of experience here, but I did some music for a show on Adult Swim two years ago (I composed a short theme song, a little bit of incidental stuff here and there, and a longer, 1 minute rock song for the finale). Everything was composed to fit a set amount of time in each scene (the director and producers gave me the exact cues and, since I was working with drum software, I recorded the drums first and played around with their length and tempo, so that they exactly fit into the cue points on the video that they provided me), but I did give them a little extra - maybe 10-15 seconds on the end, in case they needed it (they didn't - they actually needed less and trimmed some bits).
Old 17th November 2009
  #3
If you aren't composing a custom spot to locked picture, you'll often give them a "music package." This will consist of the full song, as long as necessary to express your musical idea (could be a minute and a half, could be three or even four minutes), followed by a 1:00 edit, a :30, perhaps a :15, and a couple stingers. They may have requests for other custom times (1:30, or :45), or a second :30 option.

The specifics will vary with the deal. Sometimes you'll even do alternate versions, say one with percussion, and one without; and if you have some kind of lead instrument playing a "head" or melody, you'll want to include an underscore version without the lead.
Old 17th November 2009
  #4
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And what about if you are sending cues to be heard for placement opportunities? How long should you make each cue?
Old 17th November 2009
  #5
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In the 80s and 90s, you made like one song, the signature theme which was max one minute, but usually 29 seconds. Then, you made shorter versions of the same song, usually without the intro and outro and playing the main recognizable theme of it all, in 9 seconds version and 3 seconds. Variations of the pre-assumed material may vary.

That way, the director had a theme song, and 2 variants of it to use for going in and out of commercials, or using it for any kind of separation or orientation within the program.

I'm out of contact with however there are any pre-assumed practices nowadays, I just know most radio stations and TV uses premade CDs that they got from somewhere else, and that it won't make you rich.

But composing with the clear mindset that the theme, or what makes the musical content instantly recognizable must be short, to the point, and must be reworkable to very short versions. Composing using short parts in consistent "chunks" isn't a bad idea when composing for Radio/TV. Also, use voices and signature sounds that really can be identified as "that show" or "That stuff".

For film, it's very different. Then your directive is the cue list with exact timing and SMPTE references .. and the directors notes/requests. Sometimes the music adds what isn't there, sometimes it enhances what is already there, creates something by a combination of what is seen and what is heard, or just follows along with what is already there .. or a combination. I'd suggest you show that you can "make a person see an given inner landscape or scenario" just from the music itself, and also what landscape that is. Directors tends to like that. It's not very useful for the filmmaking itself, but john williams probably wouldn't be hired for anything either if he use the star wars theme as a demo. A cook won't get hired because he shows he can make a spectacular cake.

For music/film/tv work however, a demo thing won't get you much. People don't call people who are good at things. People call guys they know, guys they have met, befriended etc ... and if those guys are good at what they do, that's more a plus on the side than a nessecity.
Old 17th November 2009
  #6
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for documentaries, all my tracks are 2:00 long most of the time. a little bit less or a little bit more if i'm inspired / if it's well paid.

don't make your tracks too short or you'll never make royalties money

if someone wants a shorter version of one of my tracks, i'll just open the session, make it and send it ASAP

for commercials, most of the time you have the WIP video, and have to sync the music to the picture, so you just have 30 seconds to make

i have a website where people can listen to my catalogue. it's my online demo. there's no edited versions, it's all full tracks. they'll skip themselves if they don't want to hear the full thing.
Old 17th November 2009
  #7
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InstituteOfNoise's Avatar
 

I compose for a production company that has numerous shows on the air and each request is slightly different. Sometimes they want cues that have starts and stops and in 2-3 sections so each section builds more and more. Usually 1:30-1:40 is average. Some are up around 2:00 but rarely less than 1:15, unless requested. They rarely use the whole cue, but I've found that my cues in part, usually end up in multiple shows even though I wrote it for one in specific.

The thing about TV I've found is interpreting what they are asking for, because sometimes they don't know exactly what they want until they hear it. The other big thing is to be quick, with hopefully no major adjustments to the pieces you turn in. You need to develop your process to work fast. My general rule I stick to is to deliver 2 minutes of completed music inside of 8 hours. If they know you can deliver consistently to meet their schedule and needs the more they call on you usually. They let me know if they want different stems of the main piece, which takes my a few extra minutes to generate.

It's different than songwriting, because it's about delivering a feel/mood rather than let's layer 12 guitar tracks up and see how crunchy we can get it... that is unless they ask for something specific like that.

Try and be real varied in your samples you demo up. The wider your expertise the better shot you may have of gettin a gig. Good luck with it!
Old 17th November 2009
  #8
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I did a cd for a music library in which their contract stated that the pieces be at least 1:30 but not more then 3:00. Also that I supply them with a 30 & 15 second cutdown version. Some also require a 1:00 version, but I think because of what you stated about people using only 10 seconds or so of a clip, the shorter versions have become more popular.

I'd make your tracks 1:30 - 2:30 ish and worry about the cutdowns when you're offered a contract....Some companies will do the cutdowns themselves. Also others won't even use your mixes, they'll ask for stem mixes which they'll have their own engineer mix and then do their own cutdowns. Just start at square 1 and make the music though...
Old 18th November 2009
  #9
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I am also in this game.Currently working on our fifth cd.
Our tracks are 2-3 minutes.
Some of the companies do the editing themselves.Some have asked that I provide the cut down versions.
Make your tracks long.You can always cut them down later when a company becomes interested in what you have to offer like said above.
Some composers get hired to write trailers,while other trailers have music that has been licensed.I have heard of someone making 20,000 dollars for writing a trailer.
I keep seeing the request for hybrid- Orchestral tracks meets rock meets......
Trailers want everything in 30-60-2:00 minitues.
If you are going to spend the time writing,you will benefit from the longer tracks with great arrangements that you can edit down easily.
Good Luck!


Dan P
Old 18th November 2009
  #10
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Hey Dan P, where are you hearing about the Orchestral meets Rock requests? I've been doing a lot of that lately as cues and have had a request from a music trailer house to submit, but would love to find more. Thanks, Andy
Old 18th November 2009
  #11
Led
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Send songs you have written. Get on the short film websites and befriend a director, do a short film for free. Network wherever you can. Go to short film nights/festivals.
The thing is, demo reels of unplaced music and fake cues don't hold much weight or get work. There are literally millions of people sending them all round the world, not to mention a sh!tload of crappy royaly free music sites/organisations.
Music that has been released will impress more. Contacts in the industry you've had a drink with will get you more...
Old 18th November 2009
  #12
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For TV don't forget to have definite intros and endings on most pieces (not always the delayed repeat at the end haha). Also, create definite A and B sections if possible and don't forget to bounce out stems as well and put in a separate folder inside your song folder (i.e. named "songexample stems"). It seems lot more shows use stems these days and they can up the chances of your track being used (i.e. music supe: "I really like this track but the organ is distracting from the dialog. Oh cool, there are stems! We can bring that down. Let's use this!")

I also put the tempo in the name of my tracks as well for easy editing on the show mixer/editor's end (i.e. examplesong_120bpm_mckay)

Of course if there is a vocal version, print an instrumental.

:-)
Old 19th November 2009
  #13
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ryst's Avatar
 

Thanks for all your help guys.
Old 19th November 2009
  #14
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dan p's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by InstituteOfNoise View Post
Hey Dan P, where are you hearing about the Orchestral meets Rock requests? I've been doing a lot of that lately as cues and have had a request from a music trailer house to submit, but would love to find more. Thanks, Andy
Hey Andy!
Try Film Music Network and Taxi.Google Trailer Houses!Someone gave me a list of about 20 or 30 trailer houses in LA.
You do have to join Taxi and you pay more if you dont belong to FMN.
Also try Music Libraries.They are looking for that stuff always!
Good Luck!


Dan P
Old 19th November 2009
  #15
Gear Head
 

Interesting thread. Personally, I'm skeptical of the places that make you pay to submit music (such as Film Music Network ads that I've seen). It just seems like the pay-to-play equivalent for licensing music.

A friend of mine signed a 'publishing deal' and has been spitting out a ton of music. Probably 25 cues in the last few months. Nothing has been picked up and he hasn't made a cent. To me, it just seems like he is working on spec. "Don't 'spec to get paid."

Sorting through the film/tv world can be really confusing. I'm sure there are opportunities out there that don't seem shady, but they aren't easy to find.
Old 19th November 2009
  #16
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Thanks Dan! I've written and produced about 100 cues so far this year, so I'm building some really good credits finally. I'd say for someone doing a primetime show this probably isn't the best deal, but almost everything I've turned in is used on atleast1-2 shows, some more. I'm hoping the credits now lead to more doors opening and won't force me to get into a play-to-place situation. I will investigate those other services though.
Old 19th November 2009
  #17
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you have to pay to get your music in the library ?

that's ****ing disgusting

i only work for library's that pay YOU to get your music in their catalogue.

if they don't pay their composers and let anyone enter, the library's going to be **** anyway, and nobody will use it
Old 19th November 2009
  #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hankdrummer View Post
you have to pay to get your music in the library ?

that's ****ing disgusting

i only work for library's that pay YOU to get your music in their catalogue.

if they don't pay their composers and let anyone enter, the library's going to be **** anyway, and nobody will use it
Wrong,Wrong!Not always here!
I signed my first cd with a company last year and they have been in biz since 1st of this year 2009.That deal came through Taxi.We have started making royalties already.The deal is exclusive.
There is another GS member here who did five cd's for the same company
and got paid for them,I did not.So it depends on what you do best and your credits can help.He did 5 Orchestral type cds.His credit list is huge.Mine is not bad either with 100s of commercials ive worked on over the years.
I have never paid a cent to be in any library but you do pay a minimal fee at FMN and taxi charges a yeary fee.2 dollars a track for FMN is pretty minimal imo.
Besides this I ghost wrote for another company for fifteen years and made a six figure income until more recently.Ghost writing is good for experience and the pay but never got to own what I wrote.Not good.
Learned a hard lesson from this.
I will agree there is a ton of sh*t out there but the scene is changing and there will be higher end libraries that want only top notch tracks.See for yourselves!


Dan P
Old 19th November 2009
  #19
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ryst's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by InstituteOfNoise View Post
Thanks Dan! I've written and produced about 100 cues so far this year, so I'm building some really good credits finally. I'd say for someone doing a primetime show this probably isn't the best deal, but almost everything I've turned in is used on atleast1-2 shows, some more. I'm hoping the credits now lead to more doors opening and won't force me to get into a play-to-place situation. I will investigate those other services though.
You aren't getting any payment at all?
Old 19th November 2009
  #20
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InstituteOfNoise's Avatar
 

Ryst, Little up front, more on back end... I still get all my ASCAP performance royalties, so if a piece airs 40 times in a season on multiple channels, and possible on different shows, then add in dozens and dozens of cues, it does add up. If they license it to outside the their production companies shows, I'll share in any sync fees then too.

I will say for a seasoned TV/Film composer this is probably not the best deal. For me I knew what I was getting into up front. But it gave me a bunch of credits and now experience writing stuff I would have never gone about a year ago, thus giving me a little bit of a leg to stand on now to confidently get more projects. Plus it has opened doors for getting songs placed now a bit easier and on primetime network. Just having to repay a little more dues I guess...
Old 19th November 2009
  #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by InstituteOfNoise View Post
Ryst, Little up front, more on back end... I still get all my ASCAP performance royalties, so if a piece airs 40 times in a season on multiple channels, and possible on different shows, then add in dozens and dozens of cues, it does add up. If they license it to outside the their production companies shows, I'll share in any sync fees then too.

I will say for a seasoned TV/Film composer this is probably not the best deal. For me I knew what I was getting into up front. But it gave me a bunch of credits and now experience writing stuff I would have never gone about a year ago, thus giving me a little bit of a leg to stand on now to confidently get more projects. Plus it has opened doors for getting songs placed now a bit easier and on primetime network. Just having to repay a little more dues I guess...
Even if you are a seasoned composer you are only as good as your last job you did.Every job is like this that I have done.If they dont like it you fix it till they do.
When I worked freelance for someone else we would have on average 9 out of ten jobs go through without rewrites,of course these are business people who imo dont know sh*t in most cases about music.Not too hard to convince them that what we do works with some xtra bs spread on top.The guy I worked for would chew on clients ears till they gave in or were convinced that we were best for the job.Thats what I call selling your service.Great,good or mediocre!Its a business!


Dan P
Old 19th November 2009
  #22
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InstituteOfNoise's Avatar
 

Amen to that Dan!
Old 19th November 2009
  #23
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Just thought I'd throw my .02 in. I've been a Jingle/TV/Film composer for the last decade. Still compose but now I'm a partner in a music license/custom music company. Artists submit all kinds of music to us. From Aboriginal Drones to Slick Pop Tunes we try and cover all bases in our library. Most of the time MD's or producers simply purchase a license and have their post department do the edits.

When we are hired to do custom music and score commercials, films, docs, etc.. we are normally given a pretty specific list of cues and lengths. FOr film and normally docs most directors will want to "spot" the film with you. This is actually a huge time saver in the long run. If you can actually play them some ideas you'll know if you are going in the right direction. Many times however we get smaller custom music jobs that we source out to freelance composers that we have had good experiences with in the past. If necessary we have one of our engineers edit their work to fit time restraints/requests.

My advice is to try and make some kind of contact with people in the industry that might be able to introduce you to producers and MD's. Its true most use who they know but there are always young producers trying to make a name that don't have as many composers in their stable. Production companies aren't what they were but you could try and get some kind of work through an established company. Also try doing some student films for free to get the experience. The worst thing that can happen is you get a break and you blow it, if you've done a few smaller projects there's less chance for error. Just working with locked picture can be stressful the first few times, especially with stingers and bumps.
Old 19th November 2009
  #24
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ryst's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by InstituteOfNoise View Post
Ryst, Little up front, more on back end... I still get all my ASCAP performance royalties, so if a piece airs 40 times in a season on multiple channels, and possible on different shows, then add in dozens and dozens of cues, it does add up. If they license it to outside the their production companies shows, I'll share in any sync fees then too.

I will say for a seasoned TV/Film composer this is probably not the best deal. For me I knew what I was getting into up front. But it gave me a bunch of credits and now experience writing stuff I would have never gone about a year ago, thus giving me a little bit of a leg to stand on now to confidently get more projects. Plus it has opened doors for getting songs placed now a bit easier and on primetime network. Just having to repay a little more dues I guess...
Gotcha. Thanks for the explanation.
Old 19th November 2009
  #25
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ryst's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by gongbass View Post
Just thought I'd throw my .02 in. I've been a Jingle/TV/Film composer for the last decade. Still compose but now I'm a partner in a music license/custom music company. Artists submit all kinds of music to us. From Aboriginal Drones to Slick Pop Tunes we try and cover all bases in our library. Most of the time MD's or producers simply purchase a license and have their post department do the edits.

When we are hired to do custom music and score commercials, films, docs, etc.. we are normally given a pretty specific list of cues and lengths. FOr film and normally docs most directors will want to "spot" the film with you. This is actually a huge time saver in the long run. If you can actually play them some ideas you'll know if you are going in the right direction. Many times however we get smaller custom music jobs that we source out to freelance composers that we have had good experiences with in the past. If necessary we have one of our engineers edit their work to fit time restraints/requests.

My advice is to try and make some kind of contact with people in the industry that might be able to introduce you to producers and MD's. Its true most use who they know but there are always young producers trying to make a name that don't have as many composers in their stable. Production companies aren't what they were but you could try and get some kind of work through an established company. Also try doing some student films for free to get the experience. The worst thing that can happen is you get a break and you blow it, if you've done a few smaller projects there's less chance for error. Just working with locked picture can be stressful the first few times, especially with stingers and bumps.
Thanks for the info!
Old 20th November 2009
  #26
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It all reminds me of "Trout Fishing In America", Richard Braughtigan's masterpiece, where they go into a hardware story and see trout streams selling by the yard. That's what music for tv/film is like.

-R
Old 20th November 2009
  #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RKrizman View Post
It all reminds me of "Trout Fishing In America", Richard Braughtigan's masterpiece, where they go into a hardware story and see trout streams selling by the yard. That's what music for tv/film is like.

-R
Yep,now there is a bigger pool of tracks that editors,producers and supervisors will use as a temp track.This is a good thing in some ways if they need something more specific,they license the track for a very nominal fee and then they can hire you or me to write something in the style of their temp and make the money.Its easier to follow what the client likes than try and re-invent the wheel.Easier said than done.

Dan P
Old 20th November 2009
  #28
Gear Maniac
 

While on this topic I wanted to ask..Have any of you that've done a cd for a music library been put on any sort of mailing list? Since I did my first cd I've received letters from other companies, all of which I never heard of. I don't know if any of them were worth following up on. Anyway, just thought I'd ask.
Old 20th November 2009
  #29
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dan p's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by tommcw View Post
While on this topic I wanted to ask..Have any of you that've done a cd for a music library been put on any sort of mailing list? Since I did my first cd I've received letters from other companies, all of which I never heard of. I don't know if any of them were worth following up on. Anyway, just thought I'd ask.
I follow up on every one to see if they are worth partnering with.
You dont want to be in business with another guy in his bedroom.
You want a company with a track record hopefully but someone with really good connections that you can do double flips for will work!


Dan P
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