Article published on June 18, 2014
Article published on June 18, 2014

This article has not been vetted by an editor at Paris HQ

Michael Todd, senior director of film, TV music and Visual media at The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) in the interview with Cafébabel provides a special insight into the film music industry, discusses difficult compromises in show business and explains how social media affects the careers of today's composers and songwriters.

Cafébabel: Dig­i­tal rev­o­lu­tion has re­de­fined music in­dus­try to­tally. Mean­while, mu­si­cians vie for suc­cess in an in­creas­ingly com­plex mar­ket. Do you agree, that today's young pro­fes­sional com­posers need to main­tain not only artis­tic sig­nif­i­cance but re­quire mar­ket­ing skills as well?

For those who have al­ready in­vested their time in mu­si­cal train­ing at school, work­shops, or­ga­ni­za­tions, lec­tures, sem­i­nars, etc. I have found it is equally im­por­tant to ed­u­cate one­self about the process and busi­ness of "film music" plus un­der­stand the var­i­ous sources of po­ten­tial in­come. As­pir­ing film music com­posers es­pe­cially need to re­mem­ber that this in­dus­try, as any in­dus­try, is a "peo­ple" dri­ven busi­ness. There­fore, re­la­tion­ships with the "per­son(s) in power" , whether film­mak­ers or stu­dio ex­ec­u­tives, mat­ters most. This means that one needs to be within the prox­im­ity of film pro­duc­tion teams for op­por­tu­ni­ties to hap­pen. also, con­sider that in the cur­rent buyer's mar­ket (in this case the film­maker or pro­duc­tion com­pany), the com­poser has less to no con­trol of their own op­por­tu­ni­ties avail­able. It is crit­i­cally im­por­tant to value your work and learn when to say no to a job that is not mu­tu­ally ben­e­fi­cial for both sides. For the com­poser, that means that there needs to be at least a few good rea­sons to ac­cept work in ex­change for a lower wage de­pend­ing on what stage of your ca­reer (for ex­am­ple, a good credit, a good work­ing re­la­tion­ship, a good record­ing for demos or a good ex­pe­ri­ence, etc.). I highly rec­om­mend a book by Richard Bel­lis called "The Emerg­ing Film Com­poser: An In­tro­duc­tion to the Peo­ple, Prob­lems and Psy­chol­ogy of the Film Music Busi­ness", which is full of a lot of great tips for as­pir­ing com­posers.

Cafébabel: As an ac­tive pro­fes­sional ex­ec­u­tive in the Amer­i­can film music in­dus­try and who has also gained ex­pe­ri­ence in the Eu­ro­pean mar­ket, can you sug­gest the fastest way to  be­come suc­cess­ful in the film music in­dus­try in Eu­rope nowa­days?          

Be­come friends with the next big film­maker by spot­ting their tal­ents early and con­nect­ing with them on a cre­ative level. The other op­tion is be­come a suc­cess­ful film­maker or pro­ducer your­self. Com­posers need to build nu­mer­ous re­la­tion­ships with tal­ented film­mak­ers to in­crease their odds – which re­quires bal­ance and pri­or­i­ti­za­tion in per­sonal time man­age­ment. Also, be re­source­ful and build a team of tal­ent with sim­i­lar pas­sions and goals. For most suc­cess­ful com­posers, it takes years of scor­ing a num­ber of pro­jects be­fore a bet­ter op­por­tu­nity arises with fi­nan­cial re­wards that can put a music cre­ator on the map.                                                                                                                

Cafébabel: Do you know of any suc­cess­ful music col­lab­o­ra­tion which started from net­work­ing in In­ter­net through so­cial media?

I can't point to any spe­cific sto­ries, but peo­ple within the in­dus­try are now more ac­ces­si­ble by link­age with friends or strangers in the busi­ness (Linked In or Face­book). Al­though I pre­fer not to be ad­dressed by strangers via Face­book for work. I rarely set aside time for any­one with­out some kind of con­nec­tion or re­fer­ral from some­one I know. In those cases when I do meet or speak with some­one who has no con­nec­tion, it is be­cause some­how I came across hear­ing the music and found it in­ter­est­ing enough to take the time. Nowa­days artists in­deed can ef­fi­ciently use on­line net­work­ing plat­forms to col­lab­o­rate with other artists and seek new pro­jects.. One op­por­tu­nity I can rec­om­mend is re­view­ing the web­site http://​score­as­core.​com/​ de­vel­oped by en­tre­pre­neur Jor­dan Pass­man whose mis­sion is to con­nect com­posers with pro­duc­tion com­pa­nies look­ing for qual­ity music. Sep­a­rately, com­poser Bear Mc­Creary has de­vel­oped a great skill in tak­ing ad­van­tage of so­cial media to ef­fec­tively in­crease his in­dus­try pro­file. This may not point to a col­lab­o­ra­tion that started from net­work­ing on the in­ter­net, but it proves to be a valu­able tool that has sup­ported the rapid growth of his ca­reer. I should also men­tion that he is in­cred­i­bly tal­ented in the other nec­es­sary mu­si­cal and com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills cou­pled with his drive and pas­sion to suc­ceed.

Cafébabel: How can mu­si­cians, who ex­pose their work on­line, pre­serve in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty when they want to pro­mote them ex­ten­sively through so­cial media plat­forms?

Copy­right laws may slightly dif­fer de­pend­ing on your coun­try of res­i­dence. In un­der­stand­ing that this is a music busi­ness, a com­poser must value their work as an asset to their busi­ness. These as­sets can only gain value if they are not given away for free and are legally pro­tected by a spe­cial team of pro­fes­sion­als. Al­though some­times as­sets (even a piece of a song) can be shared or given away for free to stim­u­late new busi­ness. but, that needs to be lim­ited the same way a com­poser would limit his/her work for free. Sec­ondly, it is very im­por­tant to learn the laws and var­i­ous streams of in­come that orig­i­nate in one's coun­try of res­i­dence as well as any other coun­try where one's music will be heard (aka streamed) or sold. In the U.S., ASCAP ne­go­ti­ates li­censes with all major broad­cast media then mon­i­tors those pub­lic per­for­mances to dis­trib­ute "per­for­mance roy­al­ties" to its song­writer/com­poser and pub­lisher mem­bers. Also, ASCAP has rec­i­p­ro­cal re­la­tion­ships with all other in­ter­na­tional per­form­ing rights or­ga­ni­za­tions as we'll. in most coun­tries, an or­ga­ni­za­tion called Fin­tage Music col­lects for neigh­bor­ing rights on be­half if it's artists and record label mem­bers in­clud­ing a num­ber of other ser­vices as well.

ASCAP Se­nior Di­rec­tor of Film & TV Music, Michael Todd, has 20 years of ex­pe­ri­ence in the Hol­ly­wood music in­dus­try and is a leader in the film & tele­vi­sion com­poser com­mu­nity. Todd is a board mem­ber of the World Sound­track Acad­emy, which pro­duces the World Sound­track Awards at the Ghent In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val. He is also a con­sul­tant to the Krakow Film Music Fes­ti­val in Poland, the Fes­ti­val In­ter­na­tional de Music de Cine in Córdoba, Spain, and Fimucité Tener­ife In­ter­na­tional Film Music Fes­ti­val in the Ca­nary Is­lands. He has con­ducted in­ter­views with major com­posers in­ter­na­tion­ally, and given lec­tures on ca­reer build­ing for as­pir­ing com­posers. For the past 14 years, Todd has led and pro­duced the ac­claimed ASCAP Tele­vi­sion & Film Scor­ing Work­shop with Richard Bel­lis. This four-week in­ten­sive “boot camp” is de­signed to cul­ti­vate the next gen­er­a­tion of film com­posers from around the world and pro­vide ac­cess to Hol­ly­wood’s top re­sources. Alumni have gone on to build suc­cess­ful ca­reers, gar­ner­ing major awards and nom­i­na­tions (Emmy, Grammy, BAFTA, G.A.N.G. awards, in­ter­na­tional film fes­ti­vals).

2010 ASCAP Tele­vi­sion and Film Scor­ing Work­shop with Richard Bel­lis