Q My agent says I should
because it’s a good way to build my demo reel.
A Composing for trailers
critical as composing for the film itself. When entrusted to contribute
the campaign of a $100 million dollar film, there is very little
tolerance for the beginner. It is not a training ground. One of the
common complaints of those I interviewed was that their clients were
beginning to shy away from
composers because they’d recently been having bad experiences with
composers not skilled in this specific area. It should be noted that
even some of the most famous composers have written trailers for their
own films, only to see
them thrown out. The pacing and intent of marketing is very different
that of the film itself. This is not an area for the budding composer.
is not a place to practice for the "real thing." It IS the real thing.
all the skills and experience you possibly can to the table or you
be the meal.
Q Who contacts you? Does
your agent get you work?
A Some of us have reps who
make phone calls and do follow-ups for us, but this is not an area to
which film and television agents can devote time, and our calls come
most often directly from our clients. Our clients may be a trailer
vendor [an advertising agency which specializes in trailers] or the
studio marketing division itself. An agent is selling a different kind
of artist to a different kind of client.
Q Then how do they
A CD’s and DAT’s help.
provide music for temping [we’ll get to that]. Mostly, the work comes
referral by another satisfied client. That is, of course, the Catch-22
this business. The first rule of employment in this town seems to be "I
hire you until someone else has."
Q How much time are you
given to deliver, and how many changes?
A The first part provided
the widest ranging response, with some composers forced to work
overnight and some getting up to two weeks to 'get it right' but
getting hammered by their client in the process. The group was
universal in responding that continual changes are required, right up
to the dubbing mix, because marketing surveys keep coming in and the
many corporate divisions all have legal and creative demands which
cause continuous picture editing right up until deadline. This is not a
lot different than doing a film, with the exception that there are so
many picture elements to "hit" accurately and musically that most
composers who work in this arena term it "Heart Attack City."
Q What about demos?
A We do not do free demos
in the trailer business. It is important to not give away your product
to people who are searching for ideas. You will, in most cases, be
required to do full and complete mock-ups prior to proceeding. But that
means you are working, and are entitled to payment. Your product has
value, whether or not they end
up using it.
Q There are a lot of
questions about bidding, pricing and budgeting, so here goes: There’s
no union for composers.
How can you figure your personal charges?
A No composer should
for their time than it would cost if they had an accident and were
forced to have someone else come in and do the sequencing or
orchestration, performance or conducting, and mixing and editing. These
rates are published through the
musicians union and give a good rule of thumb to keep you above
scales. Always advise your clients when you are working at "minimum
rates. Make it clear to your clients this does not pay your
compositional fee, but you are at least covering REAL expenses. Don’t
forget to charge for
rewrites after the initial delivery day. Again, use the union’s wage
as something concrete to show your client. Remember: Your clients pay
announcers to come back and re-record voiceovers, they pay their
to re-edit and they pay their post houses to make changes. They also
their lawyers to do re-writes to contracts. Don’t submit bids on
have not reviewed and discussed with a client. Anticipate disasters and
in contingencies. Don’t sell yourself short. Don’t kill off the
low-balling your competitor. Offer better service and better
composition and better recording. Not cheaper pricing.
Q How often do you work
with a live orchestra vs. samples, vs. mixed?
A Most of us - especially
those who work within the union are forced to use a large amount of
samples and sweeten with live orchestras. For television, it’s almost
always samples due
to the time factor. Every now and then we’ll find a client who
understands the value of a real, live fire-breathing orchestra and lets
us go at it. There
are others who are fortunate enough to work in non-union "right-to-work
or who record out of the country and can afford large orchestras all
time. That’s an issue for a different type of column.
Q What scale rate applies?
Jingle or Film/TV?
A The union has been
graciously allowing us to use whichever is appropriate for the work
involved. If you’re doing a session that can be completed in an hour,
use the Jingle rates. But if you’re doing a complicated piece of one of
those 2-3 minute cues based on temps of the “greatest action licks ever
written by Goldsmith, Williams, Horner, Silvestri, Goldenthal and
Elfman, you’d be wise to book a three hour film/tv session.
Q Temp tracks and
A When you only have
literally seconds to decide what you’re going to write and how you’re
going to approach a score, the temp track can be a lifesaver. But, when
the client comes back complaining you changed an oboe note under one of
the explosions, you can be driven down the path to serious legal
exposure as well as creative aggravation. Most studios include a
paragraph in their contract where you declare you wrote
an original composition, not derived from any other work, AND you agree
indemnify them if someone complains. Just TRY and get that removed from
agreement. Rewrites occur constantly. Usually because the market tests
coming back suggesting that removal of two frames here or there will
the big difference. Sometimes it’s because your client wants you to get
to the temp track. This is dangerous.
Q But what about the
A There is no eight-note
rule effectively used in practice. Studios don’t want to go to court or
be deposed, so they settle out of court even when you are willing to
bet your first born that your piece does not constitute plagiarism. I
can show you scores where only ONE note was the same as the original,
but the orchestration technique was identical and we were advised to
use the following rule: If it would appear
to be the same music to a jury of people who know nothing about music,
rarely listen to it, you could be held liable. You are allowed by law,
to imitate the style of another composer or artist. This has been
in the NARAS Journal. It becomes a frighteningly gray area of decision
Q Libraries are killing my
business. What about licensing cues I’ve already written?
A Let’s face it. Our
clients no longer have time to wait for a composer. More and more,
they’re reaching for the closest CD on their shelf and inserting the
first piece of music that
even loosely fits. It has become necessary for us to consider offering
of our work as a part of our income generation as composers.
Q What kind of fees are
being charged for existing scoring cues that are licensed?
A There is a wonderful
series of articles on license fees written by Jeff and Todd Brabec that
the ASCAP website home page called "ASCAP Licensing."
Q What about royalties?
A Ask the studio and
get the response: What about them? For years, many major and minor
have required certificates of authorship or - what is preferred - a
film composer agreement with royalty attachments. The problem is this:
studios failed to register copyrights, register the works with
rights organizations and failed to submit proper cue sheets. These cue
MUST include the first line spoken or sung in the cue, AND the ISCI
if it’s used for broadcast. Some studios have a policy against filing
information, either because they are ignorant of the potential income
or because they don’t feel it’s worth the effort. It is strongly
that you have NO employee for hire contract with the studio, but
your cue to them to be attached for all advertising of that picture in
ONLY if they provide you with information regarding any and all usage.
your own work. File your own copyrights, your own registrations and
own cue sheets. Insist on a "product reel" at the end of a film’s
campaign, which includes all the trailers and television spots created.
advantage of the new EZQ system from ASCAP that immediately notifies
PROs of your ownership and royalty share. Don’t forget to include usage
the Internet. If you begin to develop a large catalogue, consider a
publishing agreement for administration by a company that has the
of monitoring your work around the world, and possibly even through
Q My client insists they
own the music, even though we have no contract. They’re even licensing
my music out to other trailers.
A This misconception is
rampant throughout the industry. You are the sole owner of your
material as the author unless, and until you sign away all rights to
ownership of copyright. Even then, you are entitled to your writer’s
share of royalties, license fees and
other monies collected by the new owner of music. Copyright your
material. Register your material. Consult an entertainment attorney.
Consider the following language in the
terms of your invoice: "All compositions and masters remain property of
the composer in the absence of completed composer agreements, including
royalty attachments, and the proper registration and logging of cue
sheets with the composer’s performance rights organization which
include first line spoken and ISCI codes
for all broadcast usage."
Q Where is the trailer
music business headed stylistically?
A We go in cycles. Right
now we’re back into what some call the "five year song cycle" where an
incredible number of songs are being used to hype the movies. Of course
our demographics are young, and less inclined to relate to orchestral
music except for epic films, but as long as composers grow along with
the record industry’s new talents, we’ll be able to provide scoring
which reaches across demographics and serves the film campaign as well.
It’s one of the fun parts of the industry to try and figure out how to
make the style of Raekwon or the Chemical Brothers work as a scoring
tool in the same trailer as one more knock off of an Enya tune,
segueing into yet another Alien-style chase montage.
Q Any last thoughts?
A I am blessed to have had
a steady career for two decades, and even more blessed to have the
opportunity to work with and study the music of the greatest talents in
the field of film
scoring. I hope that the composers whose work I am hired to emulate
always understand my assignment and feel that I have treated their
original inspiration with dignity and respect.
Q Anything else?
A While I’m not yet tired
of trailers using the theme from
American President, Dragonheart or Empire of the Sun, I refuse
to knock off Randy Edeleman's great theme
from Come See the Paradise
I’d like to thank
Randy Thornton of Non-Stop Productions
in Utah and John Alexander of JEA Music in New York
for their gracious assistance with
John Beal, President and Principal Composer of
Reeltime Music Inc. started out with recording stars Olivia Newton-John
and Johnny Mathis. He has
scored numerous films and hit television series. In the 1970's, with
his mentor - the "Godfather of Trailers," Hollywood's marketing guru
Andrew Kuehn - John was involved in the very inception of today's
contemporary trailer format and is the composer who defined its musical
almost exclusively in composition for theatrical marketing for over
John’s original scores for trailers have been heard by more moviegoers
feature film composers and he is trusted by virtually
every major director and studio to help sell
films. His list of credits includes campaigns for such hit films as JFK,
Hunt for Red October, True Lies, In The Line of Fire, Forrest Gump,
Games, Aladdin, Mask of Zorro, Black Rain, Ghost, Being John Malkovich,
Matrix, and hundreds more. The success of films to which he has
contributed marketing music is literally measured in billions of
dollars. Website is http://www.composerjohnbeal.com
Co-founder of Non-Stop Productions with Bryan Hofheins, is an
accomplished conductor, composer, producer, pianist and trombonist. In
his 20 year career, the two-time Emmy-award winner [with Bryan] for
ABC's Up Close and Personal
at the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics and
for production of ABC's Monday Night
Football theme with Hank Williams
Jr., has worked in virtually every aspect of the music industry from
the symphony orchestra to film score production. Randy has provided
music for many major campaigns for such films as Man In The Iron Mask,
Face/Off, Air Force One, Antz, Armageddon, Home Alone 3, Event Horizon
and Fifth Element. In addition
to managing the day-to-day business of
Non-Stop, Randy enjoys conducting orchestras or playing the keyboard on
film and television movie scores recorded at Non-Stop's LA East
studios. Website is http://www.nonstopmusic.com/
John Eric Alexander,
Alexander, President of John Eric Alexander Music, Inc., lives and
the New York City area. Since 1986, this Clio Award-winning composer
marketing campaigns for over 200 films including Broken Arrow, Seven,
Hard 1,2 & 3, Lethal Weapon 1,2,3 & 4, and Extreme Measures.
has also placed music in recent campaigns for such films as The Green
US Marshalls, Hard Rain, and Kiss the Girls. Mr. Alexander
numerous themes and promos for CNBC, A&E Network, and The History
Website is http://activateyourimage.com/