Some Musical Business Terms

Good day my fellow musician and or music lover!

I was reviewing a few things with a client of mine the other day and I was sharing some basic terms often used with in the music business and I am one who is always endeavoring to learn and thought I might share a few terms with those of you who may just be starting out, or review for those of us who have been at this for some time.

I found some of these terms off of another website and felt that it would be fine to recycle some of these with the hopes of maybe encouraging those who take a few minutes to stay in touch. I will be adding more info and news updates very shortly once the ink is dry on a few agreements that are pending. I do hope you enjoy and feel free to share what ever you find here on this site and the others I own.

Music Administrator

Ostensibly, their duties should be to handle all the paperwork for the music supervisor and/or coordinator. In reality, they often have to handle a lot of the duties most often associated with being a supervisor and/or coordinator because of budget, time or personnel constraints. They may not be in the room as negotiations are in process, but after that meeting, you can bet that they’re the one who actually types up the contract!

Music Breakdown

While this can happen at the rough cut stage of a film, ideally the music supervisor is brought on before shooting, at which time they’ll read the script and note every place where music would be appropriate (i.e., club scene, romantic montage, car radio, etc.). This does NOT take the place of a spotting session (although it may include some ideas for where the bigger score pieces might work), but is merely a heads-up for the director with a ballpark idea of how many source cues might be needed and, perhaps, a rough budget. The supervisor will note the scene, type of music — or even a song title/artist if they have a specific song/recording in mind. They’ll also note how the music will be used (visual vocal — such as the band playing as everyone screams “Rock on!” — or background or whatever).

Music Clearance

Before using a piece of music and/or its recording in a film or TV program, it must be “cleared” with the respective publisher(s) and/or master rights holders. This means you need permission to use the music and/or its recording — and this means whether it’s “only” for a student film or festival uses, for TV (of any kind and anywhere), foreign or U.S. theatrical, or for Dolly Dinkle’s Dance Academy’s local cable ad. There are TWO parts of music clearance & licensing: A synchronization license is issued by the publisher for the use of the song/composition, and a master use license is issued by whoever holds the rights to the specific RECORDING of the song/composition. For famous/known copyrights and/or recordings get an expert or become one. It’s not brain surgery, but the ins-and-outs and “who knows who can get what at a good price and fast” can be really important — meaning you may get your “yes” or “no” answer in a couple of weeks as opposed to a couple of months. Suggestion? Go indie artist/label instead. They usually hold all rights to their own music and are more likely to make a deal that fits your budget. You’d be surprised at the variety of indie music available — it’s not all angsty chicks or moody dudes, but retro ’80s, big bands & 1940s swing, ’70s disco and old & new folk music from all around the world.

Music Coordinator

This differs greatly, depending on whether they’re on staff with a TV network or a full-service music company or an independent person who works with specific music supervisors. The Music Coordinator’s duties can be as simple as creating and filing cue sheets for the project and making sure all the dollars and cents add up at the end of the day, or may be as complex as working hand-in-hand with the music supervisor on all aspects of the project. Sometimes, if there is no supervisor, the Coordinator will work with the director and assume many of the duties a supervisor would normally handle. A Music Coordinator’s primary functions are normally to make sure the music the supervisor is suggesting for particular scenes is properly cataloged and delivered to the director, film editor and/or music editor (as directed), and all credit information (songwriters, artists, labels, etc.) is readily available. They are also responsible for coordinating the compilation of all information for cue sheet preparation, and may actually prepare the final cue sheets, based on the composer and music editor’s notes from the final mix of the film. Basically, the budget often dictates their duties.

Music Copyist (aka Copier, Music Preparer or Music Prep)

The Music Copyist (“Copier”) prepares the printed music charts and/or lead sheets the musicians use at a recording session. These are extracted from the overall music score the composer provides so that everyone is looking only at the part they play, and have their music in the right key for their instrument (kind of important). In the past (as those of us who had the stained fingers to prove it), such charts were done by hand, with India ink, and done one by one in a rather painstaking process. Today, with the advent of some great scoring software, those who prepare music for sessions most often will do it via the computer.

Music Editor

The Music Editor, along with the composer (and sometimes the music supervisor and/or coordinator) organizes, documents, and times all the music cues used in a project. He/She is the obsessive, retentive type and will often drive the director crazy with almost indistinguishable cuts in/out of a piece of music, but that’s why we love them. They will often make suggestions as to the best start/stop points, and can make a song “fit” into the scene, dodging dialogue and enhancing poignant moments by “cutting and pasting” a song. They also work with the composer on timing, length, type and placement of music that the director, composer and music supervisor have discussed during spotting sessions. If the music is being recorded live (not a Synth Score), the Music Editor will often be at recording sessions to document, time and name each cue, and will often generate the click used to keep everything exact. The Music Editor also cuts all music (source, score or source) into the film — although here is where the director and/or producer may return the “he/she’s driving me crazy” favor. The music editor also notes the correct SMPTE Time Codes for the cue’s in/out placement and provide that info to the music supervisor, coordinator and/or administrator so that official cue sheets can be prepared for filing with the respective performance rights organizations (PROs).

Music Publisher

A Music Publisher works with songwriters & composers to promote and market the writers’ songs/compositions. They pitch them to the folks who use music (movie/TV producers, record labels, video games, etc.). In return (and PLEASE NOTE: The Publisher will own this for the LIFE of the song/composition’s copyright — otherwise known as “in perpetuity”), the Publisher takes a percentage of the publishing half of a song (up to 100%). Publishers license the right to use the song (not to be confused with the recording of the song/composition), collect fees for the usage and split them with the songwriter/composer.

Music Supervisor

Regardless of whether they’re a “biggie” (meaning “I have a staff”) or an “indie” (“I get to do it all for less money”), the Music Supervisor’s main duty is in choosing music & licensing it for the project, and — as importantly — making sure the music they provide to the director/producer enhances the action/mood on screen, and helps the director/producer see their artistic vision realized. The Music Supervisor oversees all of the creative and business aspects of the music for a project. This includes helping to develop a music budget, assisting in the search for a composer, helping the director in his/her choice of songs, coordinating the soundtrack recording, “spotting sessions” (with composer & director), etc. It may or may not include doing the music clearance/music licensing paperwork, and can also include some (or all) of the duties of a music coordinator and/or music administrator. The earlier the Music Supervisor is involved, the more time they have to be creative — both with the music itself and with the budget. When a “famous” song, or a “classic copyright” is desired by a director, but the project’s budget does not allow for its use, the Supervisor will suggest (and often negotiate) budget-friendly alternatives from various sources, including independent artists and/or music libraries.

 

 

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