Industry News: As heard on TV— and at the movies

[This is a great article further profiling the rise of licensing as a great opportunity for both up and coming and established artists. Whether or not an artist is signed. A quick and informative read. - Patrick of Music Dealers ]

A commercial features a car’s grill, shows the car driving and finally flashes its fancy interior while a smooth voice offers a sales pitch.

All the while, a catchy track plays in the background. The song makes some feel instant familiarity with the car and lends it an automatic layer of cool.

The commercial is for Cadillac, the song is “1901” and it’s by Grammy-winning band Phoenix.

It’s part of an ever-growing trend of using popular music not only in commercials, but in poignant segments of TV shows, as background music in online videos and as the soundtrack for sports highlight reels.

And it means bands are getting paid. It’s a welcome source of income as album sales continue to drop — almost 35 percent since 2007, according to the latest figures from Nielsen Soundscan.

Of course, no one interviewed for this story would admit exactly how much placements pay, though they said it can be significant.

Networks such as ESPN and MTV and hit shows such as “Grey’s Anatomy” are known for their music placements.

At ESPN, for example, music is the soundtrack to game coverage, highlight reels, news shows and other programming, and the network pays to license about 70 percent of the music it uses.

For one thing, the cable sports giant has sought out Omaha-specific recordings and videos for the College World Series.


Omahans might recognize “This Town” by rock group O.A.R., which was used extensively during the CWS in 2008. Promotional spots mixed the song with multiple shots of Omaha locales.

The network commissioned Bowling For Soup to write “Ready Or Not (Omaha, Nebraska),” a song about baseball that repeatedly mentions Omaha during the chorus.

It was a quick turnaround for the band, said Bowling For Soup’s lead singer and songwriter, Jaret Reddick. He wrote the song in just a few minutes.

“We do a bunch of stuff for film and TV and that sort of special-order thing,” Reddick said. From writing and recording, the band “can turn a song around in a couple of days.”

Other Bowling for Soup songs have been featured in “Freaky Friday,” “Phineas and Ferb” and the theme to “Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius.” The group has so many tracks featured in film and advertisements that it collected all of them on its 2005 release, “Bowling For Soup Goes to the Movies.” Reddick said they now have enough for a second volume.

ESPN has a team of 12 overseeing its music placements. Other networks and shows employ teams of music directors or work with music-placement companies.

Even a small label like Omaha’s Saddle Creek Records employs a full-time person to work on licensing.

Label employee Jeff Tafolla pitches music supervisors with early copies of Saddle Creek’s releases and points out specific songs that might work. He also fields requests for songs or artists with the label.

Many times, music placements come from established relationships, but others are completely out of the blue.

While it has turned down offers, Saddle Creek has no specific policy about where it will or will not place music. Those decisions rest with the band.

“We’ll just do it if the band wants to do it. Our policy is to follow their lead,” Tafolla said. “Different bands have different attitudes. Some don’t want to license at all, some won’t do an advertisement, some will only do certain types of projects and others are ‘place it wherever you can.’”

Song placements from the label have included two from Bright Eyes: a track with a prominent spot in “Knocked Up” and a recent song on the NBC show “Chuck.” O+S had a song in “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.” Georgie James was in “Going the Distance.” The Faint has been on “The Office,” and the music supervisor at “Grey’s Anatomy” is fond of using songs by Azure Ray and solo material from band members Maria Taylor and Orenda Fink.

Nearly every genre is represented.

“We’ve done those band deals with just about everybody, from rock to hip-hop to country, with male vocals and with female vocals,” said Kevin Wilson, music director at ESPN.

The network has recently used music from new albums from the Beastie Boys and Foo Fighters across its programming platforms, and in May featured music from Hollywood Undead, 30 Seconds to Mars, Lady Antebellum, Mumford & Sons and 3 Doors Down, among others.

“It’s a great opportunity,” said Matt Roberts, 3 Doors Down’s guitarist. “It’s another forum, to be on ESPN, to have the sports crowd. It’s turned out really, really good for us, because early on, we got the whole NASCAR affiliation, and that still works today.”

Some networks and shows use a lot more music than others, and their audiences pay attention to the featured songs.

“There are definitely certain TV shows that are more music-focused,” Tafolla said, citing “Grey’s Anatomy” as an example. “It’s part of the identity of those shows.”

Shows like that often have fans who discuss the songs online and search them out on iTunes as soon as the show airs. If you look at day-to-day sales on iTunes, Tafolla said, you can see significant bumps in singles sales (and sometimes album sales) on the day a song is used on a show and on following days.

In addition to the bevy of Saddle Creek artists, other Omahans have seen their music used in prominent places.

Songs from Omahan Josh Koterba and his band Sail By the Stars have been featured on MTV’s “The Real World,” E!’s “Married to Rock” and on commercials for Six Flags theme parks. Omaha acoustic rock band Oxygen has seen its music placed in films, including the song “Do You Want to Play a Game” in “Saw IV” and, more recently, “Sacramento” in the Morgan Spurlock documentary “The Greatest Movie Ever Sold.”

It can be a significant source of income, and labels and bands will turn down a request if the offered fee is too low.

Fees vary depending on the project. A big-budget movie might pay more than an independent feature and a Bright Eyes song might command a higher fee than one of the lesser-known Sail By the Stars, for example.

In general, advertising and film have the potential to pay more, but television offers come in more consistently and have a consistent pay scale, Tafolla said.

Carl “A.C.” Newman of the New Pornographers said licensing his solo work and his band’s music has helped him make a living. And he doesn’t feel like he’s sold out.

“I haven’t been offered a Walmart commercial. It would be difficult because I don’t like Walmart,” Newman told The World-Herald. “Then again, if Walmart came to me and said, ‘We’ll give you $100,000 if you let us use this song,’ I would be really torn. But Amazon? An NBC sitcom? University of Phoenix? That’s easy.”

It used to be that musicians put songs in commercials as a way to sell more records.

“Now you’re hoping you’ll sell more records to get a commercial,” Newman said. “You’ll make so much more money doing that.”

This report contains material from the Hartford Courant.

By Kevin Coffey - Omaha World-Herald (Source) 


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