Throughout the past decade, there has been a greater awareness by young artists/bands that placing songs in films/soundtracks and TV shows not only provides a source of income, but can lead to valuable exposure which boosts their chances of securing a record deal.
These days, an unsigned band or artist often needs more than an outstanding demo tape or CD to land a record deal. Of course, it helps if the artist is an exceptional live act with a large, local following. But film or soundtrack credits can be very impressive, demonstrating to labels that other industry figures (i.e. film producers, directors, music supervisors) have liked and selected an act’s music for their projects. And it’s even better if a band’s song gets on a soundtrack, receives airplay or attracts publicity due to the movie tie-in. Certainly, any act would want their songs used in a major studio movie. But for young artists/bands, their best shot may be with the indie film projects.
“Independent films might offer better opportunities for a new band’s music, because they are more willing to take a chance,” says Brad Rosenberger, Vice President of Film & Television Music/Catalog Development, Warner-Chappell Music. “Although it’s never easy placing songs in films, it’s a fertile time in this industry, because there are a lot of films looking for music from new bands.”
There are various ways to find out about which films and TV shows are looking for music. Several publications, such as the Hollywood Reporter (in its Tuesday issues) and Exhibitor Relations, list which film and TV projects are in production. However, these listings usually don’t specify what type of music is being used. Numerous phone calls have to be made to these listings to find out what specific songs the director or music supervisor may be looking for.
Bands need to do their own extensive research, calling film and TV studios, production companies, and music supervisors to find out which projects need their type of music. There are some helpful directories and a few publications which list certain projects, but not a definitive guidebooks for bands pitching their music.
“Bands need to be research-driven,” says Ritch Ezra, who publishes a comprehensive directory of music supervisors and studio execs, called the Film & TV Music Guide. “Acts have to do a lot of homework to find out which projects are appropriate to pitch their songs for.”
There are a couple of publications which feature partial lists of projects which need music, such as the soundtrack column in HITS magazine, plus the film/TV listings page in New On The Charts magazine. An exclusive publication with a variety of major listings is called The Music Report, but it is restricted to industry professionals.
Once an act has placed a song, there usually follows a negotiation of the fee for the usage. Each project has a different budget, and each song can have a different usage. In most indie projects, filmmakers tend to pay lower fees for songs by unsigned bands, believing they are giving bands a break by just putting their songs in films.
Most bands are willing to accept lower fees in order to get exposure from the film. Sometimes there are no fees paid at all, if the film’s budget is particularly small. However, terms can be negotiated so in the event the movie becomes successful and/or generates a soundtrack album, additional fees will then be paid to the band. Also, it should be noted that film (and TV) companies will not ask for the band’s publishing in most cases.
Whether or not the artist/band get paid much for the usage, or whether this film or TV credit actually helps attract label interest, there also remains the enjoyment and satisfaction of having a song connected to a viable film or TV project. Hearing and seeing your music work in a creative, new context is rewarding unto itself.