Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Standing Out in the Crowd: Making the Most of the Billboard/Hollywood Reporter Film & TV Conference

It's October in Los Angeles, and as sure as the cotton cobwebs with black plastic spiders adorning every bar and hotel lobby across this fair city, Billboard and The Hollywood Reporter produced yet another two-day Film & TV Music Conference, reminding everyone who already knows that...well...a big part of success in this part of the business comes from who you know.

Of course you need talent too. That goes without saying. But as evidenced by the droves of independent artists, freelance composers, catalog managers and licensing reps (including some acting as all four) milling about the upstairs conference area at the W Hotel Hollywood, there is a lot of talent out there. There is even more music out there. But there are only so many gatekeepers who will pay good money for music. And thus the challenge becomes getting the right music in front of the right people at the right time.


To that end, one of the conference's strongest features was the unique opportunity to meet some of "the right people". While it seemed that the majority of attendees this year were "providers" rather than "buyers", anyone who took a proactive approach to handshaking was sure to walk away with at least a handful of good leads. Many of today's top music supervisors and composers for film, television and advertising spoke on panels, and a quick post-panel race to the front of the room or a tap on the shoulder down the hallway was all it took to get their ear.

That said, with a floor full of people attempting the same approach, such ventures were often competitive and fleeting, and many found their time best spent chatting up fellow attendees. "Hi, I'm so and so. This is what I do. What's your name and what do you do?" It was amazing to see how far a simple intro like that would take people. And from what I could gather, this type of connection really makes up the core value of the conference. Bringing together a community of like-minded professionals and allowing them to tap into each other's expertise is what it's all about. The phenomenon was most evident during the lively "networking roundtables" that capped off the first day, where industry experts stationed at some 15 circular booths facilitated free-flowing conversation and networking for all.  Upstairs and poolside at Drai's Hollywood against a backdrop of Capitol Records and the Hollywood Sign, the environment could not have been more comfortable and conducive to a roomful of music folks trying to get their network on - like black plastic spiders building a vast, interconnected cobweb.


By comparison, the panels themselves served in complementary contrast to the all important socializing. With easy going moderators, light-hearted attitudes and plenty of audio-visual stimulation, the discussions were entertaining for sure, if perhaps a bit light on the cold hard info some attendees were seeking. But while industry fans and the uninitiated happily soaked in behind the scenes stories of inspiration and the "making of" each project, there were always a few insider gems that shook loose to the benefit of all. As a publication that first and foremost promotes the value of music, we'd like to share one gem in particular from composer Michael Andrews that really spoke to us.

Michael has had a very interesting career, straddling the worlds of both film/TV music and popular music (you can read all about it by clicking here), and he had some very prudent advise for those making a career writing music for film and TV: always hang onto your copyright. Too many composers give up the rights to their music without so much as a fight. Perhaps they don't know any better, or perhaps they're afraid that if they don't, they'll lose the gig. Further, too many composers work for free, or very little money, for similar reasons. There already exists a steady trend of downward pressure on music budgets for visual media, and practices like these hurt everybody by further devaluing both the music and the services of those who create it. So composers - stand up for the value that's inherent in what you do. Ask for the rates you deserve. If you're being asked to give up the rights to what you create, make sure you're getting paid more up front. And if the up front budget just isn't there, make sure you hang onto your copyright. Residuals can be a very good friend to you over the long run and should not be overlooked.


As many noted throughout the conference in tales of projects gone good and bad, film/TV music protocol certainly has its prescribed "do's" and "don'ts". But somewhere in the middle exists an area of creative opportunity waiting to be filled in. An opportunity that can be served equally by any number of musical solutions. Everyone at that conference seeks to serve these opportunities, and many of them can just as well as the next. But the ones who will are the ones who stand out in the crowd, both musically and professionally. So get out there. Take advantage of conference and networking opportunities such as these. Shake some hands and share some stories. Sell yourself with pride and back it up with great sounding music. Stand up for the value of what you do, and do everything you can to stand out in that crowd.

- Andrew DeWitt for AMM

View from the balcony of Drai's Hollywood at the Billboard/Hollywood Reporter Film & TV Conference. Wednesday, October 24, 2012.

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