When the final scene of the final episode of prime time teen soap opera and hip modern music launching pad-The OC-rolled across the screen earlier this year, a song sung by an unfamiliar voice summed up the moment perfectly for many of the show’s remaining faithful. As soon as they could clear their watery eyes, thousands of people who saw the show logged on to message boards and MySpace to find this song that now was intrinsically linked to a major moment in their TV-viewing lives. The tune was “Life Is A Song,” a new track from Los Angeles singer/songwriter Patrick Park, who up to that point was known as the guy who released a relatively under-hyped album on Hollywood Records a few years ago.When the final scene of the final episode of prime time teen soap opera and hip modern music launching pad-The OC-rolled across the screen earlier this year, a song sung by an unfamiliar voice summed up the moment perfectly for many of the show’s remaining faithful. As soon as they could clear their watery eyes, thousands of people who saw the show logged on to message boards and MySpace to find this song that now was intrinsically linked to a major moment in their TV-viewing lives. The tune was “Life Is A Song,” a new track from Los Angeles singer/songwriter Patrick Park, who up to that point was known as the guy who released a relatively under-hyped album on Hollywood Records a few years ago. Appropriately, his massive and immediate MySpace and iTunes upswing proved the perfect parallel to how the song made it on the air in the first place.
“For me, it seemed random,” Park recalls from his Los Angeles home. “I got a message on MySpace from the Chop Shop (the music supervision company for The OC and others), which is pretty weird. I hadn’t submitted for it or anything.”
It would seem safe to assume that the momentum created by that moment would be a big boost for Park’s career, but Park, who doesn’t own a TV, is more concerned-in his words-with “creative momentum” rather than the commercial kind. However, he does see the positive effect it has had on growing his audience.
“I feel like it’s certainly getting the word out to people I never would have thought would gravitate to what I do,” Park says. “I think it serves the same purpose as radio used to. These shows have a fanatical fanbase who identify with the characters so much that they use the songs to deepen their emotional reaction. There’s even more of an emotional reaction than radio.”
Another act who have had more success with synchs than with radio is Los Angeles power pop crew The 88, who have scored about half their band name in film, TV and commercial synchs over the last few years-including several high profile slots on The OC, Grey’s Anatomy and maybe most significantly, a Target commercial. Although they have support on L.A.’s influential non-commercial station KCRW and in the local L.A. press, The 88 didn’t get their synch career going purely by their own efforts or by a Patrick Park-like “random” MySpace connection.
Danny Benair, owner of L.A.-based third party music supervision pitch company, Natural Energy Lab (www.naturalenergylab.com), helped get The 88’s music into the hands of TV and film folks. And he stresses that his existing relationships within the industry were “very important” in landing the band their initial synchs. Once The 88 nabbed their first big placement (in their case it was a spot on The OC and eventually one of the show’s soundtracks), the rest of the music supervision world raced to pilfer the band’s back catalog. This kind of peeking-over-your-shoulder-at-your-friend’s-math-test domino effect can also be seen in the recent success of other multiple synch artists such as Damien Rice and The Fray. But Benair isn’t too quick to suggest that TV and film folks “borrow” from each other (he obviously doesn’t want to bite the hand), but he does note that “only one song from the 88’s first two CDs has never been placed, so somebody is paying attention!”
It would also seem to be a strategic advantage for songwriters and artists like The 88 to be based in L.A. if they want to get their music into film and TV, but Benair is quick to counter.
“I think my company being based here is more important then where the band is from,” Benair states, “but in their case, it probably made it easier for supervisors to see them.”
Nashville country songwriter Troy Verges (cuts by Faith Hill, Martina McBride and others), whose song “Hangin’ By a Wire” (co-written with Gordie Sampson) was used in the show The Shield, disagrees with Benair’s assessment-especially when it comes to the work of Music Row writers.
“I think there is plenty of talent here to handle film and TV projects, and I know that some writers here have success in that area,” Verges says. “But I think we suffer a bit simply from location. We are not where the film and TV industry is. And with some notable exceptions like O Brother, Where Art Thou? there doesn’t seem to be great demand for country songs to be placed.”
One place that country music writers and artists have had success is in the world of advertising. Unlike film and TV synchs, where the money for unknown and independent artists can range from as little as $2,000 for a cable TV slot to $30,000 for placement in a widely distributed film, the commercial world is a goldmine. In many cases it’s a six figure payday, even for indie artists. But with great reward can still come great scrutiny, even in this post-indie-cred musical landscape. (The Shins had their song placed in a McDonald’s commercial for goodness sake.) Patrick Park is particularly incredulous on the subject. Even though Park has no qualms with a corporate TV show using his song, he still shudders at the thought of selling his art in the same way Toby Keith uses his tunes to sell trucks.
“On a TV show they are using your song to elicit an emotional response to a character, and on a commercial they are using your song to elicit an emotional response to a Cadillac or a cell phone,” Park emotionally announces. “That’s potentially a little fucked up. Instead of people coming to your music on its own terms, you turn into the ‘Gap song guy.’ Like Nick Drake, to some people…he’s that ‘VW song guy.’ It has the potential to cheapen songs that could be important for a new generation.”