Videos by American Songwriter
A look at a few of today’s SXSW panels.
From Songs to Scores: Can Songwriters Score Films?
Writing and composing music for film and television poses a unique set of challenges for artists and bands, often requiring the songwriter to work fully in the service of the film’s producers and directors.
“You’re not writing this music for yourself,” said Michael James, frontman for the Austin-based band Explosions In The Sky. “You are writing in service to the vision of the director. You’re coming in at a late stage to sweeten or enhance the things that are already there.”
James added that songwriter involved with this type of work must be able to write – and re-write – very quickly.
Blake Neely, a composer whose credits include Pirates of The Caribbean and CBS’ The Mentalist, said the initial challenge with composing scores is figuring out what the client wants exactly. “Half of what I do is proving [to them] that [some idea] doesn’t work,” he said.
The question of who owns the compositions varies by case. For example, Explosions In The Sky had several placements on Friday Night Lights. James said the television show licensed some songs that the band had already written and had them re-record the tracks. The band retained the copyright of the song but the television show owned the master, he said.
Trailer Cash: How To Hitch Your Music To A Trailer
A bevy of music supervisors from the film industry broke down the process of getting songs licensed for theatrical trailers, a very lucrative form of revenue for songwriters lucky enough to secure placement.
According to the panel, a film project will often spend more money licensing a single song for a trailer than they will on all the songs used in the actual film. Indeed, getting a song placed on a trailer for a big-budget picture can be a financial game-changer for a songwriter.
For any particular film coming out of Hollywood, there are often eight or nine different trailer campaigns, including television spots, online campaigns and theater distribution.
The panel noted that trailers are commercials, so, more often than not, music supervisors are looking for songs that are eminently hummable and can appeal to a large number of people. Usually, the songs used for large-scale commercial films are “big-production” tracks, said Natalie Baartz, music director for Ignition Creative.
The current trend for trailer music involves “covers and re-mixes.” Natalie Baartz, music director for Ignition Creative, said she put together a cover of Neil Young’s “Heart Of Gold,” done in an orchestral, ambient style, for the Christian Bale movie “Out Of The Furnace.”
Toddrick Spalding, director of music for Trailer Park, said lower-budget film projects afford music supervisors the opportunity to work with more indie-oriented musicians and record labels.