Getting caught up in the moment is a common side effect of living in the rushed world of scoring, whether it's for commercials, TV shows, film or corporate. It's easy to get lost in the cycle of bidding for jobs, creating multiple top-quality options, and then moving fast to the next project. But by thinking creatively and listening to your clients, not only can you get your business out of this loop, you could even come up with a new solution that makes the most out of all your scores, and helps out your clients in the process.
It was that kind of thinking that led to the creation of the JECO Music Library, a premium collection of commercial-length compositions that first debuted in 1998 has grown stronger and stronger. Our newest version of the collection was just released in mid-2005.
As a composer for JECO Music (www.jecomusic.com), a bicoastal original music and sound design house, I started to notice several years ago that a lot of our best work wasn't being used after the demo stage for our clients. Ad agencies, for example, would tell our team - me, JECO composer Jon Ehrlich, and executive producer Gus Reyes - what they were looking for, and we would create multiple (often three or more) original scores to make sure we nailed the sound.
Only one of our versions could win, naturally, and after their favorite JECO score was in place in their commercial, it didn't seem like there was much need for the alternatives we had worked so hard on. With another custom score project always just around the corner, we would usually make a backup of the unused songs and not give them another thought.
But then something interesting happened. A creative at one of our biggest ad agency clients who was working on a campaign with a particularly tight music budget called JECO and asked, "Do you have any unused demos that I could throw onto picture to see if it works?" We put together a CD with tracks we thought might be in the ballpark, and the result was a home run. Not only did he license a track for that project, he dipped into the compilation and licensed another one for a second project. We had a feeling we were on to something.
What we realized was that even though our unused scores had been made with one specific project in mind, they still worked for a lot of other projects as well. Since commercials often follow a natural arc and rhythm, it's not surprising that a :30 or :60 score with top-quality concept, recording and mixing fits in with more than one ad.
We knew that JECO had the chance to do something pioneering, and we made it happen as we became one of the first commercial music houses to release a companion library. We combed through all the material we had compiled in the course of bidding for jobs and selected only the very best :30s and :60s, with and without vocals, and put them in a professional CD package that went to media producers, music supervisors, and video editors nationwide. Dividing the tracks into categories of feeling/mood like "Casual/Genuine," "Heart Warming," and "Energy/Driving" made it easy for our users to zero in on what they were looking for.
The positive response since we released our first edition shows that this is a concept that works. Cuts from the JECO library have been used on many national campaigns, including a spot that aired during the Super Bowl. Beyond that, regional and corporate uses are widespread, and demand keeps growing. The 2005 version called for the addition of 100 new tracks, bringing the total breadth of the library to over 400 tracks.
That may seem like a lot of tracks, but it's still a highly select range relative to the tens of thousands your standard stock house puts out each year - it's a difference that clients pick up on when choosing to budget more for a premium library like JECO's.
The benefits of a music house converting their unused scores into a library should be easy to see. Your hard work, previously relegated to a dark corner of your hard drive, is now equity that can continue to pay dividends for you down the road. Your clients benefit because they now have an alternate way to access your sound, and not only will it get to them quicker, but they may be able to afford your services in a situation where you may have otherwise been unattainable.
On the flip side, producing, distributing and marketing your own music house-branded library is hard work. Before going that route, keep some basic guidelines we follow firmly in mind:
- BE CONFIDENT YOU'RE THE BEST. If you don't have deep experience in scoring for commercials, primetime, TV and film, then your library isn't going to be ready to go to air. Every single cut needs to be terrific, from the composing to the performance to the mix. Make sure you're winning the big jobs consistently before you start replicating CDs with your name on them.
- MAKE THE COLLECTION TOP QUALITY. A library of tracks intended to match up to national campaign-caliber visuals has to be made up of only your best work. Be merciless in your self-assessment. If you don't have enough fantastic cuts to make a full library at the end of the day, then put it on hold and wait until you do.
- MAKE IT MANAGEABLE. Being selective with your tracks will signal to your library's users that they'll find something useful quickly. Categorize it in a way that makes perfect sense to the time-starved people you're producing this for.
- ENCOURAGE USERS TO TEMP WITH IT. Everyone knows about "temp track love." If your library tracks are up to par, video editors won't hesitate to drop them into the temp track. Once the agency realizes they can license the beloved temp track with a quick phone call to you, they'll be thrilled.
For music houses willing to make the considerable extra effort, your own library is an amazing way to maximize your scores. At JECO Music, it was a step well worth taking.