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August 2014
Issue: March 1, 2013

The Sound of Music

By: Randi Altman
Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night to a song playing in your head? Of course you have. While it might drive you crazy at the time, it does hammer home the importance of a tune.

So when a network needs to promote their offerings, or a television show needs to heighten drama or humor, finding the right piece of music is paramount. While some have big, beefy budgets that allow for licensing or a composition, many do not, and that’s where production music libraries come in. 

These libraries are deeper than ever, with options for just about every situation. They also offer easy search options or one-on-one account reps who will help you get what you need. And sometimes, they are started by those who at one time were searching for the right sound of their own.

MUSIC SUPERVISION

Trygge Toven (www.vidsyn.com) is a Hollywood-based music supervisor working in television. His most current job is on David Kelly’s new medical drama, TNT’s Monday Mornings. His background also includes music supervision for television marketing, working on series promos, trailers, IDs and film. 

When asked to describe his current job, he says: “I work with producers and directors to find the vision of the sound for their show; I also work toward finding and clearing the music with the rights owners.”

Depending on the need, Toven (@tryggetoven) will scour production music libraries or opt to license a song. It all depends on the requirements and budget, he says. “A lot of times we’ll need instrumentals for the show, and production music libraries offer multiple versions. Maybe one offering is without a lead, but has a rhythm version, another is just a drum section instead of having a lead. It’s nice to have the multiple versions, and everybody is getting better at that.” Even the major labels with big songs, he says. “You can usually get instrumental versions of the music if you need to cut the vocal out under the dialogue, which is nice.”


Trygge Toven: “It’s about finding the company that has the right people on board to help me finish the creative process.”

Over the years Toven has worked with many different music sources, including Non-Stop Music before and after the company was bought by Warner Chappell. “I worked with them on my marketing projects because they had deals with the networks, and are a really good go-to for finding what I need.” He estimates that he has used thousands of their cues in marketing spots for ABC and Fox. “They have so much selection and it’s all made specifically for these types of spots.”

Having someone from a music library’s staff help with the search is essential to finding the right song. “Libraries are growing and getting bigger and bigger, so it’s always good to have a person on hand who really knows the catalog and can connect the dots, because I can’t know every single song that’s out there.”

He says with Warner Chappell, that is typically the same person, his account manager. “It’s someone I deal with whenever I’m looking for a certain scene or trailer. They can help me with something that’s going to make sense for what I need.”


Monday Mornings on TNT: Music supervisor Trygge Toven looks for songs that reflect the emotions of a particular episode or scene. 

When Toven started on Monday Mornings, a show that focuses on doctors being critiqued by their peers, the pilot was already done, so his job was to build on what the producers were going for in terms of music. “At that point it was trying to match the emotion of the scene and was working off what makes sense for the story arcs,” he explains. “A lot of times shows will have musical themes for each character. While true to some extent on this show, that was taken care of by the composer. Instead I pulled preliminary songs based on the pilot and the show in general, and then worked off the scripts and met with the editors and producers going forward. Sometimes scenes just need a lyrical song to help translate the human emotion on the screen”

Monday Mornings is a medical drama, so the music needs to be very emotional. “We are dealing with deep human conflict, and there is a lot of death and a lot of fear, but some hope as well. I am not only looking for singer/songwriter, I try to venture out. And it doesn’t matter about the actual genre as long as it’s hitting the correct sentiment for what the show wants that week. We try to get an overall vibe throughout the show because every story has a theme to it.” 

Toven says the show’s composer, Danny Lux, has done a great job painting a picture with the characters. “That is especially true with the first couple of episodes, because you are helping tell a story and depict who a character is through the music. This is typically accomplished through licensed songs, he says. “Again, for me, I just try to help along the story.”

For Monday Mornings, he typically opts for library offerings for source music. “If there were big emotional scenes, I usually go to new independent artists. They have some pretty decent vocal tracks library wise, but when I am looking for a perfect song I check out every possible source.”  

For example, he needed a very emotional piece to support a scene where the doctor has to apologize to the widower of one of his patients that didn’t make it. “We went with the song ‘Guiltfree’ by an up-and-coming artist Bootstraps, and it turned out great.”

There are many libraries and placement companies out there in the industry, and a ton of companies representing smaller labels. “But they don’t have as many people to market them,” says Toven. “They are representing them just for synchronization and TV and film. It’s about finding the company that has the right people on board to help me finish the creative process.”

PROMOS & MORE

Faye Walker is VP of marketing at Santa Monica-based FearNet (www.FEARnet.com), a TV network, VOD channel and Website that’s dedicated to horror, suspense and thriller content. Owned by Sony Pictures Television, Comcast Corporation and Lionsgate Entertainment, FearNet airs classic films, blockbuster movies, network broadcasts, independent features, foreign flicks and TV shows, along with original programming intended to spook, scare or simply just creep people out.  

FearNet’s audience skews equally between males and females, who are young, primarily in their 20s and early 30s. Walker calls them “the millennial generation,” and they’ve grown up watching vampires, werewolves and zombies go mainstream, in books, on network TV and on movie screens. They also like music, all kinds of music, from Rob Zombie to Marilyn Manson to Dee Snider and more. So to help speak their language, music has become an important part of FearNet’s (@FEARnet) offerings.


Three different tracks were used to create the mood in this promo for the film Let Me In. 

FearNet also takes part in events around the country, and they are currently looking to add live music to those appearances. “We are working with Killer Tracks on finding emerging bands that also appeal to our audience. It is a great way to connect with our viewers who attend genre-themed conventions,” says Walker. “We can engage with our audience not only through the visual pictures of our movies, but through sound as well.” 

FearNet also calls on Killer Tracks for promotional purposes, including music beds in all on-air promos and short-form content. “We just brought our on-air group in-house a year ago, and we are in the process of fine tuning the brand,” she explains.

Walker relies on her editors/preditors to get the most out of production music. Eric Cookson is senior preditor at FearNet, and he recognizes the benefits of using libraries for music as well as sound effects. “Killer Tracks has become a valuable component in our ability to produce effective promos. We’re able to narrow down our searches much faster now and sample far fewer traces to find that perfect one.

“Aside from being a sort of one-stop shop to thoroughly round out their promos, the modern search tools offered make finding what we need much simpler and far less time consuming,” he explains. “It used to be we would get a catalog of discs and would have to listen to lots and lots of music we didn’t need to before finding the track that was perfect. Now we can really narrow down the searches for a specific sound, mood, or tempo quickly, and have to sample far fewer tracks to find the one that works.”

Continues Cookson, “Within the FearNet genre — horror, thriller, and suspense — we also need quite a bit of variety, and libraries offer that as well. Sometimes we need heavy, loud, up tempo, or tense and creepy tracks, and other times light and campy tunes. Libraries give us quick access to all of these styles.”


FearNet’s Eric Cookson employs Avid’s Pro Tools and Media Composer for his promo work.

FearNet’s On-Air department, which employs Avid’s Media Composer and Pro Tools, typically uses two to four music tracks in a 30-second spot, and often compresses or expands tracks to better blend them together. Occasionally they will also pitch shift or EQ the music if looking for a different sound than the music library track provides.

FearNet recently created promos for the channel’s airing of the film Let Me In. “The movie is beautifully shot, dramatic, sweet and really creepy, and we wanted to capture that in the spot,” says Cookson. “We used three different tracks in 30 seconds to create and evolve the mood throughout, from a more tender opening, turning to the darker side of the film, building to an emphatically-dramatic climax.”

What about a signature sound for FearNet itself? Not yet, according to Walker, but soon. “We are talking to some companies now about that.”

BUILT BY A USER

Vault Audio (www.vaultaudio.com) is a new music library started by Jonathan Mills in Nashville. Mills got the idea to start his own offering after working at Country Music Television for over eight years. While there, he worked on the Top 20 Countdown, Insider and most recently produced Southern Friend Flicks. 
“When I was producing, I would frequently search the big music libraries. I noticed that many of them had a lot of filler tracks and didn’t really do anything to make themselves more than just a library. They seemed to have the strategy of ‘add as much music as possible (whether good or bad), give clients access, the end.’”

In 2010, he decided to put his money where his mouth was, and do better. That’s when he started Vault. “I began looking for quality composers to include in my catalog while searching for ways to make my company stand out in a sea of music libraries. I worked hard in my spare time, signed up some great composers, found clients here and there, and really paid attention to what worked and what didn’t. After three years, I got it as far as I could doing it part time, and I felt like I had enough success to justify leaving CMT. On January 1, I went full time with the company.” 

Vault Audio (@ VaultAudio) currently has approximately 5,500 high-quality tracks, with the goal of offering 10,000 by the end of the year. They offer a wide assortment of licenses — from single-use to one-year subscriptions.


Jonathan Mills has been on both sides of the production library world, first as a user, and now as a service provider. 

Mills believes his experience as a TV producer is what helps make the Vault Audio experience a bit different. “Our collection, our pricing, our focus on service was shaped by my time at CMT. When accepting music I think about what I looked for in a track. Usually, it was something with an identity, not just a song that’s going to sit in the background. I wanted songs that helped drive the point home.” 

He also wanted to tackle the way songs were searched for in a database; he wanted it to be a more personal experience. Right now users can search by genre, tempo, instrument, or mood, and create playlists that can be downloaded as MP3 or AIFF files. 

“As we grow, I will make sure that clients have a supervisor there to help them at all times. We want our supervisors to build personal relationships. Not only will they know our catalog, they’ll know the client. Instead of searching the library, clients can send a request to their supervisor and he or she will find what they need.”

Mills believes that producers and editors will immediately get what Vault is — because it was started by someone who has been in their shoes. “We understand the tight deadlines and know they’re looking for more than just filler.”

Some of Vault’s clients include an informercial for Thane Direct, and back in November, they did the Road to the CMA Awards show airing on 90 percent of the ABC affiliates. It was a half-hour special packed with interviews featuring country music stars such as Jason Aldean, Miranda Lambert, Brad Paisley, Taylor Swift and many more. 

Vault is currently providing music for the seventh season of Gearz for Speed Channel. It’s a high-energy, how-to “style show” that takes the viewer through the ins and outs of modifying and building a vehicle, and the tools and techniques needed to do it. It’s hosted by builder/designer Stacey David. The show also features stories of both iconic people and vehicles, and their impact on popular culture.

Vault Audio recently added Grammy-nominated producer/composer Rich Tozzoli to its collection, and will be launching live support this month, so visitors to his site can speak to a live supervisor from 9am-6pm Central time.