Great sport demands great music

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HOW TO GET THE BEST PITCH FROM MUSIC LIBRARIES

So it may seem a bit cheeky of me giving advice to music supervisors, editors, producers, and edit houses on how to approach music libraries, but I am doing this in the spirit of friendship and understanding. And from the point of view of someone who has been invited to pitch multiple times for over thirty years, as a composer for film, television, and theatre.

The Pitch Email

Yesterday evening, at about five minutes to six, just as I was about to leave the office, an email dropped into my mail box. It was typical in so many ways, and perhaps more revealing than the sender intended it to be:

“Hi Everybody, We are looking for a piece of music that is fresh, upbeat, a little bit Latin, and has good energy without being too busy. Must be over 1 minute long. Please send your ideas as soon as possible. We need them by noon tomorrow. Thanks……”

Oh dear, it’s five to six, a b beautiful evening, and I was just off for a walk. But I have a duty to my composers. I should pitch. But my hackles are rising! Why?

Well, please allow me to unpick this.

Hello Everybody!

“Hello Everybody” obviously tells me that this is being sent to multiple people. The sender has my email address, but has not bothered to research my name. Two minutes would have done this. And then the email would have been personal. But apparently this was not important. Strike 1!

And the knowledge that many people would be pitching for this makes my heart sink. This really is a lottery pitch!

“…fresh, upbeat, a little bit Latin, and has good energy without being too busy.” Not a bad brief, you may say. A bit general perhaps, but okay. No references though, which would help. But also, what is the music for? Is it for a film? In which case the music should be cinematic. Is it for TV? In which case the music should probably be a bit more energetic. Is it for online use? In which case, the music should probably be less complex, more hooky. So no clue as to who or what the pitch is for. This strikes me as a little unhelpful. Strike 2!

And since there is no clue as to what the pitch is for, I have no idea whether this pitch, should my company be the winner, is going to be worth £100,000, or £50! Strike 3!

Hurry Up & Pitch!

“Please send your ideas as soon as possible. We need them by noon tomorrow.” Okay, this tells me that someone has probably messed up, and they are really desperate. This doesn’t reflect particularly well on the company and people involved. It also gives me a possible clue about the shape of things to come, if I do happen to win the pitch. Maybe they will be equally flakey paying my invoice. It also tells me that they are treating me as a music ‘hole-in-the-wall’, not a human being. Human beings need nurturing, cajoling, encouraging, amusing, distracting, to get the best out of them. They function rather less well when being treated like an automaton. Strike 4!

So who is this person who is offering me this opportunity? What is this company that is seeking my perfect piece of music for their slot? Who knows? No such information is given. The sender obviously feels it is unnecessary. Not my business.

But it is my business! This is a people business. It always has been. What makes me good at my job is having some insight into the people I am working with: Knowing their emotional shorthand. Knowing their likes and dislikes. Knowing something of their reputation. And if, as in this case, I don’t know them at all, surely it is worthwhile them spending a little time reaching out and explaining the context, the mission, the intention. Strike 5!

The Walk

All this struck me in the nano-second it took me to dim my computer screen and exit my office. And I mulled this over as I tried to enjoy my evening walk. Was I being unreasonable? Was I being too sensitive? Should I be more grateful at actually being asked to pitch? And in my head I wrote an email reply to vent my feelings. It was a beautiful evening, but I was distracted by the casual ineptitude of the invitation to pitch. So, instead of sinking into a comfortable chair after my walk, I headed back to my office, preparing to send off a pointed email.

But just before I did, I looked in my inbox, and, lo and behold, there was a new track from one of my writers. I played it. It was fresh, upbeat, a little bit Latin, and had good energy without being too busy. It was also over 1 minute long! A miracle! Thank you God!

I penned a simple email: ” Dear ……Thank you for the opportunity. Here is a piece that I think perfectly fits the bill….Kind regards Simon”

And that’s it. I fired my writer’s gem off into the ether, and offered up a silent prayer.

The Pitch Conclusion

The next day, (today,) I have heard nothing. No acknowledgement, no thank you, no clue as to whether I was close, or miles off. No building of a relationship that will inform future pitches. Indeed no friendly gesture at all. Just goodnight Vienna! And how do I know if they did actually really like the track I supplied, and used it without permission or payment? Or got one of their composers to copy it? Or re-titled it and put it out on their own label. The answer is I don’t. I have no idea. And does anyone actually care?

Well I do. I care. And I want to make this business better. I don’t want it to be swallowed up by Artificial Intelligence, which will perform these kind of tasks far better than this company does. I want to keep it about people, keep it real. So I am writing this blog. In the hope that it might touch a nerve or two. In the hope that it might just make things a little better. And who knows? Tomorrow I might hear that I smashed it! I hit the nail on the head. We got the job!

You can only hope, right?

The author, Simon Webb, is the Musical Director and CEO of the boutique music library Music For Sport. He is also co-host of the podcast Synchronized!

THE BEST CLASSIC BRITISH SPORTS THEMES

CLASSIC BRITISH SPORTS THEMES

Millions of UK viewers enjoy sports on television and the classic British sports themes that accompany them. These signature tunes have achieved an iconic status in the sports and media culture of the UK. They have become audio footprints, echoes in time, calls to action, popular crowd chants, and media clichés. They evoke nostalgia and excitement in equal measure. The tunes are indelibly linked to sport.


Choosing a top ten of classic British sports themes, of necessity, leaves some memorable tunes out. I apologize for those omitted. But ten is ten! We’ll just have to disagree on which are the best ten! I think what probably most sports fans would agree, is that a great starting point for any classic British sporting theme playlist is the F1 Grand Prix music:  THE CHAIN by FLEETWOOD MAC. This classic rock tune is the definitive sports signature tune. It says cars. It says: Hey! We’re going racing! So hit the YouTube play button, sit back, and enjoy the MUSIC FOR SPORT Top ten classic British sports themes.


TOP TEN CLASSIC UK TV SPORTS THEMES.

1. Formula 1 GRAND PRIX

Formula 1 BBC opening titles – THE CHAIN – FLEETWOOD MAC

2. Match Of the Day

BBC Match of the Day theme tune – Barry Stoller

3. Cricket

TEST MATCH SPECIAL – SOUL LIMBO –  BOOKER T & THE MG’S

4. Tennis

BBC Wimbledon Theme – LIGHT AND TUNEFUL – KEITH MANSFIELD

5. Golf

BBC GOLF THEME – CHASE SIDE SHOOT UP – BRIAN BENNET

6. Ski Sunday

POP GOES BACH –  SAM FONTEYN

7. Grandstand

BBC GRANDSTAND THEME – KEITH MANSFIELD

8. Snooker

BBC SNOOKER – DRAG RACER – DOUG WOOD BAND

9. Boxing

BBC BOXING – SIR PERCY – THE TONY KING ORCHESTRA

10. Sportsnight

SPORTSNIGHT THEME – TONY HATCH

LINK HERE TO LISTEN TO MUSIC FOR SPORTS CLASSIC SPORTS THEMES

List compiled by Music ForSport’s musical director, Simon Webb.

Simon Webb loves the Top Ten British Sports Themes

MUSIC LIBRARIES – THE BEST WAY TO SUBMIT MUSIC

As musical director of Music For Sport, a niche production music library specializing in sports music, I receive many submissions from composers. I’m sure my colleagues in other music libraries do too. Although it’s a bit daunting at times, I’m generally very appreciative of this: new music is the life-blood of our business, and ‘cold’ submissions are one of the ways new talent gets noticed. But I do sometimes wish that composers and producers would give themselves a better chance, and get a bit savvier about the whole process of music submission.
There are many different approaches composers and producers use to submit music, good and bad, successful and unsuccessful. In fact submitting music is an art in itself. And any composer wishing to get his or her music successfully placed, needs to learn that art.

When I first started submitting music, forty years ago, the business was very much a people business. It usually involved a meeting in an office somewhere in Soho. Typically, you would go in, shake hands with a music exec or two, have a cup of tea, tell them a bit about yourself, and then sit nervously while they listened to a couple of your tracks. A little more chat, and then it was out of the door with a breezy, “We’ll let you know!” ringing in your ears.

And as you walked away, you just hoped you had done enough in those fifteen minutes to present yourself well, and give your music the best possible shot.


Submitting To Music Libraries – 2021 Style

Today, as a rule, it’s a very different story. You don’t get a meeting. You don’t get fifteen minutes. You don’t have to look sharp, or have a shave, or buy a return trip to London. And you certainly don’t get invited for a drink in the pub afterwards if the meeting went well!

What you do get to do, is to send an email.  That’s it. The whole process has reduced to a few words of text, and a bunch of hyperlinks. Blimey, what a change!
But the fundamentals of the business have not changed. You still need to project your personality successfully. You still have to introduce your music in a positive way. You still have to articulate your ideas. You still have to get your feet under the table.


So How Do I Successfully Submit Music To Music Libraries?

Well, you will need to put some hard work in, and you will need a bit of luck. The best strategy is keeping it simple.  You have to get a few key elements right. Most importantly, you want to ensure that the recipient actually listens to your music.
A word of warning: a badly written email will probably just end up in the bin before a note of music has been heard. It’ll be treated like spam.

So just in case you are about to send off a bunch of emails, with multiple bcc‘s, to a generic database of music libraries, please pause and consider these Do’s and Don’ts.

If you bear them in mind, they will definitely aid your musical submission process.
The overall aim is to get your music placed.
The initial aim is to get your music listened to.

First of all the Do’s:


Do’s

  • Do your research. MCPS has a list of libraries that provides a good starting point. Pick a likely candidate and find out all you can about it from the company website and Google.
  • Do make sure you find the answers to these five key questions: Does the library include your genre of music? (There’s no point in submitting traditional folk tracks to a Hip-Hop label for example.) Does it give guidelines for music submission? (If so, I suggest you follow these carefully.) Does it offer multiple versions and mixes of tracks? (This will involve a lot more work on your part, something you will need to plan for.) Is the library royalty-free, or MCPS based? And does it have foreign sub-publishers? (This will give you an idea of your potential income streams.)
  • Do develop an idea of what is required, how your music would fit, and what your angle should be.
  • Do find a contact name for the person you are submitting to. (“Hello” just doesn’t cut it as an opening gambit.) And then send a targetted, well written, personalized email.
  • Do tell the recipient a bit about yourself, the musical genre you work in, and your musical background and current projects. Describe your music in a few well-chosen words. Keep it light and brief: a couple of paragraphs is fine.
  • Do attach a pdf CV or resume if you want people to get a fuller understanding of what you do, and to see who you have worked with.
  • Do make sure the email is readable. Check the spelling and the grammar. You don’t want to come over as unprofessional. You need to portray yourself as enthusiastic, capable, and very pro. You want the recipient to think: “Yes, this person sounds great. I want to listen to their tracks.”
  • Do enclose links in your email to two or three of your best, and most suitable current tunes. Bear in mind, less is more. Use SoundCloud, YouTube, or similar as your method of delivery. You might want to track the links with a site like Bitly. That way you can monitor how they are performing.
  • Do attach a jpeg of yourself or your band. It is still a people business after all, and people like to see the face behind the music.
  • Do confirm (or otherwise) that you are looking to work on an exclusive basis for your tracks. A lot of libraries will insist upon this. If you are offering tracks on a non-exclusive basis, (i.e. sharing your music with various libraries, a different business model), it’s a good idea to make this clear at this stage. It will save misunderstandings later.
  • Do confirm that you are a member of a performing right society, such as PRS. If you’re not, you can find out about joining PRS here.

Don’ts

  • Don’t send out generic bcc, or worse, cc emails. It’s impolite, and music libraries get hundreds of these. They are effectively, spam.
  • Don’t send CDs or DVDs, or attach wavs, aiffs, mp3s, or any other audio files. It’s bad etiquette, and unnecessary. Use links instead.
  • Don’t confuse things by sending multiple links to multiple projects and tracks. Again, less is more. Keep it simple.
  • Don’t be disappointed if you don’t get a quick reply. You never know what may follow. It’s possible your music did hit the mark, but wasn’t exactly what was required at that particular time. You may be surprised to find you get a call out of the blue, a few months down the line, asking you to do an album for that library.

How To Improve Your Chances Of Successfully Submitting Your Music To Music Libraries.

To recap: invest your time in well researched, well written, personalized emails to music libraries that you like the look and sound of, and that you think may be receptive to your kind of music. And persevere. You make your own luck.
In short:

      1. Research. It’s what you know that counts.
      2. Email. Be polite, enthusiastic, informed, and interesting.
      3. Persevere. Follow up. Develop more research and new strategies based on what you find works best for you. Keep writing new music. And keep putting it out there!

THE BEST WAY TO SUBMIT MUSIC TO MUSIC LIBRARIES by Simon Webb

Simon Webb is a UK Theatre, TV and film composer. He is Musical Director and CEO of Music For Sport Ltd.

Simon Webb playing music on the Mrs. Mills piano at Abbey Road

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