News and Articles - Billboard Conference
Music for Film and TV: A Report from the
Hollywood Reporter/Billboard Conferences
by Scott G (The G-Man)
"Forget the name of this thing," one audience member
said of The Hollywood Reporter Billboard Film and TV Music Conference,
"it's really all about the politics and money it takes
to put your music in a flick." More than one attendee privately
The underlying truth of that position may explain the conflicting
points made by the more than two dozen speakers. For example,
Glen Ballard was optimistic while maintaining a healthy dose
of pessimism. Mark Mothersbaugh was elated yet often reliant
on quietly humorous sarcasm. Chris Douridas was excited while
being realistic and determined. And so it went during the two-day
event held at the Renaissance Hotel in Hollywood, with every
panel member upbeat about many aspects of the industry while
acknowledging that there are lots of problems.
Good News/Bad News.
The dichotomy of "good news/bad news" was handled
by each presenter in his own way. Stewart Copeland (former member
of The Police and now noted film and commercial composer) and
Garry Marshall (director of hugely successful films such as
"Pretty Woman") used humor to make their points about
the economic realities of the business putting pressure on creative
"Every musician wants to work on 'A-level' projects,"
Copeland said, "but the fact is that many of us in this
room will most often be working on 'Swordslayer 6' where your
decisions might be very different." Film composer John
Debney ("Passion of the Christ" and Marshall's "Princess
Diaries" films) also noted how your career choices are
influenced in unusual ways as you progress from first-time writer
to recognized professional.
Writer/producer Ballard may be best-known for working with Alanis
Morissette on "Jagged Little Pill," but he has an
impressive list of credits in music, film, television, and live
music. Stepping in at the last minute to deliver the Vanguard
Address (replacing Dave Stewart, who had to remain out of the
country on other commitments), Ballard noted that the record
industry is experiencing problems, "some our fault, but
some not." Of the former, the main cause is "releasing
too many albums not worth $15 or 45 minutes of an audience's
time." The primary problem that cannot be avoided by the
record industry is the proliferation of other entertainment
choices. The only way to combat this, he feels, is through creativity
and quality in the music.
Ballard struck a strong chord with many in the audience when
he noted that "Blazing creativity is rarely recognized
in the beginning," warning that "If imitation replaces
inspiration, then we will elevate mediocrity far beyond what
we've already done."
Using the journalistic concept of suppression as a stepping-off
point, Ballard said "we've let the marketplace create a
'creative prior restraint' on what we think and what the industry
will accept from an artist." While calling for a total
dedication to the art and craft of music, he cautioned that
"anybody can make a multitrack recording" but that
there are "essentials: storytelling, melody, lyric, structure,
With the current industry recognition that commercial radio
is horrible for music, Ballard further noted that artists should
not even consider radio when composing. "The minute you
go into writing, if you're thinking about radio, you're in the
wrong place. Radio is in a different business from us. They
sell advertising space and we make music. Occasionally our goals
converge, but not often."
On a positive note, Ballard pointed to the increased opportunities
for marketing music in games and telephones. Music in phones
may be an especially important market, with "millions upon
millions in China alone."
View from the Executive Suite.
Lia Vollack is President of Worldwide Music for Sony Pictures
Entertainment. A former music editor and music supervisor, she
has the ability to step in for hands-on assignments in addition
to overseeing all aspects of film music and soundtracks for
Columbia, Screen Gems, and Sony Pictures Animation. Additionally,
she works with Revolution Studios, Sony Pictures Classics, and
all Sony Local Language Productions.
Although she readily admits to the downside of the business,
many of her statements were quite positive: "Artists are
more committed to quality," Vollack noted, adding "Inspiration
is the main point up front, and then comes the deal." She
urged all those in the profession to "aspire to brilliance."
Chris Douridas is still most widely known for hosting radio
programming on National Public Radio stations, yet it is his
work as music supervisor and consultant that makes him notable
in the industry. Among the many films on which he has worked
are "Shrek 2," "Under the Tuscan Sun," "One
Hour Photo," "American Beauty," the "Austin
Powers" films, "As Good As It Gets," and "Grosse
Pointe Blank." He is a consultant for Apple's iTunes and
a part of Dreamworks.
"The challenge," Douridas points out, "is finding
films directed by people with a vision that includes the music."
Using examples of how music selections have interacted with
filmmaker's concepts, he emphasized that it is "important
to have the artist invested emotionally."
The Mark of the Composer.
From his days with Devo, the most dadaistic rock group ever
released on a major label, up to his latest film score, Mark
Mothersbaugh has brought a unique perspective to sonics and
the business of having a career in the music industry. He has
composed for a wide array of film and television projects, including
"Rugrats" (TV, film and stage versions), "The
Royal Tenenbaums," "Rushmore," "Thirteen,"
"Happy Gilmore," and the forthcoming films, "Lords
of Dogtown" and "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou."
Responding to insightful and often humorous questions from Melinda
Newman, Billboard's West Coast Bureau Chief, Mothersbaugh covered
a wide range of topics, including composing for commercials:
"I always liked the creepy way commercials work their music
into your brain." He agreed with Newman that "They're
subversive." On the needs of filmmakers: "Directors
are looking for music that compliments the universe that their
movie has created." On composing for so many children's
television programs: "There are advantages to scoring kids
shows. You can mix mambos and heavy metal."
Newman pointed out that Mothersbaugh did the music score for
several films dealing with young women who were coming-of-age,
including "Thirteen," "Confessions of a Teenage
Drama Queen," "Drop Dead Gorgeous," and others.
"Is it difficult to get into the mindset of a teenage girl?"
Newman asked. "Well, wardrobe is important," Mothersbaugh
Also participating during the well-organized conference were
such industry notables as Burt Berman, President of Music for
Paramount Pictures, Darren Higman, Sr. VP of WMG Soundtracks
at the Warner Music Group, Robert Kraft, President of Fox Music,
and music editor/music supervisor Curt Sobel.
Additional observations included:
"Only go into this industry if you wake up with an ache
to write or create." - Tamara Conniff, Co-Executive Editor,
"If you're inspired to write something brilliant"
for a film, even if it doesn't get utilized, "you've got
another copyright for your vault." - Laurie Soriano, of
entertainment law firm Manatt, Phelps & Phillips.
"The final song in a film's end credits might be called
'the janitor's song.'" - Lia Vollack.
"When I first started working in music at an ad agency,
I couldn't figure out why so many mediocre people were getting
to work on some great projects. Then it hit me: it was all about
their connections." - Josh Rabinowitz, of the Young &
Rubicam advertising agency.
"I like using great songs in my pictures. You know, not
the ones that are there for the marketing that you bury by having
five seconds of it on the radio as a car drives up to the camera."
- Garry Marshall.
"A lot of this business is agent-driven, so we in legal
are just scriveners." - Laurie Soriano.
"Imagine watching a movie without the music. It would lack
drama, intensity, and excitement." - Tamara Conniff.
About the Author
Scott G writes and records as THE G-MAN, and his work may be
http://www.myspace.com/thegman, and his own site:
By Candido Bretto
"Live music." That common saying may contain
some truth, but these days the word "live" is
having less and less to do with music. For many people,
a dj is their form of live music. Despite what dj's would
like to have you believe, musicians make excellent entertainment.
In the first place, people enjoy human performance. Many
musicians like great athletes are multi-talented. They
will croon on the tenor saxophone right to your soul,
then turn around and chunk out a funky rhythm on a Fender
Stratocaster. Can a dj play a turntable behind his head
or with his teeth? Professional musicians love to sing
and groove on just about any style of music from a Frank
Sinatra to Outkast. They especially enjoy playing when
the audience is responding to their performance.