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Upcoming Online Music Industry Events and Resources – Winter 2021

Check out our handpicked list of the best free online resources for composers and music businesses this month.

Score Explore: Danny Troob and the Disney Animation Renaissance – January 16 at 12:00PM PST

An exclusive discussion with orchestrator Danny Troob covering his work on some of Disney’s most beloved animated films. The sound of Disney’s animated features in the 1990’s was the sound of Danny Troob’s orchestrations. The sparkle and passion of Alan Menken’s songs and score are intrinsically linked to Troob’s masterful use of both classical and Broadway palettes. Register for free to hear Danny discuss scores from Beauty & the Beast, Pocahontas, and Hercules with fellow orchestrators Michael Starobin and Russ Anixter.

Register here: https://bit.ly/3i0kDd2

NAMM Believe in Music Week – January 18-22

The North American Music Merchant Show goes online this year with its fully virtual Believe in Music Week. The week’s itinerary is jam packed with informational resources for music professionals ranging from guides for music educators, production tips for pivoting to an online product, audio engineering seminars, and celebrations of culture, just to name a few from the first day. View the week’s schedule in its entirety by clicking “Schedule” in the top right at the link below and register to virtually attend for free.

Register here: https://attend.believeinmusic.tv/

BMI 101 Workshop: ONLINE – January 21 at 9:00 AM EST

To keep with BMI’s tradition of continually connecting with the next generation of writers and publishers, the BMI 101 Workshop now takes place online. This one-hour introductory workshop will cover the role that BMI plays in the music industry, basics of performing rights, and becoming a BMI affiliate.

Register here: https://www.bmi.com/events/entry/584999

Virtual MAGFest – January 22-24

Short for "Music And Gaming Festival," MAGFest is a four day event dedicated to the appreciation of video game music and gaming of all types. The event normally functions as a physical meeting place for the gaming community, offering consoles, arcades, tabletop, LAN, live video game cover bands, chiptunes, vendors, guest speakers, and much more. This year, MAGFest has teased that the event will utilize VR technology to create a “VR chat” for its attendees. Little else has been announced as of yet, but video game composers are sure to feel at home in their industry at this virtual event, to be hosted on Twitch and Discord.

More information:  https://super.magfest.org/

Attend: Twitch.tv/MAGFest or Discord.gg/MAGFest

Friday, 15 January 2021
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2021: The State of the Music Industry

We’ve compiled the following nine integral music news stories to provide a comprehensive picture of the industry moving into the new year.

1. Erasing Discrimination

Data from Google Trends highlighted a key moment in an ongoing cultural shift when, in the first week of June, “how to be an ally” was searched 50 times more than “how to be an influencer.”

The impact of anti-racist action entering 2021 is evident throughout the music industry from major label contract negotiations to the replacement of harmful or triggering industry terminology. The son of the iconic late singer, Isaac Hayes III plainly states, “Black people do not need the music industry; the music industry needs Black people.”

2. Live Streaming Pays Off

With the help of massive production teams, major artists have done an exceptional job of capitalizing on the livestreaming business model.

One Dua Lipa livestream show in 2020 sold over a quarter million tickets at $10 each, while BTS grossed approximately $20 million for their virtual Bang Bang Con event.

Of course, the end of physical limitations isn’t just for superstars. Platforms like Patreon, Maestro, and Twitch are offering the ever-expanding population of DIY artists everything they need to create a fully monetized concert experience for virtually connecting with their fans.

3. The Fight for Fair Royalties

The battle for higher per-stream payouts rages on as creators plead with and protest against streaming giants like Spotify. Though it’s yet to achieve profitability, Spotify consistently ranks as the most popular of the music streaming services, spending well over half a billion in podcasting acquisitions and touting a stock price that more than doubled in 2020, successes which have contributed in spurring criticism for its financial policies with artists.

The UMAW (Union of Musicians and Allied Workers) is one of the front runners in the fight for higher streaming rates with a petition asking for 1 cent per stream, just over double the current rate.

4. ASCAP and BMI Launch SONGVIEW

The two oldest American PROs recently announced the launch of their new search tool, Songview, which aggregates the two companies’ catalogs to provide detailed copyright information for more than 20 million songs.

ASCAP’s official press release states, “SONGVIEW technology allows ASCAP and BMI to seamlessly display an agreed-upon view of detailed, aggregated and reconciled ownership data for performing rights ... The information is accessible, free to the public, on both ASCAP’s and BMI's websites.” The BMI site reads, “When you see the Songview checkmark next to a song, you know that the songwriters, publishers and ownership shares shown on the ASCAP and BMI websites are accurate, reliable and consistent between the two PROs.”

Try out Songview from either ASCAP’s site here, or BMI’s here.

5. Icons Sell Off Their Catalogs

Bob Dylan sold his publishing rights for $300 million, Stevie Nicks sold a portion of hers for $100 million, David Crosby, Barry Manilow, Blondie, The Killers, and Imagine Dragons have all sold off a portion of their rights for a lump sum.

Uncertainty in a rapidly changing industry has made the sale of publishing rights a common choice for major artists, especially as the Biden administration proposes doubling the federal tax rate on capital gains, further incentivizing artists to make a sale before the tax rate goes up. David Crosby tweets, "I can’t work, and streaming stole my record money." He explains, "I have a family and a mortgage and I have to take care of them, so it’s my only option. I’m sure the others feel the same."

6. Brand-Artist Partnerships

Branding partnerships for artists have never been as common, as lucrative, or as important as they are today.

In one year, Travis Scott has signed partnerships with PlayStation, Nike, Anheuser-Busch, Fortnite, and McDonald’s. Other high-profile collaborations include Lady Gaga and Oreo, Selena Gomez launching an ice cream flavor, and both Bad Bunny and Post Malone teaming up with Crocs for signature shoe releases.

Based on the effectiveness of these campaigns for all parties involved, it appears that these influencer campaigns on steroids are here to stay as artists continue to reinvent their monetization.

7. Accelerating Globalization

“Since ... our first K-Pop playlist in 2014, listeners have streamed more than 180 billion minutes of the genre ... In the last six years, the share of K-Pop listening on Spotify has even increased by more than 2,000%” says Spotify in their South Korean launch announcement. The Swedish streaming service will be launching in South Korea in the first half of 2021, making them one of many companies broadening their global reach. Over the last 18 months, Universal launched Def Jam in Africa, South-East Asia, and the UK, while Sony Music launched Epic Records in France and grew A&R in East Africa and South Africa. All over the world, major music companies are branching out and voicing their intent to engage with local markets, and Chinese companies are no exception, driving massive expansion into the US.

Tencent, the Chinese multinational technology conglomerate, led a consortium to purchase 20% of Universal Music Group in 2020, among other major buys. Meanwhile, TikTok’s parent company ByteDance, whose last valuation topped $140 billion according to CB insights, has announced its foray into “AI drug discovery”, making them only the latest Chinese tech giant to enter the field and providing possibly the most futurist headline we’ve ever heard.

8.  Success in Collaboration

Collaborative releases have been on a steady rise over the past decade according to Chartmetric, with an especially pronounced spike over the past three years. The appeal of cross-promotional audience exchange is clear, especially when dealing with fervent, niche followings, but like so many sectors, 2020 threw a major wrench into artists’ ability to meet and collaborate. Thus, collaborative software has become a widespread necessity.

While seasoned professionals already possess the know-how to set up a remote session, young artists and hobbyists in 2021 might opt for something like Collab to bring their project to life, Facebook’s user-friendly music video collaboration app that first emerged in May and launched out of beta and into the app store in December.

9. The Growing Creator Sector

The “long tail” phenomenon (first published by Wired in 2004) describes how a shift from brick and mortar to a more efficiently connected web-based infrastructure provides an ecosystem where a wide variety of niche markets can thrive. The analysis cites then-up-and-comers Amazon and Netflix, and its principles have never been more relevant than they are today.

The influx of creators from Gen Z and younger will only be accelerated by hype from companies aiming to capitalize on the needs of tomorrow's internet stars, whether it be sample packs for beatmakers, the now ubiquitous influencer economy, or any software solution that allows us to create and stay connected.

Until AI learns to write a decent song (which hasn’t happened yet), creators, not corporations, will continue to be the engine that propels the music and media ecosystem in 2021 and beyond. 

Monday, 11 January 2021
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LUFS: The Industry Standard for Setting Audio Levels

dB levels don’t tell the whole story. LUFS are used in mixing, mastering, and broadcast standards to set truly consistent audio levels for human perception.

The Loudness War

“The loudness war” has had a massive impact on the development of music production over the past 70 years. The concept originated from the observation that records cut at a louder volume would get more plays on jukeboxes, but options for boosting perceived loudness were limited at that time due to physical limitations of vinyl records. The advent of CDs and other modern music production technologies largely did away with those limitations and marked the beginning of an endless race to create the loudest sounding tracks possible.  

As loudness became an issue, the regulation of these audio levels in broadcasting was originally handled by a team of sound operators who used both their ears and console meters to manually mix even levels. Over the years, these workers were replaced by automated programs which made mix adjustments based on the broadcast standard Permitted Maximum Level (PML), and it wasn’t long before advertisers realized they could cheat this system to create heinously loud sounding mixes through the use of heavy compression.

The industry needed a new way to measure audio, and thus, LUFS were created to satisfy this need.

What are LUFS?

LUFS stands for Loudness Units relative to Full Scale and is still the latest and most accurate technology available for measuring perceived audio loudness. Today LUFS are used to set audio level standards in film, broadcast television, radio, and on streaming platforms like Spotify and Apple Music.

For example, YouTube and Spotify both stream audio at around -14LUFS.

While prior systems based their mix levels on audio peaks, LUFS employ a more advanced analysis of the signal to more accurately account for human perception. Measurement in LUFS also creates mixes that sound better and more consistent across the wide variety of sound systems that media is consumed on.

Listed below are various important values in a sound mix, all of which are measured in LUFS (unless otherwise noted).

Integrated Loudness helps a sound editor determine how much louder a loud scene should be in comparison to a quiet scene.  Since the sonic qualities of those two scenes are very different, LUFS provide the most accurate information possible. 

Dynamic Range is similar to integrated loudness, as it refers to the difference between the loudest moments of sound in a track and the quietest moments of sound. Since the data is all in the same track, it’s actually measured in LU, not LUFS. 

Short term LUFS offer a closer view on a small section of a track to fine tune bits of the track that might otherwise miss the mark for loudness.

Momentary LUFS refers to the shortest possible period of LUFS measurement and typically measures across 400 ms of audio. 

The advanced applications of these values come into play most of all in mastering. Audio measurement in LUFS has become an indispensable tool to guide the mastering process so that mastering engineers are able to push volume levels to their technical limit without ever exceeding it.

All of these applications work together to ensure that the audio sounds consistent and full across the entire span of the production and on any sound system. 

Friday, 18 December 2020
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Client Feature: Morris & Young Talk Creating Long-Term Success in Music Licensing and Putting the Customer First

We recently spoke with Morris & Young, who employ professional songwriters and composers to create music for film, television, radio, commercials, and recording artists. Founders Wenty Morris and D.A. Young share their stories on how to create lasting success by putting the customer first.

How exactly did Morris & Young come to be?

WM: D.A. and I were both in bands, trying to take it all the way and make it big as artists, but we got to a point where that was no longer feasible, so there was this moment of reflection where we asked ourselves, “What now? What are you gonna do with all this talent and all of this drive and know-how as far as music goes?”. The only real money that we had made was a placement in 1995 in the movie Clueless. That had paid a nice license fee, and nice backend royalties over the years too, so that seemed like the place to be.

DY: I was an actor and had a few music directing gigs for television. So I was playing a lot of music and then locked down a gig as the sound editor on South Park when it first started in like 1997. Getting into that world I thought television looked like a good market for us, and Wenty had a few leads as well, so we decided to pursue it from there.

WM: 2003 and 2004 was when we really honed our craft writing production music, moving away from singer-songwriter stuff which is what we had been doing, and learning how to do what we do today. We would dive into writing a certain style of music, and really take our time with it. Back then it might have taken a week to do a track because we were being so meticulous with it in that learning process. Then by 2005 we linked up with music supervisor Isaac Zea for Access Hollywood, we started getting placed on NBC, and we landed writing gigs for MTV, so that’s when we started to see some validation for our work. After that it was a lot easier to get people to return your calls, having worked with NBC and MTV.

Is there a specific market that you focused on, or do you focus more on casting a wide net?

WM: From the jump street it was a wide net because we didn’t want to be pigeonholed. We have all kinds of music like eastern european music and middle eastern music that we’ve each composed. We just got a big request for Indian music, so people definitely know that we have a wide net and a lot of variety in our catalog. It was funny when we were starting out we would get asked what we do and we’d say we do everything and they’d go– “that’s what we don’t want to hear, because not everybody does everything well.” There are certain things we haven’t tried, but blues, country, hip-hop, rock, tension, drama, electronic, quirky/comedic, we do all of that.

DY: The composers that we work with are all excellent at what they do. Some have a very specific niche, some have a broader discipline, but the quality is always there.

WM: What’s really important is that you hit the mark for what you’re calling your music. If you’re calling it “1960s jazz” it needs to actually sound like what 1960s jazz sounds like.  If you’re doing “surf rock” it better sound like surf rock.

What would you say is the most significant change that you’ve seen in the industry over the years and how have you adapted in response?

WM: One of the most obvious changes is the delivery of music. When we first started working we were supplying Access Hollywood and Bunim/Murray, and they wanted their music delivered on CDs. So we were burning all these CDs, putting labels on them, doing jewel boxes where we were literally writing out metadata on labels on the cases like genre and writers. It was rough, but that’s something that we’ve always taken pride in– if that’s what the client wants, that’s what we were gonna do. We’re not gonna try and talk them into something else, just give them what they want.

DY: Television licensing is also very different today.

WM: Yeah, there used to actually be licensing fees for televisions placements, and now you’re expected to provide music for television use with no upfront payment. This gratis license structure for cable has become the new normal, and we resisted it until we couldn’t anymore, but it’s just a fact, free licensing is the new normal.

Can you share any events or turning points in the company’s history that have had a lasting impact or shaped how you approach your work?

DY: Being music directors and doing scoring work has offered great challenges and broadened our perspective.

WM: Or the one time we did a work-for-hire thing with ABC for this Bob Saget show when he was trying to get back into the America’s Funniest Homevideo market, that was interesting. But I will say this, we had a mentor early on who gave us so much information, it took our learning curve to warp speed. His name is Greg Debonne. He is a music supervisor, and he was the one who told us how editors and music supervisors wanted their music. Things like arrangements, including mixes with only certain instruments, all kinds of invaluable things that would take people years in the trenches to learn from their own mistakes. He was dropping knowledge left and right.

DY: I would second that!

Synch can be a crowded space, do you make it a point to stand out from the crowd, and if so, how?

WM: I personally think it’s relationships, relationships, and relationships. At the end of the day, we’ve always gone out of our way to make sure there are lunches and that we put in the time to meet people. You can talk to someone on the phone and that’s all well and good, but when you really build a rapport with someone it’s different. To us, it was always important from the very beginning that we ingratiate ourselves with as many people as possible, because once you’ve got that, the music speaks for itself.

It’s a really cool industry to be in because editors and music supervisors move around between jobs and companies, and if you have a relationship with them they’ll take you wherever they’re going on their next journey. Then once you’re there you’re in a whole new space meeting all new people, and after a while it really starts to add up.

Do you have a company mission that guides your business development or customer experience?

WM: We’re like any business worth its salt, we’re just concerned with taking care of our customers and making sure that they have what they need when they need it; that it’s quality and we don’t keep them waiting. If we get a request for music, we try to knock it out within an hour or two, because we understand that when a request comes in it’s probably going out to our competitors too. We’re in an early bird gets the worm kind of game. Also it’s a beautiful thing having a small company and being able to pivot and change direction on a very short notice, whereas a bigger company would have a harder time.

Any all time favorite placements you’re especially proud of?

WM: This is going to sound corny, but it’s all aggregated income, and personally, I look at all placements the same. They’re like my kids, I love them all, maybe for different reasons, but I’m grateful for every single placement we get. It can be on a network that doesn't pay very much or one where it’s a ton of money, because one placement leads to another placement. If you’re in a situation where you’re getting placements on a network that doesn't pay as much as another, you might want to say “oh this sucks”, but if you’re helping somebody out, two or three years later they could be in another position giving you new work.

DY: I always feel fortunate to be doing something that we love to do and getting paid for it. We were having fun and it led to generating revenue. How many people get to say that?

Friday, 11 December 2020
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Reference Tracks: A Springboard to Better Mixes

Selecting the right reference track and using it properly can be an incredible asset to your next mixing job.

What is a Reference Track?

A reference track can be any recording that you want a mix you’re working on to emulate.

Your reference track can be another track you’ve mixed or someone else track, and its exact purpose can vary depending on your approach to the mix. Your goal may be to create a commercially viable track that meets industry standards, which is a perfect application for a reference track. Alternatively, you may have total creative liberty over your project, and use a reference track to emulate and build off of a certain sonic element featured in your reference track.

In all cases, a mix engineer can listen to their reference track alongside their mix, flipping between the two, and get a good idea of what needs to change in their mix to reach their goal. Reference tracks are an irreplaceable tool for mix engineers to maintain their sonic bearings (especially after working many hours on a track) and create their best work.

Selecting the Right Reference Track

Traditional wisdom teaches that a reference track should be as sonically similar as possible to your desired final product. This is undoubtedly the universal starting point if this is your first time working with a reference track. When comparing any two mixes it can be astounding just how different they really are, even when they may have seemed similar from a distance. Start off trying to find an exact match, and experience all the variables available to finetune the sound of your mix.

Only after becoming comfortable with a “sound-alike” reference track should a mix engineer become any more daring with their reference track and seek to pull in elements from varied styles. If not done carefully, this practice can go terribly wrong, so take it slow and use your ears.

Using a Reference Track Effectively

When your mix is underway and you’re ready to do a side by side comparison with your reference track, get started by loading the reference track up into its own channel in your DAW so you can quickly and easily snap back and forth between the two.

Next, adjust the volume of your reference track so that it matches the level of your mix as closely as possible, being mindful of the different timbres in the track as well as the effect that mastering may have on a referenced track’s sound.

Once you have these two tracks side by side, the similarities and differences of the mix itself should become very clear. Check the reference mix against yours to compare and correct the following elements as needed:

1. The EQing of the track as a whole.
2. The dynamic range.
3. The level and frequency range of each instrument or sonic element.


Reference tracks may also provide a much needed moment of clarity if your track has become overly processed.

As you get to the end of the mixing process remember to test your mix everywhere your listeners will play your track through, e.g. car speakers, earbuds, laptop speakers, larger systems. Take your reference track there too and compare the final products.

Your mix is finished only when you’re completely happy with it. Put your reference track to work for you and get to a better finished product faster than ever before.

Friday, 4 December 2020
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