SynchAudio is proud to be the partner of Midem 2017’s Global Sync & Brands Summit, and to bring you this series of interviews. We believe this partnership works because it brings together the best elements of both sides: the global music industry platform that is Midem, with exclusive curated knowledge around the licensing of music for screen based media. A marriage of excellence!
In this interview series with renowned music supervisors specialised in licensing music for film, TV, games and advertising, each supervisor will reveal their approach to their work, and maybe even unveil what projects they are currently working on. So if you are interested in sync licensing and pitching music for screen-based media, be sure to check back to see what each music supervisor reveals.
First up is Ed Bailie, Director of Leland Music, the agency responsible for some of the UK’s highest-profile TV, film and advertising sync work. Read on to find out all about his approach, strategy and inspirations; and of course, how to pitch to him, before you meet him this June in Cannes!
In 2016, Bailie was awarded Best Music Supervisor: Advertising at the Music Week Sync Awards. With a background in music publishing, Ed previously headed up the sync teams at both Bug Music and Blue Mountain Music in the UK. Recent supervision highlights include multi-awarding winning advertising campaigns We’re The Superhumans, for the Paralympics; Buster The Boxer, for retailer John Lewis; Live Colourful.LIVE for Bulmers, and Make Your Own Rules, for Haig Clubman. Not to mention feature films like Ronaldo (dir. Anthony Wonke), The Goob (dir. Guy Myhill) and Christmas In A Day (dir. Kevin Macdonald).
Farinoush Mostaghimi (SynchAudio): What makes a track ‘sync-able’? How can you tweak a track to improve its chances of getting synced?
Ed Bailie: There’s no be all and end all to what makes a track ‘sync-able’. Some of the most exciting uses of music in film / TV / advertising are unexpected, bold & adventurous choices. Variety can enable some of the most creative use of music in film and avoid formulaic syncs. While different film scenes and brand messages call for different musical choices, there are a few things rights owners can be prepared with in case a sync opportunity comes along:
- Have radio-friendly versions of songs that have explicit lyrics (especially for advertising)
- Have mastered instrumental versions available
- Have access to your stems / recording session files when possible (in case minor mix tweaks need to be made to allow room for voice-over or SFX).
But I don’t advise writing music with ‘sync-ability’ in mind… Second-guessing potential placements doesn’t help form an artist’s unique voice, which can be the most important thing for fans and filmmakers alike.
> What recent sync projects are you the most proud of, and why?
Working on Channel 4’s We’re The Superhumans Paralympics promo was perhaps the proudest moment of my career to date. Being part of the team that brought The Superhuman Band to fruition, supervising the musical arrangement, rehearsals, recording and follow up events… The whole process was a humbling and inspiring experience for our team. The will, skill and determination of the musicians, the collective collaboration everyone involved restlessly poured into the production, and the public impact the final film received, culminated in a project we will never forget being a part of.
> What are the best ways people should pitch songs to you?
Get in touch for a coffee or a Skype chat so I can hear more about your catalogue and company. Regular email updates are welcomed, with artist info, download links to fully tagged mp3s with a few recommended song highlights to check out first. Any upcoming (local) live dates can be useful too.
> What are the worst ways/tactics to avoid?
We’re busy, as you are, so calling every day to see if we’ve listened doesn’t help. Please be patient and check in by email. We don’t mean to be rude, there are a lot of people reaching out with new music so it’s not possible to reply quickly while we focus on our current productions. Receiving your music is always appreciated.
> Targeting is key when pitching your song. What are the key specifics to bear in mind when pitching for TV ads:
When pitching for TV ads, stick to the music supervisor’s brief. If you don’t have anything that fits, that’s OK. Rather than seizing an opportunity for them to hear an off-brief track, it’s worth far more to bow out of that one pitch and for the supervisor to trust you understand what they are after. You’ll find yourself staying on that supervisor’s radar if you don’t inundate them with off-brief tracks, and they know you simply ‘get it’.
> How has your working process with the music industry evolved in recent years? Do labels, for example, now understand your needs better?
Our company has always held close relationships with all facets of the music industry. We’ve worked at labels & publishers ourselves so understand both sides of the fence. Generally speaking, rights owners have not only become better at sharing well presented catalogue updates (from well-tagged mp3s to additional artist info and tour dates etc) but also negotiating time sensitive deals while understanding that ultimately nothing is guaranteed until the deal is done. Quick turnaround clearance processes can often make or break a deal.
> How do you decide whether a project requires original or pre-recorded music? How do you find the right composer for a given project?
While an existing track can tick all the right boxes (maybe to trigger nostalgia for the viewer, to set the tone & era of a scene, to authentically connect with a specific culture, to lyrically be on point, or simply because ‘it works’), sometimes it just feels right that a film should have music originally composed for it. The power of a specially-composed piece weaving inseparably with the story, creating it’s own identity, can be irreplaceable.
With Hovis Farmer’s Lad, we were tasked with finding a quintessentially British and emotively resonant accompaniment to director Seb Edwards’ film. We approached Academy Award winning composer Rachel Portman, who connected with the picture from day one. She was a natural choice; the film matched her usual sonic palette and tone of voice.
For Bulmers’ Live.Colourful.LIVE, we enlisted the talents of Lethal Bizzle, Sinead Harnett and David Arnold – three entirely different talents – to collaborate on an original song. The brand message of trying something different gelled so well with the concept of varied musical talents coming together to create something new: three genres fused. All the while a cultural moment was exploding in the UK, with the resurgence of grime music. Lethal Bizzle was the ideal frontman. The campaign simply couldn’t have existed without an original composition at its core. Sometimes it’s a case of leaving no stone left unturned… We may start out with music research (looking for an existing track to license) only to decide upon original composition later in the process.
Sometimes we know from day one that it’s the best route, and if we’re lucky, everyone will get behind the idea.
Finding the right composer for a particular production is down to our ongoing work of keeping an ear out. We’re always searching for upcoming talent, identifying interesting commercial artists who may be great for original score, connecting with established and celebrated composers, speaking with rights owners about their latest and greatest… it’s our job to always know who’s out there.
> How have recent technological evolutions changed the way you work? Does streaming, for example, make it easier than ever for you to discover new artists?
It’s certainly enabled faster music delivery and broadened access to the more obscure gems out there. Win Win! Conversely, I recently explored the notion of ‘who needs a music supervisor when I have Spotify?’ in a blog post, which you can read here.
Meet Ed Bailie and countless other world-class music supervisors at Midem 2017 this June; and in the meantime, check back soon for our next interview!