Continuing our interview series on “Indie Musicians, Publishing and Song Placement,” Music Is My Oxygen has been talking with a number of music industry professionals to get their best advice on how DIY musicians can tap into the growing market of song licensing and placement. Steve King is the Director of Creative Services for Imagem, a large independent music publisher with a huge and diverse catalog encompassing everything from classical and Broadway to Justin Timberlake and Daft Punk. In his role, King offers a unique perspective on music publishing as it relates to song placement. We are grateful that he took some time to answer our questions.
MIMO: Thank you for being willing to talk with us. Let’s start with your role at Imagem. What is your position there?
Steve King: I’m the U.S. Director of Creative Services, so I oversee all sync media. So, everything from getting our music to the owner/administrator of film, TV, advertisements, video games–basically anything syncing to video, syncing our audio to a visual.
MIMO: So, you’re the connection point to the song placement and that kind of thing?
Steve: Yes, so we’re a publishing company. We own and administer the rights to the copyrights.
MIMO: Okay, so when somebody sends you a song, you would want to become the publisher, and then place it?
Steve: We have an A&R team that goes out and looks for writers and bands and artists that sort of have things going on. So, ideally, we like to do the publishing…
MIMO: You’re a publishing house first.
Steve: Yeah, we’re the largest independent publishers. You have the Universals, and the Sonys and then the indies; we’re actually the largest indie. We are a publishing company, but within that, we have a creative service team that goes out and looks for, opportunities to place the music in either one-offs, or doing bigger partnerships beyond just those.
MIMO: Obviously, song licensing and placement is a huge and growing market. What, in your opinion, do you see as the best opportunities for independent musicians in this market As far as getting a publisher and/or getting licensing?
Steve: There are a lot of great independent licensing companies out there that are sort of vetted by a lot of the bigger studios, networks and things like that. I think because sync has become such a big area, you see more and more music being used in T.V. shows; there are more productions going on, there are new media outlets. You’ve got companies like Hulu and Netflix doing productions. So there’s more avenues, more productions going on to get your music used. And I think it’s just about knowing some of the resources, doing the research on what type of music is being used in those shows, finding link in IMDbPro or similar websites, where you can find out what’s going on, what’s being used, and how to get your music to those people.
MIMO: Okay, so, a lot of the things we hear in movie trailers and similar places, that’s usually going to be popular song slices by bigger artists and labels. It would seem to me that that’s probably not the best first door to go through for somebody who is not known.
Steve: Right, yeah.
MIMO: So where would somebody that is completely unknown go to try to get their music noticed, or what would be the optimal placement opportunity for somebody like that?
Steve: It’s obviously going to be a lot more complicated for somebody who’s just starting out. I’m a firm believer [that] i’ts who you know that gets you in the door, it’s what you know that keeps you there. It’s networking. Going out and trying to meet as many people, going to [industry] events…just going out and getting to know the players in your area, being seen as much as possible if you’re an artist–going out, getting some buzz, doing shows, getting attention drawn to you. It’s sort of tough if you’re making music at home, and sending out emails and mp3s, that type of thing. You need something going on to sort of have a story to tell.
MIMO: Can you explain what syncing is? Or if there’s a difference between syncing and licensing, or what’s the terminology?
Steve: Synchronization is basically taking audio and syncing it with visual or video. There are two sides to every song: there’s the master [recording] side and there’s the sync or publishing side. So as the publisher, we deal mainly with the publishing with the copyright. And the easiest example of the difference is [the song] :White Christmas.” If you think about how many different versions are out there, each one of those versions is a master recording of it. We own the song “White Christmas,” so anytime someone wants to use that, the publishing or the sync side, they have to clear that with us. The sync portion or the publishing portion is the copyright, the actual song itself. The master recording itself is [the version of the song] you’re hearing.
MIMO: You’ve sort of touched on this, but aside from generating a buzz, which you’ve already covered, what would be the best avenue for indie musicians to get on the radar of a music supervisor or a publisher? Is it best to get representation, or just do networking?
Steve: I think it’s a combination….It’s just like anything, you have to have something to talk about when you’re sitting there sending someone an email, or going to a conference. Having great music is always first and foremost, but just going out, being seen, doing shows, and then coming to industry events [where] you’re able to have a little bit of one-on-one or face-to-face time and then you can get their email and do follow-ups. Following up and saying, “Hey, we just did this last night, we got a new recording, here’s our new music video, I have a show coming up.” Just having something to talk about as opposed to just sending out the email. Otherwise, it’s the same thing over and over again, and at some point they’re just going to not read anymore.