Since the economy has tanked, it’s kind of hysterical how many new get-rich quick schemes you hear about out there. Because god knows, if there’s one time to try getting rich quick, it’s when money is really tight. People are guarding their cash like it’s their last breath of air, and yet there’s always someone telling you that they’ve figured out how YOU – YES YOU CAN BE A MILLIONAIRE WORKING FROM HOME ONLY 10 HOURS A WEEK!!!!

Once you click that button is usually when they tell you how much it costs to find out how to do it. Oh, the genius of the rip-off network marketing scam. And things are really no different in music. Lately, the unexplored oceanic depths of wealth in every musician’s dreams are in film and television music. This musician’s version of snake oil mythology is something I hear in almost every bar I’m in lately.

The scenario plays out a little like this:

Struggling Musician: “Yeah…I’ve got a friend in LA, and he’s gonna hook me up with some film music stuff.”

Me: “Oh, really. I know quite a few people in LA, maybe I know your friend?…”

SM: “Yeah…his name’s Somebody Nobody. He’s a big record guy and he left (Enter any big, small, or non-existent name record company from the 90’s here) and started his own company, and we’re going to, like, totally get hooked into the film industry and make a ton of money. That’s where all the money is now, you know.”

Me: “Hmmm…you know, I have a few film placements, myself. It’s not as easy as you might think to get them.”

SM: “Nah…Somebody Nobody’s got it all hooked up. We’re gonna make some serious cash!”

Me: (Eyes glazed over) “Can you excuse me, I really need to talk to that busboy over there.”

I wish I was exaggerating about how many times I have had this exact conversation, but I’m not. And I always want to say, “Let me tell you the story about this guy in LA who was once trying to sell musicians on a scam that involved a holographic hotel.” Which is a story for another blog. I wish I was joking about that, too. But…again…no.

I got my first film placement totally by luck and ironically through no particular personal or musical insight of my own. I was just luckily working with someone who saw an opportunity that I didn’t at the time. That person was my best friend, Eve, and we had a band in Los Angeles that had been through most of the rigors that original bands went through in the 90’s while the music industry was experiencing it’s first crash: shopped, ignored, almost-signed, ignored, gigging, adored by enough friends and fans to make you feel special, ignored, and then completely ignored.

After years of making our own demos, we started making our own records officially around 1999, when it became clear to us that the record industry was not only not interested in a female rock band that wasn’t primarily infested with sex kittens, strippers, or girls with no limits on what they would do to get signed, but was about to take a nosedive into it’s own total financial oblivion.

Throughout the winter of our musical discontent in LA, we were in varying stages of building and rebuilding our studio, and during one of those times, a friend from Berklee passed on an email to us that was essentially an open-call for music for a semi-well known with a large alternative following, though not quite mainstream comedian by the name of Margaret Cho. She was shooting and releasing a DVD independently and needed opening and closing cues. And though it seemed like a great idea, being the engineer of our team, I was immediately turned off to it based on the fact that our studio was totally dismantled and the description of what they wanted was clearly not something we already had recorded. And they needed it right away. Because that’s the other thing about film music: it’s always something they need yesterday. If you could poop it out, it’s not fast enough.

Eve, however, had always been a “where there’s a will, there’s a way” kind of girl, and like any good friend should, she immediately berated me for giving up so quickly. We had engineer friends with working studios, she surmised, and they would no doubt want to work with us on the project. We would write it and produce it together, providing both them and us with a valuable in and some extra money that we would all split equally. And before you could say, “Hey, that girl is onto something…” she was on the phone and had it lined up. And I could swear I saw her do that weird Dr. Evil thing from Austin Powers with her pinky after she got off the phone.

The guys we worked with were happy to jump in. They produced the tracks in a few days based on some basic input from Margaret’s director/editor (people in Hollywood almost always wear more than one hat, especially now), and Eve and I wrote the lyrics and melody and recorded all the vocals in one afternoon session at their studio. The Cho team loved the stuff. And we all lived happily ever after. I think we split a whopping $1200 between the four of us for the work (that was before the recession) and completed everything from start to finish in about a week. More than anything, the experience taught me that you should use ALL your resources before giving up – including other people and be creative with whatever opportunities get thrown you
r way. Or in other words, like I said in my intro blog, say “yes” first and ask questions later. Or at least figure out whether you can get help to succeed before saying “no.”

That entry into film brought other projects over the years, most of it through that one director, some through other friends who were TV editors or worked in music placement offices for studios, but all of it for mostly one reason: we knew people IN THE FILM INDUSTRY.

I kind of wish this was a video blog right about now because those last four words – yeah – I’d be mouthing them really slowly, loudly, and with very large hand gestures. I’d look and sound like an Italian traffic cop at the scene of a monumental car crash. I’d have neon signs made. Because these four words are the words musicians, for some reason, don’t seem to understand AT ALL when it comes to the topic of film/TV music.

So…let’s be clear…just so everyone can really go get ‘em tiger if they really feel like going this route. If you want to get your music into film and television:

It doesn’t matter at all (not one iota, nada, nohow, no way sistah) how many people you know in the music industry. If you want to get into film and TV placement, you need to know people in the…(duh)…FILM AND TELEVISION INDUSTRY.

You might now start to understand why I have the reaction I do when local musicians in bars nowhere near Los Angeles with no personal friends in the film industry tell me all about how they are going to crash the gates and make a fortune in film music. It’s irrational. You’d have to be the luckiest person on the planet. Luckier even than those people in the “Luckiest People” videos who almost get hit by a train and then don’t.

Okay, it could happen to you, by some shear genius of the planets aligning while your guardian angel pleads your case to the powers that be. I don’t want anyone writing me in to tell me how I’ve just violated all of the known spiritual laws they read about in that book that begins with a Se- and ends with cret (again, another blog altogether). But let’s just say, believing you will get lucky is not a very good strategy for breaking into an industry. Particularly during a recession. In fact, it’s the worst one you can have. Because people who you do happen to meet in that industry that can help you will either not take you seriously or resent your total disrespect for the number of years they have had to kiss ass and bend over to get where they are. They will also resent the fact that you think you deserve a million dollar payout in their industry knowing nothing about it when they are probably making a third what they used to while now doing three jobs. Respect goes a long way in the universe. Especially in universes where a lot of people are trying to get attention all at the same time.

So how do you do it? If you really want it. If you are serious about it and want to commit fingers to computer and nose to the grindstone in a worthwhile strategy to build your dream to get into film and TV music, how, who, where, what, and when? Like anything there are systems, there are rules, and there are exceptions to the rules.

And, as Eve’s lesson taught me years ago…WHERE THERE’S A WILL, THERE’S A WAY.
And next week’s blog will be Part II: The Way.

Originally posted 2010-07-09 21:25:21.