Music Supervisor Jim Laquidara
We had the chance to catch up with Music Supervisor Jim Laquidara to talk about some of his latest projects as well as tips and tricks to get your music placed in film, TV, ads and video games.
About Music Supervisor Jim Laquidara: Jim is the owner of Audio Motion Musicand provides music supervision services for film, television, advertising, video game and web-based projects. He helps in the song selection and placement process as well as music licensing and clearance, underscore, sound design, mix & cue sheet execution. Recent credits include: various brand or song licensing campaigns on Nickelodeon, MTV, A&E, reality TV shows, pilots, documentaries. Also check out more credits including Zombeo & Juliécula, Blind Pass, Driving by Braille, Secrets of the Mountain, Cartoon Galaxy: Disc One, It Came from Detroit, The Chefsters.
PMM:: Do you work on film, TV, advertising, video games, or mostly on just one particular area?
Music Supervisor Jim Laquidara: I work on all of the above. Currently, most of what’s happening is in documentaries, but I do have a feature film coming up fourth quarter this year that is a pretty high level independent film in the sports arena.
We’ve worked on a lot of brand campaigns on networks such as Nickelodeon, MTV, A&E and many others. I’ve selected music on reality TV series, pilots, kid’s shows, documentaries, and music videos.
PMM: Suppose I’m a songwriter/producer, music publisher, band, or an artist that would love to hear my music played in a movie, on TV, an advertisement, or in a video game. How can I make that happen?
Music Supervisor Jim Laquidara: It’s a matter of contacting and reaching out to as many music supervisors as you can. I think that’s really the key. You have to roll up your sleeves and do the work of getting in direct contact.
I know there are a lot of people that get some placements by going the indirect route – by putting their music into various libraries that music supervisors can access.
As a music supervisor, however, my personal preference has always been to go directly to artists and publishers as opposed to the libraries.
PMM: Any particular reason why you avoid libraries as a music supervisor? Are they not good?
Music Supervisor Jim Laquidara: I think some of them are really good, but you have the issue of “non-exclusivity” to deal with.
There’s some phenomenal libraries out there, but the danger is that I may choose to use a library piece on a film that premieres next month and yet the very same song may suddenly also be heard on a Volkswagen commercial the following day. And that’s not really something that I’m looking to compete with.
It could certainly also happen if you’re going to a publisher or to an artist directly, but the likelihood of that happening is a lot lower.
Libraries tend to be more popular on the music editor’s side. They use them in between source music and score music. The thinking might go something like this: “Okay, we’ve got these great opening and closing songs, and these key cues, and we’ve got this score, but we need more music on a few small places.” And this is when they can go to the library. The music supervisor is less important for that. I’m more working with the composer and choosing songs and really the libraries are more in sound bites and pieces of songs typically.
What are some tricks and tools that will help me find out what a music supervisor will need in terms of music?
Music Supervisor Jim Laquidara:
It’s really dependent upon the film, TV show, or the video game that you’re trying to submit to. For example, you could see a project I am working on and consider, “Aha, he’s got this one coming up for a Jay-Z documentary. It’s going into post-production and anything R&B, Hip Hop, or Rap will probably fit the bill.” And most likely that might be the right kind of music to contact me about.
I have my website where I list new, upcoming projects that are about to go into post-production. This is a good way for you to stay in touch with my projects. I’m about to update the site with a half a dozen new documentary projects and we’ll be starting to include information about past, current, upcoming (pre-production) projects.
PMM: A lot of artists and songwriters think, “My song is copyright protected with ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC – I don’t need to do anything else.”
Music Supervisor Jim Laquidara: No, because they are only registered as a writer, so they only own the writer’s share. But it hasn’t been published yet, so there is no publishing assignment. When I need to confirm a track I want to place, I look for a publisher.
If somebody is not published through a publisher, I would highly recommend that they self-publish.
Think about it. It may just take a few hours and a couple hundred dollars of your time to self-publish. It just makes a music supervisor’s job that much easier.
If somebody’s already signed up through ASCAP, BMI or SESAC as a writer they’ve already paid one fee and in essence they already know how to do it.
Set up a DBA, a LLC, S-CORP or something like that, which can cost $100, $200 if you do it yourself and then you are your own publisher.
You control your publishing and if at some point you want to sign up with a bigger publisher that has a lot of scope to get you work, then you can negotiate giving a percentage of your publishing.
Put another way, if I’m trying to use a track and you tell me you’re the writer and you’ve several co-writers, but you haven’t published it, I’ve got to protect my client. That means I need to create a separate agreement that covers the fact that I’m not just sending a sync license and a master use license because you’re not published. I have to create a separate contract that says in lieu of the fact that you’re not published, you’re assigning the client the necessary rights, even if you do get published in the future.
In other words, if I have a choice between two tracks, I’m a lot more inclined to pick the person that’s got the publishing in place than having to draft separate agreements, which complicates things.
There are exceptions also – recently, I did a separate agreement with a gangster hip hop artist – great track and their legal team created a separate document, but that’s probably less common than just picking another track that’s got a publisher assigned to it, including those that are self-published.
So don’t forget about having the publishing in place.
Since you touched upon all this paperwork, when working with you is there anything else that one could do to make it easier to get their songs selected?
Provided that you do, it helps if you state that you control 100% of the publishing and the master recording. That is always great to see, because then I can just call, email, or even text you and negotiate, whereas, if you don’t state that, it might take more time to figure out all the clearance issues.
You might say “Oh, well, actually my band mate owns 50%. Let me find out if we can license that.” Or, “I have a co-writer who’s signed with ASCAP and I’m on BMI.” And then they have to communicate with two, three or four people. If you own 100% of the publishing and the master recording then I would definitely say make sure to point that out in your notes to me.
How do I submit music for your projects?
Music Supervisor Jim Laquidara: As with most music supervisors, I don’t really advertise trying to collect music, although of course, all good music supervisors need fresh, new music all the time.
Having said that, I decided to embrace technology and set up a website located at www.audiomotionmusic.com where people can request to submit their music to me. Once they contact me through the site, they can send a track and if it sounds like they know what they’re doing, then I invite them to create a free login and upload music to the online catalog that I can use to instantly search through thousands of tracks. I’ll ask them to include genre, title, a lyric sheet, tempo, sound-alikes, and other information to enable me to locate the right music quickly.
I don’t really care about the genre as long as it sounds like it’s a quality track. I invite them to upload as much music as they have. And they can drop me an email saying, “I just sent you a new track”, which I will happily check out. Note we have no contract of exclusivity.
If we find something that fits for any of the projects, I contact you and tell you it’s for this film and it’s this fee, so it makes perfect sense to upload as much of your best your music as possible. The system is working great and we’re constantly getting great music every day.
You just mentioned sound-alikes, do you actually search for and place “sound-alike” music?
Definitely, one of the ways I can utilize my online library is to quickly find sound-alike music.
As an example, the director once said to us “Okay, we want this Bob Marley track called “Stir it up”. Even though the Bob Marley people offered the track for $2,500 dollars, we decided it was pretty high since it was only for festival use.
We replaced it with one of the tracks from my database – a reggae track from a band in Milan, Italy. It had that same kind of cool, relax groove to it.
In another recent case, we replaced a Sara Bareilles track. So we do try to find replacement tracks when appropriate and interestingly enough, a lot of the times people will end up liking the indie track better even, which is a win for everyone.
Do you accept music via hard drives, CDs, or links?
Music Supervisor Jim Laquidara: If I get links, DVDs or if somebody wanted to send a hard drive we’ll certainly put all that in, but we’re not going to manually upload them to the site. So if somebody sends me a link to a couple tracks and I have the time, I’ll click on it and listen to them. And if I get a DVD I’ll pop it in and listen to it. I have music playing all day.
As for hard drives, that might be a good idea for somebody with whom we already have a relationship that has a volume of music. We can then simply label that and say, “Okay if we need to go to that artist all his stuff is right there.”
When sending music to a music supervisor should you separate the instrumentals out from the vocals, or put them together, or have different versions? What file formats?
Music Supervisor Jim Laquidara: I think it’s certainly helpful to have an instrumental and a vocal version if you have it, because as we’re laying tracks in, instead of stopping and editing around it or having to reach out to ask you for an instrumental track, it’s already there. So that makes it easier for sure.
And when sending in files .mp3 are fine just because of the volume we get. And then, of course, if we’re going to be placing it we’ll be asking for a .WAV or .AIFF files.
Since you’re getting a lot of music, could you break down the split of how much music comes from song libraries versus an original score or from songs that are sent to you?
Music Supervisor Jim Laquidara: To date, the majority of the music that I use and I prefer to work with has been outside the library realm (so 0%-5%, meaning rarely or never). I work with a number of composers for original score. I also work with quite a number of sound designers for effects, and different people who mix dialogue effects and music.
Probably around 50% of the music is custom scored. I typically don’t try to just take music that is kind of an underscore nature or plug-and-play. I usually work directly with the composer and have them score the piece to fit the scenes.
And the rest (45%-50%) comes from songs submitted to me mentioned above (online or via links, CDs, hard drives, etc.).
Since roughly 50% of your music comes from custom scores, how can you consider me for a project that requires a score?
Music Supervisor Jim Laquidara: Interestingly enough, there’s a lot more crossover these days with songwriters getting into score, but it is a different animal. In songwriting you’re crafting songs with hooks etc., and yet here you’re creating a theme which may have 6, 8, 10, 12 notes/keys, and so you need to know how to change instrumentations, orchestration, slowing it up, etc.
So if you also write full custom scores, send me a message “Here, I’ve uploaded songs, but I also do scores.” And follow that up with some link to where I can see where you put some music to picture, and then you would be added to the composer list as well. I maintain a separate list just for the score composers.
How do I maintain a good relationship with you?
Music Supervisor Jim Laquidara: I definitely prefer emails.
If there’s something I want to have a discussion about I’ll be the one to call you. If you send me an email saying, “Hey, I just uploaded three new tracks with a brief description,” that kind of alerts me, “Oh, yes someone just emailed those three hip hop tracks that could work for my independent Jay-Z doc – let me check those out.”
If they fit, I’ll short-list them in a separate folder. It certainly doesn’t hurt to send an email when you’re uploading a track.
Talk to us about the timing for selecting a song on a typical movie or TV project.
Music Supervisor Jim Laquidara: If you’re working on a TV series, you’ve got very little time because each week a new episode is premiered in some cases.
In film, you have more time. On a large movie project you might have around 90 days to fill all music requests – including selecting the tracks, making sure everybody’s in agreement with it and then licensing it. On smaller film projects maybe 30 – 45 days. You typically spend a couple weeks spotting the music and marking places where you want to source music.
It sounds like that timing is of the essence and being able to get all your ducks in a row with short turn-around time is key.
Music Supervisor Jim Laquidara: Yes indeed, and that’s the beauty of working with independent artists when they own everything and have all the paper work in place.
Compare that to a popular track that may have 2 different publishers and the record label and that can take three to four weeks just for me to get an answer, and by then I might find out that the answer is “No, we don’t want to license it.” or “It’s too expensive.”
So, in those cases where a song has been selected, but we can’t get it for whatever reason, then I might need a replacement in a week, or in a few days. So, the independent artist who owns all their stuff is definitely a great place to go.
For song placements, are you noticing any particular genres or styles that tend to do well?
Music Supervisor Jim Laquidara: I think you can hear all kinds of genres and styles across different films. You hear a lot ofpopular music, including Hip-Hop, R&B, and Indie on films or TV.
But the kind of the stuff that’s outside of mainstream Pop to start with seems to get a lot of play that ends up becoming very popular.
Year’s back, before Death Cab for Cutie was a known name, they had a very memorable, unique sound. It’s not bubblegum Pop, it’s not Avant-garde, but they have a very memorable sound.
Bands like that, Edward Sharpe, Magnetic Zeros and many others – if you start paying attention to them you’ll see them popping up in TV shows and commercials. And they just have a really interesting layered sound to them.
I listen to everything and I think everything has its place, but I think more unique and lasting sounds are of particular interest to me. Edward Sharpe or Modest Mouse – those kind of acts just seem to have a lot of depth. And they’re not totally in your face kind of pop songs, but they just seem to play well behind visuals.
With so much indie music placed, are big artists still “fashionable” at all?
Music Supervisor Jim Laquidara: Some productions still want to go for that big pop track. For example, the movie ‘Shrek’ used a lot of pop songs, which worked very well.
For me, I prefer independent music in most cases, unless it’s a period piece, or it’s about specific artist because they’re fresher and there’s nothing attached to them.
When I hear a Rolling Stones song I think of an era. If you’re doing a ‘Vietnam’ piece you probably want that.
If I’m doing a brand new film that’s not set in the past, and I use some track you’ve heard a billion times, you’ve already had references to that track in your head, where you were when you heard it, all these things — I don’t want any of those references coming to the theater. I want you to see the film and hear the music for the first time.
You mentioned you also place music in video games – should people try to get placements on them? Are they worth it?
Music Supervisor Jim Laquidara: Absolutely, video games are great, because if you get onto a successful game, it’s the same as being on a successful TV show. If your music happens to be in the opening or closing theme, you can get paid for many years. The difference in the video game world is that some have a really long run – take a look at Maddens – there’s not a lot of TV shows that hit as many releases over so many years as they have.
Let’s talk about negotiating a licensing fee on a piece of music with a music supervisor. How much can I negotiate?
Music Supervisor Jim Laquidara: I think everybody should negotiate the best they can without losing the gig. You should neither over- nor under-value the music you could provide. Every film or project has its budget and a good way to negotiate is based on how exactly your song will be used. So for example, if a music supervisor wants to use your music as an opening theme or in the closing credits, or as a featured piece with less focus on what’s happening on screen, then those are the times when you would ask for more money, than if it’s just a background piece somewhere in the middle of the film.
Suppose the music supervisor comes to me and says “For this one I have a budget of $2,500.” can I come back and say, “Hey, you have to pay me $5,000 for this”. Would that work?
Music Supervisor Jim Laquidara: You could try, but I think you’re better off negotiating based on how the song is used. Try to ascertain as much information as possible about the song’s potential use and then rather than demanding, you would ask a polite question such as “Do you think they may have $3,000 for this, given that we’re using it in the opening credit, etc.”? That is a much better approach.
The thing to pay attention to is if the song is used for an opening or closing credit, if it’s a re-occurring track, if they will use it once up front, a couple seconds in the middle, again toward the end, and so on. That certainly should warrant more money.
Let’s say I want to protect myself in getting a fair deal without losing the gig. Are there any tips/tricks?
What you can do to protect yourself is to ask for an MFN deal, as in a “Most Favored Nation” clause, which basically says that you agree to license the track for a specific amount, let’s say $500, and then if the music supervisor ends up paying somebody else with a similar song, usage and timing $1,000 in the same project, then you automatically get bumped to $1,000.
In other words, if you have an MFN clause in your agreement, that means if I decide to pay someone more for a similar use, then you get bumped to the highest rate.
But some might say that they don’t know what other songs are used in the project, so can they go back later and ask you what you paid others with a similar usage?
Music Supervisor Jim Laquidara: If an MFN clause is included, then it’s something that can be caught later down the line, typically. If I sign something and agree to that, and I do end up paying someone more I’m going to make sure my client pays, because I want everything to be in order. My reputation is on the line and so if I sign an MFN deal, I’m going to honor that agreement. It keeps the playing field fair.
Keep in mind however you can’t compare apples and oranges here. Imagine you’re a super obscure indie artist and there’s another indie artist I used – say “Death Cab” – you’re not going to be paid the same $25,000 just because you’re an indie artist. It doesn’t carry over in that way. It would have to be a “like” situation.