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Monday, 26 September 2011 12:20

A Toast to Post Music

Written by  Gordon Meyer
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bob_sfwThere’s no question about it: Music plays a critical role in the success or failure of movies, TV shows, documentaries and commercials. But there’s more to production music than a conventional score, such as "source music" cues where a radio or CD plays a specific song a film’s background. More and more filmmakers are turning to music libraries to help with their storytelling needs. And while music libraries have been around for decades, who uses them and how has changed.

"Over time, I think what has happened is that music libraries are no longer thought of as something you thumb your nose at," says Bob Mair, CEO of Black Toast Music, a music library founded in the late 1990s. "The quality of music that’s represented by the music libraries is astounding. Due to the amount of music that libraries have been doing, a lot of doors have opened for composers because there’s so much music placement going on." Mair explains that for many composers, music libraries serve as a conduit for placing music throughout film and television projects. 

But who exactly uses music libraries? Gary Calamar is a music supervisor whose credits include the TV shows "Men of a Certain Age," "Dexter," "True Blood" and "House M.D," as well as the feature films Slums of Beverly Hills, After the Sunset and I Love You Philip Morris. Calamar says that his main responsibility is to find appropriate music to license for use in the various shows he works on. Sometimes the selection is intended as source music, while other times it’s a song that will be more prominently heard as the primary audio for a given segment. For example, the producers of "True Blood" needed ’80s punk music by an unknown band for a recent episode. For this job, Calamar reached out to several music libraries he regularly uses. "They sent me links to a number of possible songs, which I downloaded and put up against the picture to see which one worked best," Calamar explains. "This is a situation where if we were to use an actual song from the ’80s, the licensing could cost as much as $30,000. By going to a library, I can usually find something for $1,000. Budget-wise, that makes the producers very, very happy."  garysfw

Black Toast is one of the music libraries that Calamar finds reliable. "They are very easy to work with, they’re very flexible with their fees and they have great music, much of which they create themselves," says Calamar. "Bob Mair has a great ear for authentic-sounding music. It doesn't sound canned. It sounds like a real band playing real music, no matter what era that music comes from. Their website is also very easy to navigate and download from.

While many of the shows Calamar works on have in-house composers for most of the scored music, sometimes a situation will come up where it pays to use library music instead. "Occasionally we’ll have a scene in an unusual situation, like a Hungarian deli where we’ll go to a library for the appropriate music," says Calamar. For Bob Mair and his colleagues at Black Toast, it all comes down to knowing their clients, their needs and what they respond to. "You have to be educated in what they need [and] be able to really hear what they’re saying and offer it up," Mair says.

Black Toast Music

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