“Every artist is valued based on their presentation and what their creditability is.” Dan Silver, the Sr. Creative Director at RipTide Music
Radio is Dead—But Music Discovery is Alive on TV, Film and Video Games
Dan Silver on synch and placement opportunities. I spoke with Dan, who had been directly responsible for placing music in trailers for movies such as Captain America, Thor, Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, Mission Impossible 4, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, The Amazing Spider-Man, and so much more. Dan shared his unique views on licensing music to TV, film, games, movies, and ads. If you’ve ever wondered about how songs get paired up with anything other than the radio or a CD, this article is a must-read!
Hi Dan, thank you for talking with us and for sharing your expertise. So, a huge part of the music industry is music publishing and licensing. You have an incredible perspective as the Creative Director for RipTide Music. But before we get into the nuts and bolts, let’s start at the very beginning. What does a music licensing and publishing company do?
Well, we’re actually a very unique company. There are a lot of single people out there representing artists for synch and some small companies and then some really large libraries. We are completely artist-centric. We’re basically an Indie label for the business-to-business side of the industry — for the purpose of placements. We fully service the artist and the client. So that’s where we act as a publishing company because we end up dealing with all the rights of the artist and taking care of every payment along with paperwork and contracts. And we have a network around the world to help us collect all the royalties and so on. But we handle our music very specifically and value it because we are a part of this a la carte model for the artists that we work with. We’re championing their brand, their artist profiles, and we’re really marketing who they are and we’re trying to create a relationship to the artist and not just a song. We’re less interested in “music by the pound”— which you get from a lot of the bigger music companies — and really promoting these artists’ careers within the underlying business model of placement synchs and publishing.
Can you define the difference between synch and masters?
Well, a master is the master recording, a physical recording. The copy. The album. However it is printed; the physical recording of the music. Synch is also known as publishing and is also a term for the act of synching music with picture. But as far as rights are concerned, people call publishing synch and that is the rights to the authorship; the lyrics, the melody of the music that was created. Therefore, you can have several different masters of a song but you only have one form of the publishing, or the synch.
OK. So you are primarily involved in licensing the sync?
No. Generally, we represent all the rights. The only time we don’t is in the case of major artists with very special situations where there are already major partners involved.
So what type of demand are we looking at inside the business?
On a daily basis, we’re pitching to advertising agencies, film companies and studios, TV studios, film advertising and trailer companies, and video game companies. And within that, there is a whole network of music supervisors that are either proprietary in-house or also independent — sometimes hired through the studio and sometimes completely independent. And this is worldwide. The majority of our business does rely on Hollywood and New York and the major centers of the states. But we do a ton of work in London and all over Europe and other parts of the world. And the demand is way over the top. This is why I’m so optimistic about what’s really going on, because there is a whole side of this industry that does offer value, does offer a way to create value for your copyright and your master. The demand for the discovery of new emerging artists is huge.
We have learned over the last 5 years that this is the place where music discovery is taking place. The radio is mainly playing top-40, besides your few specialty shows and college stations, and more and more artists are being discovered on TV and film soundtracks and even commercials at this point.
OK. So what are advertisers, what are music supervisors, looking for? Are they looking for “the-next-big-thing” or are they chasing a sound or band that they already have in mind?
That really depends on the campaign; the project, the budget, the timeline, everything that you can think of — and on top of that keep in mind — we can’t make people put music anywhere. We can only make suggestions and have great relationships to suggest the right music based on what’s being requested. The decision can be up to one person in the chain or sometimes up to 10 people — all the way up to the head of a studio or the director of a movie.
No longer are they asking an artist to sell out and write a jingle that has nothing to do with the artist’s career, they would rather actually promote the artist because it’s what’s cool and what the kids are interested in. That’s why we work for the artist’s brand and their profile and how do people discover them. Because when we get the chance to push them for a cool advertising opportunity, we have to really pitch an artist. We have to show them that these guys are out there — they’re hustling, they have a buzz going on, they’re on the radio, they’re on tour, they’re opening up for so and so — and that actually speaks to them.
Can we talk money for a second to help quantify some of these concepts? What does a licensing revenue stream look like?
I’m going to try my best to put this in very broad terms. It’s tough to say exactly; every artist is valued based on their presentation and what their creditability is. So if you can build your fan base, and build a certain level of downloads, and show that you have activity, your value can increase in our world. Really having your whole world together makes all the difference. There are a lot of artists that still send in CD’s with nothing written on them. They just don’t have their details together. They are not thinking that they’re running a bit of a company and that branding is important. All these things matter and this has everything to do with what they might earn.
It all comes in different forms. There are areas where you license your music and it’s based off royalties. There are other areas based on upfront fees and it can range. It can be the difference from buying a fast food meal to paying your rent for the month. That’s the best way to look at it. There are situations where there are thousands of dollars to be earned, but you have to be with the right company that knows how to negotiate for you. Without that, your best-case scenario is paying rent and building a revenue stream on performance royalties.
Dan, are you looking for more artists to work with?
Absolutely, we’re always looking for artists to suggest their music because you just don’t know what you’re going to find. That’s our attitude! We’re all musicians here. I’m a music producer. The owners, Rich Goldman & Bob Kaminsky, are also music producers. We’re surprised everyday. If you describe yourself just right, we’ll be all over it. We don’t take everybody in, but we actually listen to everything that comes in the door.
Is there a monthly fee for an artist to retain your services or is it upfront?
There is no cost to the artist to get involved with us. It’s a win-win for everybody. We have some splits. We have ways that everyone earns a portion of every deal, but nothing happens until we’re successful. We put a lot of time and energy — which equals money — upfront to create the right presentation for each artist. Even on the front side of doing a deal with us, the artist gains quite a bit. They’re easily being exposed to the heavy hitters on this side of the industry without having to spend a dime.
Thank you Dan. This has been an amazing interview and we’ve only scratched the surface. I can’t wait to keep talking and picking your brain.
Do you have the sounds that Dan and his clients are looking for? Submit your music to RipTide. Like Dan said, “We’re surprised everyday.”
The interview above only covers the highlights of our talk. For the complete session and to learn more about the ins-and-outs of getting placements and of the relationship between RipTide Music and their global network of Music Supervisors, listen to the full interview.
Dan Silver is the Sr. Creative Director at RipTide Music where he represents the music of over 200 bands and artists for placement in film, TV, games, advertising, and trailers. Besides his work with placements, Dan is also a performer, a composer, and a founding member of the band Standing Shadows. As the producer Silver Sessions, he has successfully licensed over 300 songs.
This interview was originally published by Mike Dias for Ultimate Ears