Could you imagine being in a movie theater watching a great film, and all of a sudden, your music comes rushing in to complement the scene? Or imagine you're at home watching one of your favorite TV shows, and there's your voice, your guitar, your song! Angela Predhomme, a folk singer-songwriter from Michigan, has achieved that dream. She not only knows that amazing feeling, but she also knows the feelings of rejection, mistakes, and failure that come as part of the package when you choose to pursue a path in music. Still, she's persevered and successfully submitted her music through Sonicbids for placements on NBC, PBS, and several big-name projects. Recently, we caught up with Predhomme to find out just what it takes to get your music on the big screen.
Through Sonicbids, your music has been extremely successful in being placed in music libraries, which has scored you sync placements in TV shows like NBC's The Voice and TLC's Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. Can you describe the details of the licensing process from the time you hit "submit" on the Sonicbids listing to when your music airs on TV?
From Sonicbids, my music was accepted into active music libraries. The way that they work is that once you're in, you can keep sending material. So, I uploaded a lot of songs from my catalog to music libraries, along with instrumental versions (without vocals), because instrumental music is actually used more in TV. However, they don’t notify the artist/writer when a song is placed. For the background TV show placements, I didn't know until I got my royalty statement, but then I could see the episode title, and I could look for future airings, or find the shows online.
What do you think it is about your songs that attract music supervisors? What's on your checklist to make your music screen-ready?
Good question. I definitely keep my goals in mind from the writing process through recording and production. Certain things work well in film and TV, like lyrics about feelings rather than specific visual images, because those would clash with what's on screen. For example, if I'm singing about sitting on the porch on a lazy day in a white wicker chair, it's going to conflict with any visual scene that is not that. But if I'm singing about being excited or reluctant, happy or angry, that can go with many types of storylines and visuals. Different markets have different purposes, and writing for country music, for example, would be very different lyrically. So keeping my purpose and target market in mind is important.
That's on the writing end, but I also make sure that the production is good. I make sure my vocals are as close to perfect as they can be, meaning not just technically on pitch, but conveying emotion. Sometimes I sing really close to the mic to get an intimate sound. Also, I've made sure the instrumentation and production is high quality. After all, I'm competing with the rest of the world. It’s got to be as good as possible.
Lastly, I try to draw in the listener from the first few seconds. Music supervisors are listening to track after track, all day. They're not going to wait or hope for it to get good before they click the next song. So what I do is I try to grab them from the very beginning, often with interesting lyrics from the first line and a melodic verse. I try to use catchy melodies from the beginning, building to a chorus, which drives it home. I don't want them to lose interest for a second along the way.
Is there anything you wish you had known when you first began submitting to licensing opportunities?
What I wish I had known is that this is a global business, and the competition really is fierce. Also, I wish I had understood at the beginning that just because someone doesn't choose my songs, it doesn't mean they're not good. It just means my music isn't the best fit for their needs. That's not just something polite to say, it's true. If you watch any major movie, you can see how good these music supervisors are at their work. The songs in movies are usually a great fit for each individual scene, storyline, genre, and overall feel of the film.
Of all of the TV and film placements you've gotten, which has been the most rewarding and why?
One of the most rewarding experiences with a placement I got was when a song of mine was placed in an indie film, and I got to go to its premiere at the Montreal Film Festival a few years back. To hear my song playing during the end credits in a movie theater was awesome! I met and hung out with the writer/director and some of the cast members, and it was totally cool. It was a British film called A Wedding Most Strange.
It's also been really rewarding to see my name in the end credits of a documentary produced by Ron Howard for PBS, America in Primetime, and to hear my voice in shows like Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.
You had the master rights for one of your songs purchased by Telepictures of Burbank, which produces Ellen, TMZ, and others. How did that all go down?
The song sale to Telepictures was a pretty simple and straightforward process. I saw the listing on Sonicbids, submitted a couple songs, and then they selected mine. I talked to them on the phone once to make sure I understood the contract details, and then I signed the contract and sent my song. What was really special for me about this was that this song was one of the very first songs I ever wrote. I know so much more about the craft of songwriting now! The fact that I sold the rights to the third song I ever wrote in my life is still amazing to me. Since then, nothing like...someone buying the master rights...has happened. It feels great to have my work associated with these big names in the television industry!
Since getting into the world of licensing, what's been the most surprising thing you've learned so far?
The most surprising thing I've learned so far about licensing is that the music doesn't have to be big-budget. I've done plenty of work in the studio with professional musicians, but it was a song I created in my home studio, completely by myself, that was chosen for a major ad campaign in Europe for ING Bank. That surprised me. It turns out that more and more songs these days are created low budget in people's home studios. You don't need to spend a ton. The song just has to be the right fit for the placement. That's good news for so many of us!
What do you think is the best way to get your music in front of music supervisors?
I think that there are two ways to get your music in front of music supervisors: libraries or networking. I don't live in LA, NY, or Nashville, so I've worked through the music libraries. That's where music supervisors search for many of their needs. However, if you live in a place where you can meet face-to-face with screen production people, then that's a great way, too. I know of someone who rose to be a music industry executive by just golfing with the right people in Nashville. When it comes down to it, though, the quality of the music has to be there. If they hear it and like it, they will keep the door open for you.
What's the best advice you could give to fellow independent musicians looking to achieve the same kind of success that you've had with getting accepted into music libraries?
My advice to other independent music creators is to persevere, learn to take criticism, and don't take anything personally. If someone evaluates your work and gives you constructive criticism, as hard as it is, try to listen and keep it in mind for your next songs. All of us have had more than our share of rejection. The music industry is not for the faint of heart. When you get rejected, go curl up in your bed and cry for a while. I do. But then when you're ready, get back on that horse. Believe in yourself. Expect that you will succeed, and have the attitude that you’ll do whatever it takes to get there, including being flexible.
I would also advise that you have to find the right balance between art and the business of the music industry. You have to be true to yourself, yet give the industry what it wants and needs. There are certain needs for music, and if we can deliver to those needs, then our chances of success are much greater than if we just do a song and think music supervisors should like it. You can research what kinds of music are being used simply by watching TV. It's like any business, really. You have to think of it like that. If you make any product that you think is great, but no one necessarily wants or needs it, then why would they buy it? You have to keep the needs of the market in mind.
I also think it's important that composers and songwriters educate themselves about the music business. For example, if you don't register your songs with a PRO like ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC, then you will not receive your rightful royalties.
A last piece of advice is to not be afraid to invest in yourself. Plan submissions to services like Sonicbids into your regular budget. My successes have come directly from submissions on the internet. Services like Sonicbids offer a direct connection to people in the music industry that you normally don’t have access to and wouldn’t know about. They help open doors for us.