The Things We Think But Do Not Say

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OK, I borrowed the title from Jerry Maguire's mission statement, and I may get fired just like he did, but here goes: There are two music jobs. Job A: A successful, wonderful and creatively collaborative experience. Job B: Not. Here's how they happen.

Job A: The agency calls to talk strategy, musical direction and concept before one frame of visual is shot. We are the only company entrusted to create this music. We are asked to do a demo of what we think the music could be.

Job B: The agency is finished with its shoot, edit is nearly approved, and most of the visual effects have been created. Now the agency calls in reels of all of the so-called hottest music companies. The editor has edited his favorite new groovy record down to 30 seconds and constructed his edit to go with this. The agency gives us lots of descriptions like, "This is gonna be the coolest, most cutting edge, most blah, blah, blah." They invite our company and two other companies to write demos. Demos, demos, lots and lots of demos. Many people are at a meeting to discuss the music and they all say something. The person who has the power to decide is not there.

Job A: We present a fairly evolved recording of what our musical template is, and discuss this in a meeting with only one person. She has the power to decide how things will get done. The agency trusts her and so does the client. All the other people involved don't need to be at this meeting, because it has all been discussed beforehand, and they're already busy working on other assignments.

Job B: We send over many demos, and two other companies send over many demos. The agency evaluates the music in various secretive meetings. Good news! They did not like anything the other companies have done and they have eliminated them from the competition. But wait, they still haven't found the spot's music track. Lots of discussion and a plethora of demos, and still they need more discussion. And more demos. But they like (that is, they do not hate) our approach. We get to do more demos! But wait, two new companies have been invited to compete against us. More demos, more demo fees (about $9,000 so far). The agency's ship date is two business days away, so they ask us to put a hold on our studio's time so that they can make their air date. But they're still not sure. They start to fixate on one of our demos and ask us to revise it over the weekend for their presentation. Meanwhile, they invite more companies to do, yup, more demos.

Job A: Our original music is played at the shoot. They use this to help focus the mood of the shoot and then the editor edits the spot on top of this music. Everything is in sync. The creative process is joyous. We revise our music to adjust to the final edit. A final music session is booked with real, flesh-and-blood musicians.

Job B: We send our revised demo. It is less than 24 hours before the final session -- the session the agency has asked us to hold. No word. The day is nearly finished when another client asks for that time and we call the agency. Still no answer. It's nearly the end of the day when finally the agency calls. "Congratulations! The job is yours."

Job A: The final music session goes really well. The collective minds of many musicians, an engineer and a composer have melded to make real music. The spot looks beautiful and sounds important. Confidence is restored, the product sells, the stock goes up and everyone is a hero.

Job B: The agency does not have any time left, nor any money -- twice the music budget was spent on demos. The session goes as planned the next morning, but there's no time or money for real musicians. Rush, rush, rush. The spot airs. It is indistinct. The whoosh of sound effects overpowers the much fussed-about music. There is a neatly placed sound effect for each line of copy that is to be accented. The viewer changes channels without even knowing what the spot is for.

Which client are you?

Jamie Lamm composes for the music company he founded and owns, New York's Fearless Music.

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