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David Trotter Interview - Part 1

Category: Interviews
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David Trotter Interview (part 1) and Song Writing Challenge for 2012

David TrotterNSAI Australia's Zelda Sheldon had the pleasure of meeting some leading educators and music publishers at the 2010 Taxi Road Rally in Los Angeles, including David Trotter, owner of Studio 51.

As a premier Broadcast Music Supplier, David gets music onto TV and into Movies. He works a lot with unpublished songwriters and his take on music business is eye-opening to say the least. David presented two informative sessions at the Taxi Road Rally on music for television and afterwards agreed to an interview for NSAI Sydney - here's the first of his two-part interview.  

Not only was David willing to generously share his time and his superb information in the interview - but he has also given Australian members of NSAI a new song challenge. And this time the challenge is offering an awesome prize - not one but THREE publishing deals. 

Details of The David Trotter Songwriting Challenge 2012 at Song Writing Challenge 2012.

ZS: David, we'd love to know what is involved in your day-to-day work as a high level supplier of music for broadcast. Could you give us an overview of what you and your company does? 

DT: Studio 51 Music produces and delivers music to top tier libraries for placement in TV, Film, Advertising and other applications as needed. We currently do about 20,000 needledrops annually across the board. We have a group of 132 composers who write in approximately 200 genres and sub-genres. We are full members of the Production Music Association, which is a group that adheres to the most professional and ethical standards. We have supplied music for Film, Advertising, Video projects, and TV. We were the largest supplier to Harpo Production and as a result our music was, and is, played daily on The Oprah Winfrey Show, The Dr. Oz Show, The Nate Berkus Show, and The Oprah Winfrey Network. 

ZS: How is your company unique in the music for broadcast business? 

DT: We are a "Libraries Library" meaning that we provide music only to exclusive libraries in the market. We do not work directly with production companies, advertising agencies, or game manufactures. Additionally we do not sign individual pieces like most of the industry. We contract a fixed group of composers to meet our clients' needs. Each composer has been carefully screened for writing and production quality, as well as ethical standards. Only writers signed to Studio 51 Music have access to submit to our collections and clients.

ZS: How often would you be looking for additional songwriters to supply music tracks to you? 

DT: Our recruiting is driven by client demand. With our new business model we expect to add from 75 to 100 additional composers in 2012. This includes songwriters as well as instrumental writers. We have added new writers every year for the past 7 years.

ZS: What do songwriters need to do to impress you enough for you to want to work with them? 

DT: In our case the writers must be at the top of their game. Our clients are demanding of the very best. Writers should be aware of their limitations and play to their strengths. A jack of all trades is typically a master of none. I look at whether a writer is familiar with their genre. Do they have the chops to really catch my attention, whether it is a violin piece, an brass solo, or a guitar riff, all work must sound live. You may be using midi samples, but you have to leave me guessing. Understanding how to write lyrics for drama is crucially important. It is all about the mood, never the story. Writing for TV, Advertising, Film, and games is all about understanding the craft. The use of verse, chorus, and bridges as they relate to visual drama as opposed to top 40 radio play. Many of these issues are easily learned by watching TV, movies, and advertisements. Some things just require experience. Inexperienced writers can break into this industry if they have the talent, but it may take some lessons along the way. Be ready to listen and learn.

ZS: How do you find great music and how do you prefer to accept music submissions from potential songwriters? 

DT: All our writers submit mp3 demos of their work. This is reviewed at Studio 51 and is subject to one of three outcomes. First is that it is accepted. Second is that it may require edits. Third it will be declined. Each of our writers is informed of the status of each piece and acts accordingly. Once approved the piece is assigned a file name and is uploaded to our ftp in 16 bit 48k wav format. The writer also completes a metadata template for embedding metadata into each file.

When it comes to submitting to us as a potential writer, we suggest an e-mail stressing your strengths and a link to an online site that we can review. Do not send unsolicited demo attachments. Approximately 90% of our composers come from referral by TAXI. This is because TAXI screens writers for us, and we have a long history from which we have learned to trust them. TAXI writers that are forwarded to me typically understand the business of broadcast music. That is a plus. Demo review priority always falls in favor of TAXI, but if I need a specific type writer, or a number of writers, I will go to saved e-mails for review, if necessary.

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