There is harmony in the collision of music and image. This is where you will find David Hayman, Director of Music Licensing and Supervision at Vapor Music. David has spent his entire life working with images and music for new and traditional forms of media. This harmonious union is his art and David is the master.
David has had great success working with some of the worlds most impressive brands, including Coca-Cola, Nike, Ford, Budweiser, Right To Play, P&G, and every mobile company to name a few. David was an integral part of the team that created the phenomenon that was “Dove Evolution,” and the campaign for real beauty. David also divides his time working on feature films, new media ventures and supervising music for A-list televisions series including ABC’s “Rookie Blue”, HBO’s “Less Than Kind” and CBC’s hit comedy series “The Kids In The Hall – Death Comes To Town”. David is also lead music supervisor on the new Ubi-Soft video game “Shaun White Skateboarding.” He also recently completed music supervision on a feature film called “Textuality” where he produced five inventive covers of popular tracks featuring Ron Sexsmith (“Since I Don’t Have You”), The Midway State (“True”), Chali 2Na of Jurassic 5 (Rump Shaker), Aceyalone & Treasure Davis (Hit The Road Jack), which is being hailed by the Ray Charles Foundation as “the greatest cover of Hit The Road Jack ever”. Things are really cooking in Hayman’s sonic-kitchen. The future’s bright, gotta’ wear shades.
What got you into Music Supervision?
What got me into music supervision was first of all my love for music, which is something I have always worn on my sleeve. I was a filmmaker and had produced a ton of short films. They had incredible music from people I had worked with from band photography or just met around the scene or even in university. Directors at film festivals that were impressed hired me on as an independent music supervisor for their projects. Then the television series I was working as an executive assistant hired me as music supervisor. We talked about what we wanted to change on the show going into second season- the show was called The Eleventh Hour and was on CTV- and one thing we wanted to do was bring a real flavor to the film, much as the HBO shows were doing in the states. I offered up my services for free the first season and it went great. From there it took flight. Two years later, I was still working in the film industry and saw an opening for Vapor Music. The plan I proposed was to go really lean and mean, meaning no longer have a hall full of jingle writers on staff with a big overhead, what we would do is go with outside writers and really focus on pre-existing music and licensing. From day one it has been a wild ride. It’s been successful, all the big brands [getting involved]. I don’t know if it is a testament to what we do here, or the scene, or the changing of hearts and minds in both the film and the music industry, but it’s a lovely thing and sometimes I do wake up asking myself how I got here. I am just happy that I am here, that I can help artists out where they need it and that is in their wallet.
How has it changed the way you listen to music?
I think that being a music supervisor changes your perspective on what a song’s value is. I see value in odd things. I see value in simplicity, in things maybe even not considered a song. I like to look at audio as a soundscape and not as a specific song or cue or how it’s going to work. I listen to things in a totally different light. Also, as this career has progressed for me, listening habits have changed across the board for myself and for everybody. Gone are the days where music is purely an auditory experience. We’ve grown up on music videos. Now its this whole world where we create our own experience visually. We are sitting in front of the computer listening to music so we’re looking up information on the band, playing games, doing work, experiencing life, who knows what. Music has now become the soundtrack of our lives in a specific spot and that’s often in front of the computer. I find that is where I do most of my listening lately.
How can artists find out about new projects and their related music supervisors?
I’d say the onus is on the artist more than ever. Five years ago we were seeing websites where people would post projects saying “I’m working on this please send your music.” I used to do blast-outs, which means an e-mail to all of my network to try and find ideas for certain commercials. Often I’d send the video along with it or the script. Nowadays it has become a lot tighter. Confidentiality rules the day. There’s a sort of culture of fear in the advertising industry and in the marketing industries. Everybody is keeping things very close to chest, whether it be to protect ideas or actual products. Its been harder for me to inform the musical world of what’s going on and have people send me music. What I have to do now is rely on artists just to bug me, really, literally, bug me by e-mail. I hate to be bugged by phone and I am sure most supervisors are the same. We don’t mind getting an e-mail saying “Hey what’s up, what’s going on?” because stuff is always going on whether you hear from us or not. That’s your opportunity to be kept in mind, if they see your e-mails pop into their inbox every couple of weeks. It’s so easy to forget musicians, you can only imagine how much music we get. So I think the onus is on the artist, don’t rely on your record label, publisher or whoever is pushing your music. It isn’t a bad thing to make connections directly with music supervisors, at the heart of it, music supervisors are fans of the music and musicians, not managers. We love musicians, so we do welcome calls, I know I do, and I’m always looking to connect and collaborate with new, young, and exciting artists.
Is it realistic to think that artists can approach music supervisors directly or are their chances higher going through a company/library/etc?
The question is, how are you valuing your music? If you’re going through a stock service, you’ve devaluated your music immediately. As soon as your music hits some sort of online database it’s old, it’s like driving your car off a lot. It becomes stock, however way you want to spin it. Stock music gets stale once it sits. What we’re looking for is unique stuff. Contact a music supervisor directly, get a relationship, say What’s new? What’s coming out? What are you working on? If you’re a good artist we’ll keep talking to you. Talent really shines through, so does charm. A lot of times we will dismiss songpluggers, people that are pushing their specific agendas. I’d rather focus on a blog to tell me what’s hot. I’m not going to listen to the major labels or any hype they send me, I’d rather see those six blogs to see what they’re saying about them. I’d much rather see you focus as an artist on making good with music supervisors on a collaborative level. Forget album sales and that stuff, get your music reviewed and get it hyped. That will get the attention of music supervisors. Good music always permeates to the top and that’s true no matter what genre it might be. We’ll find you!
What catches your attention when you receive a new submission?
I love artwork. When people send me music and there’s no artwork, I’ll often find it myself and take a few minutes to search it out to get a vibe. Interesting song titles, interesting things that are different production values, exciting collaborations. I mean it is very hard to get a music supervisor excited, but I think glossiness doesn’t win the day. I think that direct simple e-mails are better from trusted names. If bloggers in the community, or people that represent music that I respect, tell me something is good I’m going to give it a listen. You really have to have a good song first. We can tell hype from crap. If you’re in the same city as a music supervisor it’s a really good idea to offer to take them out to lunch, or go for a coffee or something. The face to face value is just huge. We have hearts and we love to work with people. When you are one on one it takes a relationship to a whole different level. So, if you are in Toronto come see me. All the major cities are not full of music supervisors but there are a handful of them and you should be meeting with them if you’re an artist.
How much follow up is too much before it gets put into the ignore pile?
That is why I think it is important to connect personally with someone, because then you can say “here are two of my songs”, dip your foot in the water, feel out the music supervisors. If they like the songs, send more. I don’t like when people come to me with an entirely huge catalog right off the bat because it is too much for me to digest. The best way is to start slow, start with samplers, start with the best 7 or 8 songs that are in your catalog, or if you’re a band start with the best two songs you have. See if you can find out what that exact music supervisor is working on at the time and then pitch the songs that you think might be catered to that project. Information on projects are usually found online. You can go to my IMDB page, figure out which the show is, click through and you’ll kind of get an understanding of what the themes of the show are. It is flattering if you come to the table and you know what the music supervisor is working on rather than asking them. This is a good jumping off point to make a personal connection to a music supervisor. We appreciate when you recognize what we do and work with us to make that better and grow.
Is Mp3’s the new thing or is the physical copy still the best way to submit?
It’s “Earth Day” so I should be slapping myself on the wrist, but I want physical copies. I miss CD’s, I miss artwork, I miss care, I miss branding, I miss images of artists. I can remember great CD’s that I used to pour over as a kid; now, when I get these discs the ones with good packaging really stand out to me. Of course, I love an Mp3 if at the heart of it the song is good. That’s the bottom line. It doesn’t matter how you bring it to me, as long as it is well labeled with all your contact information, everything I need to know about who owns the track, I can put it into the system. The edge does go to the person that can bring me a compact disc, because like I said the image, the look, the photos, adds to the value of the band and their position in the market.
How important is a subject matter in an e-mail to catch someone’s attention for the first time?
The subject matter in an e-mail doesn’t do it for me, it really comes down to the first 7 seconds of the first song. That is really so important, I can’t even begin to explain it. It’s that first piece that I hear that sets the tone, a subject line’s not going to do it for me. I’d really truly rather see artwork.
When people classify their music for submissions, what makes your job easiest, is it stating tempo and feel, the mood, lyrical content, sounds like,…?
The fact that they do label their music! You’d be surprised at how many people send me a CD that says no track information… it’ll say track 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, I don’t even know who the artist is and no contact info. The absolute only way to get heard is to have your album properly listed otherwise it is just going to go on a pile that “I will get to later…” I am looking as we speak to a huge stack of CD’s that aren’t labeled properly and it stresses me out because there could be gems in there but these people don’t know how to do business so it’s their loss. I think the best way around that is to not give audio CD’s to music supervisors, even if you go for the artwork package. The thing to do is to get a nice package and inside is a data CD. In that data CD, there is a folder that has the album and then I can pull that folder onto my desktop, and it will have all the proper labeling. I personally like the contact information to be in the album title, so song title, by/author, and phone number. So, data CD’s are great! Now, it is even more exciting to me if you give me a CD, and it’s a finished CD, it’s a data CD and also bonus tracks, instrumentals, those kind of little extras are really good. Always try and get your instrumentals when you’re recording an album. That stuff can come in really handy and on its own can generate licenses. I have done many, many instrumental licenses.
I know you listen to a lot of music, so how do you remember the songs when trying to fit a current project?
I have no idea! How do doctors in the hospital remember what all those pills are? I have no idea how I remember the songs that I remember! It’s just what I do. There is a certain amount of sorting that goes on when I get a CD, so I’ll have general playlists that are either based on mood or on actual physical jobs that are happening right now. I’m sure every music supervisor has different playlists. I’m sure they probably have a thousand playlists. Really, like I said, at the end of the day a good song really does rise to the top. You know, whether it shines through because of its melody or because there is some gimmick in it, at the end of the day something has to shine through to make good music good
This brings me to whether bands should send regular follow ups so as to remind supervisors of their existence?
(answered previously) Ya, absolutely.
Would you say that with the current economic situation and budgets, music supervisors are more eager to work with indie bands?
Absolutely. It is like capitalism, you know. There is no more middle ground or middle class. You either have jobs that are ridiculously healthy or ridiculously slim. I find people are either looking for stock music or the next new tune. I think that is a product of the recession. In advertising you are seeing way less storylines in their concepts. You are seeing more a reassurance that they are trying to give their audience, such as wall-to-wall voiceovers telling you how safe a car is. Instrumental music is doing really well in the advertising realm. People are really devaluing it though and saying, well, if it is just an instrumental track, I don’t care if it is Black Mountain, I can use a stock piece that is instrumental and nobody will care. And there is a grain of truth in that. You do get the big heavy hitters looking to make a splash putting more money into a license for a band name. But gone are the days where you would get really a lot of money for an original piece of music, something that is written by a jingle house [for example]. Some budgets haven’t changed that much, I don’t think video game budgets were affected too much by the recession. I think it is advertising that was really hurt, you are seeing them really cut back their valuing of music. But at the same time consumers don’t devalue music. It will always be the most important (medium), it will always cut through on air and brands that do well, they understand that value.
What do you think of the idea of music supervisors being the new A&R’s ?
I don’t think it is an idea, I think it is a reality! I don’t think it is something I want necessarily! There is not a lot of power in the publishing world right now. They do own a lot of music and make money hand over fist. So they have this whole A&R department to get new sounds out there, but where are they getting it out there? CD’s into HMV? Nobody is going there. On the radio? They have got half the listeners they used to. Nobody puts stake in radio like the way it was. What they do put stake in, is where is my band connected to big movies, famous actors, commercials and brands? How is the song part of my life? Like it or not we are in a media culture, and if you get your music involved in some kind of media it is going to get heard. That’s the key to everything.
As music supervisors, we are open to everything. We have no biases, We aren’t hired by a label who has invested interest in pushing a particular band. We truly tell you what is working on the radio, what is working in your demographic, what is hot and what is coming up. If you are in A&R for a major label, you are just going to be pushing stuff for that label. We kind of see it all. I get just as excited about an underground electro act as the new mainstream stuff. It’s all on an even keel to us.
We are looking at it from a purely musical standpoint and that is a refreshing change. We were sold too much music in the nineties. We weren’t able to discover. But with digital music, Napster and all these ways of acquiring music, even bands getting wise and giving it away for free, you don’t need the A&R guy telling you what to listen too. You just need to experience life and that experience will bring you face to face with things that music supervisors have been involved in.
What sort of money can be made these days with placements and has the value of music changed?
It depends who you are and what product you are selling. If you are selling me a piece of 30 second instrumental stock music then you will be getting stock prices. In Canada, two hundred and fifty bucks for a background cue, maybe if are lucky a thousand dollars for part of a commercial. It’s really tough because a lot of the middle of the road music and the instrumental stuff is competing with the stock music houses, and the stock music houses have become so saturated that they are now competing with each other, going lower on the prices that are already ridiculously low. So that’s a big issue.
For an American spot compared to a Canadian spot you are going to get ten times the amount, so it is great to get on big brands because they may be adapted for other countries. You could be starting off with something as low as ten thousand dollars for a national Canadian television commercial but after renewals, and different aspects and different terms and different ways that they want to promote it, you are going to see that doubled, tripled, just have a life beyond that single initial license. For one offs, lets say for a commercial, you are seeing anywhere between five thousand and twenty five thousand depending on the band. Every once in a while they will spend a hundred thousand dollars on a big sound. We’ve done licenses that for the Canadian market have gone over a hundred grand. That’s something to note, but those are hits that have value and assets beyond managers pushing music to supervisors, the Ray Charles of the world. It is hard to guage fees because fees are based on terms. So you got to be able to negotiate and remember that every single piece of the placement can be negotiated whether that may be the term, the way that they are using out of context or in context, the duration. The bigger balls you have, the better negotiating hooks you have, the better you will do.