The top take-away from this week’s music publisher pitch session with Riptide Music Group CEO Keatly Haldeman? Production value is essential.
That’s not all, of course, but several songs that would have made the cut otherwise got a “no” (or “not yet”) because they fell short of the top-shelf production standard that’s a MUST when licensing music for big projects.
The “not yet” part is good as it means that if someone is willing to go back and properly produce a track, he’s happy to take another listen.
Add to this that production cannot be “dated,” as music that Riptide – or any reputable entity – signs and pitches for synch must be current-sounding to have a chance at securing big-money licensing fees. Keatly emphasized that any important placement may have as many as a thousand songs or more competing for the same spot, so every component of a song matters. This includes lyrics, arrangement, vocal quality, instrumentation, authenticity, energy and production value.
It’s hard to get all of this just right.
Positive attributes that make a song more place-able:
- Horns! “I’m a sucker for horns,” says Keatly, they bring energy to a song.
- Energy profile. This is less about beats-per-minute and more about if the song is “going somewhere.”
- Authenticity. Keatly and his team want real artists with real points-of-view. Songs written specifically for synch frequently lack “authenticity.”
- Genres constantly in demand: hip hop, female empowerment, Spanglish
- Attitude. In general, it comes down to the attitude rather than the genre. Good “attitudes” that make songs more place-able include bad-ass, swagger, confident, strong, cool, happy, feel-good, bright, anthemic and inspirational. In the words of Ryan Fitch, formerly top ad agency music supervisor at Satchi & Satchi, sad music doesn’t help sell stuff.
- One-stop or easily clearable rights.
Some things that make it more difficult to place a song:
- Upbeat energy but downer lyrics; the disparity between the two makes placement challenging.
- Muffled vocals
- Poor production quality
Love songs and ballads are difficult to place, Keatly told us, and therefore rarely signed by Riptide. One reason for this may be because when a love song or ballad is used, especially in film or TV, it’s such an important dramatic moment that songs for such scenes are often pre-selected.
Also, given that such moments in film are infrequent (as opposed to party scenes or ones requiring movement and energy, for example), love songs and ballads are a harder sell.
“But don’t get me wrong,” he said, “I don’t hate love, I love love!”
Other take-aways include that Keatly tends not to sign any new writers or material unless his A&R team is 100% behind it as well. “There’s no point,” he says, because unless his team is ALL onboard, it’s an uphill battle. Riptide is very particular about signing new talent, and has to feel they can “make at least $50,000” before signing, not just because sync has become so competitive but because of the cost to onboard a new writer or catalog, and to ingest these into their system once signed.
Keatly advised against non-exclusive arrangements, telling us not expect to make much money from these… usually only scraps. Some user-generated content YouTube companies have interesting models worth exploring but for traditional media – film, television, advertising and trailers – he recommended “to be with a person or company who is active, has great relationships and opportunities, and is passionate about you and your music” on an exclusive basis.
And what can people do to increase the marketability of their music to people like Keatly and companies like Riptide? Get representation, he emphasized, usually a manager or lawyer. His company does not accept unsolicited material, but he is taking music from NARIP members.
Thank you Keatly for this and for making time for our session!
@NARIP #NARIPSessions, @KeatlyHaldeman – see NARIP.com for future pitch session dates and details.
Full session video available to stream soon for NARIP Members at NARIP.com.
About Keatly Haldeman
Keatly Haldeman, CEO of Riptide Music Group, co-founded sync licensing and music publishing company pigFACTORY prior to its merger with Riptide Music. Throughout his career as a music entrepreneur he has been hands-on with every aspect of the publishing business from A&R, creative, marketing, publishing, royalties, legal, finance, mergers, acquisitions and fundraising. He has been responsible for identifying, negotiating and signing hundreds of artists, songwriters and catalogs, including songs recorded by GRAMMY award-winning and iconic artists. The companies he has led have proactively generated over $25 million in income from the licensing of music to picture. Keatly is a lifelong musician, having played in rock bands since he was 11 years old and producing music for over 20 years. Riptide’s catalog includes songs by artists including Juice WRLD, Migos, Drake, Selena Gomez, Sting, Foster The People, Fatboy Slim, Grandmaster Flash and many independent artists.