An Ever Evolving Landscape

Winter 2010


Lately I’ve had the opportunity to speak to many of you at SCL functions such as the Emmy reception and our annual membership meeting. In continuing to keep the quality high, I am pleased to see that our community is being fed by some really terrific programs across the country from Ron Sadoff’s at NYU, Dan Carlin’s at Berklee, Andy Hill’s Chicago Columbia Program and many more.

As I meet fresh faces embarking on a career in our business, I think about how dramatically the landscape has changed over the last thirty years. When I first began, there were less than one hundred of us working in the area of film composition. There were essentially three broadcast networks, so the main outlets as a film composer were network television and feature films. Cable television was in its infancy and it was well before the internet and certainly before mobisodes.

Although arguably there are twenty or thirty times more of us working in the industry today, there is also far more opportunity than there was thirty years ago. The advent of the Game industry has opened the door for excellent work in that genre and there are many hundreds of stations in all formats that need programming and your contributions. Of course with new opportunities come new challenges. As you know, digital services are trying to avoid paying us fairly, while using our creativity to build their businesses and enhance the experience of their websites; essentially expecting us to act as venture capitalists for their experimental business models. As the performing rights organizations continue to litigate for fair payment on our behalf, we are also taking our message to Washington. In September, inspired by what we do with the SCL, through the efforts of ASCAP and Disney we held an advanced screening of the film Secretariat with the composer Nick Glennie-Smith. In attendance, along with key players in the Washington community, were numerous members of Congress. Our purpose was to educate Washington on the dramatic difference that music can make in the film making process. Nick and I held a question and answer session and showed a scene with and without music. It was certainly eye opening for the members of the audience, many of whom had never thought about the aspect of music and the part it plays in the greater art of cinema. We also were able to show an example of the film composer and his role as the textbook small business owner. Nick elaborated on the many people involved with the production of a motion picture score. He articulated the function of orchestrators, arrangers, musicians, editors, copyists, programmers, engineers, studio personnel, contractors, agents and the vital role they all play in the delivery of the final product. I think that it was a good step in putting a face to what we do and those involved in the creative process.

The next day, along with several other colleagues, I met with some of the most conservative and some of the most liberal members of Congress at breakfast and lunch fundraisers as well as “walking the halls.” Members such as Jim deMint, Randy Forbes, Phil Gringley, Sam Graves, Bruce Braley and Chris Van Hollen probably agree on very few things, but we emphasized the non-political aspect of our ask: that if new media litigation fails to protect our interests in the digital realm, we will be back asking Congress for support in reaffirming and clarifying our property rights. I am pleased to report that on both sides of the aisle, we have found sympathetic ears to our predicament; both from the intellectual property point of view, as well as the role we play as a small business owner.

Every day I am also reminded of the importance of staying forever vigilant as our adversaries continue to mount large campaigns as they distort the facts and minimize the importance that your work has on our society. For all of the years that I have been active in this business, our performing rights organizations have played a significant role in spreading our message. You can also be assured that the SCL will be there as well, as we have clearly established ourselves around the world as the preeminent organization for media composers and lyricists. From 1982 when Arthur Hamilton, Jim di Pasquale and a handful of others started this group to the present, we continue to welcome new and bright talents into our community. We follow in the footsteps of two great organizations. The Screen Composers Association was begun in 1945 through the efforts of David Raksin and George Duning among others. Their progress was followed by the establishment of the Composers and Lyricists Guild of America, which included such icons as Henry Mancini and Elmer Bernstein, as well as our Oscar host and Advisory member, John Cacavas. I am proud that today the Society of Composers & Lyricists counts over a thousand members.

Through the years since those composers first gathered, the range of entertainment that needs great music and song has grown exponentially. Although the means of delivery has changed and will continue to evolve through the coming years, what doesn’t change is the importance and undisputable impact that your music and lyrics has on our profession. I am optimistic that we will be able to find solutions to the new challenges that we are faced with. The ability to create something new and unique is a special gift and we will continue to celebrate that fact, as well as to continue to foster greatness within this community.

Published in THE SCORE quarterly newsletter [Vol. XXV, Number Four, Winter 2010]