Winter 2009


The last year has been one of financial challenges for many within our field. I know that some sectors of our profession have seen reductions in the amount of work that has been readily available, while others seem to continue along recession proof. Whatever category you fall in, I hope that you have found the Society of Composers and Lyricists to be a valuable resource as you move ahead in your careers.

I feel that the amount of information disseminated this year has been robust. We certainly can applaud our Senior Editor, Lori Barth for the fine work that has appeared in this celebrated publication and I want to personally thank all of you who participated with stories and insight into a myriad of topics germane to our industry. By the time that you are reading this, our new website will have been unveiled. I want to thank Billy Martin for his tireless work on facilitating this new design as well as his past decade of dedication to keeping it up and running. Besides being a talented composer he has added to the feeling of collegiality that I have tried to foster by organizing the SCL Golf Outings. Look for another one in the New Year.

I want to acknowledge our New York Steering Committee under the leadership of Joel Beckerman for the most fruitful year on the east coast in the history of this organization. Two seminars focusing on Where’s My Money brought some of the true experts in the field to elaborate on some of the issues on the front line as the paradigm of how we are paid and who pays us continues to evolve on a daily basis. The distinguished attorney, Jay Cooper and our first Lifetime member went above and beyond the call of duty to travel to New York University in the middle of a snow storm last March to join this year’s ASCAP Henry Mancini Award recipient, Carter Burwell as they explored how we can navigate these uncertain times.

Ron Sadoff continues his dedication to this organization by his much appreciated work in securing facilities at NYU, where he serves as Director of the NYU Film Scoring Program. I was privileged to join Hall of Fame songwriter, Jimmy Webb for an extraordinary evening in late May there as we discussed his craft and career at a sold out event. New York’s ASCAP and BMI offices hosted two events, the latter, an in-depth look at the live recording issues facing the composer working in New York. In October, SESAC was able to secure the legendary Bitter End for a performance of some the city’s celebrated songwriters working in the field of television and film moderated by Beth Rosenblatt, one of New York’s top music supervisors. By the time that you receive this, an informative evening with one of Broadway’s hottest composer’s Jeanine Tesori, once again at NYU, will have taken place. At the top of the list of who to thank for all of the above activities, in addition to their vigilance in protecting our rights as composers and lyricists, are our performing rights organizations, ASCAP, BMI and SESAC. Their support is critical to this SCL and to our well being as a community.

The SCL elected a new board of directors in March. As well as many continuing directors, several new faces have been added. I am proud to say that the new board has been full of energy and vitality and we are continuing to see growth as our membership continues to spiral above one thousand.

Our seminar committee under the able stewardship of Ashley Irwin, Benoit Grey and Ira Hershen has truly flourished over the past year. Notable are three video game seminars, two in Los Angeles and one in New York featuring the talented Tom Salta. Early in the year Russell Brower moderated a concentrated look at the Relationship between Composers and Large Corporations, which was followed up in September with a group of several top Audio Directors, moderated by Garry Schyman, who had worked with all of these panelists.

In Los Angeles, the SCL put together an impressive evening on the Writing of Musicals. Board member, Adryan Russ was able to lend her expertise, joining with past board member Peter Melnick, as they delved into the world where both have seen much success. AFI was the site of one of the most unique events in our history. Multiple Emmy winner, Sean Callery captivated a sold-out house as he deconstructed scores from 24 and Medium and actually composed cues on the spot for sequences in these hit shows. Long time friend of this organization Todd Brabec, joined with his brother Jeff as they investigated the Many Worlds of Composer and Songwriting Deals. Ed Roscetti and friends brought us World Beat Rhythms. Sally Stevens showed her artistry is not only limited to impeccable vocals as she invited the membership to her opening of a new show of incredible photos featuring many members of the SCL in the recording studio. In March John Rodd, enlightened the membership to the “Hollywood Sound” in an informative seminar on sound mixing. Board member Stu Phillips, celebrated his birthday and clearly demonstrated that 80 is the new 40 as he led the Golden State Pops Orchestra in some of his superb film work and the world premiere of his Variations for Piano and Orchestra.

As this article goes to press our annual membership meeting unites four talent composers: Steve Bartek, Jeff Beal, Lee Holdridge and Laura Karpman as they join board member Miriam Cutler to explore what fuels their creativity. We meet once again in the historic American Legion Post and walk in the footsteps of Bogie, Bacall and Louis Armstrong in old Hollywood. Recently, Dr. Thomas E. Backer led a seminar on the The Stresses of the Creative Process and the SCL spent an evening with Fletcher Beasley as he shared his experience on Logic.

Laura Dunn, continuing in her role as our indispensable Executive Director, also coordinated, along with our Public Relations friends and PROs, an amazing array of screenings and Questions and Answer sessions following the film. Just a sampling of these in the past year were: Bottle Shock (Composed by board member Mark Adler), Tale of Despereaux (William Ross), Captain Abu Raed, Grace (Austin Wintory), Seven Pounds (Angelo Milli), Valkyrie (John Ottman), Up (Michael Giacchino), the Stoning of Soraya M (John Debney) Adam (Christopher Lennertz), Milk (Danny Elfman), Revoluntionary Road ( Thomas Newman), The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Alexandre Desplat), Flash of Genius (Aaron Zigman), Doubt (Howard Shore), The Reader (Nico Muhly), The Wrestler (Clint Mansell), High School Musical 3 (Adam Anders, Nikki Hassman and Steven Vincent), Igor (Patrick Doyle), and Appaloosa (Jeff Beal) At this writing numerous others are in the process of being organized, making this another outstanding year of screenings.

One of the programs that I am most proud of is our SCL Ambassador Award that we give every year to individuals that have made a significant and unique contribution to our profession. Sadly, our recipient from a few years ago, the unique, witty and talented Vic Mizzy recently passed away. In 2008 two of the true icons in our profession, Hal David and Lalo Schifrin were celebrated at our annual holiday dinner. This year two more distinguished legends, Charles Fox and Jack Hayes joined their ranks.

The SCL continues to honor our community with gatherings that have become some of the most anticipated events of the year. Our Oscar reception, hosted by Advisory Board Member, John Cacavas and his lovely wife, Bonnie and the Emmy reception, in collaboration with the Television Academy, are the settings where SCL members continue to collect the most coveted awards of the year. These events, held for our Gold Members and above, are lifetime experiences and I encourage you to join us. Our Premier Partners program continues to offer member discounts and special events like the one hosted by Melrose Mac earlier this year. This year’s evening at Hollywood Bowl, under the baton of David Newman, was one of the most enjoyable ones that I can remember and one that is open to any of our membership categories. Chris Farrell and Craig Stuart Garfinkle continue to bring in some of the best and brightest new talent into our Mentor Program.

Certainly with all of the above, nothing is more important than staying vigilant as we move into the challenges of the digital age. The SCL will continue to advocate copyright protection as your members did in Washington in May. Of top priority is the performance right in an audiovisual download, which is the most significant issue facing our members. We will continue to fight for our collective rights in the courts and in Congress and I will continue to keep you informed as this issue continues to evolve. In closing, I look forward to seeing all of you in the New Year and wish you the best in your composing and songwriting endeavors.

Published in THE SCORE quarterly newsletter [Vol. XXIV, Number Four, Winter 2009]

Fall 2009


In May, ASCAP arranged for a group of composers and songwriters to walk the halls of Congress and express their views on a number of topics that are germane to the creative community. I was proud to be a member of this contingent that included many esteemed writers and also encompassed a wide spectrum of music creators who came from districts across the country to speak to their individual Congressional members. There were several issues at stake that will be dealt with in pending or potential legislation. Among these were the imbalance of trade with China and the fact that we are not being paid for our works when they are performed there. This imbalance is taking a significant toll on a potential income stream for creators. We, along with artists, are calling for a tax deduction for charitable works. Currently, living artists and other creators can only deduct the cost of supplies, rather than their fair market value. Proposed legislation would correct this inequality.

Although these issues will have an impact on our creative lives, the most significant issue for our community concerns the existence of a performing right in an audiovisual download. ASCAP, BMI and SESAC along with a hand full of other groups, including the SCL, have joined hands in proposing legislation that would guarantee such a right, and have made that a priority in the 111th Congress.

Currently, there exists an ambiguity in the copyright law as to the existence of a performance right in the download of audiovisual works. This issue and its consequence was front and center as we met with over forty senators and representatives, focusing on members of the Judiciary Committee. We met with members of Congress with such disparate politics and ideologies as Senator Lamar Alexander, Senator Orrin Hatch, Representative Howard Berman and Senator Diane Feinstein. The over-all goal was to speak to the issue of fairness as we attempted to clarify a sometimes-oblique matter of copyright to legislators who sit on committees concomitantly dealing with issues such as health care and national security.

One of our primary concerns is stressing that as the delivery of our works for the visual media are changed over time, we are duly compensated, or to coin a term by Ray Colcord, that the compensation effected by this delivery should be “technologically neutral.” As in my case with the current television series The Secret Life of the American Teenager, many of your works are made available within hours for downloading on the Internet. It is an undeniable fact that content delivery is transitioning from broadcast and cable to online platforms and from there to digital downloads. As evidenced by information released in recent Writer’s Guild and SAG negotiations, there is reason to believe that within a few years all or most of television content will be delivered exclusively in this fashion.

Due to a 2007 decision in ASCAP’s rate court litigation with AOL, YAHOO, and Real Networks in the Southern District Court of New York, the performing right in a download is in jeopardy. The late Judge Conner, who oversaw ASCAP’s amended consent decree, rendered this decision. The judge, many of whose rulings in ASCAP matters over the past 35 years were beneficial to the creative world, ruled that a download of a musical work did not implicate a performing right, because the downloaded transmission of the work was not “simultaneously perceptible” by the end user. That decision is on appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second

Circuit, with the SCL submitting an amicus curiae brief on ASCAP’s behalf. Although this decision did not specifically address downloading of audiovisual works, our adversaries in license negotiations with the PROs are citing this ruling in their efforts to avoid paying appropriate performance fees.

Inherent in the plight of the composer or songwriter for audiovisual works are certain realities, many of which are misunderstood. Our opponents include the Digital Media Association, Tech America, the Consumer Electronics Association, the National Association of Recording Merchandisers, the Entertainment Merchants Association, the Net Coalition and the Internet Commerce Coalition. Of course, their motivation is simple; the companies they represent are very happy to exploit and profit from our work, but don’t want to pay public performance license fees for doing so. Unfortunately, we are in a transitional time that could allow for loopholes that could have dire consequences for our future.

Our opponents continue to argue vociferously that these rights that we are calling for are unfounded, and that in fact, we are trying to “double dip.” The misinformation being disseminated is great and our performing rights organizations are true champions in the battle. The fact is, we don’t receive domestic mechanical royalties and if our performing rights income were in jeopardy, we would in effect have a “zero dip” as Richard Bellis is quick to point out. The fact is, we haven’t made bad deals with the studios; it is one of the realties of signing work-for-hire contracts that the only right that we are afforded is that of the performing right. With the “up front” creative fees at an all time low in no small part because the studios argue that our compensation comes from the so-called “back end” this right is certainly one that must be fought for at all cost. Also of major concern to us is the foreign income that we receive as our works are performed around the globe. Most nations with strong copyright law recognize this right and if we are not able to obtain similar rights here in the US, the foreign societies could cut off that valuable income stream from our works performed overseas.

Walking the halls for the first time was an enlightening experience for me. I had the good fortune of being teamed with insightful and articulate minds such as Hal David, Roger Faxon and Jimmy Webb. We will continue to make our voices heard as the issue of performing rights in a download plays itself out. No doubt other issues will soon present themselves that will continue to challenge our way of making a living. Foremost, our activities in Washington will strive to illuminate the significant role that your unique contributions play in enhancing the lives of people throughout the world.

Published in THE SCORE quarterly newsletter [Vol. XXIV, Number Three, Fall 2009]


Summer 2009


Recently, the Society of Composers and Lyricists was fortunate to have our Honorary Lifetime Member and distinguished attorney, Jay Cooper join composer and this year’s ASCAP Henry Mancini Award recipient, Carter Burwell and music contractor, John Miller on a panel at the Black Box Theatre at New York University. As moderator, I asked each to discuss how the changing technology and the economic environment will shape and determine how all of us will do business in the coming years. In the audience were some successful composers and songwriters, as well as college students about to embark on a career path that is at best treacherous and at its worse seemingly impenetrable.

I am frequently asked how I would suggest one maintain a career or get started in a field that is highly competitive and that can be paradoxical; capricious at times in the rapidity one can launch their career and laboriously slow, taking years for others to get a foothold and make their mark. I think that the answer is that there is no answer, really. However, perhaps my biggest word of advice is to stay optimistic and positive, because someone is going to make it, so it might as well be you.

I am taking talent as a given in this scenario. Today there are many more talented composers and songwriters entering the work force than when I began my career. How one separates him or herself from the field is part of the challenge. What we do to prepare ourselves can determine the outcome because as everyone knows, you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.

Networking and Common Sense. “Does this person make me feel comfortable enough to spend some time with, or will my life be negatively impacted with having to deal with this person on a continuum?” Not that I have any uncanny insight into the future, however I think that I can tell in most cases who will have an easy path or who may have more difficulty in establishing a career. It is amazing how many decisions have been made, based on a trust and comfort factor, because as we know, working on a project can mean a lot of one on one time. What does this entail? First, as important as something may appear to be to you at the time, try to put that in the perspective of the person you may be dealing with. I have come close to compromising a job or two by being obsessive about details that just weren’t that critical to really getting the work done. There are certain individuals that I’ve met that are absolutely self-absorbed and in the end, I would prefer they just mark me off their list. I remember a musician who would systematically call me the same time every month and when I finally took his call, I asked him to send me an example of his playing. Having hardly time to have received his submission, he started interrogating me about listening, finally culminating with his harassing me about returning the CD. You get the idea. It’s called using some common sense. Some are born with it, but others can do what they can to hone their skills at it.

Preparation. There is no excuse, particularly if you live in a larger metropolitan area, not to have a great education. In prior articles, I have written about the exceptional programs that are available, led by accomplished educators, many of whom have had a great deal of experience in the business. When I began, there were far fewer avenues for learning about the technique of film music or songwriting, but today they are literally hundreds of opportunities for better educating yourself and I feel strongly that a good education can be an important key to a successful career. There has been a great deal of literature written about film music that you can access even if you’re not in a large city. The legacy Earle Hagen’s books on scoring are indispensible and Richard Bellis has written about his experiences and observations in a fabulous book entitled, The Emerging Composer. Perhaps harder to find, Film Music, A Neglected art by Roy Prendergast gives a great overview on the history of our profession and the Film Music Notebook, published by the Film Music Society, as well as all of the great writing by Jon Burlingame, to name only a few, are ready references to fulfilling your palette in the intricacies of our profession.

Stay up on what’s going on. The trades are readily available, and are a valuable resource to what may be your first break. There are also other industry books that may help you find that first job. I had some success early on with a few cold calls, and you may unconsciously approach someone at just the right time. Also stay up on the evolving trends in technology. This is a little more seamless if you’re just getting out of school, but also important for those who want to sustain their careers.

Find your own voice. As I conduct question and answer sessions after our SCL screenings, I am astounded at the creativity that exists among our colleagues. There is so much imitation out there, that it really behooves you to strike out on your own and do something that is identifiable as you. Of course, once you’ve established that sound, it may be difficult not to copy yourself next time out, but what I’m talking about here is to reach beyond what everyone else is doing. Maybe there’s an alternative to the obvious textures that we are hearing time and again.

Perhaps most important to our community at large is to use integrity as you move through your career; integrity mandated by your own standards, as well as integrity to our profession as a whole. Keeping focused, driven and involved is good medicine for moving into uncertain times. Being a part of the SCL community, I can promise you, will also serve you well. The challenges to our industry are going to be monumental in the next few years. There are many of your colleagues who will be voicing our shared concerns in Washington. Many will be doing all they can to convince a sometimes disinterested and uninformed populace that what we do is worth being protected, worthy of respect and absolutely indispensable to the greater good of society. In my opinion, composing music and writing songs is the best thing that one could do to assure that it is an enlightened one. So keep up the good work.

Published in THE SCORE quarterly newsletter [Vol. XXIV, Number Two, Summer 2009]


Spring 2009


At this writing, I watched as we all did the history defining Inauguration of our new president, Barack Obama. The fresh start his presidency has given our country is mirrored in new opportunities that I am optimistic it will afford all of us as we move into 2009. Among the many attributes that I know that he will bring to his administration is a worldview that will elevate the impression of our country around the globe. On the heels of the election, I was already the beneficiary of that enhanced perception.

In mid-November, I had the great pleasure of representing the Society of Composers and Lyricists at a conference celebrating one hundred years of film music. Designated as the First European Film Music Days, the event was sponsored by the Federation of Film and Audiovisual Composers of Europe or FFACE as they are known, and ably stewarded by its president, Bernard Grimaldi and Delegate to the Committee for the Centenaire de la Musique de Film, Gilles Tinayre. I had met many of the participants when I attended Cannes in 2007. The SCL is seen as a world leader in the art of film music and that was one of the primary reasons that I was asked to participate.

Held at the prestigious Cite de Musique in Paris, the event was attended by composers, journalists, managers, publishers and other professionals involved in the music and film industries. Attendees from France, Spain, Germany, Norway, Switzerland, Belgium, Italy, Finland, Sweden, Denmark and the UK joined for two days of dialogue germane to our craft. Also in attendance from the US was Dennis Dreith, Fund Administrator for Film Musicians Secondary Markets Fund.

Among the speakers and panelist was Bernard Miyet, who serves as President of GESAC, which represents thirty-four of the most important collection societies throughout Europe, as well as serving as president of the French performing rights organization, SACEM. Bernard echoed a consistent theme, which was not to underestimate the importance of enhancing the perception of film music and its value as we move ahead into the future. Both Ruth Hieronymi, a member of the European Parliament and Mercedes Echerer, a former Parliamentary member spoke of the challenges composers and artists are faced with and how critical it is to put a value on our talent. They pointed out, that as rulings critical to the composer’s best interest are being made, more awareness is essential in enhancing our position. The rights of the creator, which have traditionally been significantly broader in their scope than privileges we know in the US, are being eroded, and part of the mandate of this conference was to exchange ideas that could aid in countering these trends.

I had the opportunity to serve on two panels. The first one dealt with new practices regarding music for pictures, where I joined agent Maggie Rodford, who spoke eloquently about the changes that she has seen for her clients over the past several years. The second panel, which was moderated by Jean-Francoise Michel, Secretary General of the European Music Office in Belgium concerned education, and the role it is playing in the perception of film music as an art form. I was able to speak of the fine programs that have been put into place around the United States, such as Ron Sadoff’s program at NYU, Andy Hill’s program at Columbia in Chicago and the exceptional work being done at Berklee as well as local universities such as USC and UCLA. Not only was it apparent that the education of the young composer was important to our European colleagues, but the education of young directors in the discipline of film music seemed of equal concern. I pointed out that this has been the cornerstone of an ASCAP sponsored program put in place at Columbia in New York.

The first evening festivities included a live performance to picture of the 1908 film, The Assassination of the Duke of Guise performed by a superb local orchestra with music by Camille Saint-Saens. The same night, our Gold Member and composer extraordinaire, Patrick Doyle received their prestigious Film Music Trophy for his stellar body of work. Maggie Rodford, as well as the legendary Francis LaI, was there to celebrate both Patrick and John Powell, another of the evening’s award recipients.

On the last evening of the conference we traveled about two hours south of Paris to attend the final event of the Festival International Musique & Cinéma in Auxerre. It was a symphonic concert with 100-voice choir with Stephane Lerouge as head of programming and conducted by Laurent Petitgirard. Among the evening’s highlights was the performance of Non Nobis Domine from Kenneth Branagh’s Henry V by Patrick Doyle, with the composer featured as solo vocalist with orchestra and choir. There was also a rousing encore of SCL Ambassador Lalo Schifrin’s Mission Impossible theme. The most heartfelt number of the evening, I’m Dreaming of Home, was written for the French film Joyeux Noel by our own Senior Editor of the Score, Lori Barth and her collaborator Phillipe Rhombi.

Traveling back to the US, it reminded me of the similarity between the challenges we as composers and lyricists have with our European colleagues. More discourse and interaction with our friends around the world will undoubtedly lead, not only to respect, but will address mutual concerns and allow us to work together to ensure artists’ rights continue to be a top priority.

The issues we are faced with as a nation, particularly in financial terms, have been felt in our industry and in our careers over the past year as well. The strikes that have embroiled our profession have been precipitated by the uncertainties that plague our careers in the face of new technology. Ironically, the advent of the Internet has offered more opportunities for creators and our music will undoubtedly play a significant role as we move ahead.

The New Year gives us the opportunity to reassess our own goals and priorities, to nurture new working relationships and as always, to continue to perfect our craft. All of the turmoil not withstanding, I have never felt a more united front within our own numbers. This unity will allow us to work together, here and abroad, to find solutions for our particular challenges, as I am confident that the new administration will have success in achieving on a global basis.

Published in THE SCORE quarterly newsletter [Vol. XXIV, Number One, Spring 2009]