Winter 2011


As I recently reported at our annual membership meeting, I am pleased to say that as we move into the fourth decade of the Society of Composers & Lyricists that the spirit of community is alive and well. As I meet new members, I realize what a diverse and varied membership we are. Talent comes in many permutations, from the classically trained composer studying at one of our leading universities around the world to those highly skilled in the latest technologies. There is a place for everyone in our ever-evolving profession. Bringing your own unique voice to our industry will continue to make it the most creative of crafts working in the field of media.

Jim di Pasquale and a group of hardworking colleagues formed what we now know as the SCL back in the early 80s. They valiantly appeared before the Labor Relations Board in an attempt for certification regarding collective bargaining. Although that certification was denied, the organization has grown from a few individuals to the leading organization for media composers in the world. I am happy to serve with an elected board of directors that is comprised of working composers and lyricists with immense talents that make my job more than rewarding.

Our membership continues to grow every day, and we have you to thank for letting your colleagues know about our organization. Since 1945, with the creation of the Screen Composers Association, through the ensuing decades under the banner of the Composers and Lyricists Guild of America, our membership has always included the most talented lyricists and composers working in the field.

Even in this tight economy, the value of an SCL membership is an investment that is well worth the cost. As you are aware, the number of informative seminars on both coasts, as well as collegial gatherings, screenings, composer-to-composer events, and the celebrated Score magazine are just a few of our numerous benefits. In an at times solitary business, the SCL provides a forum to meet others traveling our path and learn from the most successful in our industry.

As we move farther into the digital age, these are historically unsettling times. We continue to be faced with obstacles in the courts. Recently, the US Supreme Court declined to grant review of ASCAP’s cert petition on the question of whether there is a public performance right in download transmissions of music files. For those in our sector, this is particularly troubling, as our monies from mechanical royalties are minimal and we look to the performance right as sacrosanct. Our community continues to face adversity from service providers such as Yahoo, Mobi TV, and DMX in the form of unfavorable rulings in the rate court. As a result, we may look to legislative solutions in the future that could be a viable alternative to legal rulings. Know that we have faced adversity before and the strength that becomes even more important in these times of challenge is a strong community of composers and songwriters, which is vital to making our impact on a national level. As I have reported to you, I have visited the “Hill” on numerous occasions and my colleagues and I continue to express the significance of your work, not only here in the US, but around the world. To that end we continue to join with fellow creators around the globe to look for answers to challenges that we have in common. Within our own borders, your performing rights organizations ASCAP, BMI and SESAC continue to be our champions as they devote countless hours and resources to the protection of copyright. Our adversaries continue to be well funded and organized, but advocacy through the PROs on our profession’s behalf, levels the playing field in the arena of intellectual property.

Despite the difficulties we face, many of our events during recent months exemplify what is great about our profession. As we join with our colleagues who have shared aspirations, we have had evenings which celebrate our craft, such as our annual membership meeting, which showcased two of the world’s legendary songwriters, Carole Bayer-Sager and Randy Newman, joined by another legendary songwriter, SCL Vice-President, Arthur Hamilton and a celebrated executive in our profession, Steven Vincent to explore the wonders of their creativity. Since my last writing, SCL New York has joined with SESAC to stage another great songwriter event and Gary Maurer and Adam Guettel have been featured in two informative evenings on the east coast. In three well-attended events Blake Neely, Richard Bellis and a panel lead by Adam Levenson have explored interesting aspects of our profession on the west coast.

For the moment, we are faced with uncertain times; uncertain times in our domestic finances, uncertain stabilities of global economies and a tightening of budgets in all aspects of our profession. It is my belief that your creativity matters more in these times of unrest than in times of plenty. Know that the joy that you bring with your music and song can be more than entertainment, it can be the heart of what gives our society the confidence to grow and prosper. We hope that the SCL can continue to be a port in the storm and a proud partner to help you attain your goals and aspirations.

Published in THE SCORE quarterly newsletter [Vol. XXVI, Number Four, Winter 2011]


Fall 2011


There’s been a lot going on in our business over the last several months. I am pleased to welcome four new board members, Ramon Balcazar, Shawn Clement, Denis Hannigan, and Michael Silversher. Each brings his unique talent to our exceptional board. We regrettably say farewell to Sharon Farber, Lynn Kowal and Stu Phillips, though I am optimistic that they will join our ranks again.

The performing rights organizations, which have steadfastly led the crusade for copyright protection on our behalf, took some time over the summer to recognize their members who have continued to help make them what they are. The Society of Composers & Lyricists was front and center as ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC celebrated those who have played a significant role in making their films, television shows and games the most successful in their respective industries.

Our organization continues to present informative programs on both coasts as the SCL New York continues to grow with the help of a devoted and energetic steering committee combined with the satisfying partnership it has nurtured with the performing rights organizations there. You can read more about their activities within the body of this month’s issue. Here in Los Angeles, I was fortunate to moderate a panel put together by Ray Costa comprised of some of our most talented composers as we delved into the world of scoring for dramatic television at AFI in June. This event was followed a few weeks later in an evening featuring Michael Giacchino, who brought his talented team to a sold out gathering to explore their working relationship.

In May, I was once again privileged to go to Washington with ASCAP to “Walk the Halls” and spread our message with legislative members and aids. Congressional leaders from both sides of the aisle were updated as to some of our ongoing challenges in the courts, as we lay groundwork that could in fact be a precursor to legislation that could play a role in preserving our royalty stream. My colleagues and I covered such basic points as differentiating our contributions from the artists that make their livelihood on the touring circuit, to the complexities of working under a consent decree that enables a music user to receive a license to use our music by merely asking for. We stressed the point that arriving at a reasonable price can be held up in courts for years as we await an outcome to the resolutions. We reiterated that musical performances have been grossly devalued in online and new media. Since our sector in the television and film world is rarely entitled to mechanical rights, the performance right becomes even that more of a concern.

Our trip to the hill was preceded by a concert at the Library of Congress. Congressional leaders introduced performers from their home states and from what we have heard, the evening entitled, We Write the Songs, has become one of the most anticipated events of the year for those in Congress. The night was filled with a number of stellar performances, including former SCL president, Bruce Broughton at the piano with his lovely and talented wife, violinist Belinda, who did an inspired suite from Silverado. Dean Kay, a great friend to our community, did a rousing version of That’s Life and Hal David brought down the house as he performed Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head. In an encore performance, ASCAP president, Paul Williams was in fine form as he sang and acted as the master of ceremonies.

Even those not clearly connected to our industry understand that it is a time of change. Every facet of the entertainment business has experienced its own challenges, and the music for media profession continues to grapple with the growing pains of traditional terrestrial broadcast migrating to the Internet. In June, I was in New York to hear oral arguments in ASCAP’s and BMI’s separate appeals of unfavorable rulings in each of their rate setting cases with DMX, a background music service provider. The company was successful in being granted a much lower fee basis than the PROS were requesting in their District Court proceedings. The case on appeal was heard in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, and over seen by three appellate judges. The outcome is pending, and as in all of these types of cases, an unfavorable ruling runs the risk of setting dangerous precedents in decisions down the line.

The positive news is that although we are experiencing a time of challenge, our contributions and importance to the whole have never been more pronounced and undeniable. As new outlets for programming continue to present themselves, the need for music and song becomes more consequential. Making sure that we are compensated fairly has never been easy, and in the digital age it has become even more of a slippery slope. We continually stress that we, as the ultimate small businessperson, have a right to be treated with integrity in the market place. We will continue to make our voices heard. We will continue to advocate for fairness, and certainly we will continue to spread the message that without our wonderful music and song, ours would be a society less enriched and less fulfilled.

Published in The SCORE quarterly newsletter [Vol. XXVI, Number Three, Fall 2011]


Summer 2011


Serving in my capacity as president of the SCL, I have had spent much time around friends and colleagues over the last few years; those of you beginning your careers and those, like myself, who have been at it for a while. It has given me pause to reflect on whether those engaged in their first few jobs could look forward to a certain kind of longevity, and if there were any common denominators, other than good old-fashioned luck, that might facilitate this. In that spirit, I thought that I might share with you some thoughts and observations that I have made over the years of how one goes about sustaining a career in a fickle and unpredictable profession. Staying power is at times a capricious thing, but there may be steps that you can make that may enhance your ability for musical sustainability.

Even if you are blessed with the musical gift of Henry Mancini or John Williams, finding a champion is imperative; not only in getting your career off the ground, but in sustaining it through the years. Although these luminaries transcended one specific advocate, Blake Edwards and Steven Spielberg did a lot for helping these gentlemen along the way to huge success. An avid supporter can break through the layers of bureaucracy that have run rampant in our business over the past decade and stand behind you if other agendas start coming into play.

In my own career, I’ve had a number of strong supporters from the studio side that kept my ship afloat for many years. Their confidence and unfailing support was something that in looking back was critical in furthering my journey. Coupled with a handful of champions from the creative side, their collective influence and belief has proven indispensable in sustaining my career. Among our own colleagues, I’ve heard Robert Zemeckis discuss his admiration and allegiance to Alan Silvestri, feeling comfortable in bringing Alan into any project, regardless of the genre. Michael Giacchino, not only has gained the respect of JJ Abrams, but I’ve heard other director and producers affirm that no project would be done without him.

So what fosters this kind of loyalty? Being able to communicate about a topic that for many is oblique and turn that into something tangible that enhances a creator’s vision is a unique talent, and it is also an attribute that I feel is crucial to our mission as composers. Other ingredients that lead to confidence in you are more universal. I was having lunch with my childhood team mate from Oklahoma, Joe Simpson, who went on to play for the Dodgers, and he pointed out that reliability, delivery and follow-thru were ingredients that were not only important in professional athletics, but these qualities are integral to creating confidence and dedication in music as well. Furthermore, you also need to be the kind of person that people enjoy and feel comfortable being around, and ultimately your goal is to make music one aspect of the film making process that does not have to be worried about. All of these things will help bring these people back to you the next time that they need music. All of this being said, you can’t put all of your eggs in one basket. I remember having a conversation with Jerry Immel and one of his tenets was to diversify your contacts, because if you only have one true believer and that person isn’t working then you won’t be either. I have been fortunate to have several champions in different camps throughout most of my career and I believe Jerry’s words are sound advice.

The next ingredient that I have found that is critical to your success is to create a successful team around you. In my own career, it has been essential to have a great circle of musicians that were able to execute my vision. Many of my core team of players have worked with me for almost thirty years and I wouldn’t think of replacing them. They understand my sensibilities and beyond that, they have helped create my sound and have been critical to my longevity. Having a team that also includes wonderful support personal such as programmers, orchestrators, engineers, music editors and copyists, is also a key ingredient. Agents, managers and attorneys can also be instrumental in shaping your career path. Having an individual that truly understands your unique voice can be an important element to perpetuating your career, and in negotiations, they can say things about you that you wouldn’t necessarily say yourself.

Being willing to embrace change is also important. Change in your style, change in your work process, change in direction all together can be important to moving through your career. I remember hearing Jan Hammer’s music for Miami Vice and telling my partner, Howard Pearl, that unless we were able to move in a new direction, we would go the way of the dinosaurs. Jan brought a true freshness to television music at the time and I think that being able to sense that sea change was a good thing.

Keeping that in mind, I have the utmost respect for my good friend, Mark Snow. His well-crafted orchestral scores for series such as Heart to Heart have been supplemented in recent years by an electronic palette that has continued his long-running career that includes the scores and themes to such hits as Ghost Whisperer and the X-Files. I also commend our SCL board member, Garry Schyman, who lately has seen tremendous success in the Video Game world, after beginning in episodic television, and composing the music to such long running shows as Magnum PI. Even Elmer Bernstein was able to shift gears and jump into Animal House, which revitalized his already legendary career.

There are less tangible tenets that I think that have sustained me since my first professional job in college, leading to today, as I start the fourth season of The Secret Life of the American Teenager. You’ve got to enjoy it. I remember many years ago scoring one of the final episodes of Happy Days. I will never forget my disappointment as I watched a man that I had truly admired in the next studio at Wally Heider finishing a session. He was burnt out, yelling at the musicians and all in all, not enjoying it. I unabashedly must say that I am having as good a time now as I did when I got my first network show in November of 1978. Although I have certainly experienced some trials and tribulations along the way, as Johnny Mercer eloquently put into song, I try to accentuate the positive, and try to make my working relationship with those around me, not only rewarding, but fun and fulfilling as well.

I am a firm believer that the magic that we can bring as creative artists to a project through custom crafted music will be part of what makes the director or producer’s film a box office success or a long running series and foster the loyalty that you are looking for. Finally, if you’re just starting out, I am confident that you will have the opportunity to have a long and rewarding career. We are faced with challenges from different spectrums that must be addressed, but there are certain aspects of your life that you have absolute control over. Continue to create, continue to learn and by all means continue to grow and thirty years down the road, no doubt, you will still be creating and being compensated for music and song; and one more thing, keep the inspiration coming.

Published in THE SCORE quarterly newsletter [Vol. XXVI, Number Two, Summer 2011]


Spring 2011


At this writing, I am trying to make some sense out of the recent tragedies in Tucson. My son, Matt graduated from the University of Arizona, and his commencement ceremony was held in the very hall that President Obama made his eloquent eulogy. My wife, Cheryl and I spent many joyful weekends visiting Matt in that beautiful city and for such a senseless crime to have been committed there seems inconceivable. Though having grown up in Oklahoma City and as of late having been a frequent visitor to New York City as the SCL has continue to flourish there, it seems all of us are faced with the reality of bad things happening to people and places that are dear to us.

In addressing the SCL board recently, I reflected on the fact that at times like this we must assess in our own lives how we are spending each precious moment. Perhaps as we move into the New Year, it is a time to reevaluate our goals and give some close scrutiny to the way we are living day to day. I can tell you that nothing has made me more proud than having the opportunity to serve as your president. The joy of meeting new faces and nourishing relationships with those I have so long admired has yielded untold rewards for me.

At a recent function, a writer who is now having huge success pulled me aside and shared with me his story of how he had been ghost writing for sometime and then found himself at an SCL function where I was discussing my own frustration of doing the same thing early in my career. It was a seminar that demonstrated the value of performing rights and how a work you do today will very well be playing thirty years from now and helping you prepare for your retirement. This writer said the day after our seminar, he quit his servitude and has been reaping the rewards of performing rights ever since.

My hope is that our organization will not only enlighten you, offer valuable career building tools, lead to revelations that will enhance your productivity and profitability, but when all is said and done, will also be time well spent in the greater picture. Time is too fleeting to waste in endeavors that are not worthwhile, and all of us in the SCL strive to make this experience one that will enrich your lives. Whether it is joining with your colleagues at functions such as the Sean Callery evening where he created cues in real time to”24”, attending our membership meetings at the historic American Legion Hall and hearing the ever eloquent Shirley Walker talk about her brilliant career or joining as we celebrate icons in our profession at our annual holiday dinner, these hopefully are hallmarks that you’ll remember through the years. Too much of our business is relegated to our own limited spaces. Frustrations that I have recently had in my own workplace has further pointed out the value of spending time with my colleagues and friends and I hope that the SCL has offered those opportunities for you as well.

One of the goals during my tenure as president has been to instill a collegiality among all of us working in this, at times frustrating, at times elating profession. One colleague said that our organization personifies what good things can happen when people have respect for his fellow composer or songwriter. He indicated that at one point, earlier in our history, composer gatherings were as much shouting matches as they were anything else. A few years ago, Dave Grusin told me that the SCL was what community was all about. I want to strive to do everything in my power to continue to foster this feeling. Certainly ours is a profession with much passion, and the right to disagree should be part of a healthy community and respect for differing viewpoints should always be welcome in an organization such as ours. We are all on this journey together and the time we spend, whether it is composing music or writing a song, should be balanced with sharing time with our families and time with our community of friends. The richness we reap will enhance our lives and our music.

Published in THE SCORE quarterly newsletter [Vol. XXVI, Number One, Spring 2011]